Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Is God Too Convenient?

If you really want to get God mad at you, there is nothing quite as effective as idol worship. A recurring theme of the Bible, from the Ten Commandments right up through the New Testament, is God's hatred of idol worship.  Yet, in spite of God being very clear in His feelings about idols, His people just keep falling back to idol worship all through history.

Idol worship consists of a man-made item that becomes the target of a person's worship.  While this sounds very foreign to our way of thinking and modern ideas, it has been an idea that has stood the test of time over the centuries.  It just won't completely go away.

As a modern, sophisticated people, we will neither carve a god out of wood, nor even run off to Walmart to purchase a factory made god.  Nevertheless, we have found a good substitute for worshiping an idol.

Tim will tell you that he has been a Christian all his life.  He was raised in a Christian home and was baptized when he was a teenager.  Except for his college years, he has attended church pretty regularly.  He gives to the church.  He has many good friends from his church.

There are times in his life that he has wondered about his Christian walk, but those doubts are fleeting.  He rarely thinks about his walk or God except on Sundays at church.

Sometimes, when he lays in his bed, in the dark, he knows that his life is not complete.  Even with his friends and family he feels lonely.  He worries that his life is without any purpose or direction.  He experiences an odd sensation of emptiness.

Before he got married he attributed these feelings to not having a wife.  Later, he thought he felt this way because he didn't have kids or that his job was unsatisfying.  Yet even as his life changed, the feelings never really go away.

Tim always looked with envy at people that appeared to have purpose, satisfaction and real happiness in their lives.  He always wondered why he couldn't achieve that.  One of these people was a co-worker named Anthony.  So, one day Tim in desperation, told Anthony about his dilemma, asking him why his outlook was so good.  Anthony explained that his joy and purpose was all in Jesus.

This conversation created a crisis within Tim.  He found himself looking at other people at church and wondering about their real lives.  Did they really experience joy in Jesus or were they like him?  As he looked around he felt like he identified people in both camps.  He was most fascinated by those people that had the joy and life-satisfaction that he lacked.

Later that week, he asked Anthony about why he went to church, but still failed to achieve this satisfaction through his religion.  Anthony talked about submission, surrender and commitment.  He spoke of faith, prayer, Bible time and staying away from things that distract a person's heart and mind from God.

Over the coming days, Anthony's ideas swam furiously through Tim's mind and he tried hard to follow Anthony's advise.

However, after 2 weeks there was no longer any evidence of his efforts to change.  Tim couldn't bring himself to give up his life and soon fell right back into his old habits.  He simply resumed his miserable life.

In our high-tech society people are rarely worshiping and sacrificing to statues.  Yet humans have demonstrated unrelenting creativity in pursuit of ways to pervert what God really wants.  Even today, people like Tim want the advantages of an idol over the Living God.  Thus, as they have sought to achieve this, they have done the unthinkable, they have made the Living God into an idol.

Consider this scripture that describes the futility of idols:

Their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk.
They cannot make a sound with their throats.
Those who make them are just like them,
as are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115: 4-8)
As appalling as it may sound, many modern “Christians” have attempted to take the Living God and re-engineer Him as the thing that so disgusts Him, an idol.

Consider the relationship that Tim has with his God.  He wants to feel good about being a “Christian”, but he wants to accomplish this without any accountability or submission of his personal will.

He wants a God that cannot speak, because if God spoke to him, He might say things that Tim want to hear.  The Lord might suggest changes to his lifestyle and habits.  He might request that Tim take actions according to God's His will instead of his.  To people like Tim, a mute god is the best kind of god.

They desire a God that cannot see, because if God could see what they did, they know He would be disappointed.  They like the fact that their life goes unobserved by a holy God.

Just like with the idols described in the Psalm, these “Christians” are perfectly happy with a god that cannot hear, feel or walk. 

