Never thought you’d worship idols?
You may have even spoken these words to someone, stating, “I don’t worship any idols, not me.” Or, then, you may have said this to God, “Search me God, look into my heart.” And you were sure He’d find no idols there.
Did you ever say these statements?
- I want to follow Christ.
- I want to be a missionary.
- I will follow you, Lord, to the end of the earth.
- “Whatever it takes Lord” and really thought you meant it!
- I will give everything to you Lord.
You may be surprised to learn at times, Jesus turns down potential followers. Jesus is very kind and gentle as He turns them away. Remember the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-23. The rich young man comes to Jesus and wants to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Jesus is looking into the man’s heart. What Jesus explains in this passage is how hard it is for someone attached to things, in this case, money and possessions, to truly follow Him in eternal life. Jesus explains it this way because He wants us to count the cost of carrying our cross.
It is written in Luke 9 verse 23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” And Matthew, the one-time tax collector, tells us in chapter 16 verse 24: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.”
So why would Jesus turn down potential followers? Jesus sees the heart and knows our idols!
Merriam Webster defines “IDOL” as 1) a representation or symbol of an object of worship, 2)a form or appearance visible but without substance. 3) an object of extreme devotion, and finally,and 4) an idol is a false conception.
May I add my definition of the word IDOL? An idol is anything or anyone which comes between God and you. An idol disrupts the relationship you have with your Savior.
But I hear you saying, I don’t have any idols in my life! Surely He would be talking to those other people, not me.
Before we search out our idols, let’s tear apart the meaning of the verses mentioned above.
- First, to be His follower, we must turn from our selfish ways. Turning from our selfish ways is a denial of ourselves–daily. What could we be denying ourselves of..nice and good, bad and horrible, likes and dislikes, anything thing or person that stands between you and your relationship with God growing daily.
I liken this to the parable Jesus spoke in Luke 14:28 about construction of a building. He asks if anyone would do this without first counting the cost of building. It’s the same in following Him. We must count the cost of following Him.
Jesus is speaking to His disciples here, (and yes, us also) He tells them to count the cost. This is not Him telling us to count as in 1, 2, and 3. It is a measurement of amount you have versus what you really want… In context with turning from our selfish ways, the measurement we use is what we have and want vs. what is our true desire.
- Second, daily take up our cross. Our cross, of this I’m sure, it is not two sticks nailed together! Here Jesus is speaking of our willingness to daily take on the challenges which come with a life lived for Him.
There is a cost to following Jesus, taking many forms. Our spiritual, physical, financial, mental life all are affected daily as we follow Him. At times, there is great joy in serving Him and within hours, there is great discouragement. Some day, the physical body seems as if it can’t go another step, and then again, at times, we feel as it we could move a mountain bare handed. Following Him could mean a drain of our bank account or a loss of potential income. At times, friends and family, try to discourage us from following Him. It is a drain mentally as we defend the choice we’ve made.
Jesus potentially turned away followers by pointing out the idols in their lives.
-Let’s explore Luke 9:57-62. I’m using the New Living Translation here.
The funny thing is, reading this passage, it was hard for me to see the idols. Jesus didn’t call them idols, but anything that comes between us and drawing closer to Him is an idol.
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
First, IDOL #1 in verses 57 and 59. The first person said to Jesus, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” That sounds good, positive but what was Jesus’ answer? “Foxes have dens, birds have nests and I have no place to lay my head.” Now, remember the verse 23 Jesus spoke earlier in this chapter concerning turning from selfish ways and taking up the cross daily.
This man needed a reminderto know the extent to which following Jesus meant. Jesus had no home. He had no place to call home. He didn’t know where He would be geographically each day. This man would need to give up his home. Would he? Could he? And it isn’t just giving up his home, it is giving up roots, he will no longer be from any one place because there would be no home to which he could return.
To be a true Christ follower, would it be selfish of this man to keep his home? Home ownership implies responsibility which can not be shirked. Jesus says He had no such responsibility. This man’s idol was his actual home, his physical residence.
