Idols of the Heart

This is the second letter I have written for my friends in the worship ministry. This letter is also applicable for the Christians especially those in any form of ministry. You could read the first letter as a preceding post below.

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My child,

In my first letter I have tried to put emphasis that Christians today should seek God with all of their hearts. By doing this we will get to know His ideals and we will discover that much of what we are doing as Christians and as the Church fall short of His standards. By seeking God with all of our hearts we are empowered to do things that will bring restoration to true worship and service. I also said that we do not experience God enough because we do not seek Him fully. Often, we do not experience God at all.

Now, why is it that we do not seek God with our full heart? One main reason why it becomes naturally hard for us to seek God fully is because the Christian heart today is full of idols. Going back to the Old Testament when Moses gave the Ten Commandments, it is very clear from the first two commandments (Exo. 20:3-6) the two great truths:

  1. God demands our full worship (honoring, loving, and serving Him).
  2. Worshiping God fully means not having idols, for God is a jealous God.

God will not rule in a heart that is full of idols. God could not get the honor and worship that He deserves from the heart that ‘has other false smaller gods.’  And the sad truth is, the heart that is full of idols will naturally not be able to seek God fully, nor will it desire to seek God. The heart that is full of idols is far from God and cannot draw close to Him.

From the beginning, God demands the worship of His covenant people, Israel, and that extends to the Church today. We may not have literal carved idols in our homes, but we have lots of idols and false altars for the worship of these false gods in our hearts. A Christian that has idols in the heart will only sing worship songs from his lips, but never from his heart. (Matt. 15:8) A congregation or Church who sings only from the lips because the heart is far from God is an insult and abomination to God. It could never bless God, and it will never bless the worshiper.

The Church, especially the youth, is a victim of these idols taking various forms. These idols take many forms and are all around us. They are made available and attractive so they could easily be patronized, and now they are idols that are worshiped and served in our hearts. Too often we are easily swayed by the fads and trends of this world. There are gadgets that take us instantly to the online world. We ‘point and click’ too easily without considering our motives and its effects on our spiritual health. I agree very much with worship leader Kari Jobe when she sung the song ‘Heart of Worship.’ She admonished the Church to look onto their hearts for idols; she told that our gadgets and the apps in it are taking us away from God strong and fast before we realize it.

Paul was so sincere and solid when he said that whether we drink or eat, or whatever we do, we must do it for the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). To Paul the glory of God is the basic consideration for all of the things that we do. If eating this or that will cause others to stumble, which will dishonor God, then we should not do it. We should take and heed the counsel. If clicking this will draw myself or others away from God, then I should not do it.

Social Networking sites (Facebook, MySpace) are not all about ‘being social,’ often, they are about the very big ‘self.’ What is so bad about the ‘self?’ Aren’t we commanded that we should love others as we love ourselves? (Matt. 22:39) Loving the self in this context means caring for the self for its basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. It also denotes the idea of respect and forgiveness. But, it will never mean being vain (vanity), or too much appreciation of the self, or thinking and believing that we are too likable compared to others.

A large number of “likes” boosts our ego and self-worth, and it makes us feel good and worthy. We post our best shots, and be careful to make sure that we look nice, strong, powerful, and pretty. I have observed, and many have confirmed, that these social networking sites make us live in a virtual world where we make the big self as beautiful, powerful, and attractive as much as possible – often trying to hide or mask out the real weaknesses inside. Try and search Google and even psychologists who are not Christians observe the same things in their studies. One study even mentioned that many Facebook users feel unhappy and discontented as they see other Facebook users who look like living happier lives, and envy is produced in their hearts as a result. See, it is all about the self. In fact, it is the worship of the self.

This vanity connects much to the heart of the devil. The basic definition of Satanism, according to the Church of Satan is “the worship of the self,” or, “the love of the self.” It is honoring and loving the self outside the bounds of Biblical principles.

This is confirmed by the first temptation to man used by the devil that is recorded in the Bible. Eating the forbidden fruit will cause man to be like God, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). The sin of pride, the sin of egocentrism. The sin of desiring the self to be exalted. Now this sin is offered not by giving us the forbidden fruit, but by allowing us the free use of the internet (social networking sites and others) wherein we can expose the beautiful and attractive big self. These privileges that the internet is giving us are really opportunities to exalt the self and promote the self to others. It is a cult of self-worship.

