Do you find yourself repeating the same sins over and over again? That is a stinking cycle. You know the drill . . . you start the day in the presence of the Lord, soaking up His Word, relishing the beauty of His holiness . . . and somewhere along the way, you snap at your child, you cave to gossip, you binge eat . . . somewhere along the way you give into that same old sin that you’ve asked forgiveness for a million times before.
Is there ever any hope?
Can we ever see that thing put to death?
On Tuesday, I talked about holiness being consecrated closeness to God. I said that personal holiness will require walking by the Spirit, turning from a silly pursuit of idols, and learning the life of full obedience. Today, I want us to explore that a bit more, but to help us get started let’s look up an old blog post.
In a blog post last summer, I talked to you about getting to the root of sin issues, maybe you’d like to pull that up and read it again by clicking here. In that post, I asked whether you’d smashed any idols lately. You may’ve been willing and more than ready to pull out the sledge hammer, but weren’t exactly sure how to get rid of the ugly thing. In fact, you may not even think you have any idols to smash (if so, please read that blog post from last summer!).
Let’s go on an idol hunt and then the Word will give us some help with smashing that thing.
I’ll need to ask you a few questions to get us started:
1. Do you ever have conflicts with others?
Conflicts are a great place to begin looking for idols. Conflicts have their source in root issues of the heart. James explains it this way:
[box]But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passionsare at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 1:14–15, 4:1–2).[/box]
When you’re in a conflict you have a prime opportunity to discover what is lying beneath the surface . . . what your hidden root issue is, what your selfish craving is that lies beneath the surface manifestation. To get to the “Why?” you react that way.
When you get down to the why you did something, you’ll see that you wanted something so much that it led to the conflict. And as John Calvin once said,
“The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”
2. What is the topic your mind is most focused on? What fills your thoughts first thing in the morning and where does your mind most often drift?
Start listening to your thoughts and discover what is most important to you.
Are they self-centered, filled with fear and anxiety, centered on ways to find pleasure or comfort? Would you be embarrassed if others could read your thoughts? Why?
When you get honest about what your mind is most focused on and why, you may discover your idol.
3. Where do you place your trust? What do you need to feel safe? What threatens your security? Do you turn to food for comfort? Do you reach for pills to relieve stress?
Answering these questions honestly will help you to discover whether your trust is actually in a person, your financial condition, or other temporary forms of security. Anything that shakes your trust in God’s providence, that causes anxiety and worry, is an indication that it (rather than God) is your place of refuge.
4. Once you uncover your hidden idol, you can pull out the hammer and get to smashing away! What is the hammer? Love. It’s really that simple.
[box]“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)[/box]
Cultivating a greater love for God than for your idol is the answer to idolatry.
How do you cultivate a greater love for God? Well, that’s another blog post, but you might leave a few suggestions in the comment section. I’d love to read your ideas.