Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10

Jesus' third temptation in the desert was a statement against idolatry, but how does that apply to me? First, a synopsis.

After Jesus refused Satan's invitations to turn rocks into bread and to jump from the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem, Satan brought him to the highest point on earth for a view of all the kingdoms of the world. Setting a precedent for 2,000 years of Faustian bargains from Theophilus of Adana to Charlie Daniels, Satan offered to give Jesus lordship over everybody on earth if he would worship him.

Not surprisingly, Jesus declined, and even told Lucifer to buzz off:
“Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” (NAB)
Once again, Jesus channels Deuteronomy, paraphrasing words that Moses directed to the wayward Hebrews in the desert. As the Hebrews worshiped a golden calf above God, we are warned against placing idols above God, too.

Pretty cut and dry, right? How many of you have knelt before a pagan statue recently? Idolatry sounds like an easy thing to avoid in this modern world of organized religion, but when you think further about what constitutes an idol, the details get a little murkier.

I reached the conclusion that an idol is any person, place, thing or idea that keeps us from God. We are surrounded by idols - some personal and some shared - on a daily basis.

What idols have I worshiped? I need look no further than myself to find an answer to that question. I am an egotistical man.

Generated by my strong personality, my intellect and a childhood full of feelings of powerlessness, I have become a man who craves influence. Sometimes I use that craving for good, and sometimes I use it for not-so-good. But my ego has certainly become the driving force of my being on a number of occasions.

My hiatus from church is a strong example. For a few years, I believed that everything I needed was in my brain. Every church was wrong because ___. I was on the moral high ground because ___. My flaws were minor compared to everybody else's because ___.

And so on. In my mind, I had an answer for everything. That became my idol. I became so wrapped up in my own certitude in my conclusions about the world's direction that I became jaded. I also strayed from my faith.

This is a work in progress, for sure. Changing the very core of my personality cannot be done overnight. It is still an impulse for me to react with condescension whenever something doesn't meet my "standards." But being aware of my flaws is the first step to containing them.

Words of Wisdom

Pastor Caleb Neff, Vineyard Community Church of Cape Coral, Fla., on the importance of fellowship: "The first thing Jesus did was organize a group of people to hang out with him. ... Jesus likes weird people. Jesus likes broken people. Jesus likes people with addictions. Jesus even likes religious people. Jesus loves people... .

"If Jesus needed friends, what does that say about us?"

-August 25 message

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