Second, IDOL #2 in verses 59 and 60, Jesus tells a man to come follow Him. How does this man reply? “First, let me return and bury my father.” Looking at this this doesn’t seem like such an unusual request. Isn’t it a child’s responsibility to care for their parents? Not necessarily. We do not know if the father was dead at this point or would it be years until he died. Either way, the potential of time spent with the family is time away from serving the Lord.
Jesus replied to this man to “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach about the kingdom.” Jesus had a purpose for this man’s life. He recognized the man’s procrastination and excuse. Jesus tells us all who want to follow Him to turn from our selfish ways. When Jesus says tosomeone to follow Him, He gives no guarantee of the future except for the eternal life He gives. There will have trouble at times, it may not always be safe. This man did not want to leave the safety of his father’s home.
At this time we read this man wasn’t willing to turn from the world he knew. Was it an inheritance he wanted from his father’s death, was the death a long time away yet and he just wanted to give Jesus lip-service by offering a small sacrifice of himself? For whatever reasons this man had, Jesus saw through to his heart. His idol was his desire to continue his life in his safe place. He could not fulfill the purpose God had for him by staying with his father in the life he knew to be safe.
And IDOL #3, this third man was willing to follow Jesus if he would be allowed home to first say good bye to family and friends. Jesus replied: “Anyone who puts hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” Any farmer knows you can’t make a straight row by looking backward. The eyes must look ahead.
So what is so wrong with wanting to say goodbye to family? Family and friends usually want what they believe is your best and are quick to let you know what this is. This doesn’t mean it truly is the best but their version of best for you. Family tends to look out for what they believe is your best interest…how much is in the retirement account? What if you get sick and you’re far from home? The questions and comments come quickly and are often asked in a negative, defensive tone.
Also, there is the guilt family and friends try to hang on you, what will grandma do without you or who will take care of me or why don’t you go for a short time and spend the rest of the time with us? Just stay until….a wedding or a birth or a graduation or anything else of significance is used to keep you from leaving.
Jesus was pointing out to this man how the family was his idol. Was it grandchildren he wanted to see? It is very hard to say goodbye to them…with all the soccer games, baseball, T-ball, picnics, school plays, etc. Would Jesus really want us to leave before we experienced every possible game, playdate or cuddle session we could share with our grandchildren? Yes. Do we leave sisters and brothers? Yes. Do we leave aging parents? Yes. If we don’t, we learn the same consequence this man would learn. To put friends and family: children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins…before serving God, not going when He calls, well, family and friends then become an IDOL.
Turning to idols is nothing new, it happened thousands of years ago.
We read in Jeremiah 2:2-9, again taken from the NLT,
“I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me
even through the barren wilderness.
3 In those days Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of his children. All who harmed his people were declared guilty,
and disaster fell on them. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
4 Listen to the word of the Lord, people of Jacob—all you families of Israel!
5 This is what the Lord says:“What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves.
6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us safely out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness— a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and death, where no one lives or even travels?’
7 “And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you.
8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who taught my word ignored me, the rulers turned against me,and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal, wasting their time on worthless idols.
9 Therefore, I will bring my case against you,” says the Lord. “I will even bring charges against your children’s children in the years to come.
One cannot read this passage without seeing the correlation between what the Lord is speaking to Israel and how we live our lives in the United States today. We are a country of great blessings. We are a rich nation. We strive hard to give our children every possible advantage, be it through education, gifts, or money. We have built big houses on acres of land so we have a safe home for family. We have big toys in our houses and in the yards, we take family vacations, family pictures hang on the walls. We spend holidays with family, we gather around the campfire to roast hot dogs together.
Is any of this wrong? Absolutely not.
UNLESS, The pursuit of everything you do is for the family, ensuring everything you do is for the children (or grandchildren), then, you have allowed the family to become an idol. If you are not prepared to leave all you have and leave every family member behind if Jesus calls, then you have allowed your family and things to become idols.
An idol is anything or anyone that comes between your relationship with you and God. Is your family, your safe place, your possessions holding you back from following Jesus? Then you have idols in your life.
Why don’t you pray and ask God to show you any idols in your life? If He shows you, ask His help in dealing with the idols that are coming between you and Him.