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Eliminating the Competition


Martin Luther once said, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that properly is your God.” During the preparation of this sermon last week my mind turned to the infamous church of Laodicea found in Revelation chapter 3. God put a thermometer in their heart and discovered they were “lukewarm.” Not quite dead, but not fully alive. That’s an great illustration of how idols impact our ability to connect with God.

If you’re feeling a little lukewarm, there are some ways to detect the presence of idols in our hearts. I believe one of the functions of the classic spiritual disciplines is to help us to identify impediments in our relationship with God. Let me share what I mean. For example, the discipline of solitude helps identify people we have placed before God. The discipline of silence helps identify thoughts we have placed before God. The discipline of simplicity helps identify possessions we have placed before God. And the discipline of serving helps identify times when we place ourselves before God. Another way to look at this is to think about the discipline of fasting. In fasting, the heart may be tested for areas of dependency revealing any objects of worship. Still another way to go about it is to simply evaluate your checkbook and your calendar. How you spend your time and your money may be as informative and revealing as any reagent you apply. Finally, you could simply ask a friend who loves you enough to tell you the truth concerning any idols they may observe in your life.

So what if you do the inventory and you don’t like what you see? What should you do? The biblical response is to ruthlessly eradicate the idols from your life. 1 Corinthians 10:14 says we are to “flee from idols.” 1 John 5:21 adds to “keep yourselves from idols.” This is important for us to catch, because God doesn’t demand prominence. He demands pre-eminence. In Isaiah 42:8, God says plainly, “I will not share my glory with another.” Unplug from the idols in your life. You may be able to multi-task, but you cannot multi-worship. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.”

During World War II, Martin Niemoller was arrested and placed in a Nazi concentration camp for refusing to bow to Adolf Hitler. He wrote a book describing his experience titled, “God is my Fuhrer.” In the book, Niemoller makes the following observation: “It is not enough to say ‘there is a God.’ You have to say, ‘You are my God’.” When we unplug from the idols that promise much and deliver nothing, the result is freedom. Freedom to connect with God and to relate to him as he intended.

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