Testing Oneself for Idols

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It has been almost two years since I posted to this blog, but I was recently asked to present a devotional, and then asked to make copies available, so I am parking it here:

Tonight, I would like to share several verses that have helped me to process some of what I have been experiencing.
Genesis 22:1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
So Abraham corrected God, saying, "No, Lord, I know my doctrine and eschatology. Isaac and his descendants will inherit the Covenant, along with your blessings, and all of the land. His descendants will be numbered like the stars in the heavens. You can find that in Genesis, chapters 15 and 17, Lord. I also know how much you hate the infant sacrifices of the Baal worshipers." 
Or maybe your Bible says something different. 
In all of this, I am probably preaching mostly to myself, because many of you are way ahead of me. 
What I want to talk about is the idols in our lives, because sometimes those idols are very good things. In many ways, Isaac was the best gift God could have given Abraham, but God wanted to see if that good gift had become an idol in Abraham's life.
So God calls an audible. This is football terminology, and I don't watch much football. But sometimes, the team breaks the huddle with a plan, and they get up to the line of scrimmage, and for whatever reason, the quarterback decides to alter the plan. He communicates that with an audible. Then, in a stadium with 50,000 screaming fans, the team picks out his voice, and recognizes it as his, and obeys the new plan.
We pick up the story:
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
God is going to call another audible.
“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Many, many good things can become idols in our lives. Our personal understanding of doctrines can become idols. A church membership can become an idol. I can say, “I belong to the best church in town. I’ve been there 36 years, and it’s always going to be there for me.”

Well, maybe not.

I can say, “Our church gives 22% to missions, and our stableful of missionaries is lighting the world on fire for Christ.”

Well, are those missionaries ours, or Christ’s?

Another time, and another place:
Acts 10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 
 (“I think that’s in either Deuteronomy or Leviticus, Lord.”)
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Once again, God is calling an audible.
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
Unquestionably, this audible thing opens us up to all kind of antinomian heresies. I think Jesus warned us about that, for example:
Matthew 24:10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
But we also have these words from Jesus,
John 10:25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.30 I and the Father are one.”
I can’t know if you are listening to Christ’s voice. You can’t know if I am listening to Christ’s voice. But each of us has the job of determining whether we, for ourselves, are hearing Christ’s voice. The temptation can be very strong to judge others, and I think Jesus does call us to judge doctrines, like Health and Wealth, or Name it and Claim it—John tells us to test every spirit—but we have to be very careful to judge motives.
This comes from the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
But Paul, what if someone …?

Paul says, “It doesn’t matter. Christ is being preached.”

But Paul, what if …

Paul says, “It doesn’t matter. Christ is being preached.”

But what if …

Paul says, “It doesn’t matter. Christ is being preached.”

Paul leaves no wiggle room. We may find ourselves uprooted, and ministries taken from us that were sure God had given to us, but when God calls an audible, the only truly important fact is that God has a plan we don’t yet understand.
A final passage: 
Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
The church sprang up in Antioch, only because persecution had driven the believers from Jerusalem. This uprooting could not have been pleasant for the believers in Jerusalem, but it was God’s plan. I saw a similar thing happen in Colombia, when Wycliffe was evacuating the country. People who had been there for 35 years didn’t want to leave. Their identities were wrapped up in their ministries. Good ministries, but maybe it was time for God to shake things up, and move them somewhere else. Most of us don’t move very easily. I know I don’t. I need to accept that many good things have become idols in my life. It only truly becomes doable when we open ourselves to what God might be doing. I think I am at that point. I want to see what God has next.

Posted by Brian at 9:06 PM  


thank you again for focusing our thoughts and actions. Change is said to be hard, but shouldn't we change for Christ and look forward to the journey?

Steve said...
March 18, 2016 at 7:58 AM  


Anonymous said...
January 18, 2018 at 5:51 PM  

I learned a lot from this -- thank you!

Anonymous said...
September 11, 2019 at 12:01 PM  

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