Exposing False gods
A god is the source from which we get our sense of identity and worth and value. In addition, our god will become our mentor which will shape what our character becomes like. Our concept of our God becomes the model, the template that determines and forms how we relate to others as well.
It is very easy to be confused about the identity of our gods. A person who claims to be a Christian will sometimes have the most difficult time becoming aware of the many gods in their life because of the Law's requirement that there be only one God for them. As a result people will believe that they worship only one God while in fact they are depending on many gods without being aware of it. This makes it very difficult to renounce other gods because they tend to remain largely obscured from consciousness.
I believe it might be much easier to unmask the many gods that we in fact do worship if we honestly applied the above definitions to help expose them in our own lives. If I can be honest enough to admit the many things that I rely on to make me feel important I can then get much closer to becoming honest about how many gods I am depending on to prop me up.
Gods do not have to be defined by the use of images or even be religious in nature at all. Most gods are not religious looking and yet can strongly influence our religious experience. This applies to everyone whether they claim to be religious or not.
One of the ways of uncovering our little gods is to pay attention to what consumes our thinking much of the time. Another very effective method is to note what drives our priorities whenever a crisis or threat occurs in our life. Our reactions to threats, fear or personal attacks can quickly reveal some of our gods. Temptations are also a very effective means of flushing out what is valuable to us that we depend on for a sense of worth. Lust is a very good indicator that can expose what we think will bring us life and pleasure. All of these things can show us some of the many gods that we depend on to make us feel more alive, things that we hope will make us thrive.
A big problem for Christians is that it is quite difficult for most of us to realize how little we really depend on the true God to define our identity and to be our sole source of worth. It may be easy to learn to mouth the words and concepts intellectually, but it is a completely different thing to have our heart on board believing those same things down into our subconscious being. Yet it is the things we depend on at the heart level to prop up our self-worth and provide us with pleasure and security that truly define the gods that we really worship and trust.
Understanding the real truth about the identity of our gods can also greatly assist us in understanding the true nature of worship. We are often very confused about the whole notion of worship because we resist admitting the truth about the reality and presence of false gods. We have deluded ourselves into believing that because we may not literally bow down physically to an idol somewhere that we are free of the sin of worshiping false gods. But this is a serious delusion that can be fatal for us if we are not willing to allow God's Spirit to expose it's fallacy in our lives and to receive cleansing and freedom from real idol worship.
Only as we confess our sins can we experience freedom and cleansing from them. Of course, if we don't even believe that this sin exists in our life we may not feel any need to confess it. We may feel like we have very little problem with worshiping false gods in our life while all the time they are running most of our life and controlling nearly all of our decisions. Because they are so familiar to our way of life we just assume that these gods are nothing more than our hobbies, our preferences, even our occupations. The deceptive nature of false gods is so pervasive and effective that it takes the supernatural gift of repentance and humility and heavenly wisdom for anyone to become aware of them and to turn away from them.
I am often convicted of the presence of false gods in my heart and am forced to seek God's deliverance from the control of these powerful influences. Recently I received a threat in the mail that suddenly exposed a whole raft of false gods that have influenced my life for many years. These gods are specialized in various ways but often work closely with each other to keep their spell over my mind and heart and yet stay hidden from my awareness. But God is faithful if we are willing to allow Him to expose us and purify us and He will allow circumstances to flush into the open the many false gods that we depend on so readily in our moments of crisis.
One of the surest ways of tracing the presence of a false god is to observe our emotions. We often think we are supposed to suppress our emotions in order to appear to be good Christians, but that can be a serious mistake. While it is true that we should not allow our emotions to control or guide us, we must realize that emotions are simply indicators of what is happening much deeper in our heart. Emotions are like the dials and lights and read-outs on the dashboard of a car or an aircraft. It would be highly dangerous for a pilot to try to suppress the output of an instrument on his control panel because he didn't feel comfortable with its message. Likewise we need to pay attention to what our emotions may be trying to tell us about the condition of our heart. If we learn how to properly interpret and respond to our emotions instead of suppressing them we will begin to mature and be able to thrive as God designed us to live.
One of the things our emotions can reveal to us is the sources of our sense of value and identity. In effect, it is like realizing that the gauges on our dashboard just might be connected to the wrong thing under the hood and as a result are giving us false readings. When I feel extremely defensive it is a sure sign that my emotions are being driven by some other god than the true God, because the true God would never produce that kind of reaction if He were fully living in my heart and in control of my life.
When I begin to understand this principle about false gods I can begin to make real progress in becoming free of them by God's grace if I want to be obedient to His commandments. Sanctification is the work of God in me to expose and expel all the false gods that live inside me and manipulate me. God wants me to be completely free of all false gods so that all of my affections and worship can be exclusively for Him alone. If that is not what I want for my life then I am not really a Christian at heart, I may be just wanting people to think that I am.
It will be extremely painful to become free of false gods. We have very intimate ties with our gods and it will feel very much like we are dying ourselves when we let go of our dependence on these gods. In fact, it will be impossible to let them go until we have enough sense of God's provision for that part of our life to trust Him to fill the painful void created each time we divorce from one of our gods that we have depended on for so many years. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said that if we try to save our life we will end up losing it in the end. It is our false gods that compel us to feel that they are the real source of our life, our identity and importance and without them we will just die. Jesus says that if we are unwilling to die now that we will end up being lost when the day of final revelation comes.
The only way that I can find the strength and courage to expel my false gods and renounce my dependence on them is to increase my appreciation and value for what God offers me. God refuses to timeshare with false gods in my heart; that arrangement is simply untenable to Him. God is a very jealous God for my exclusive affections and He says that if I want to enjoy intimacy with Him throughout eternity that I cannot allow any other gods to be my support or comfort.
This may not make a lot of sense until we start giving illustrations and stories to demonstrate what a false god looks like. But the problem that arises from that is that it is too easy to think that only the false gods identified in some illustration are the problem or that those gods are only someone else's problem and not mine. We must come to the place where we are willing to accept and even invite the presence of God's Spirit to convict us personally of the false gods in our own lives and to cooperate with Him in expelling them no matter how painful that may be. For it is also that same Spirit who is sent to reveal to our hearts the glorious true God and to impress us with His far superior provisions for us and the intense passion with which His love desires to embrace us.
False gods can be hard to discern because it is easy to mistake some thing as a god and miss the fact that it is really the spirit that attaches us to that thing, not the thing itself. Thus when we hear examples of false gods it might be easy to rush to the conclusion that the problem is the thing or person or activity itself rather that the spirit inside of us that causes us to relate improperly to that symbol. Things or activities or people that may be a serious problem as a false god to one person may not have any such influence on the next. Thus it is very dangerous to assume that some activity or substance is necessarily in itself a false god. The problem is always in the heart, not so much in the externals.
So when attempting to identify our false gods we need to be careful to look deep enough to see behind the symptoms of a false god and seek to find the root spirit that is the real problem. God is faithful to confront us in this area if we are willing to accept His presence in our hearts. Light always exposes what was hidden in the darkness; the real issue is how willing I am to allow the light to shine where it makes me squirm.