On this the last day of my study concerning idols, I must affirm John Calvin’s statement that the human heart is an idol-making factory. My heart constantly battles substitutes that claim its throne as thoughts and all sorts of lesser gods try to rule instead of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to see that this could be a continual battle. If Satan cannot find a way in, the world and its allure will tempt me, and if that cannot put an idol on the throne, then my own sinful desires will do it.
Jesus shows me how to deal with these usurpers. The first one is Satan . . .
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1–11)
One great comfort from this passage is that temptation is not from God but it can be allowed by God. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into this. In my case, my sinful self is often the culprit, but God is in charge of my life. He can “lead me not into temptation” if that is His plan. Jesus’ obedience was tested as God’s Son. In similar ways, all God’s other children are tested. Where often fail, but His success sets a pattern for us.
As for the attacks and allurements of the world, the Word of God comes to my aid with this . . .
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
All idol-provoking forces must be challenged by truth from the Word of God as most of my battle is in the mind. For that, God says, “. . . by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2) Again, the Word of God is my weapon.
In using it, those battles require me to reinforce my heart by putting off those passions and patterns that leave me open to idol-making . . .
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:1–10)
More verses describe what to “put on” such as: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love, a list that focuses on godly attitudes and actions that will put keep me on the side of righteousness. It concludes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
My heart has times of calm where Jesus joyfully fills me with Himself. But that throne is often threatened by other usurpers, more or different than before, and the tests begin. While I suspect this war will go on throughout life, He has promised to never leave or forsake me, and that I am more than a conqueror because of His mercy and grace.