Is Your God Dead?




Text: 1 Corinthians 10:6-13

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

When we hear the word idolatry – not adultery with an “A” but idolatry with an “I” - it is easy to imagine primitive people living in caves with clubs, bowing down to carved out gods made of stone or wood. But dear friends, let us not be so na├»ve to think that we are somehow immune to idolatry, as if idolatry is only something that can happen to so-called cave people long ago.  No, we are not above idolatry for it is found in every culture, in every continent, and –yes - in every generation.  It even happens here in Minot, ND; it happens in your families, in this church, and even in your very own heart.   

An old French Theologian, named John Calvin, once said,

“The human heart is a perpetual idol factory.” 

Yes, your heart – and my heart as well – has a condition in which we manufacture idols.  We shape and mold almost anything into a god from within the caverns of our corrupt hearts.  Quite simply, when our hearts rely upon something other than God for our ultimate security, well… that thing that we are clinging to is an idol! Whatever you and I look to for goodness and safety – that is our god. 

And so, idolatry is everywhere because idolatry is not merely making an idol and praying to it but idolatry happens when our heart sets its desire on something that is not the one-true-God.  When your heart sets its desires on something other than the one-true-God for help, pleasure, and worth, you have just created an idol. 

The Bible does not have gentle words to say about idolatry, though.  In our reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is quite clear that we cannot serve two masters.  And the Apostle Paul, from our Epistle reading in 1 Corinthians, clearly warns and condemns the problems of idolatry. 

You see, when it comes to idolatry we are like a married man with a wandering eye.  Idolatry pulls the heart away from the Lord God and places our attention not upon another woman but upon something else as the ultimate source of goodness and security.  Idolatry splits the heart.  It pulls our mind two different directions.  Idolatry creates theological and spiritual two-timers, with one eye on the Lord and one eye on a mistress idol.     

This is why Jesus warns us about money in our Gospel Reading.  Keep in mind that money is not bad.  Money is not the root of all evil; however, it is the ‘love’ of money that gets you and me into so much trouble.  When our hearts shift away from God to money as the ultimate source of goodness and safety….well, idolatry occurs.  And remember, Jesus says that no one can serve two masters – two gods.  One will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot have your cake and eat it too.  You cannot ride the fence.  There is no middle ground!  Our God is a jealous God.  He does not tolerate theological two-timers.  You cannot serve an idol and God at the same time. 
  
Now, just in case you might be tempted to think that you don’t struggle with idolatry, let me point out that the easiest telltale sign of the idols we have created in our hearts is to ask ourselves the questions,

“What do we defend with tenacity when challenged the most?” 

Or,

“What do we boast about to others the most?” 

You see, somewhere behind every defensive spirit, you will typically find an idol. Since idols are lifeless things created in our hearts, they must be defended by you and me when they are challenged by others.  Have you ever met a person with a large ego?  Yup, behind that large ego, is a large idol called prideful self-confidence.  Have you ever been defensive and lash out at people on social media over politics?  Chances are, you are defending a threatened political idol.  Have you ever been a part of a fight in the church?  Yes, behind every fighting defensive spirit is an angry, self-righteous idol.  Christ is not divided, so those who have His Spirit, do not fight.  Idols, though, they fight to stay alive and in power. 

And regarding boasting?  When the Apostle Paul calls us to boast in Christ, we are not boasting about anything within our hearts, but we are pointing ‘away’ from ourselves and our self-constructed-idols to Christ.  And so, it could also be said that when our boasting points inward to ourselves, then we are not upholding Christ but most likely upholding an idol lodged within the dark caverns of our sinful heart. 

Dear friends, this is so completely messed up!  Idolatry is not only sinful but futile and useless.  Think about it for a moment.  Idols are not real – they are only made and given power by the inclinations of our sinful hearts.  Furthermore, idols cannot love you and cannot pursue you back.  There is nothing active or alive about idols.  They cannot even bleed.  And not being able to bleed is – perhaps – the most important thing for you and I to consider. 

Baptized Saints, mark this!  Hear this!  You cannot have two masters because there is no substitute for Jesus.  Furthermore, you cannot have two masters because you do not belong to dead idols but the living Christ.  You were not purchased by dead-meaningless-futile idols, but by Jesus and His precious blood shed for you. 

Think of it this way. The Old Testament prophets describe God as a pursuer- His perfect love always chases us. Like an abandoned husband chasing after an adulterous spouse, like a lion chasing down its prey, our Lord is living and active, always pursuing.
 
Our sin and corruption, though, blind us to God’s persistent pursuit of us. We would rather cuddle up with our pretend gods, find comfort in amassing wealth, and relax in the delicacies of the sinful slothful old Adam, while not realizing that we are cozying up with a dead thing. The idols we make and cherish neither cherish us back nor pursue us with goodness and mercy.  These idols do not give to us but always pull us deeper into the dark caverns of our sinful damning hearts. The idols we create cannot save us as we journey toward death. Idols are dead already.  We cannot take these idols to the grave, and they certainly do not protect us from the grave. 

But Jesus does! 

Baptized Saints, the Lord our creator constantly calls us to repentance.  And through repentance He prys our rigid, clenched hands away from our idols. He tenderly reminds us of His constant pursuit of us.  He barges through the doors we’ve cowered behind and declares that we are HIS. He snatches us back and declares with a boldness that HIS lifeblood flowed out to pay for our sin.  Unlike idols, Jesus bled for you and me.  Not only did He bled, but He rose again and is alive.

And so, because our Jesus has rescued us from worthless idols and because we cannot serve both idols and the Lord, we now know that things like money, material goods, and so forth, are simple tools and things that we do not worship, but use – as good stewards – to serve our neighbors.  Indeed, we know that it is foolish to make things like money into a god.  Money, possessions, and earthly pleasures have no power to possess us or protect us.  They are not alive, but again, simple tools that we use in service towards our neighbors.  

Dear Christians, know this day that your joy and security are not in lifeless idols that are made from your hearts but in Christ who stands above your hearts with forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

And with Jesus, you live this life without a defensive spirit because you know that Jesus is Lord, and quite frankly, He can defend Himself.  Indeed, Jesus is not a lifeless idol that needs us to come to His rescue– He can take care of Himself. 

Lift your heads, dear Christians, and fix your eyes on the living God who has rescued you from dead idols.  Always remember who holds you.  See His wounded hands and side, and know the truth of this great pursing, bleeding, dying, rising, and living God – Jesus Christ – who is your Master.  And you, His servant. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


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