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Monday, 6 September 2010

Of God and Idols

Yesterday I preached from 1 John 5:21 on the subject of God and Idols. "Dear children, keep yourselves free from idols." This is a synopsis of the sermon.....

Only God can meet the deepest desires of our hearts
"My soul finds rest in God alone" (Psalm 62:1).  David's soul is not content, is not satisfied, does not trust any thing or person apart from God. His ultimate help, ultimate worth, ultimate significance come from God alone. God is his chief joy and delight. All other things in creation are secondary; they may be precious but they are not ultimate.

Idols keep us from loving God
An idol is some good thing (most of the time, good thing) which we elevate in our hearts to such an extent that we find ourselves expecting from it / him / her, what only God can provide. They can appear in our lives suddenly or slowly, and sap away our spiritual energy; they are lovers or mistresses in the marital home. One of the chief messages of the prophets was "stopping running / whoring after other gods". Today we live among a people whose hearts run after other gods, and since the human heart is an idol factory we too have the disposition to forge foreign gods. G.K. Chesterton described the "must worship" habit of the human soul well when he said that people who don't worship God, don't worship nothing, they end up worshipping anything. Homes, husband, wife, pleasure, food, drink, children, grandchildren, career, hobbies... the list is almost endless.

Idols not only sap away our spiritual energy, they disappoint, end up burdensome and can ruin the very gift being idolised. All of this flows from the impossibility of idols to fulfill the role of deity; it's like expecting a drop to fill an ocean. When we idolise our children we ruin them, for we then expect from them more than any child can bear. We over-discipline them because we want them perfect or under-discipline them because we can't bear their displeasure when we inflict pain of some kind. Only parents who put their children second to God can truly love them - which means allowing them to fail, and allowing them to follow  God's (often bumpy) pathway in life. I mention children, because family is the great idol of Hollywood. Think of how many films end with 'happy family ever after'. Lots.

"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.."
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus gives the antidote to burdened idolaters. He says that he can re-connect them to God, who alone can satisfy the deep longings of their hearts.

The prophets, idols and reaction to preaching on idolatry
The prophets had a rough time when they dealt ruthlessly with idols. Why? Because idols touch our hearts, touch our worth. They were hounded and persecuted because they said "stop worshipping idols." The same will happen today. We live in a culture filled with idols, and a church filled with idols. We can expect dark reactions when we too preach on idolatry, for we are touching matters of the soul. I am waiting.....

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