Every human being is created to worship something or someone. Our identity is built based on the object of our worship. John Calvin said that the human mind is an idol factory – it constantly creates or find things to worship. We can worship ourselves, our looks, health, house(s), wealth, status, spouse, children, parents, things, cars, sports, exercise, food, TV, entertainment, travel, vacations, work, success, internet, sex, academics, alcohol, hobbies, job title, etc. – anything that gets more undivided attention than God and which we need at high cost or crave if taken away from us is our idol. God tells us in the Ten Commandments that we are to worship no other gods but Him and that we should worship nothing that is created. The Bible also says that we cannot worship God if we choose to worship our other idols irrespective of what we may think or say. True worship is humanly impossible because we are born in sin. So, God gave us a way through the death and resurrection of His Son – Jesus to save us from our sins to give us new life and ability to worship Him alone eternally. The Skit Guys depict our Christian Idolatry well in this video!
I gave my life to Jesus as a young girl and shared my testimony for the first time in Sunday School in 4th grade. Since then, I have recommitted my life to the Lord many times. I believe that once I have surrendered my life to the Lord after repenting of my sins, the Holy Spirit gives me a new heart that is oriented towards the worship of The One True God. I also know that the gift God gives by opening my eyes to His truth is permanent, unalterable change in the deepest level of my life. But, the Bible tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked – also, being aware of my many idols in my past history, how do I know that I have ever truly repented and surrendered my life to Jesus? Also, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling – not just live as we please, satisfied with a weekly church visit and a few good works as culture or tradition dictates. So, how can I know for sure? This isn’t a game of chance that I can risk losing!
We recently attended a doctrine class on “Worship” and learned the true meaning and purpose of worship in our lives. The pastor talked about the connection between “regeneration” and “worship”. Some of the characteristics of Regeneration through the Holy Spirit are:
– The Trinitarian God of the Bible becomes the new Lord of my life and false gods are dethroned.
– I have a new identity – Jesus! I become His child forever.
– I receive a new mind and develop a “love” for God’s Word – the Bible.
– I desire to love God, love fellow Christians, love friends and family, love strangers and even love enemies.
– I have new desires for holiness – sin and folly are not desirable even if accessible any more.
– it brings new life to my worship – different from before.
– I enjoy new freedom in Christ – I no longer feel the need to tolerate, manage, or accept sin but have the ability to put it to death and live free from habitual sin.
All this can be achieved only through the brand new power of the Holy Spirit who empowers the new believer and enables them to live in victory! Jesus is now the new Lord of their life. The regenerated believer then desires with His help to worship Him alone! This can work as a guideline to help me check my heart to see if I have truly been born again or if I am just fooling myself.
Armed with this teaching, the past two days have been a time of deep spiritual introspection for me. It has been a time of reading, listening, thinking and evaluating my stand before my Lord. I have not liked what I saw in my heart and life. I have had to fall down before God and ask for His forgiveness. It has been easy for me to know in my head the good news of Jesus and to even share it with others – but as I look back on my life, I realize that I have NOT desired to totally believe it or live it and it has been extremely hard to make Jesus Lord of all. I found that often my circumstances have derailed my worship journey. I have happily sung, “I surrender all” but have not always meant it in my heart or life. If I care to be honest, I can see that I am a pretty good “idolator”! I have had to examine my heart to see if I have even truly been regenerated.
I recently wrote out my life story of the past 20 years which gave me a good look back on my life. I realized that I was often the hero of my story – not Jesus. I have even treated God as my genie and my prayers as the magic words to grant me my wishes. It is easy to convince ourselves that Jesus is Lord until He takes something important away from our lives. Then, we are not so sure if we totally want to trust Him any more! In my life, over the years, I have lost stability with many uncertain moves across the world and the country, I lost acceptance in marriage from extended family, lost the ease of creating a family, lost my dreams, my desires and many of my hopes, lost friends, family and support, lost jobs and finances, faced much loneliness and pain. Life has not been easy at all for me or for my family. Through it all I realize that we stand only by the grace of God but I have not always humbly accepted these deep difficulties – as coming from the hand of my loving Father and God. In fact, I have have had quite a hard time trusting Him. I know I have often questioned His works, doubted His goodness, wondered at His silence or the wisdom of His ways. I have been angry, frustrated and upset with many situations in my life. He was NOT my all in all. I often needed Jesus + to make my life complete! Now I realize that all these were my idols brought to my attention patiently by my loving Father who wants my ALL for His glory!
It is hard. For example, I thought I absolutely loved kids and would be a wonderful mother, Sunday School teacher and mentor to kids. Then, God brought my adopted son into my life. He had faced trauma in his own little life. He struggled and totally rebelled against me for 11 years to the point of frustration, pain, agony and death of hopes and desires. Now, I was not sure any more if I really knew what “love” meant because now love called me to sacrifice and no rewards with much heartbreak. I was angry at God for this shift in my life and thinking. But now I realize that He had to break me down in order to show me that, and having a “good” or “easy” child and that that child’s success in this life was my idol. If my life had been easier in accordance to my plans and dreams, I probably would never have realized my idolatry and it could have cost me eternally!
Even now I wonder what other gods I continue to worship. I know that I rely on the comforts of life that God has graciously gifted me with. Would I be as willing to love and serve Him or even trust Him if He took it all away? What if I was left homeless and alone? What if my children were killed in an accident or my husband suffered from cancer or was paralyzed or could not provide for our family? What if I was dying leaving young children behind? What if my children walked away from our desires and even ended up in trouble, messing their lives and my image in society, would I still honor God completely? Also, do I always give Him all the glory and live in full gratitude when my life is going well? When we get a great job, a new home, higher pay, satisfaction in a hobby, great friendships or church, success, kids’ achievements, health, happy marriage, vacations, etc.? Do I choose to use all these gifts in obedience to His wishes for His glory and for His purposes. As a younger person, I probably would have quite flippantly said “of course”! But today, having years of struggles behind me and having betrayed my Lord in innumerable ways, I know worshipping God wholeheartedly is extremely difficult and only possible in His mercy and grace.
I am beginning to understand a little more of why Jesus said that it is harder for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Imagine the significance of that! We who have money in the bank, an education, a car or health are all rich – the top few percent in the world. According to Jesus, eternal life will elude us while we live deluded lives because we depend more on the gifts God has graciously given us – for, the more we have, the more idols we create and the more our Creator is overlooked. Heaven starts now by depending fully on our Creator – not a place in the far future attained after living and fulfilling our selfish dreams. It is to live daily with Jesus joyfully worshipping Him alone with a regenerated spirit. It is not being saved from hell, not living in bliss, not having no more pain or whatever our mind conjures up! We can enjoy heaven on earth if we choose to worship Him alone in spirit and in truth despite our circumstances – good or bad! This can be done only through being regenerated or born again through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today, I am trying to thank God that He has taken many things away from me to bring me to the realization that I am such a great idolator and that I do not truly love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – better here where I still have a chance to repent than on Judgement Day where He will say He never knew me! I am coming to understand that Jesus says that based on our true worship and not on our achievements in this life which is why He commended the widow with her two mites! But, there is still so much work to be done in my life by the Holy Spirit. I pray that going forward I will willingly yield to His fires which serve to refine me. I pray that with His help, I will consider the sufferings of this life as blessings which are used to cleanse me of my idolatry and mold me into Jesus’ image. Lord, need your mercy as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. Mold me, make me, fill me and use me for Your glory alone!
My prayer is that just like me, someone out there who reads and hears this will be convicted of their need for true worship and repent – so paving the way for a “well done good and faithful servant” from Jesus on Judgement Day!