Most of all, the desire is to have a man-made god.  Even if it isn't a physical sculpture, it is treated like a physical object.  An idol can go on the shelf until it is wanted, then be pulled down to make your request known.  With an idol, the owner is in charge, he can do whatever he wants with it.  If he wants to pull it out or put it away, he can do that whenever he wants.  If he wants to destroy or replace it, he can do that too.  The idol does not have expectations that man should be its servant.

In addition, it requires only a tiny amount of faith to worship this hand-held version of God.  One can't really expect this little God to do much, so minimal faith is required.

This whole concept of treating the creator of the universe like a hand-held idol may seem outrageous, but to the person that has fallen into this trap it has  a lot of appeal.  The selfish side of us will always find a genie-in-a-bottle type of god as attractive.  The sole job of this sort of god is simply grant our wishes.  While this would be a nice thought, it just isn't our God.

The Bible is very clear.  Our God is the ultimate power in the universe that He created.  He loves the people of His creation; He cares what happens to them and what they do.  He is active in what happens on earth.  He wants to guide His people into a path of righteousness.  He wants to use His servants to work toward the purposes of His kingdom.  He is still the same miracle-working God we read about in the Bible.  There is nothing that He can't do.  He is majestic and due our praise, thanksgiving, worship and submission.  In short, He is God.

Any person that has been deceived into believing in a pint-sized perversion of God, should be pitied.  They are in such a sad condition.

Their worship is totally futile.  Our relationship with the Lord is based upon faith.  Any person that has a no-faith-required relationship with the Lord, really has no relationship at all.  Just as Jesus couldn't do much work when he visited his hometown and the people had no faith in Him, A person with little faith can't expect much from God.  This person goes through the motions of religion, but God isn't in it.

Seriously sad, is that this person completely misses out on the blessings from God.  Their little god won't provide the “love, joy , peace patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22) that the real God will give to His people.  Their little god cannot help a person with their life or grow them into a better person.  An idol will not provide guidance or lead a person into righteousness.  God's blessings will all be absent.

The condition of people that have reduced God to an idol is not only sad, it is also scary.  God has repeatedly exercised His wrath on His people over the worship of idols.  This is one thing that isn't a minor sin to God.  He takes idolatry very, very seriously.  The very idea that a person might treat Him as an idol is likely totally abhorrent to Him.  The Bible reports many cases in which God has lost His patience with His people, and the results are always unpleasant.  I hope to never experience God's wrath.

While these people may live under the misconception that they are experiencing the abundant life in Christ, they are completely wrong.  They will not experience His joy, the comfort of His love or the thrill of being used by God for His purposes.  While they may be convinced that they are really Christians, this is only a sad deception.  Just as a hungry man may be thrilled by the smell of food, but  will find that only smelling it will never provide any satisfaction, we must experience the Lord at a deeper level if we want to satisfy our hunger.

For a person to make any significant change in their life is challenging.  For the person that has been resting in this imitation Christianity, the challenges are immense.  However, having a true relationship with Jesus is precisely God's will for you, and He is all powerful.  God's mighty strength will work to change us if we will let Him.

We must allow Him to do His work in our lives.  Unless we really make up our minds that we completely desire a real relationship with Him, we will find ourselves saying, “Come into my life” with our mouths, while our hands push Him away.

So then, we need to maintain that desire while God works.  First, pray to God that He change you and build your faith.  None of us are good custodians of god's gift of faith, we tend to lose it.  Consequently, we need to have Him restore our faith constantly.

Secondly, see the reality of God through the Bible.  When we read about who He is, what He does and how He cares for His people, any ideas of a pint-sized God will fall away.  He has provided the Bible so we will know the reality of who He really is.  He is still the same God that created the world, split the Red Sea, healed the sick, made heroes out of regular people, raised the dead, brought victories against impossible odds and sacrificed His Son so we would have a way to heaven.  The Bible exists so we will truly know Him.  He is eager to reveal Himself through His word.

Praying for faith and seeking Him through He Bible will allow apply faith-CPR to a dying faith.  He has no use for faith in a god that can't do, doesn't care and doesn't see or speak.  However, He has more than enough love and power to right the situation.  All we have to do is ask.

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Lexington, Ky