The older I get the more sermons and the less music I listen to. It's kind of weird. When I'm skateboarding through the streets with earbuds in, I look like a hoodlum that is probably listening to sex-cular music with loud drums and whatnot, but a lot of the time I'm listening to a sermon of some guy talking. Today, I just listened to a phenomenal sermon about the pursuit of happiness*. Which coincided with a lesson I learned this weekend on idolatry. So idolatry is seeking joy and all the things God promises us outside of God Himself. When people think of idols a lot of people instantly think of money or golden calfs, but in my experience idols are usually morally neutral, like friends, girlfriends, talent, food, career, music, entertainment, etc. But it's why are we seeking those things that becomes our problem.
So I was praying that God would show me my idols and He did. A lot of the struggles in my life that I thought I figured out or nipped in the butt were only nipped in the butt because something else, in this case, morally neutral, took it's place. I put my hope in something that wasn't God, which gave me some positive, yet temporary results from the other idols I had that weren't God either.
I've idolized things in the past, morally neutral things like career, film, friends, facebook, music, etc. God has shown me my heart towards them and that I put too much stock in them so I've weeded them out as idols and have learned to enjoy them in a healthier way. Every Christian knows that idolatry is sin, but what I've been learning is that sin springs from idolatry. If idolatry is the pursuit of joy and pleasure outside of God, then it explains why we sin. Sin shows us that we are looking for something that will make us happy and comfort us without God in the picture.
I'm sure there are already a million sci-fi nerd blogs about the Matrix and even if you don't like the Matrix or haven't seen it. I'll explain the scene, because it affords me an analogy. In the beginning of the Matrix, our hero is asked to take the red pill or the blue pill. If he takes the blue pill, things will stay the same, take the red pill and another world will be opened to him.
There have been and still are so many things that I will eventually turn into idols. Which is bizarre because I know that if someone sat me down and said "take this pill if you want to pursue God or take this pill if you want to live selfishly" I know I'd choose God. But my day to day actions don't show that. I think it's because God isn't as tangible as a red pill. I was praying tonight and started to notice my heart and mind wandering to errands I have to run and the events of the day. Which makes me assume that it happens to all of us. It's such a struggle to just focus on God for a few minutes without small things in life taking over. Our hearts and minds wander so much everyday. Which makes the verse "Love the LORD with all your mind" a little bit more scary.
I know that in youth group we are told to fill that void with Jesus and we start to think once we change our religious status to 'Christian' we have filled that void. But, it should be a life-long pursuit. It's not a "I took the red pill a long time ago" but more like "I'm pursuing and choosing the red pill everyday".
That's way harder. I wish it were as simple as taking a pill and everything is easy from then on. But it's not.
In Tim Keller's sermon about pursuing happiness he talked about if you seek happiness, you'll never find it, but if you seek God, you'll find joy as a result. But if you seek God for happiness, then you aren't seeking the God of the universe anymore. The less that happiness is our focus, the more happy we become.
What things in life are we pursuing in hopes for happiness, outside of God?
Tim Keller made a really amazing list of questions to ask yourself. This list scares me. It always shows me my idols and that I'm failing to take the red pill in every decision I make.
What consumes most of your thoughts and feelings? What motivates the things that you do? What are you most afraid of? What brings the highest amount of frustration or anger into your life? What is one thing that can change your mood in a second? What would your friends say is your favorite topic of conversation? What are some things that you feel you can’t live without? What brings you solace? What do you yearn for? What is one thing that you wish God would do for you?
I'll end with this: Sometimes we make "not sinning anymore" or "getting rid of idols" our idol. We think, "If I could just overcome this sin, I'll be happy" or "If I just stop focusing on this idol, I'll have joy". Which again, shows us how much our hearts are prone to wander. It shows us how much we really do need God. We need to just focus on God and fall in love with Him by seeing how much He loves us, when we do all the small pleasures in life will have no competition. Focus on giving our lives to the God that paid for our lives through Jesus Christ. That's what it means in the Bible when it talks about no longer being a slave to sin, because we were bought by God. It's God that we should pursue, even if it doesn't made us happy or give us instant gratification. It's Jesus that made it possible for us to get God, despite our many idols and it's the Holy Spirit that is going to guide us and remind us to take the red pill daily.
A little bonus about the discussion of idols brings up one of my favorite stories about God that makes me laugh. Basically, when the Philistines (the enemies of Isreal) stole the Ark of the Covenant (Something very sacred to say the least) and they put it in the same room as their physical idol/god Dagon. God proved His point that He doesn't plan to share a room with any other gods. 1 Samuel 5:3 "...when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon vdo not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day."
I laugh at this story, in fact the times I laugh the most when I read the Bible is when people try to put God on the same playing field as their hand made Gods. Like when Elisha is saying to another tribe “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
*Sermon can be streamed or downloaded here: http://www.tubopopcorn.com/friends/Tim%20Keller%20-%20The%20Search%20for%20Happiness.mp3