This week at Wednesday Night Worship we began a series called "gods at war" based on the book by Kyle Idleman where we will look at the idols we deal with. We opened the night with a worship set that included "Like A Lion" (Crowder/Newsboys), "God is Able" (Hillsong), and "Here For You" (Passion).
I began the message talking about how the previous week we looked at having big dreams for what God wants to do in us and through us. The inevitable truth is that we will encounter ups and downs in our spiritual walk this. However there is a problem that exists when we encounter a "spiritual high" then shortly after life returns to normal, and we have another "spiritual high" and then back to normal again. We all experience this spiritual roller coaster in our lives from time to time. Why does this happen and how can we change it?
We discussed the following scenario: what if you had a terrible cough and went to the doctor for relief. He runs tests on you and discovers that you have lung cancer. Instead of treating the cancer though, he decides to give you a prescription for cough medicine. It helps you feel a little better, but inside the cancer is eating you up. The problem is the cancer, the cough is only a symptom. We all are dealing with our own problems and struggles, whether it is emotional pain from a past experience, or a sin problem that we continue to run to. The things that we deal with are only symptoms of the true illness in our lives which is idolatry. Sometimes the subject of idolatry seems irrelevant to us today. However, idolatry was the number 1 issue in the Bible. It was so serious that it was 1 of 4 sins that had the death penalty attached to it in the Old Testament. When we look at Scripture it is evident that there is a war going on inside us- gods or idols are at war for the throne of our hearts. Sometimes we do not even recognize them as idols because they are not bad things until we make them idols in our lives. Every sin that we struggle with is a result of our idolatry.
We read Joshua 24:14-15 where Joshua is at the end of his life. Previous to these verses, Joshua has recapped the history of Israel. Here he gives his listeners a challenge and an option to decide who they are going to serves. The gods that they have turned to in the past or the One True God that has delivered them and been there for them. Joshua knew that they struggled with this because he knew we have all been created to be a worshipper. We all will worship someone/something. It is necessary that we understand this about ourselves because we are not immune from idol worship. We asked the following questions in order to help us identify the gods that are at war for our heart:
1) What are you most disappointed with?
What we are most disappointed with in life often reveals where we have placed our hope. Where we place our hope reveals our gods.
2) Where do you go when you hurt?
Where we go for comfort creates honest moments of worship in our lives.
3) What do you sacrifice your time and money for?
The word "serve" appears 7 times in Joshua 24:14-15. Who or what we serve is revealed by how we spend our time and our money.
We took some time to list on a dry erase board the idols that teenagers deal with today. They listed: phone, internet, relationships, money, school, sports, sex, shopping, etc. I then connected each of these as a branch of a tree. I drew the tree roots to form the word "SELF" because all of our idols are rooted in the fact that we seek to please ourselves most of the time. However when we become rooted in "GOD" (I changed the word self to God), He prunes the idols in our lives by destroying them, allow the possibility for the fruits of the Spirit to be produced in our lives. It is not simply good enough to try to replace the idols in our lives, they must be destroyed or they will continue to battle for the throne of our heart.
Joshua uses the phrase "choose this day." The verb tense used here is not simply a reference for a past choice. Instead he is saying "I chose, I choose, and I will keep choosing to follow God." Too often in our lives we chose Jesus for salvation and think that we are good enough. Instead we must choose daily to make Jesus Lord of our lives. Joshua 24:23 he says to "put away or "throw away" the gods/idols in our lives. If we do not destroy and throw them away, then we are just treating the cancer with cough syrup which the cancer inside us continues to destroy us. So the question we must ask ourselves is "Who will we choose?" Will we choose the idols that fight for the throne of our heart or will we choose to allow God His rightful place on His throne. We closed with a time of reflection asking God to reveal the idols that we struggle with. I reminded the students that my prayer for us this year is that God will wreck our plans, and that may mean that God removes the things in our lives that we really enjoy because we have allowed them to become idols in our lives.