KENTUCKY (9/16/12) – When I read the Old Testament, it almost becomes predictable. One king follows God and the next does what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Israel could never make up their minds who they wanted to worship: God Almighty or false idols.
I look at the 21st century American church and there is really no difference. The church has more idols than one can count. There are so many things that the church elevates above Jesus. I am going to name five.
The first idol that the church worships is comfort. Going to church has to be comfortable. We must have padded seats in our pews, air conditioners, and our self-assigned seats in the sanctuary. The pastor has to be done with his sermon before noon so that we can get to a restaurant before the line gets too long. Don’t you even think about having a second invitation song!
Since when has following Jesus ever been about being comfortable. Jesus didn’t have a place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). He could have slept on a rock some nights. Tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down. John was boiled alive and when he didn’t die, they exiled him to an island. Following Jesus is not comfortable. We must take up our cross and follow him. There is no comfortable way to carry a cross. It is hard.
The second idol is money. Whether we are obsessed with hitting the lottery or just cherish our paycheck, money may be one of the biggest things people pursue. We give offerings at church on Sundays and think that we are only entitled to give 10%. After all, that’s what the Bible says to give. Where does it say that?
Yes, the Old Testament law spoke of giving 10% of your animals to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21). However, that was for Israel. There is never an instruction of how much money to give for the church. We are to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
If we are honest with ourselves, we elevate money above Jesus. If we are struggling to make ends meet, we worry rather than trusting God. Don’t listen to false preachers who say that God wants you to be financially wealthy. That is never in the Bible. Jesus said that if you want to be his disciple, you must sell all your possessions (Luke 14:33).
The third idol is clichés. Some of the clichés in modern Christianity couldn’t be more annoying. When bad things happen to us, we don’t turn to Jesus and trust him. We lean on corny phrases like “God won’t put more on me than I can handle,” even though such a phrase is never found in the Bible. If we could handle everything, we wouldn’t need God. The idea that God won’t put more on us than we can handle takes away from the power of the cross where Christ took the punishment that we can’t handle.
Corny clichés that are not in the Bible anywhere are so often elevated above Jesus. I don’t care if that Facebook picture says to repost it if you believe it is true. Jesus is who you should trust, not clichés.
The fourth idol is tradition. There is nothing wrong with tradition, until it is worshiped above Jesus. I was once in this place. I was just like the Pharisees, except in our modern day. When you are so concerned whether people in the church are dressed nice, what style of music is being played, and whether or not the pastor uses the King James Version, there is no room for Jesus. Traditionalism is assuming that the way you worship is the only proper way to worship. You have to break through that idol.
I have worn a 3-piece suit to church before and I have worn jeans and a t-shirt. I have praised Jesus singing old hymns such as “Because He Lives” as well as modern songs like “Our God.” I have used the King James Version and I have used the English Standard Version. Jesus is not looking for disciples based on correct style of worship, but based on fully surrendered hearts.
The fifth and final idol is ourselves. Dying to self is one of the greatest challenges as a Christian. It is hard to say what John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Ultimately, the crux of the matter is that in order for Jesus to reign in our lives, he must become our identity. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) All other idols in the church stem from the idols of self.
In following Christ, we must become nothing and Christ must become everything. Only then will we be able to cast down our other idols.
Bearing the Cross
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