Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Futility of Chasing Idols

[This entry follows a sermon titled "The Only Hope for Mankind".  Click on the title to find the audio.]

Throughout the Bible, God condemns the pursuit of any other gods.  The first commandment tells that we shall have no other gods.  Now, admittedly, there aren't many physical statues of idols in our living rooms, but idols do abound in our culture.  They are primarily idols of the heart, and one way to describe an idol is to say this...when we look to anything for something only God can give us, then we have set up an idol for ourselves.

Take money, for example.  Making money is not inherently evil, and actually, being wealthy isn't either.  Paul gives specific instructions for the wealthy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19.  That being said, Jesus makes it very clear that you cannot serve God and money (Mt. 6:24).  As we look around our nation, there are many people that serve money...they find their greatest satisfaction in money, their security is in money.

Paul labels this kind of longing for money...this covetousness...idolatry (Eph. 5:5), and money idolatry is no respecter of persons.  It is lodged in the hearts of NBA owners as well as players.  It is exalted in the big banks and the OWS protesters against the big banks.  It is worshipped among the rich and the poor.  It reigns over the Republican and the Democrat.  It takes root in the lives of both Christians and non-Christians.  As I said, it is no respecter of persons.

And idols like money make great claims.  "There is great security in me.  If you serve me, you will find peace, joy, and lasting fulfillment.  You can even give a little away and earn eternal favor with God."  However, according to Isaiah 46, the idols never deliver.  Greed for money cannot earn favor with God, and generosity with money cannot earn favor with God.  If it could, then philanthropic atheists would be in for a pleasant surprise upon their death, huh?

No, the idols cannot deliver.  Isaiah says "if one cries to it [i.e.- an idol], it does not answer or save him from his trouble" (v. 7).  Let's stick with the money example.  Dave Ramsey is a financial advisor with a nationally syndicated radio show.  I've listened to Dave quite a bit in my life, and I've heard numerous callers ask if they should transfer credit card debt to a different card to get a better interest rate...or get a consolidation loan...or cash in their 401ks to pay things off. 

One of the things Dave usually says in this scenario is that just paying off these debts will not fix the problem.  Money won't fix the problem.  Why?  Because the debt was a symptom.  The massive debt typically represented a lifestyle of wanting to appear to have money without actually having money.  So, throwing more money into a lifestyle that serves money won't fix the problem.  You can cry out to that god all you want, but it's not going to save you from trouble.  The heart has to change, and money can't do that.

The picture of Isaiah 46 is a sobering one.  It is a picture of a people who set up their idols...who imagine them, shape them, give them divine characteristics, etc.  In other words, the men make the idols and then, through their life's devotion to them, breathe life into these idols.  They imagine a god who is at their disposal...who has great divine power but serves their needs.

And what God says through Isaiah is that no such god can deliver you.  The only One who can save you from trouble is the One who is absolutely unlike these gods.  Man did not give form and life to God...God gave form and life to man!  And it is only this God, who is the Creator and Sustainer of life, that can save you...that can truly satisfy your soul.  If you reverse the words earlier quoted from verse 7, then you have an idea of what God can do - If one cries to Him, He does answer and saves him from his trouble.

Don't waste your life serving gods that cannot save!  Serve the only God who saves, and your life won't be wasted.