Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. This is the final week of our series “Soul Activity” and the title of today's message is “The Enticed Soul”. And what’s so interesting about this topic is how difficult it is to receive, because we’re surrounded by good things that God gave us to enjoy, and we’re enticed, whatever it is, to exalt it to a place that it never should be. So, this morning, as we talk about “The Enticed Soul” we are going to talk about the sin of idolatry.
Now if you remember, I told you in the beginning, “We are not a body with a soul, but we are a soul with a body” (Craig Groeschel). And what that means is that when we die our bodies might die, but we technically don’t die, because our soul continues to live on. So, the body is merely a tent for the soul and therefore, we want to keep our souls healthy and we want to protect them from the idols that entice them so subtly.
You know, when God gave the 10 Commandments to his people, the Bible tells us that the very first of the Commandments, the first one recorded in Exodus chapter 20 is:
"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:3-4).
And the reason why God gave us that commandment first was because as our Creator he had the master plan, and he knew that we were created to glorify Him. Our purpose as God’s greatest of all his creation, created in his own image, was to connect with and to worship the one true living God. And so, worship is not something that we do, but it’s something we were created for, and for that very reason Satan, the enemy of our souls, entices us by a myriad of counterfeits. Therefore, anytime our souls are drawn to and enticed by anything but God we find ourselves discontent and dissatisfied, because the counterfeits always fail to deliver what they promised. That’s why so many of us can have so much and still be empty on the inside, because all the things of this world cannot satisfy the soul that was created to be satisfied by God and God alone. And that’s why God said,
"You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
And that’s why, it’s recorded in Deuteronomy chapter 4, that God said,
“Do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19).
God says, “Don’t be enticed into bowing down to them…” Now I imagine, the majority of us, automatically think about the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, or maybe the ancient Greeks or Egyptians, but when we think about idolatry there’s automatically this disconnect, because we think that we are above worshiping like that. And the reason why we don’t recognize it is, because we have all been enticed, we’re all so immersed in the sin of idolatry, so enticed by this counterfeit that we couldn’t even see it if we were looking at it in the mirror.
Let me toss out some examples and hopefully this will make more sense.
Considering that more than two thirds of adults are considered to be overweight by the National Institute of Health, it’s obvious that there is a problem. And honestly, I think it’s a spiritual problem, because the reason why so many people are overweight is that food is a God. I mean, in our culture, we talk about it, we dream about it, we’re consumed by it. You know, how many ads for food do you see on television in an average evening? You drive down the road and there are billboards advertising these great big juicy cheeseburgers. And then we’ve got these great big stores with aisles and aisles of food, not to mention that on every corner you’ve got a restaurant preparing your favorite meals.
Or how about the little altars that are in every home and now are getting bigger and bigger? Does anybody know what I’m talking about?
You know, you take this thing and you put it on the wall, you plug it in, and then you put chairs around it, you gather your whole family together, and you just give your undivided attention to whatever comes on the screen. I would suggest that we’ve become a culture so enticed, so desensitized to idolatry that we can’t even see it when it’s right in front of us. We’ve become so enticed by the good things that God has given us, that we elevate them to the position of being the number one thing, and without even noticing it we lift created things above God in our hearts, because we have an enticed soul.
In Mark chapter 8, we notice that Jesus didn’t beat around the bush, but he told his disciples plainly,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36).
Now, that’s a pretty serious charge, “That if anyone would come after me he or she must deny themselves, losing their lives, so that they may save their souls.”
And therefore, for the remainder of our time I want to lay out for you three steps to cleanse our souls from every form of idolatry. And I’m believing that God is going do something miraculous inside of each of us. And so, the first thing we need to do, the first step, is to identify the idols in our souls.
This week I’ve been praying that the Spirit of God would reveal to us whatever it is that we’ve elevated to a position higher than the one true God in our lives. The Bible ask this question in Psalms chapter 24, beginning at verse three,
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol” (Psalms 24:3-4).
And so, what I would like to encourage you to do is to look at how you spend your time, how you spend your money, and what you talk about. And I’m being serious, because it’s very easy to justify what we do and rationalize with all kinds of excuses why some things aren’t idols, but the reality is that in most of our lives there are things that have become so important that they’ve become idols and we don’t even realize it. So, what we want to consider is how we spend our time, how we spend our money, and what we talk about.
Now, I don’t know what it might be for you. Do you find most of your spare time focused on the same thing, or if you look at your checkbook, your bank account, do you see a spending trend in a certain direction and none of it or little of it goes to the Church or helping people? Or maybe you find that when you’re talking to people the conversation always drifts to something, maybe your favorite past time or hobby, maybe even a person, but never to God, never to spiritual things?
Here’s what I want to point out to you, if God is on the throne of your soul then what you do during the week is going to reflect kingdom values, your spending is going to reflect a kingdom purpose, and what you talk about is naturally going to drift to God because God is really important to you. Maybe your whole life revolves around your image, you know, the tan, the hair, the shoes. Or maybe it’s all about your house and you’ve done all this research about remodeling the kitchen, the perfect deck, or the perfect yard. For some of us, it’s our children, and they should be important, but they shouldn’t be elevated to the supreme place in our lives. Honestly, I think some people idolize their online identity, you know like how many Twitter followers or how many likes on Facebook. And it could be any number of things, obviously I could go on and on and on, but what I want you to do is to be really honest about what you put ahead of God.
