Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. 1 John 5:21
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22: 36-37
It has been quite an exhausting year. I recently moved to a different state. This is the second interstate move I have made in two years. I’ve pretty much started my whole life over – new job, new home, new school for my son. New life.
I can’t say it has been fun. This was a move I did not make willingly. However, having firmly believed I heard from the Holy Spirit I forged full steam ahead.
If you’ve ever done anything by blind faith then you can understand the pervading tension and general sense of unease that usually ensues. This is not the type of unease that is unnerving because there is still a rest that the Holy Spirit brings. Rather, it is the kind of unease that follows control-obsessed folks like me who always need to know the next step.
It’s the tension that comes with following what you believe to be true while disregarding what your five senses- and family members – tell you.
It’s the tension that comes with living in a promise… managing the now but knowing full well that what is to come is not quite here yet.
It is a suspended reality of sorts. The kind that needs constant prayer and abiding in the presence of God to bridge all the gaps.
That’s where I am.
And so to comfort myself I’d fallen into some things. Not bad things… but things used badly. Like comfort eating, a little more Netflix than prayer time. The occasional glass of wine to calm my nerves (I’m still saved, calm down) and just a little more indulgence in “fun” than usual. I mean.. if not for the trauma of these last two years alone.. Why not?
This continued for a few months. Then, as I laid in bed one morning, a vision flashed before me.
It was a flashing yellow caution sign. Like the warning signs that usually pop up on your computer when you are about to enter a compromised website. It read:
System warning: Idolatry.
Over and over the yellow caution sign flashed before me:
System Warning: Idolatry
Then it left. And left me feeling like a ten ton trailer had just hit my body.
I crawled out of bed to get ready for work. I couldn’t even pray. I needed to process. As I was in the shower, I decided to go on a fast. While I was not even in the mood for a fast (because let’s face who really ever is), I knew that I had to find out what the Holy Spirit wanted to say to me.
As always, my sweet and gentle Teacher began to unfold the vision before me. And while I will spare you all the details, He revealed to me that instead of drawing close to Him to help me deal with the tension and unease, I was taking solace in all these things that had no real power to comfort me.
You see, what I learned that day was that idolatry is not just limited to laying before a carved image and praying and worshiping before it. Idolatry is anything that takes the place of God in our hearts. And this usually happens slowly – one decision, one misstep at a time.
Idolatry breaks our fellowship with God. It moves us from a place of intimacy with him, to a false feeling of self reliance and before you know it we are fully dependent on something or someone else to sustain us, fulfill us, or guide us. While I was seeking comfort in other things, I was numbing the very tension God was using to stretch and develop me.
This is why the Holy Spirit sent me a warning… not that I was already indulged in full blown idolatry but I was headed there – one movie, one drink, one bite of comfort food at a time.
We see this gradual path to idolatry in the life of the wisest, wealthiest and most powerful man to ever live on earth – King Solomon.
I often wondered how he could go from seeking God so earnestly and being richly blessed by God to serving pagan gods and sacrificing before them. King Solomon started out well, following the counsel of his father King David and following the commandments of the Lord. But over time – one wife at a time – Solomon’s heart was turned from God to full blown idolatry.
“And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded.” 1 KIngs 11 9-10.
I wonder how many ‘system warnings’ Solomon received. How might the fate and future of the children of Israel have been different if he decided to follow them?
We’ll never know.
One thing I do know is God is concerned with the state of our hearts in this hour. We ought to carefully examine ourselves to make sure that there is nothing in our lives that is breaking our fellowship with God. The first and greatest commandment is that we love the Lord with all our hearts, soul and mind. Think back to when you first fell in love, remember how that person had your every waking thought. Remember how you always wanted to be with them. Remember how you couldn’t give your friends’ ears a break from talking about them incessantly. That is because that person had your heart, soul and mind.
And so it should be with our Father.
It won’t come so easily at first. You have to start with developing daily disciplines to stay in his presence. The good news, however, is that all you have to do is show up and He will take it from there. Believe me, God will make himself known to you and he will woo you! Just believe it by faith. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to take you to this level of fellowship with God. You will have it! He will give it.
And, if you have found that you used to be in this place but life caused you to drift, be encouraged! God is not out to get you, he just wants to get you back to deep fellowship with him so you can live out the fullness of the life he has planned for you.
Know this: anything that pulls you away from God is pulling you away from his love, his light and abundant life. This is the only TRUE love, life and light there is. Consequently, anything breaking your fellowship with God is only leading you to spiritual darkness and death. There really is no in between.
This is why God commands us to love him and put him first. It is to keep us safe. It is to keep us fulfilled. It is to keep our loyalty to him so we are not lured away by any false sense of pleasure or security to our own demise. God doesn’t command us to love him because he needs our love. He commands us to love him because WE need his.
I challenge you to take careful inventory of your heart and life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there is any idolatry in your heart – your spouse, another religion, work, kids, money, hobbies…anything. Once he shows it to you, just repent. Ask his forgiveness and ask him to take you back to a place of unbroken fellowship with him. Ask Him to show you HOW to love him. Believe me.. This is a journey you will enjoy.
Father in the name of Jesus we come before you today. Thank you for loving us so completely. We ask you to shine the light of your truth into our hearts. Show us our blindspots. Show us where we have any thing or person in our lives that is taking YOUR place in our hearts. Forgive us for neglecting to make you our source- our first place of refuge, comfort and help. Remove anything that is in your place and show us how to love you and put you first. Help us to remember your love is the only true and complete love there is. Help us to daily experience and live in the awareness of your love. These things we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen.