We live in a world where many people praise resourcefulness, street smarts and finding ways to do what seems impossible. Every culture has it’s ideas and expressions about how to find a way to get things done. We learn about the advantages of being diplomatic and about how to make good compromises with others. There are indeed some advantages to being able to motivate and move people as well as knowing how to balance conflicting desires and interests in large groups (though we must fight the temptation to use and manipulate people as this is not a loving way to treat others). But one problem that arises from this is that we incorrectly apply this idea to God. We look at people all over the world and learn how to appease them and convince them to do things we want, and then we look at God and act the same way towards Him. This shows up in many ways:
- Let’s make a deal prayers: We tell God “if you will just do this for me, then I will do this, or I will stop doing that.” We may promise to give more time and money, or read our bible more, we may promise to stop committing some type of sin but God simply cannot be bought in this way.
- Trying to get God in our debt: This is where rather than just making a promise to do something for God if He does something for us, instead we do things for Him first. But with the expectation of getting something in return. These deeds do not honor God, they are selfish and no deed that we do can outdo what God has already done for us.
- Trying to get God to leave us alone: Where we try to do enough good to just avoid negative consequences of sin, or God’s wrath. We try to be just good enough so that we can still basically pursue whatever lifestyle we want.
- Running from God: Like the previous one, running from God is about trying to simply live life the way you want to. Except for this one, people try to run away from God and from His church in order to free themselves of a guilty conscience or from the rebukes and correction from the Church.
All these attitudes are wrong and sinful, as they do not honor God, and in fact they reflect idolatry in our lives. The above attitudes treat God as a means to get something else. If you pray: “God I will go to church if you give me a successful career,” then you can be sure that the career is your idol. If you go to church and pray earnestly so that you can become rich, then wealth is your idol. If you date someone that you know you shouldn’t but justify it by making them come to church with you, you can know that that relationship is your idol. If you leave the church because you can’t accept brothers and sisters lovingly but sternly talking to you about your sins and appealing to you to change, then your freedom or the sins you do not wish to stop may be your idol.
Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life more my sake will save it.”
True worship of God is not about kind of following Him, or sometimes doing good things for Him so that He’ll be nice to you. It’s about recognizing that the God of the universe is worthy of worship and that He alone can satisfy you. Because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, it is only by making Him both Lord and savior of our lives that we can know God. This is why Paul is able to say in Phillipians 4:8 that all things are rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. It is why Psalm 37:4-5 tells us to delight ourselves in Him and that only then can our hearts receive what it truly desires, and that we must submit all we do to Him and only then will we have true success. We must be humble before God and remember that He is all powerful, but listens to us because He is also loving.
Knowing God is not a means to get things we want, but it is about learning to desire Him and desire to honor and glorify Him. This is the true purpose for which we have been made. So over the next few weeks we will take a look at the 4 ways that we try to appease or handle God in our lives and how our hearts need to change in order to submit to Him. Reflect on yourself this week and see if you notice any of these behaviors in you. Check your heart for idols and confess them to God, pray that you would really desire Him and take time to worship for who He is. He is faithful, and even when we are in our sins He extends His grace to us and desires to transform us.