Honestly, for myself I’ve found a couple this week and one that I’ve been working on pretty seriously for over a year, because it is about retraining my mind and disciplining my body, and that’s my love for food. I’ve always loved to eat and so I’m changing, disciplining myself, and renewing my mind.
Another one, is that I found myself idolizing the opinions of other people. You know, I want everybody to like me, I want everybody to appreciate the work I do, and for example, when I get done preaching a message what kind of response do I get, what kind of approval, but the reality is that I recognize not everybody going to like me, and I’m not called to live for the approval of others, but instead for the approval of God.
One more was security. Worrying about having enough money to pay the bills, worrying about debt, and worrying about saving for retirement, but I realize that God has to be my security, he’s my safety net, and not my financial position.
And so, we need to consider as a church where we’ve been enticed and don’t even see it. And then once we identify what would be or could be an idol, number two the Bible teaches us to tear down and to destroy our idols.
As you read through the Bible, you never find God playing games about worship, he never says be tolerant of other religions, other gods, or other idols, but he says in Isaiah,
“I have revealed and saved and proclaimed, I and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, that I am God. Yes, from ancient days I am he” (Isaiah 43:12-13).
Again in chapter 45, God said to Isaiah, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other… before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, “In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:22-24).
And it’s for that reason that the Lord commands in Exodus chapter 20,
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
Therefore, he says to demolish them, to destroy anything that’s more important to you than the one true God. And that’s what we see happening in Judges chapter 6. The people of God had begun to worship the gods of Amorites, the gods of the land where they lived, and God told Gideon, “No more!”
“Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it” (Judges 6:25).
And you can sense the indignation of God and the divine calling on Gideon who rips those idols down, refusing to let anything stand between him and God, being unwilling to tolerate the sin of his father’s house anymore.
In the same way, God is calling us to demolish those things in our lives that have become way too important, because they’ll continue to entice our souls. No matter whether it idolizing your yard, your car, or your kid’s sports activities, whether building an empire of success in your career, or just the pursuit of material things; what we can’t seem to grasp and understand, is that we’ve been enticed into worshiping a counterfeit, something that will never satisfy. And so, life goes on a million miles an hour and we wonder why our lives are so full and yet our souls are still empty. Meanwhile, God is looking down from heaven, he’s looking at us, he loves us, and when he asks us to tear down our idols it’s not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy life or to have nice things, but it’s simply because he doesn’t want those things to have us.
That’s why Jesus said, “I tell you, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24).
As a matter of fact, one day, the gospel of Mark tells us, that Jesus came across a guy who idolized his money and his possessions. The man asked Jesus in chapter 10,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).
Jesus told him to obey the commands, and in verse 19 he said,
“You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:19-21).
Mark tells us that this man who had approached Jesus so zealously, went away sad, because he had great wealth. He’d been enticed into settling for a counterfeit. He loved his idol, he was unwilling to set it aside, and he didn't care what it cost him, even if it was the kingdom. And today, Jesus is going to ask us to demolish anything in our lives that are more important to us than he is. I don’t know what that looks like for you. I don’t know how radical that’s going to be for you. I don’t know how much it’s going to hurt, but I do know that whatever it is, Jesus won’t ask you to tear it down unless it’s become an idol to you.
Now I’ve heard of people taking radical steps to demolish idols in their lives. I’ve heard of people who are so obsessed with their online personality that they deleted their Facebook page. Another who got rid of their TVs because they were just so consuming. Another family realized they weren’t going to church because they were always either at a game or at their lake house. So they sold their season tickets and the lake house, because they were unwilling to let something be more important to them than worshiping God.
This morning I don’t know what it would mean for you, but if there’s something that is more important in your soul than the one true God, demolish it and tear it down. And then, once there’s space in your soul, the next thing you do is fill your soul with God and allow him to take his rightful place on the throne of your soul.
And I want to share with you three verses and if you could help me by reading these out loud that would be awesome. Everybody out loud, Psalms chapter 84:
“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalms 84:2).
“For (God) has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Psalm 107:9, NASU).
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalms 42:1-2).
Now do you notice, as we read those verses, we don’t normally speak that way about God. You know, we don’t come to church saying, “My soul’s panting for God, I’m thirsting for God, I’m hungry for God!” But let’s be honest for a moment. Don’t we often use that language for things of the world?
You know, I’m longing for more things, my heart and my flesh cry out for more, I crave more of what this world has to offer. And yet, if we’re not using that same language for our God, then our soul has been enticed, even poisoned by false idols. Our soul should be crying out for the living God, because he alone satisfies the thirsty soul, and he alone fills the hungry soul. He is God and there is no other.
This morning, as we wrap things up, if you’re thirsty and hungry, if your life is empty, lower your expectations of what you hope to get out of this world. You see, you weren’t created for this world, you were created for the Kingdom of God and his glory. Therefore, your soul will never be satisfied by anything that this world has to offer.
As we close in prayer, let me encourage you not to settle for anything less than God’s best. Take a look in your heart, take a long hard look at anything that you might be elevating to that place that alone should be reserved for God. Let’s take a moment in prayer in the presence of God.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 21, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.