Thursday, March 20, 2014

gods at war- Part 6

This week we wrapped up the "gods at war" series.  I have my good friend Nathan Presswood who is in the band They Came Running lead worship for us.  He did an excellent job as he led a set that included "Oh How I Need You" (All Sons & Daughters), "Your Love Never Fails" (Jesus Culture), "One Thing Remains" (Passion), "10,000 Reasons" (Matt Redman), and "Holy, You Are Holy".

I did a brief review/overview of what we have covered so far in this series as we looked at the sin of idolatry and that we would conclude by talking about the god that everyone struggles with the most which is the god of self.  Every time we sin it is because we in that moment have chosen to worship ourselves instead of worshipping God.  We went through Daniel 4 as we looked at King Nebuchadnezzar.  He was the powerful and evil king of Babylon.  We see in the beginning of this chapter in verses 1-3 that he is worshipping God.  How does an evil king get to this moment?  We read that this chapter begins with him praising God, then telling the story of how he gets to this point in life.  What happens is that he has a dream that disturbs him greatly.  He first calls in some wise men to interpret the dream but they are unable.  He then calls in Daniel and tells it to him in verses 10-16.  He dreams of a great tree that covers the earth and provides food and shelter for everything.  Then the tree is cut down.  Daniel informs King Nebuchadnezzar that the tree is him.  He explains that God is going to take everything from him because he is living a life that is filled with self worship.

We then looked at some questions of how to see that we, like King Nebuchadnezzar, are all self worshippers.
1) What motivates you?  For King Nebuchadnezzar it was to impress others.  He built a huge statue of himself for people to see how powerful he was and bow down to him.  He build "The Hanging Gardens of Babylon" to impress his wife and probably others as well.  We have to ask ourself if our motivation is to impress others.
2) What is your standard of success?  For King Nebuchadnezzar it was personal gain.  His palace was about 350 yards long and an estimated 630,000 square feet.  He viewed success by what he was able to accumulate.
3) What is your source of power?  For King Nebuchadnezzar it was self-empowerment.  His source of power was from the thought that he was responsible for all of his success.
4) What is your purpose of life?  For King Nebuchadnezzar it was personal happiness.  Everything he did was motivated by his desire to be happy and satisfied.

The way King Nebuchadnezzar would answer these questions is the same way we do when we are worshipping the god of self.  Even insecurity can be a sign of this idol worship as we try to impress others in order to build ourselves up.

So Daniel pleads with the king in verse 27 to change his heart and repent.  However, he did not even though he had a year to change.  We read in verses 28-33 what happens to the king.  He is walking out on his roof one night reflecting on how he was a great king and that Babylon was great because of him.  In that moment a voice came from heaven and he was removed as king and for a period of seven years he lived as an animal.  He ate grass, his hair and nails grew long, and he lived as if he was an animal.  However, in verse 34, he lifted his eyes toward heaven and began to worship God instead of himself.  At this point everything changed for Nebuchadnezzar.  He was restored as king and he returns to a normal life.  In verse 34 he says that God "is able to humble those who walk in pride."

We were all made to worship.  We will worship someone and something.  The question is whether we will choose to worship God or ourselves.  When we really begin to see the true love of God and allow it to transform us, then we can't help but worship Him.  Deuteronomy 4:24 says "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."  God does not need us, yet He wants a relationship with us.  If we allow that truth to move in us, then we will remove ourselves off of the throne of our heart and rightfully place God there.  When this happens, the answers to those questions asked earlier begin to change:
-What motivates us?  Changes from impressing others to pleasing God
-What is your standard of success?  Changes from personal gain to faithfulness to God
-What is your source of power?  Changes from self-empowerment to dependence on God
-What is the purpose of your life?  Changes from personal happiness to God's glory

We closed with a prayer time asking God to move in our hearts and reveal to us if we have been worshipping ourselves.  I challenged the students that throughout this series that God may have revealed to them the idols in their lives and that in order to get their focus on God as they should that they need to eliminate those idols.  This may mean fasting from something for a period of time or eliminating them completely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

gods at war- Part 5

I'm late posting about last week but we covered week 5 of the "gods at war" series we have been in.  We opened with a worship set that included "Afterlife" (Switchfoot), "Forever Reign" (Kristian Stanfill), and "Hosanna" (Hillsong United).  Then to begin the message I divided the group into two teams and gave them each a jigsaw puzzle to solve. They had to select two people from their team to solve the puzzle while everyone else could only help give directions.

After we talked about how competitive everyone is.  Even though it was just solving a puzzle, most of the students are competitive enough that they wanted to win.  We discussed why winning/competition/success are all so important to us.  Some of the ways we desire success is in school, career, money, sports, hobbies, always being right, and always having to have the final word.  There is nothing wrong with being driven and having ambition, but when it becomes all about us rather than glorifying God then success has become and idol in our lives.  We asked the following questions to help determine if success is an idol in our lives:
1)  What is your reaction when someone else is more successful than you?  Are you jealous or happy for them?
2)  Are you often told that you have to always be right?
3)  Do people think that you are a sore lose or that you are able to lose well?

We read Philippians 2:3 and discussed that the word "selfishness" here means the same as a rivalry and pride where people push for their own way.  In other words we are not do anything that is for our own personal glory.

So what if we began to view and define success differently?  What could that look like?  We read 1 Corinthians 10:31 that tells us to give our best effort in everything that we are doing as if we are serving God.  What if we began to define success as giving God our best effort and leaving the results up to Him?  What if God simply calls us to be obedient and serve Him greatly, but He does not give us the success that we in our human nature desire?  I think about how at the end of Moses' life he was allowed to see the Promised Land, but not enter.  What if that is what God calls us to do/be?  Maybe God is teaching us that He is all we really need and that we also want Him.

We closed with a time of prayer thinking about this and how if the idol of success is not dealt with now that it will continue to grow like a snowball that rolls down a mountain and begins an avalanche.  The idol of success can cost you everything, even your own soul (Matthew 16:26).