March 3, 2017

Set free from the grip of a false god

When I was a child, our mother did not teach us how to settle arguments. Instead, she distracted us to a more acceptable activity. While that sounds good, it had ramifications. For a long time, I tend to avoid unpleasant situations rather than taking appropriate measures to deal with them.

Mom meant well, but she also didn’t know herself what to do. Instead, she used her imagination. If something bad happened, she imagined it differently until her version of the event became something she could manage. She stopped doing this in her later years after I lovingly told her this made her susceptible to Satan’s lies. However, this became a subtle practice for me, a way of avoiding some difficulties in life. Instead of trusting Jesus with those things, I trusted my imagination and made it my god.

This reliance on myself as the answer to the struggles of life is idolatry. While not a wooden idol or one made of clay, it is nonetheless an idol. To this, God says:

“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty . . . ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other . . . I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together . . . (you) have no knowledge who carry about (your) idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.’” (Isaiah 45:18–25)

The Bible declares and demonstrates that God is God. There is no other. To worship or rely on anyone or anything else is not only foolish but idolatry and a grievous sin. Part of what I’m writing now is due to this New Testament statement by Jesus Christ:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20–23)

All sin begins with evil thoughts, whether those thoughts are carried out or not. For me, the imagination of my mind in solving problems has ranged from shadowy to downright darkness, but regardless of how ‘normal’ it may seem to me or others, it became obvious that I am not trusting the Lord when I do that. He says “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

The Lord also says to me that no matter how small or large the issues of life, they are to be met in faith, trusting Jesus for guidance, not leaning on my own understanding.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7)

The bottom line is to have no other gods before me, not just the obvious idols, but also not the idol of my own thoughts and abilities, trusting me instead of the One who is God; there is no other.

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11)

Jesus, there is no limit to Your realm. You are Lord of all things, all events, all people, everything. You have given me Your mind and I am to surrender to it, not trusting my own understanding or imagination. Some would protest that this is restrictive, but the deeper my knowledge of You and the more I yield all to You, the more I realize it is for freedom that You have set me free!

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