Archive for the ‘False Gods’ Category

One of our greatest needs is to be accepted by others. Starting with our parents and then by others we have sought approval. In many cases, this is good. For example, how can we keep our jobs unless we please our boss. But this can be bad when we place too much importance on it.

Growing up, I allowed others to shape my importance by how they treated me. Their approval defined who I was. This was not healthy. I pretended to be who others wanted me to be and lost track of my true identity.

For many years, the fear of being disapproved of by certain people controlled me. I allowed one boss in particular to define my worth. However, after years of hiding my thoughts and feelings, I grew confident in what God thought of me, which was a much better human being than my boss thought. I depended on God’s approval and not the boss’. Although I was fired, I went somewhere else that was a much better fit. And there they approved of the true version of me!

Why We Seek Others Approval

We seek the approval of others because we are not seeking God’s. We make an idol out of pleasing and impressing others. “They loved the approval of men, rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43, NLT). This was God’s disapproval of the Jews who sought the rewards of acceptance instead of pleasing him. A big price to pay for the approval of people.

When we crave attention, reputation, and acceptance, we will be conformed to the ungodly world around us and fail to be transformed (Romans 12:2, NLT). Often people’s approval seems to be more real than pleasing God. But it’s not. Several years ago, I made a decision to please God by doing the right thing instead of hiding what I thought and retain the perks of conformity. I chose to be true to who I was in God’s eyes and suffered the painful rejection of the board. But I never regretted that decision for the growth and peace that it brought to me.

How We Can Choose God’s Approval

We must be transformed to choose God’s approval. We need to allow God to “take captive every thought to be obedient to Christ: (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV). This will enable us to see beyond the “smoke and mirrors” of this world and picture and hear God tell us, “Well done My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23, NLT).

This picture helps us remember that he will hold us accountable for everything we think and do in this life. But it’s to reward us. There will be no punishment. We will receive rewards for pleasing God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Moses looked beyond the fame and fortune of this life to gain a heavenly reward. “He valued disgrace for Christ above the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:26, BER).

May we realize that when we choose God’s approval we are resting in the truth that God already approves of us. We don’t need to please others to be accepted. It’s a waste of time. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28, NLT). Pleasing God is far more important than impressing any other.

Rest in the reality that God approves of you because you are his child.






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The Problem with Idols

I never thought of myself as an idol worshipper. “I don’t fall down in front of a golden calf. I don’t have some statue sitting on my shelf that I pray to.”

But when I went to seminary nine years ago, I found out that I was trusting in a number of idols. One of those idols was what people thought of me. To a great extent my self- esteem depended on being well thought of by others. If they did not respect me, I had a hard time respecting myself.

Another idol I discovered was achievement. I needed to attain certain honors and successes to regard myself as important. If I didn’t, I felt the pain of  being unimportant.

But God doesn’t want us to live this way!

How Do We Live?

He wants us to know that we are always important, loved, and accepted by him, all of the time. He does not want us chasing after the idols of what others think of us, achievements, and power to earn what he has already given to us.

When we rely too much on our reputation, comfort, health, pleasure or good circumstances, we can make idols of them. We can desire them more than God’s will for our life. God says to us, “Seek first [My] kingdom and [My] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33).

When we pursue achievement or power, we can be relying more on them than God’s gift of worth to us. A few years ago I had to make a difficult decision that cost me considerable achievement and power in order to follow God’s will. Now, I regularly thank the Lord for sparing me a great deal of grief by following him. If I had stayed in the situation, I would have been miserable.

Our basic problem is that God has made us to depend on him, and we don’t want to. So, we fill this vacuum with idols that don’t satisfy.

God asks us, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:2).

How Do We Get Rid of Idols?

How do we shed our idols and embrace the true and living God?

One of the first steps we can take is to become aware that we have idols. Many of our idols are hidden from us. For example, I didn’t know that an influential man in my life was a father figure to me and I was projecting father issues on him.

I didn’t realize that I had made this man an idol by depending on him to get my need for worth met. When I realized what I was doing, I was able to transfer my dependence off the man onto God to feel important.

Because our false dependencies are often hidden from us, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal them. He is in the business of revealing our idols (Psalm 139:23-24).

We also need to know who we are in God’s eyes and “love the approval of God rather than the approval of man” (John 12:43, paraphrased).

It does us no good to know that God considers us precious for just being who we are, if we live our daily lives striving to earn our worth. We show in our striving that we really don’t believe that we are worth that much. We are hooked on the idol of impressing people.

A final thought is that it is impossible to be freed from our idols on our own. We can’t escape our dependencies on achievement, pleasures, what people think and good circumstances- unless we rely on God.

God says to us, “I have freed you of your idols when Jesus died on the cross. Now, depend on Me, and I make this freedom your experience” (Romans 6:6, paraphrased).