We could say a lot more about the bad effects of being addicted to social networking sites (less time for real people, lost of real communication to the family and friends, a cold home, wasted time, broken relationships, gossips, etc.) but the focus here is the idolatry of the heart in connection with vanity.

I am not saying that using social networking is evil, I am just presenting the fact that sometimes, much of what we do in social networking are drawing us away from God — and most of the time, unknown to us – one of the subtle evils of our information-saturated world. The sad truth is that even the Christians are caught in this trap. The worse truth is that they are not willing to admit it. Why? For some reasons:

  1. It can’t be wrong because it brings us pleasure.
  2. It can’t be wrong because I also do spiritual things in social networking.
  3. It can’t be wrong because I get accustomed to it and it feels right.
  4. It can’t be wrong because almost all Christians are doing the same thing.

I am not also saying that everything that we do in Facebook is necessarily evil. We could post healthy memories like family reunions, church activities, prayer requests and devotions. But remember: even the best of motives could be corrupted by the devil. Sometimes even the ministry could be idolized, showing a wrong motive behind pursuing the ministry. For example, we intentionally post great pictures of the ministry for boasting about ‘self-accomplishments,’ rather than glorifying God. Or maybe we post good things just to hide the filth inside, or trying to show others that we have better ministries. We should always examine our hearts for its real intentions and motives.

We should strive to be discerning in all our actions. We should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be knowledgeable in His written Word so we could tell what is right from what is wrong even in small things. I know of some Christians who choose not to have a Facebook account for the sake of purity and deep spirituality. They have known the wiles of the devil in these attractive modern things of life.

Social networking is just one of the many things that create idols in the hearts of the Christian youth. More could be said about secular movies, TV personalities, clothes, accessories and fads, etc. Have we not realized until now that cheering out loud for celebrities is in fact a very subtle form of praising men and women? Have we not considered the fact that getting hooked in love/romantic movies is a way of agreeing to the shallow love presented by the fallen world which is very far from the godly love exemplified by Jesus and some Bible characters?

Idols are very subtle and dangerous. Often, they are the good things of this life (career, possessions, girlfriend, books, ideas, dreams, in fact so many common things) that are valued and loved beyond what is appropriate. Yes, an idol is anything that is valued and loved and sought for beyond what is appropriate, and as a result it draws us away from God. It makes our love for God run cold.

That is why it is very hard to find nowadays a powerful Christian: A Christian who is an effective witness to the Lord, a Christian whose prayers are answered, a Christian whose motives are pure, a Christian whose ministry is fruitful. It is quite hard to find a powerful Christian today and one reason is because the typical Christian heart is full of idols.

The idols of the heart are the things that brings us satisfaction and pleasure. This issue is never new, it has been the problem of God’s people since the beginning. The greatest sin of all Israel from the Old Testament is idolatry. The only difference is that Israel’s idols were actual and literal figure-idols. Now our idols are in our hearts.

Yet the common thing is that all of these idols bring us pleasure, satisfaction, and joy. Jeremiah 2 is one good exposition of this. In the context Jeremiah was just starting out his public ministry and God has revealed to His prophet the gist or the core of His heart: it tells that Israel has forsaken the true fountain of pleasure (God) in exchange for the things (idols) that they thought would give them pleasure:

(Jer 2:13) for my people have committed two evils: (1) they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, (2) and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

I have found a very good prayer that could help any Christian in the renunciation (giving up or surrendering) of all idols and past/present sins. It includes a prayer of recommitment to God. The prayer is three pages long but is complete. You can download the prayer here: http://www.delvecchio.org/OTROSTEMAS/Estudios/pdf/prayer_of_renunciation_and_reconciliation.pdf

I testify from my experience that a prayer of renunciation is very effective when prayed with a sincere heart with faith in God’s promises of deliverance. I was freed from my idols after I finished praying audibly.

May God show and radiate His Holiness to His Church. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Bro. Francis S. Hernandez

 

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