given on Sunday, October 26, 2014
Preparing for last Sunday’s service, I had read through the story of The Golden Calf and stumbled into a question in the study aids that have stayed with me all this week, too: What false gods in your life are preventing the true God from living in you?
Think about that for a moment . . . What is a false god? How does a false god interfere with my relationship with God? Why do we pick a false god? How does a false god keep me from being Christian?
These questions haunted me all week. I started checking myself with those questions and knew that the timing of this self-evaluation was ideal because our society is right at the beginning of the holiday season, in the middle of football season, and winding down the summer season with a World Series.
What is a false god? The study note defines a false god as anything that prevents God from working in and through us. A false god becomes the trigger for our behaviors, interferes with our direct communication with God, and clouds our decision-making. We forget permanently or temporarily to see the world as God sees it and to follow his commandments to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and body and to love your neighbor as yourself.
False gods do not have to be a little statue that sits in a place of honor in one’s house. A false god can be an idea, a team, a season, another person, or possibly a personal possession. The false gods in our lives become so important that our behaviors appear to be controlled by that particular interest or object. We begin living our lives around the false god rather than around God, our creator, our heavenly father, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Right now, we are on the brink of holiday season that begins with Halloween, includes Thanksgiving, and wraps up with Christmas and New Years. Walk into any department store and look at the images before you. As you step in, what happens to you? I know what happens to me and I know that there are times when the impulse to follow my personal likes blocks all rational thought.
We sit down in front of our televisions and computer screens, and what behaviors do we demonstrate? Do we select television programs that match the Christian lifestyle or do we select programs that dominate our minds so much that we begin acting un-Christian?
Sports cause us to divide our loyalties. Currently the World Series has us so excited because our home team, the KC Royals, is playing and playing well. It is fun. The excitement of the competition has us turning into royal blue with all the shirts, the gear, and even the music. We are living, eating, and breathing Royals fever. Is it a false god or are we still keeping God central in our lives?
Another issue that might be a false god for us is politics. Is winning a political race so important that we begin name-calling, making false accusations, listening to ads without the facts, or voting based on just one party label? Politics may be so repulsive because of the negative, un-Christian behaviors of the campaign, voters are not even voting. Politics is one false god that makes it almost impossible to demonstrate Christian principles.
False gods cause us to make all kinds of decisions. Some decisions may not be a stumbling block for Christians, but some are. Following how one uses money is one way to check your choice of false gods.
How much money is spent on the World Series tickets? The fans filling the stadiums have chosen to spend hundreds of dollars for one or two seats, parking passes, and team gear. When we hear news stories of a standing room only ticket costing over $300, many of us would wonder how that person is going to meet the monthly budget. Maybe we even wonder, does that fan have a false god?
The examples of how false gods control our lives are easy to find. In fact during the last three months of any calendar year, false gods can be identified more easily than many other times of the year. The marketing companies know that and our airwaves, mailboxes, and even in-boxes are flooded with advertising. False gods make great profits for many businesses.
Obviously that leads us to a critical question? How do Christians maintain God-centered lives in the midst of all the false gods existing around them? The way is God’s way. Follow the teachings of Jesus. Look at life through God’s eyes. Make decisions based on need rather than want. Model a balanced life rather than one centered on a worldly object, an idea, a team, or a political party. When a decision is made, ask yourself what Jesus would do.
Checking one’s self about false gods can be painful. The cheering crowds, the glitzy advertising, and the next-door neighbors all make an argument for false gods, but is any false god offering the gifts God offers?
Keeping our lives centered on God allows us to enjoy all that is around us, including the KC Royals or the KC Chiefs.
A God-centered life provides the purest sense of joy one can ever imagine. The smallest things make us smile. The smell of a grilled brat or burger signals a meal as good as any 5-course gourmet meal can be when God is present at the meal.
The latest styles can light up our eyes as we look at the skill and the beauty of the designer’s choices when we see them through God’s eyes. We see the value and acknowledge the gifts God has given his children to create new and wonderful things.
Our feet tap to the rhythm of the music even while we work. But God gave us the ability to hear the music just like he gave the musicians their skills along with all the production people who make a living with their skills to share the music in its best manner possible. God is there in the studios with them.
God gives us all five senses to experience the world he designed for us. When we feel those chilly nights of fall, we know the promises of winter snow are ahead. When the sun sets in the evening, we witnesses God’s splendor as the sun’s rays shine on the clouds. When the cold winter winds are blown away with the March zephyrs, we feel the promises of God.
The hugs, the handshakes, and even the kisses we use to touch one another in love are God’s gifts, too. How we use the gift of touch is so important to those who struggle to find God’s love. Yet, if we live a God-centered life, we do receive gifts from the touches we extend and we receive from others.
Sadly, too many do not have those God-touches in their lives. Mean and/or inappropriate touch, when false gods are present, can be so damaging. False gods are found in so many different forms. We cannot always keep ourselves safe.
Yet we can live a God-centered life to guard us and others from the damage false gods can create. We can enjoy the same sports, holidays, and events as non-Christian people, but we do not have to let them interfere with our relationship with God or our ability to live out God’s commandments. In fact, the joy we feel in our lives is a priceless gift from God. As the holiday season opens, keep your life God-centered so others may witness the resulting joy of living.
Most gracious, giving, loving God,
Thank you for all the wonderment of this world.
Thank you for all the talents given to your children.
Thank you for all the shared gifts your people give.
We know we can be so fickle to follow false gods.
We realize that all the hype swirling around us
makes it easy to join in the false worship.
We check ourselves weekly, but it needs to be daily,
to make sure we stay God-centered.
Guide us through the study of scripture,
Through the fellowship of other Christians,
And by maintaining your commandments.
We want to follow you as the center of our lives.
We want to live a balanced, joy-filled life.
We want to share our glorious lives with others
still struggling to find You among the false gods
filling their lives.
You are the God of grace and the God of glory
now and forever. –Amen.