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 After being hospitalized four times in the last eight months, my confidence in my indestructible body has taken a beating. I no longer think that serious physical problems are what happen to other people. My reality has expanded to include an awareness that my body will not last forever.

When I asked the Lord, “Will these things happen to me again?” his response was “No, unless I have a good reason to allow them to happen again.” In other words, “Trust me for your physical security, not your ‘indestructible’ body.”

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about why he hasn’t found a career job after looking hard for four years. “Why has God taken away a career job from me?” was the question of his heart. I suggested that maybe God had a new vision for his life, one that did not include a career job as he has had in the past.

But aren’t our health and career jobs good things? Isn’t God supposed to be good? Why does a good God take good things away from us?

May I suggest that God takes good things away from us so that we can receive better things.

At the right time, he will take away from us any blessings that we cling to instead of him. “ Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). What does that mean?” you may ask.

Respected theologian and preacher John Calvin says, “Our hearts are an idol factory.” God wants to take away the false things we cling to give us a sense of security and importance.

Good health and career jobs can be idols to us if we depend on them rather than God to make us feel safe and important. We depend on God by depending on his promises like, “Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10); “You are precious” (Isaiah 43:4).

Good health and career jobs are broken cisterns that will not hold up to the attacks of life in providing us with a deep sense of safety and worth (Jeremiah 2:13).

Instead, God says to us, “Come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat, Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1).

However, we would prefer to rely on always having good health and a career job that makes us feel important and safe. But life teaches us that we can’t always rely on these things. Bad things do happen.

God asks us, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).

We are wasting our life and living in a false reality when we rely on good health and jobs to give us the strength and importance that God has already promised that he has given us.

He says to us, “I am your strength and shield” (Psalm 27:8, paraphrased); “I see all your ways, and number all your steps because you are important to Me” (Job 31:4, paraphrased).

So, God takes away good things, in order to give us better things. We will not depend on him unless we quit depending on these good things so much.

Ask God today to show you any good thing that you are depending on too much instead of God to meet the needs behind the good thing. Ask him to help you to put off this false dependency and put on depending on him and his promises to meet your needs in this area (Ephesians 4:22-24).

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In some ways I am.

I am between two church homes. Nearly two years ago, God led me to leave a church that I had been active in for 31 years.

I had grown accustomed to its traditions and values. I had gotten used to being a respected leader. I had grown to like being needed. I felt like I was a part of a small community, surrounded by cousins, nephews, nieces, and like-minded friends who were living life together with me.

And now it was gone!

Gone was experiencing a lot of respect from others. Gone were many of my friends that I lived life with. Gone were the church traditions and structure that I had grown used to. Gone was the sense that I was much needed.

I felt like I was living in a desert.

When we lose a church, a job, a relationship, our health or anything important to us we can feel dry and empty. We can feel pain and wonder where God is in this desert.

Yet, this can be a great opportunity to grow!

We often become overly dependent on our comfortable circumstances instead of relying on God. We can rely on traditions and structure too much to feel safe instead of,  “[I] am your refuge and your strength” (Psalm 46:1, NAS).

We can rely too much on the approval of friends instead of the approval of God. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10, NIV).

We can depend too much on being needed by others to feel important, instead of, “You are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4, NAS).

In the desert, these idols will do us no good.

We are stuck in our pain of feeling scared, of not feeling as approved of, and not feeling as significant.

What are we to do? Redouble our efforts to fulfill our needs in the next church? Or follow Jeremiah’s counsel:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5, NAS).

The desert gives us an opportunity to turn to God in a deeper way to meet the needs that we were meeting through idols. Idols can be people’s approval, worth through being needed, and clinging to traditions and structures.

God promises to come through for us in the desert. Listen to what he promises:

“Blessed [are you] who trusts in [Me], whose confidence is in [Me]. [You] will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV).

So, have you lost something important in your life? Are you living in the desert? Ask God to help you to trust him to provide for your needs that are not getting met because you are living in the desert. “I do believe, help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24, NAS).

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Most of us do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers; but we are. When we regularly desire the approval of certain people over doing what we know to be right, we are an idol worshipper. Depending on people’s approval is a substitute for depending on God’s approval we have for being his dear child.

When we depend on our achievements to feel important, instead of who we really are as God’s precious child, we are an idol worshipper. When we usually depend on trying to control all our circumstances to feel safe, instead of depending on God to control our circumstances, we are an idol worshipper.

Many of us get pretty good at getting our needs met through these phony gods. It has been part of our agenda since childhood to make life work without depending on God. This hurts our faith and spiritual growth more than we probably ever will know.

One idol these days that men are using in epidemic proportions is pornography. Instead of relying on the intimacy that God provides in relationship to himself and others, men often turn to the idol of pornography to get their need for intimacy met.

So, may we all seek God in prayer to discern what we are using as idols. May we seek his help in breaking free of these substitutes, and trust God to meet our needs in his wonderful way and timing.

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