Idols. We all have them yet few of us can recognize them. They don’t come in the form of some statue shaped like a half human, half fish or even a golden calf. Surely, we would all recognize if we worshipped those idols. The idols of our modern day society are much stealthier. They threaten to steal our hearts away from God, one piece at a time. These idols cause us to worship romantic love, comfort and ourselves. Thankfully, God’s grace provides us a way to dethrone these idols of the heart. By His grace, He hears us when we cry out to Him for help. Though we deserve to be left to the consequences of idol worship, grace gives us a prayerful voice that is heard by our Savior.
There is nothing wrong with romantic love. In fact, it is a bond that reflects the love of God to His people. However, a lot of us can be consumed with the notion of “happily ever after” to the point that it actually takes away from our love of God. Instead of being satisfied in Christ, we pursue relationships with others that will fill us up with a love that validates our existence. We search for our soul-mate instead of letting our soul be united to Christ. When we think that another person will complete us or that a “true love” relationship will never experience conflict, we are in danger of worshiping the god of romance while leaving behind the true God of love. When that marriage grows cold, or that fiancée gets cold feet, this god of romance leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled. It is at this point that we need to look to Psalm 119 for guidance in dethroning the god of romance. In verse 145 and 146, our psalmist states: “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes. I call to You; save me, that I may observe Your testimonies.” You see, God doesn’t want part of our heart, He wants it all. When we cry to Him in our distress and emptiness, He will sustain us by His grace. No love can fill us like the love that God has for us. Jesus says in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.” Jesus longs for us to give Him our whole heart so that we find completion in Him, not in “happily ever after.” He reminds us in John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” To dethrone the idol of romance, we must give our whole hearts to Christ, be complete in Him and let our romantic love interest (whether it be our husband of many years or boyfriend of a few weeks) experience the overflow of the love that God fills our heart with.
Similarly, there is nothing wrong with seeking comfort when we are in distress. It is human nature to desire relief from pain and hardship. However, when we turn to idols for comfort instead of God, the comfort we experience is only temporary at best. Some of us turn to food for comfort. In fact, this is such an accepted practice that we dub a lot of our dishes – like homemade macaroni and cheese – as “comfort food.” Some of us turn to alcohol for comfort. After a long day at work, coming home to unwind, it may be nice to have a nice glass of wine. There is nothing inherently wrong with these practices. But we need to be aware of turning these sources of comfort into idols. When we overeat because we are dealing with stress or we consume more and more alcohol to numb the feelings of discomfort, we have turned these practices into idols. God offers us comfort in our darkest moments if only we turn to Him. In verses 147-148 of Psalm 119, we read: “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” When our circumstances in life are overwhelmingly dark, where do we turn for comfort? God promises in Isaiah 51:12 – “I, I am He who comforts you;” and in 66:13 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.” The thing we quickly learn about food and alcohol is that they only provide temporary comfort. Once the initial comfort is gone, we are still left to deal with the pain, and added to it, the guilt. But when we turn to God, we find that “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” (Psalm 12:5)
Finally, we probably have the most difficulty recognizing the god of self because it looks so familiar. It is hard to follow the Lord’s command to “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) A lot of times, instead of picking up a cross, we pick up a pursuit of money. We want the bigger house, the nicer car, that great vacation. We have dreams and plans to become “something” –whether it be a singing sensation, a world-renown actress or just getting up the next rung of the ladder at the office. While there is nothing wrong with ambition, when we let ambition become our purpose in life, we are worshipping the god of self. Verses 149-150 of Psalm 119 remind us of God’s grace in hearing our requests for help: “Hear my voice according to Your steadfast love; O LORD, according to Your justice give me life. They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.” The god of self is especially near to each of us, trying to draw our hearts away from God. Just as the serpent deceived Eve in the garden, this idol seeks to deceive each of us into trading the cross for the flesh. “Why take the hard road,” this god inquires, “when I offer you an easier path?” It is sad that even when people achieve their highest goals or acquire the greatest honor, a lot of them find that the emptiness is still there. A heart that worships self is never satisfied and never finds peace. Worshipping selfish ambition puts us in a perpetual cycle of “what’s next?” But when we “delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
We know that God is not far from those who believe. As verses 151-152 of Psalm 119 remind us: “But You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are true. Long have I known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.” God’s desire and love for us hasn’t changed for He is the same forever. Whether we recognize the stealthy idol of romance, comfort or selfishness in our lives, the truth is that God wants the throne of our hearts occupied by Him alone. All of these wonderful things –romance, comfort and ambition –are gifts from God that can enhance our lives, but they can never complete our hearts or fill up our souls. What grace that God offers to let us be heard when we recognize our idolatry and cry out to Him for help! What grace we find in Psalm 37:5 which says: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” Yes, our God will act on our behalf because He hates idolatry. If we let Him reign in our hearts, lead in our lives and complete us in love, He assures us with Psalm 37:6 – “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” So, if idols are taking your heart away from God, cry out to Him. His grace will hear you!
A heart that worships self is never satisfied and never finds peace–Amen!