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No Other Gods

And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:1-3 NIV)

Human beings are innately religious. We instinctively know there is something or someone that is bigger than we are and we worship both in wonder and in an effort to gain favor and blessing from that entity. Across unrelated cultures there is worship of the god of the sun, the god of the wind, the god of fertility, and so forth.

In the cultures of the nations around Israel at the time of Moses and the exodus from slavery in Egypt, the temptation to worship many gods was, well, tempting. Israel came out of Egypt, which had many gods, and entered Canaan, which had many other gods. In Egypt: Osiris. Anubis. Ra. In Canaan: Baal. Asherah. Chemosh. Beelzebub. And there were many others.

In the midst of all the polytheism (belief in many gods) that surrounded and permeated their history and culture, God began His Ten Commandments with the most important one: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."

Particularly if we do not know or honor the one, true God - the God of the Bible - we satisfy our instinctive hunger for Him by elevating other things to the status of gods whom we worship. Money. Pleasure. Power. Fame. Approval. Even good things like family or career. Adrian Rogers is quoted as saying: "Anything you love more, fear more, serve more, or value more than God is your idol."

When money or approval or fame or pleasure or comfort become more important to us than honoring God, we practice idolatry. We don't have to sit in front of little statues and burn incense to worship these gods. We worship them in our decision making and everyday living.

The biggest and most tempting idol of them all is self. That is the idolatry of Lucifer, the glorious angel who led a rebellion in heaven and tried to unseat God. That is the temptation he offered (in the guise of a serpent) to Adam and Eve: “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5 NIV) That is the toughest battle we all face in making Jesus the Lord of our lives - dethroning self and honoring Jesus in all things.

The biblical remedy for idolatry is worship of and obedience to the one, true God. Every "yes" we say to Jesus is a "no" to idolatry. Every act of obedience and worship knocks the props from under the idolatries of our lives. Beginning to tithe to God's work says "no" to the money idol. Serving behind the scenes in simple acts of kindness and love says "no" to the power and fame idols.

Jesus made it clear in John, chapter 15, that we must abide in Him and He must dwell in us, for apart from Him we can do nothing. The power to break the grip of idolatry in our lives is the power of the Holy Spirit living in our hearts. Permeated with the holy love of Jesus, our desires change and sin is rooted out of our lives. Idols are dethroned. Jesus takes His rightful place as Lord of our lives. And we are transformed to become more and more Christlike.

Who is on the throne of my life, calling the shots? Jesus, or me? What dominates my decision making and lifestyle? Money? Sex? Power? Or the Kingdom of God? Where is the Holy Spirit calling me to take a simple, concrete step toward the Lordship of Jesus Christ and away from a stronghold of idolatry in my life?

I want to be like Jesus. I want to honor and worship the one, true God, and not anyone or anything else. Holy Spirit, purge my heart of hearts of familiar idolatries, and make me more like Jesus. Amen - may it be so.


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