Where Have all the gods Gone?
Where have all the gods gone? There seems to be a severe shortage of obvious false gods and idols around making people think that the first two commandments are nearly obsolete. Or are they?
What does it really mean to bow down to them or worship them?
We are created in the image of God. We were given authority over everything else in this world to act as God's representatives.
A god is any source we look to as a means of supplying any of our needs, especially when our heart gets involved in that activity. The act of bowing is just an outward symptom of what our heart has already been doing for possibly a very long time. Bowing is to lower our head – the symbol of authority and the container of our identity as children of the King – to anything we look to that we have chosen as a source that we trust to supply something we need. In bowing we are lowering ourself and in contrast elevating that god higher than us in our estimation. "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." (Numbers 13:33)
God has explicitly made it clear that to view anything or anyone as higher than ourselves besides Him is to abdicate our position as children of the King, as part of His royal family exercising proper authority over the creation that was put under our charge. When we thus elevate something or any number of things or sources to be our suppliers and subject ourselves to a place in our minds superior to God, those things or personalities displace the true God from the throne of our heart.
We very seldom think in terms of thrones or even royalty in our society anymore so we have little sense of the enormous significance of this. But that does not diminish the effect that this has on us anyway. A throne is the seat of supreme power and the ultimate source to which we look to receive all that we need to live and thrive and even exist. The same is true of the throne in each of our hearts.
Each one of us is given the power to choose who or what takes up that sacred place within our hearts. It does no good to just say that we are Christians and proclaim that Jesus sits on our throne when in actuality there are false gods occupying that place. However, it may be extremely difficult at first to unmask who is really occupying our throne without the light of God's Spirit coming in to reveal to us what is really going on deep inside. When we are willing to ask God to show us how we might be disobeying the first two commandments we are likely to be shocked at what He may begin to reveal to us over time.
Where did the whole idea of false gods start anyway? What motivated people all through history to invent gods? What purpose did they have that kept them in vogue? When the answers to these questions become clearer then it may be seen more easily that they never really went away at all but have just become better disguised. Likewise the worship methods to our gods have morphed along with what they look like so that it becomes very difficult to explain to nearly anyone that all of us really do have far more struggles with god worship than we ever imagined might be the case.
So how do we worship false gods? In what ways do we often create a god to meet some deep need in our hearts?
Consider both the ancient gods and the needs that they were invented to fulfill along with modern idol worship that is still obvious in heathen cultures. Of course, these heathen ones are also starting to be mainstreamed by secular society and people in the entertainment industry.
There were gods of fertility – all sorts and varieties of them. These gods were designed not only to improve chances of having children but were also designed to satisfy sexual cravings, usually more for the male population. Temple prostitution was a very popular way of incorporating sexual pleasure with god worship and greatly enhanced the attractiveness of these gods.
But there were many other gods that vied for their attention. There were gods of wealth. These gods were invented as a means of hopefully assisting them in gaining more wealth for themselves so that they could then use that to satisfy other needs that they felt might bring them satisfaction and pleasure whenever they desired.
There were gods of war. These were relied on to provide greater force than the gods the enemies might depend on in order to gain control over other people both physically, socially and economically. Enemies could then be exploited in any way that the conquerors might feel inclined to do to make themselves feel superior and more valuable by comparison.
There were gods of love that were supposed to bring into the life something, anything that might fill that deep, aching void that is in every human being, that need to love and to be loved. This is closely tied in to our sense of identity which every person struggles with in one way or another.
These are just some of the broad categories of gods under which there are more specific gods that are supposed to take care of details within those categories. And this only touches on the more 'positive' kinds of gods that are supposed to bring things that we want. Then there are the many gods that are much more threatening and that need appeasement. It might seem strange that people would invent threatening gods, but then when the social dynamics of religion is introduced into society it becomes easier to see why these gods serve a vital function in the desire of leaders to maintain control over the masses.
Negative gods were usually invented by priests or political leaders as a way of intimidating others to submit to their authority and control. Many gods were portrayed as enormous threats to life and peace and were assumed to demand appeasement to keep them from unleashing their terrors on their helpless human slaves. All sorts of horrible practices have evolved throughout history even involving brutal sacrificing of children and many other imaginable forms of suffering with the idea that gods could somehow be placated to restrain their wicked desires to taking away even more of what little life and value humans had left. Many of these dark notions about supernatural threats, intimidations and punishments have bled over into what most believe about the God of heaven, which was Satan's intent all along.
If people can be led to believe lies about supposed threats from supernatural forces that can in turn be manipulated and exploited by religious leaders. In turn, those leaders can then have near total control of their society and can rely on that to support them and supply everything they desire for themselves. They interpose themselves between the people's hearts and the one true God of heaven by blocking people from knowing the real truth about His love for them. Fear becomes the preferred means through which the masses are brought into submission because of the desire for power by those smarter and more inventive who can come up with the most elaborate philosophical notions about other gods.
Of course some of these invented gods are given apparent life by actual supernatural fallen beings who are just as eager to gain control over humans as religious leaders often crave. Humans in league with demonic forces work together to proliferate these false ideas of gods and to make them compellingly believable. Lies about sources of life for us or threats against our well-being continue to multiply faster than they can be unmasked so that it becomes impossible to overcome this system of evil and falsehood simply by trying to expose it directly. Counterfeit gods in the demonic realm are far more clever and smarter and deceptive than any humans have ever been, which is why it is a major mistake to try to attack false god worship head on by trying to explain it away or expose effectively its illogic.
These are a few of the gods that are commonly found throughout history. But when we come down to perceiving how they may still be rampant in our day it becomes far more difficult to pin them down because they have worked very hard to shed their religious garb in many cases and have cloaked themselves in social assumptions and secular terms. But they are still just as effective if not more so while remaining much less obvious than the idols were in more crude forms of religion. False gods today are far more sophisticated and their idols are far more attractive and subtle than the carvings of wood or stone of yesteryear or in more pagan societies.
I am realizing that the way to look for a god is to simply ask some basic questions.
What makes me feel more alive?
Where do I look to satisfy my deepest cravings?
What gives me the most pleasure in life?
What really motivates me the most at the deeper levels of my soul?
The answers to these questions can be very elusive if I have been trained to give religiously correct answers instead of using brutal honesty to expose what my heart really feels. It is easy to say all sorts of nice-sounding platitudes that make me look like a good Christian to others, but when I allow my heart to honestly express what it feels from even the subconscious level, I most often hear radically different answers that can make me extremely uncomfortable and even embarrassed.
But if I am willing to allow my heart to be totally honest without condemning it and let it be exposed by the Spirit of God without suppressing its feelings, I can learn a great deal about what is really going on inside and in turn can then give access to the Spirit of God to do the work inside that will more effectively deal with my problems with other gods.
Everyone of us has many gods in our lives. This may sound like heresy to religious people trained in other modes of thinking, but I am becoming convinced that gods are not necessarily all bad. As I shared last time, I am coming to a conclusion that maybe God Himself set up a system involving lesser gods that are supposed to fill a role in life as channels of provision, comfort, joy, enlightenment and many others things. I am starting to sense that instead of denouncing all gods, though many of them are obviously evil or distortions of God, I need to recognize that the real problem is the arrangement of priorities, not whether gods simply exist or not.
I want to explore this much more, but again I am running low on time. There is so much more to uncover, to ponder, to study and to receive from God. Father, give us wisdom, grace, truth and open-mindedness to know You and how You relate to us.