Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What Idol Do You Have Standing in God's Temple?

Greetings all!
Today, I want to challenge you. I want to share some thoughts and passages that will hopefully allow you to find areas of your heart in which you have allowed the devil to gain a foothold. I've been studying James again, the third time this year. This round, God is definitely speaking to me. Passages about guarding one's tongue, not being an enemy of God, keeping bitterness, anger and strife from taking root in your heart, maturing in your walk with Christ, growing in wisdom, and choosing to "turn from your Sodom and back towards His Bethel".

Today in bible study, we listened to a sermon about ways we begin to backslide in our Christianity. The illustration was from Genesis 13 and 14. Abraham (still Abram at this point in time) is called to leave his homeland and follow God's leading. After a disastrous time in Egypt, Abram finally makes it to the Negev, dragging his nephew Lot along. Here's where it gets interesting. The Bible says that their herdsmen were quarreling over the best land, both parties prideful and wanting to be the first and the best. Abram is dismayed, and humbly goes to Lot, saying "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left (Genesis 15:8-9)". In this way, Abram was a very mature christian, putting others before himself, and wishing for peace and love instead of strife and discord. Lot seems to love this idea, and starts looking for a place to his advantage. Then, he sees the Valley of Jordan. In order for Lot to look out at the Valley of Jordan, he had to turn his gaze away from the town of Bethel, where Abram had built an alter - a place of worship and offerings to the Lord. Then, Lot chose the well-watered valley, taking the best for himself, and went his own way, never looking back, and never saying thank you. Abram respected his choice, but knew his nephew was headed towards danger.
Lot later pitched his tents towards Sodom, the most ungodly place on earth at that time. One would have to intentionally travel almost 50 miles from Bethel towards Sodom to be able to see it's walls. For Lot, Sodom was a great temptation. He had turned his back on God and praising Him, instead heading for the earthly beauty and devilish seduction of the World's offerings.

Do you know what the phrase most often used in this sermon was? "Go Back to Bethel!" Because the beginning of backsliding starts with our eyes - we turn our eyes on the things of this world, on sin and lusts and other ungodly things. Then we are much more likely to choose to move towards it and grab a hold of it. But once we start on that path, it's hard for us to turn around and choose to face the "temple" of the Lord. In this way, we all fall short, sinning in everything, including movies, music, television; occupations, ambitions, goals. We choose what we want, placing ourselves in front of God and using our bodies and our gifts and our time to attain that which we desire regardless of the consequences.

Have you ever turned your gaze from God to the things of this world? I know your answer will be yes. But what did you decide? Did you go ahead and start walking towards your personal Sodom, or did you run back towards Bethel and the safety of our God?
Another questions is, Are you currently looking towards another (or the same old) Sodom? Will you choose what is right? Will you choose to say no and return your eyes to Jesus's perfect face of freedom?
I don't want you in bondage.
I don't want me in bondage.
Can we fight this thing together?

Later today, I was reading 2 Chronicles 33: 10-34:33. Manasseh, King of Judah, had strayed from God's path, following the examples of his peers (the other kings of the land) and erecting idols all over Jerusalem, even in front of the Lord's temple.
We often do this by seeing what our friends or peers are doing right now. Listening to Lady Gaga, watching The Reader, reading Twilight; and we choose to follow along. Instead of our quiet time, we place a big sign depicting sleep in front of it. Instead of prayer and supplication, we create an idol and a time waster out of television or unwholesome media. Instead of respecting authority, we elevate ourselves to a position God has not yet given us, arrogantly ignoring his sovereignty and blatantly disregarding His laws. Instead of choosing a lifestyle pleasing to God, we choose one that pleases ourselves and our sinful nature.
All these can signify that certain idol in front of God's temple. Christ said that our bodies were the Lord's temple. Our Hearts, our minds, our bodies and our souls all belong to God if we have made Him our savior. How arrogant and disrespectful are we, to place one, two, three, or even more idols in front of that temple? How long must we drag God's temple through the mud with our wordly, sinful and self-gratifying choices?

For Manasseh, things went fine at first. He keep worshiping idols and building more all around his city (His sphere of influence). He swayed the people because he was their leader. He helped lead them astray. Then, God sent the King of Assyria to "teach him a lesson". Manasseh, the king, was taken prisoner by Assyrian army commanders, "who...put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles, and took him to Babylon. (Genesis 33:11)"
It was only after that that Manasseh sought God, that he was freed and sent back to Jerusalem, that he was surprisingly still King.
Once home, Manasseh destroyed ALL the idols and all the alters, while at the same time strengthening the walls of the Lord's city, and placing guards and sentries on duty to prevent any enemies entry into what was now God's city. It was rededicated as the home of His temple, the land of His people, and the city of His appointed earthly official, the king. Manasseh learned his lesson, and the people were far better off. They listened. They obeyed. All because their king repented, learned his lesson, and did something about it.

Do we EVER do what Manasseh did, with the building up or the taking down of idols?
He was given control over many things - wealth, power, influence, and the protection of God's reputation and His people. Yet, he turned his eyes on the apparent prosperity of pagan kings and away from God.
We are also given control over many things - money, power, influence, the internet, representing God and defending the Bible with our very being. Yet we turn our eyes on the things of this world, disregarding the great responsibility and gifts God has given us.
We are SO arrogant that it astounds even me, one who is naturally inclined to pride and arrogance (Trust me. I'm working on it!). It makes my skin crawl! We place the world's current gods in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls - all a part of the body that Christ calls His Temple. We have defiled His sanctuary with our self-centeredness and abominations.
Does this sound like you, even a little bit?
Because I know I am guilty of that sin.

However, guilt doesn't have to  be the end! There is hope for us yet, dear friends. We don't have to captured by enemy forces, mutilated, and chained. We don't have to be ripped from our homeland and completely humiliated. All we need to do is approach the Lord's throne, fall on our hands and knees and beg Him for forgiveness. Jesus is just waiting to take your hand and help you take a sledgehammer to your idols. He will help rent the moving van needed to drag out those hulking TVs, stacks of music, or pillars of rebellion. Then he will show you the button to push to incinerate it until it is nothing but rubble and dust.
THAT is the power of prayer. THAT is the power of confession and redemption. THAT is the power of our God. And THAT is the power of His zeal and hatred of anything and everything that we choose to place on the front steps of His annointed temple.
You can be free from the chains of this world.
All you need to is ask.

What do you have standing in God's temple sanctuary?
What is filling His beautiful creation with rot and filth and decay?
What is obscuring your view of his alter?
When will you talk to your Father, asking for a demolition team to free you from the confines of this world and it's sin?
Would you pray that prayer now?
I'll pray that you do.

Right now, I'm going to pull on my safety goggles and suit up, because I've got some major demo to do myself. Chainsaw, here I come!



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