Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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11. Idols – They Didn’t Bow, Bend, or Burn – Part 1

Exodus 20:4-6

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

As we continue in our series “Relationship not Rules” we come to the second commandment, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind.” Exodus 20:4. Sadly the 2nd commandment is probably one of the most violated commandments today. This may seem strange since it is a prohibition against making idols, but there are many ways to “make an idol”. The second commandment attempts to prevent us from making any kind of image of God, either out of wood or stone, or even out of our own ideas or concepts! It is a prohibition against trying to define God by any kind of image that would seek to restrict Him to that image or symbol and thus make Him less than He is.  While symbols or ideas can help us understand God, they must not become the actual image of God that we worship. Too often the concept of God gets lost in the image used to understand Him. Far too often God ends up looking more like us than like Himself! As Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird depicts “you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” If we are not careful, we can begin to worship an image of God in our own mind that is very different from the real God of the Bible. Like the American God many evangelical Christians have created. A god who wants us to be happy instead of holy, and who wants to bless us with bucks because his prosperity is defined by money more than morality. Remember we were created in His image, so we need to stop trying to create God according to our image.  The Bible teaches us that any attempt at limiting God to an image of our own creation will only give us a small god, and when we have a small god, we will have big problems. But if we worship the true God of the Bible, we will have a big God, and small problems. Do you have a small god and big problems or a big God and small problems?  We see this truth played out in Daniel 3 through the lives of 3 Jewish captives, who having been brought back to Babylon are commanded by king Nebuchadnezzar to bow to a golden image. It’s here that we see how to deal with the idols of this world as we see these men choosing conviction over comfort.

Daniel 3:1-6

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wideand set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

Isn’t it interesting that even today when we teach about these 3 men of faith that we still refer to them by their Babylonian captivity names, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, instead of their Hebrew birth names, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. This is not the first time they refuse to conform to the culture. In Daniel 1 they refused to defile themselves with the king’s food and successfully negotiated an alternative. God blessed them with great wisdom, and they were given prominent positions in the Babylonian kingdom. It’s here as they were living what our culture would call the American dream, a comfortable life of power, position and prosperity that we see a change in:

  1. CIRCUMSTANCES – 3:1-3

The King, Nebuchadnezzarsets up an image of gold 90’ high and 9’ wide. That’s over 9 stories tall. Sometimes the idols are obvious, but sometimes they are not. So how do you discover hidden idols in your life? Look and see where you are investing your time, talents and treasures. Your checkbook and your calendar, where you spend your treasures and your time, will reveal what is important to you. It’s here when everything appears to be going great that we see a shift in their circumstances. But we need to remember that while our circumstances will change Christ does not. What are you worshipping today, Jesus the Savior or your situation?

  1. COMMAND – 3:4-5

The king commands that, when the band begins to play, everyone will fall down and worship his idol. To defy the command of the King was a serious thing, it was a death sentence. Every day Satan puts pressure on us to worship the things of this world. It’s what he did as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:8-9“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”The Christian life is not one of comfort but one of conflict. There is a spiritual battle going on, a battle for your heart. It’s what I call the war of worship, not over styles, hymns vs praise songs, but over who you will worship the Savior or Satan.  Too many churches have gotten caught up in worship wars over style. But style has to do with preference more than praise and when it becomes about my preference of praise it is no longer about the Lord it’s more about me, and that is not worship its worldliness. Who is winning the war on worship, are you giving your affections to the things of this world or to the one who made it? As you take an inventory of your life, looking at where you spend your time treasure and talents do you see any idols in your life?