The past week or so I have found myself doing something, either around my apartment or just out and about, and I will stop and think to myself, "Wait, aren't I supposed to be mad about something." Now to you that sounds stupid, but to me, I know exactly what it is. You see, when you have lived a life full of idolatry and putting things before your walk with the Lord, you're used to your circumstances determining your mood. For example, for 15 years of my life if I had a bad day on the basketball court, I usually had a bad day off of the court too. Why? Because the devil would hold that idol of mine right in front of my face and be like..."yea, you know this (talking about basketball), this didn't go your way today...aren't you upset? You find your joy in this, so how could you possibly be happy after a day like today?"
I know, it sounds crazy doesn't it? But for years and years I struggled with this idea of putting basketball before the Lord, and even though through lip service I had given it over to Him many times, my actions were the true witness. My decision making, my thoughts, my desires, all of it was determined by one thing: basketball.
Ok, here's the best way I know how to describe what it's like to have an idol in your life. Picture Satan with a fish hook attached to the end of a rod. Now take whatever idol it is you are serving in your life and attach it to that fish hook. Now picture Satan dangling that rod in front of you...endlessly. He swings it front to back and side to side and watches as you foolishly chase it. He will bring it way over to one extreme and watch as you rejoice in joy from this idol. Then he will swing it to the other extreme and watch you be devastated by it. And it goes on and on as he gets his fulfillment out of watching you chase the foolishness of this idol, and distracting you from what really matters: Christ. But you are way too distracted and caught up to realize that Christ is trying to get your attention off of this idol and onto Him. This is a serious thing, look at what the Bible says about idolatry:
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 "Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."Now if only we were always able to realize when we are caught up in this wild fish hook chase so that we could get those things out of our lives immediately, before we cause serious harm to our fellowship with the Lord. Well, I'm afraid I have done that far too many times. I have let things get so much apart of me that I fail to see God's will for my life. Now, these idols aren't always super horrible things that are detrimental to us...but if we let them take the place of God in our lives...look out. For example, parents can let their children become their idols, and children can let their parents become theirs. Your parents and your children are gifts from the Lord, but if you let Satan dangle them in front of you and watch you chase and chase without any direction, it can be very sinful without us even realizing it. Some people make an idol of what people think about them. They are in a good mood when someone talks good about them and they are devastated when someone has talked bad about them. But we know from the Bible that it is wrong to be a man-pleaser. In this country where idolatry permeates every thought and action, we need to take heed to the Lord's warning against it. It can be the most subtle of things, such as your favorite sports team, or your school work, or your family. Does Satan have it by the fish hook? Does he have the ability to swing it side to side and watch you derive your happiness from it? It is not a sin to find joy in things on this earth, but there is a fine line....let this be a litmus test to pointing out the idols in your life. It is this reason I find more and more agreement with A.W. Tozer when he said "Paul knew the human heart was idolatrous and would worship anything it posessed. Anything that you get your hand on you will worship. Paul never allowed those things to touch his heart. Any external treasure that touches your heart is a curse."
Take it from me, someone who has been there and done that. I've lived my life for things other than the Lord while the whole time I professed true devotion to Him. So don't be fooled by your words...allow the Lord to reveal the true condition of your heart...and getting deep into the scriptures is the best way to do that. I'm not saying that I live my life idol free, but I have recently experienced the absolute joy of having those idols revealed and given up. No, it wasn't joyful while they were first being dealt with, but the aftermath is like being set free from the bondage of sin. And as I get closer and closer to living a life solely dependent on the Lord, I become more and more sensitive to potential idols in my life. I don't want to play with fire...I've been burned too many times. So don't be surprised if you find an even harder struggle against idolatry after you have started to give things up, because that is the Lord bringing you further and further into the sanctification process.
I'm not lying, the devil really will stop me in the middle of something and try to remind me to be upset over things that I once so dearly lived for, but now, not so much. There are a couple things that he has been able to control me with for quite some time...and its crazy because I see it so clearly now. But now, more often than not, he gets this answer from me..."um, nope." and I move on with my day, focusing on what Jesus Christ is doing in my life...which is a complete transformation by the renewel of my mind into likeness with His. And when he hits that roadblock, satan immediatly will say, well what about this, this and this (reminding me of all the other things I used to put my hope in)...and I simply say, "um...nope." It's such a gift from the Lord to truly mean it. I used to superficially say that my circumstances didn't determine my joy...but now I can say it and there's truth behind it. No matter what happens today I still have Christ as my Savior and He is still moving in uncomprehendable ways in my life....so a bad day on the court isn't getting to me like it used to. It is only by God's grace alone that I am able to be writing this today. He has delivered me from this bondage; HE has opened my eyes, it was nothing that I did for myself. My friends, "Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2." Idolatry is real. It's not just some old time thing that happened in the Old Testiment, and it doesn't just consist of making a replica of something and bowing down to it. It comes in the most subtle of forms these days, so please take heed.
Just a quick warning:
2 Corinthians 6:16 "And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Once you begin to truly walk with Christ you will have no agreement or likemindedness with idols or idolaters. You will dwell in the Holy Spirit which is dwelling in you, and you will have no other need to look elsewhere for your contentment. Sure we still slip up, but there is a true desire to fight this battle to stay pure. Your desire will be that of Colossians 3:5-7 "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience: In which you also once walked, when you lived in them.
But don't be surprised if by doing this you find objection amongst those who hold dear to their idols. Your testimony might be offensive to them, but just continue to pray for them and look to Christ and His words in the Scriptures and you will be encouraged to fight this battle. Take the advice that John leaves us at the end of his first Epistle: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" 1 John 5:21