Second in a series by Pastor Gerald Ripley
Is God number one in your heart? A person can be very religious, worship every week and even pray long prayers but still desire something more than God.
The Pharisees were seriously religious. They sought to obey the Ten Commandments and hundreds of other commands they found in the Torah. However, some Pharisees were lovers of money and some sought the praises of people with long prayers. These were sins of the heart that Jesus addressed.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself any graven image. Modern translations render graven image as have an idol. You shall not worship them. You shall not bow down to them.
An idol is a false god, a competitor to the Lord God. God doesn’t tolerate any competitors in the hearts of His people.
Israel’s ancestors had worshipped idols. Israel’s neighbors worshipped idols. When Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the people prevailed upon Aaron to make an idol, a golden calf, out of gold ear rings. When Moses saw it, he smashed the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written and ground the idol into powder.
Just before his death, Joshua exhorted the people, “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the Lord…” and “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14 & 15 NIV)
Moses charged Israel to BURN the graven images found in the nations they would dispossess. He warned them to not bring any graven image into their house. The one who did so would be cursed. (Deuteronomy 7:15-26 KJV) These idols were made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. Moses cautioned the people to not covet the gold and silver used in making an idol.
God’s people shouldn’t have idols in their house, things like statues of Buddha, totem poles or any objects used in conjunction with worshipping other gods. DESTROY THEM.
Unfortunately, Israel didn’t turn from their wicked way of idolatry and God’s judgment came.
Hopefully today Christians don’t have idols made by hand that they worship. However, as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, some things can have a higher priority in our heart than God. I contend that striving after such things is a form of idolatry.
Here are some examples: love of money, love of power, love of fame, ego, seeking the praise of people, leisure activities (such as golfing, boating, TV shows, playing games, hobbies), activities that produce pleasure (like alcohol, sex, music, over-indulging in food). These can replace God’s place as number one in our heart. Sometimes our priorities can get out of balance.
Years ago, I played bridge in a weekly club for about two years. I really enjoyed playing. Regrettably, I began to read books on bridge more than I read my Bible. I read the bridge column in the paper even before I read the sports page. I still went to church, even preached since I’m a pastor. But my joy was bridge. Then I realized that, for me, bridge had become an idol. I repented. I confessed it as sin. I received forgiveness. I stopped reading books, columns, playing. Now bridge is only a page in my history. I may play again someday if I have the time. But I won’t let it get out of balance another time.
Is there something in your life that competes with God for number one in your heart? That’s a form of idolatry. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit. If He brings conviction, then confess, repent, receive forgiveness and restore God to first place in your heart.
Turn from that wicked way.
Gerald Ripley is Pastor of Abundant Life Church located in northeast San Antonio.