No Idols

Harkening back to a common high school cheer at football and basketball games… “I say ‘No idols’, you say ‘No duh’, no idols, no duh, no idols, no duh…”  But perhaps this topic isn’t so cut-and-dry, because it has become more and more obvious in recent years that, in practice, in essence, certain things have become an obsession at least and I would strongly argue that they’ve become idols  especially in the New Testament sense of that word.  Meaning that while people generally don’t carve pieces of wood or melt and mold metal to look like a football or basketball or baseball or (especially? 🙂 ) golf ball or hockey puck or their favorite celebrity or, the most recent addition to the list, politician or political party, while they don’t go to that extreme as was common in Old Testament times a handful of millennia ago, it’s clear to me that the practice of idolatry is even far more widespread and rampant nowadays, though the main manifestation is mental, not physical like a statue or golden calf.  Intangible rather than tangible.  In our minds rather than on our mantels.

This is exactly why the disciple-turned-Apostle “whom Jesus loved”, John, saw fit (as did the superintending Holy Spirit) to end his first Epistle with these words of warning:  to guard ourselves from the devil? from demons? from false teachers?  No, he ends that blessed book by writing, “guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)

While a statue or metallic calf can be an idol even today, the broader and best definition of an idol is this:  anything which takes precedence over the Lord in our lives, in our day-to-day living.  In how we spend time or money, in our thoughts, in our emotions and affections, in our words and actions… if the Lord doesn’t maintain “first place” in any of those, the thing or person which does has become an idol, and must be dethroned.  Immediately.  Because the only entity able to duly and rightfully occupy that position is the Lord.

  • “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; SO THAT He Himself will come to have FIRST PLACE in EVERYTHING.” (Colossians 1:15-18, emphasis added)
  • “… He who is the blessed and ONLY Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who ALONE possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light…” (1 Timothy 6:15b-16a)

There are, of course, countless other passages of Scripture but either one of these is fully sufficient for us to know beyond any doubt at all Who – and Who alone – should be and remain first and foremost in our lives.  [While exceedingly generous, He is rightly and wholly (and holy 🙂 ) unwilling to share (even any part  of) that place of preeminence, as James 4:5 makes crystal clear:  “… He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.”  So much so that verse 4 states that merely wanting  to be a friend of the world (system) makes oneself an enemy  of God.]

Let’s bring this full circle.

A new football season is upon us.  Many will be tempted to take time away from, say, going to church for the next many Sunday mornings and stay home to watch the football games and pre-shows instead.

And the Senate and House of Congress are coming back from their (main 🙂 ) summer recess (they have several) to a huge stack of major to-dos just waiting for them, such as:  avoiding (or causing) a government shutdown by passing (or blocking) the dozen required spending bills for the next fiscal year which begins on October 1; authorizing (or not) another $24 billion for the Ukraine-Russia war and the recent Florida hurricane and Hawaii wildfire; and last but definitely not least, the unofficial kickoff of a different kind, of the 2024 U.S. Presidential primary and general election season; among others… like I said, a huge  stack of to-dos.  All  of which are sure to be fraught with fierce fighting and forceful partisanship which will surely and sorely tempt many people (even Christians) (especially  Christians? 🙂 ) to jump headfirst into the fray to the extent that they spend more of their (God-given) time and thoughts and emotions and even money on politics than they do on God, on the Lord, on the Bible and other things pertaining to Him and His Kingdom.

Autumn has also always been the most romantic time of the year in my view, a sense surely shared by many, who will undoubtedly soon find themselves in a new (or current) relationship which constantly competes with the Lord for “first place” in their hearts and minds and, therefore, time and money.

My humble yet super-strong encouragement to you, and God’s to us in 1 John 5:21, is to NOT let that happen.  Not to avoid getting involved in the brand-new football season or politics or romance, but rather to avoid letting any of those – or anything else – take more of our time or money or emotions or affections or (especially) thoughts than what we give to the Lord.

I grew up in a, well, let’s just say financially-challenged (pastor’s) home (thankfully, the Lord has used those times of struggle in many, many great ways throughout my adult life, and besides, what we lacked in money, my parents more than made up for in love and affection and total acceptance and constant praise, which are far more important and valuable and fruitful to boot) so we were limited to just one main “family gift” each Christmas and the one when I was in 8th grade happened to be the hot, new, must-have (and thoroughly entertaining, potentially addictive) TV gaming system.  My siblings and I couldn’t wait – and definitely didn’t  wait – to start playing the handful of different games (cartridges) which came with the console.

And playing.  And playing.  And playing.

All through that night (we were one of those families that always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, after the church service) and all Christmas Day, and all Christmas night  and into the morning of the 26th, we played those games.  And I can remember it now as though it were just yesterday, my dad’s walking into our family/TV room and lovingly telling us this word of wisdom:  referring to earthly possessions, he said, “Always control them, never let them  control you!”

He didn’t specify it but in effect he was telling us children what 1 John 5:21 tells everyone:  “guard yourselves from idols.”

I hope this will be a big blessing and help to you as this month of September and its various “seasons” kick off in earnest!


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