Sunday, January 21, 2018

Idolatry - Where Will You Place Your Crown? - 1 Cor. 1: 12-17

Idolatry can be defined in a few ways. It can be the worship of a physical object, as if that object was a god. It can also be extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. It is a person exalting something or someone as god in their lives. An extreme example in the bible occurred when Moses was away from the people of Israel and they started worshipping a golden calf. While the idea of bowing before a bronze statue seems unimaginable, there are idols all around us competing for our attention, our loyalty, our affection. Some are overt like money, fame, sex or power. Others sneak in, subtle - our family, a job or independence. And others can be more out of the box: a dream, a hobby ... or a bronze statue. In reality, anything that we give our hearts to, we are putting in a place of authority. And we cannot give these things preeminence. In a sense, we are giving these forces a crown that God deserves. To me, a crown represents authority, and God is to be King of all. This is easier said than done. We must deliberately and choose to put him in that place in our hearts.

In “Counseling the Hard Cases,” Dan Wickert writes, “Just as every sin is the fruit of unbelief, at the heart of every sin is an idol. If I believe a lie about God, then I am not worshipping Him; rather, I am belittling Him, casting Him from the throne of my heart. Man was designed for worship, so if I am not worshipping God, I am worshipping something or someone else.”

Looking at 1 Corinthians, Paul gets specific and asks about our God-ordained leaders. It is true, we can put those we follow on a pedestal where only God should reside. The Corinthian believers were attributing their allegiance to at least four different leaders. One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? … Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

So as we follow our Christian leaders, we need to take this to heart and not blow their roles out of proportion. It is a good thing to have Christian mentors, pastors and other types of leaders. But they are our guides, not our way. Jesus is the way. As a mentor told me recently, "we need to take the crowns off of people and put them on Christ." 

Pulling back, this can also apply to any people we have put on a pedestal in our lives. When we were young, we followed our parents until differentiation caused us to realize we were our own unique person with our unique identity. As a boy, I put my dad on a pedestal and later, leaders and even bosses. This isn't fair to them, and it can be crippling to us. So also, our parents, teachers or any leaders, for that matter, do not deserve our idolatry, whether they are living or not. 

We can even put friends in this place as well. When we do this, we are submitting our souls to them and creating unholy "soul ties." Cherishing friends is awesome; worshipping or putting their approval over God's is not. Friends can let us down. God does not. In Hebrews 13:5, the writer proclaims God's word to us - "I will never leave you or forsake you." And after we change our thinking, we must forget and return to this deception. This error reminds me of Charlie Brown returning to the football field every fall, hoping Lucy will not pull the ball out from under him again and again. 

Surrender this to God. We can look at the elders in Revelation as an illustration of this. They bowed down and cast their crowns onto the ground before Almighty God. Trust Him. He can deal with idols in at least two ways: 
  1. He can wrench them from our hands. For example, if we are clasping onto money as if wealth was our only hope in the world. In this situation, God can shatter our frozen fingers for us to truly be free. Still, his love can melt our stubborn will before it comes to this.
  2. Alternatively, He can allow us to become miserable as we live with a substitute for the good, good Father, who offers us true life, grace and peace.
We need to take the crowns off of people, off of things and put them on Christ. Today, who will you give your crown to?