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Thirsty for Change? January 2nd

January 1, 2018

What will you stop doing in 2018?

In New Year Resolutions we often make resolutions to stop doing things? Stop wasting so much time on social media, to stop alcohol or chocolate or..

If we are to see the power of God released in our lives, families, church and community the bible says we need to stop doing certain things – the bible word for this is repentance. 

So the principle today is ‘remove the worship of other gods from our lives.’ We see in our story of Elijah from 1 Kings 18 that the people in choosing the Lord needed to stop choosing other gods – the baals (1 Kings 18:18) which being plural suggests that there was not just one god – Baal but various representations of him.  We know he was associated with the sun, lightening, fertility & sex, power and agriculture (incidentally an ideal god you would have thought for starting a fire – and for us what non Christians run after today as of first importance also seems to make sense) The people in choosing to worship the Lord needed to turn away from worshipping these other gods. The Lord is a jealous God and can not share his worship with other so call gods. When we do this it is called synchretism. 

In many ways we see this idol worship clearly in a second century BC culture as in 1 Kings 18 with high places, statues and images. But the people themselves didn’t get it. In many ways they thought they were worshiping the Lord and what did it matter if they worshipped other gods to get what they thought they needed. Perhaps in the same way we are blind to the other gods that have crept into our lives. These other gods of today seem to parallel the Baals – power, sex, possessions. Just as the Israelites in Elijah’s day ran to the altars of other gods to gain power, sexual satisfaction, family, possessions so we run to the altars of our work places, our screens, our homes, our social spaces and shopping malls believing that there we can get our happiness through our fix of power, sex, money and ultimately happiness and thriving. It is interesting that the New Testament identifies idolatry with greed – wanting more and more of what we already have enough of to live.

Not that there is anything sinful about any of these things and they can all be good things but when we make them into a god thing we become enslaved to them – and addictions, destructive behaviours are born. Tim Keller in his introduction to his book ‘Counterfeit gods’ put it like this 

‘“[An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving ‘face’ and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry.”

“When your meaning in life is to fix someone else’s life, we may call it ‘codependency’ but it is really idolatry. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’ There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

So who or what do you need stop worshipping this year? Sometimes as in the case of 1 Kings 18 radical surgery is needed. Jesus demanded this sort of surgery in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5:29) and to the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give it all away (Mark 10:17-27). So are there things you need to put a stop to today? Begin by ‘repenting’ and then being accountable to someone. Some of these things are enslaving you and you may need to talk to someone – debt, addictions, workaholic, dependency….

In other cases we just need to balance the temptation to turn things into gods by the spiritual disciplines of giving, fasting, volunteering, keeping sabbath. So consider giving generously so money does not become a god. What will you fast from to show that it is not a god? (Food, gadget, social media?) How will you use your time to help others rather than just work for yourself ? Will you keep Sunday special as a day of worship?

But the main choice is to follow the Lord and his commands as uttermost importance even when it seems countercultural or against the gods of our society.  As Jesus put it – seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will,be added to you – the things are those things that those with no faith pursue with all their might. So repent of greed, be content with what you have and worship the Lord.

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