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Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

us

Twenty years.  That’s how long Mr. Rodeheaver and I have loved each other.  Today is our 17 year wedding anniversary and I could not be more in love.

There were many years where I could not have imagined our marriage being what it is today.  I can say with all honesty and without exaggeration that it is better now than ever before.  This is the result of a faithful God and a faithful husband.

I spent the past week cleaning the house.  School is out – homeschool, that is, where mom is always home but never able to get anything done – and cheer season is over.  Finally, I had time to do all those jobs I never get around to.  Cleaning out drawers, closets and bookshelves, scrubbing floors, baseboards, and walls, and, my personal favorite, throwing away everything that isn’t nailed down.

House cleaning is not my favorite job.  There are only two reasons I clean: 1. I can no longer function due to the chaos happening around me 2. My husband told me to.  If it was not for Mr. Rodeheaver’s consistent reminders about doing “my job” I honestly might be featured on the next episode of “Hoarders.”

It is because of my husband’s unwillingness to overlook or ignore sin in my life that I have grown in the areas that are most difficult for me to find success in.  Because he neither fears telling me the truth nor accepts any nonsensical excuses I make that keep me from being better, I have no choice but to grow.  He understands my potential and he accepts nothing less than my best.

Twenty years is a long time to be learning something.  Most would have given up instructing and encouraging me a long time ago.  Love never fails, though.  Tim’s faithfulness to me extends far beyond dinners out and depositing paychecks.  Tim’s faithfulness to me is often found in his consistent correction in the things I figure out how to continuously fail at.  Housecleaning is just one example.  We can also add cooking, planning, spending, and eating, just to name a few.

If I am honest I would have to say I fail a lot in almost every area of my life in some way.  We all do.  Fortunately life is not a competition against anyone besides ourselves.  If I am better today than I was yesterday, that is progress.  It is a reason to celebrate.  It does not mean I won’t regress and fail again tomorrow.  It means I have victory today and I have a faithful voice to correct me again tomorrow, if need be.  I can think of no greater blessing.  Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.

If any one of those elements is missing, I would be hard-pressed to call it faithful love with any amount of confidence.  Things I would call it may be idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  These are what love is not.

Idolatry.  Idolatry worships.  When we make someone an idol, we only encourage and forgive.  Idolatry lacks the ability to instruct and correct appropriately.

Selfishness.  Selfish relationships only do what is best for self – not the other.  They may instruct, encourage, correct, or forgive, but all things are done only in one’s own interests depending on which manipulative action will give them – not the other – the most satisfaction.

Fear.  Fear is not found in true love.  The Bible says,  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” One who fears in a relationship will never correct or instruct appropriately.  They may not encourage or forgive, either, depending on what kind of fear they are entertaining.

Resentment.  Resentment is when a person only corrects and instructs but never encourages or forgives.  Resentment is not a characteristic of true love.

Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.  Love is not idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  If I am honest, I would have to say that over the course of our marriage, I have fallen prey to all of these things which are not love at one time or another.  Thankfully, true love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Thankfully, I have a husband who sent this message to me first thing this morning:

text

Love covers a multitude of sins.  We fail but love never does.  Keep loving no matter what else happens.  I will leave you with a few verses from the song we chose as ours in May, 1997 and has been true of our lives:

Better than I was
More than I am
And all of this happened
By taking your hand
And who I am now
Is who I wanted to be
And now that we’re together
I’m stronger than ever, I’m happy and free

Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ve changed
All I gotta do is say your sweet name

It’s your love
It just does something to me
It sends a shock right through me
I can’t get enough
And if you wonder
About the spell I’m under
Oh it’s your love

~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, It’s Your Love, May, 1997

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half

In 2 Chronicles 25, we find a young man who has been appointed to leadership.  Amaziah was 25 years old when his father was killed and he became king of Judah.  This is how the text describes him:

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart. ~2 Chronicles 25:2

Do you know anyone like this?  These ones are half-hearted, half-committed living in halfway halftime all the time.  It’s no way to be in any area of life, but when it comes to spiritual matters, halfway halftime will never cut it.  Let’s learn from one who did it wrong.

Apparently Amaziah wasn’t all in when it came to his dealing and disposition toward God.  It sounds like he just got by with a few good deeds here and there and perhaps a friendly front in regards to his maker.  Matthew Henry says, “The general character of Amaziah: He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, worshiped the true God, kept the temple service a going, and countenanced religion in his kingdom; but he did not do it with a perfect heart, that is, he was not a man of serious piety or devotion himself, nor had he any zeal for the exercises of religion.  He was not enemy to it, but a cool and indifferent friend.”

This chapter tells us of a couple things Amaziah did and it reveals his not so whole heart in the process.  The first thing we are told is that Amaziah obeyed the law of Moses by sparing the children of those who assassinated his father.  Next, we learn that he calls the army of Israel to help him in battle, but reneges at the counsel of a prophet.  He actually pays these guys to come fight with his army and then, because the prophet warns him to trust in God instead, he sends them home.

One has to wonder why he called these guys in the first place.

Amaziah was going out to fight the Edomites.  This was a people known for their idolatry.  They were the descendants of Esau – Jacob’s twin who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.  Anyway, just 50 or 60 years prior to this conquest, Judah’s army had been 3 or 4 times more numerous.  Sin had so enveloped these people that their army’s number was one fourth what it had just previously been.  “Sin weakens a people, diminishes them, dispirits them, and lessens their number and figure.”  Matthew Henry

Amaziah would not have even gotten himself into this issue of paying Israel’s soldiers, sending them away, losing his money, and having to deal with their rioting and mischief-making afterward if he had just first considered the lack of help any of his ancestors had in using them as allies previously.  Some just don’t learn from past mistakes I guess.

Calling in men in addition to his own was distrust of God.  Matthew Henry says, “If he had made sure of God’s presence, the army he had of his own was sufficient.”  Not only that, but particularly these men he was not to call.  They were not trustworthy and therefore no good and godly favor could ever be expected by their employment.

So he listens to the prophets and the extra troops go home before the battle.  When Amaziah got back from the battle – which he won without Israel, by the way – the very first thing he does is worship…the idols of the Edomites.  What??!

Yep.  God gave him victory and he just couldn’t wait to get home and set up the idols of the men he just conquered and worship them…because…those false gods saved the Edomites so well…right.

This is completely ridiculous!!!  But this is the kind of thing humans do.  God, in his mercy, sends Amaziah yet another prophet.  Here’s how it goes:

 Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.” ~2 Chronicles 25:15-16

This time, Amaziah does not heed the prophet’s true words.  He tells him to stop talking.  He asks this prophet who he thinks he is.  He goes so far as to warn him that if he doesn’t shut up he will be killed.

“So the prophet stopped…”

That’s the saddest line in this entire account.  “Those that will not take advice from the word of God, which would guide them aright, will justly be left to the bad advice of those that will counsel them to their destruction.  Let those be made fools that will not be made wise.”  Matthew Henry

When the true prophet stops talking, it is time to fear.  It is time to start looking over your shoulder, Amaziah.  You are in a bad place.

The prophet does stop talking, stop instructing, stop leading Amaziah.  He gives one final warning and he lets God have at it with this hell-bent idolator.

Wait.  What?!  Isn’t this the guy who just obeyed another prophet at his own personal expense and embarrassment?  Isn’t this the guy who just won a great victory?  It is.  But a prophet asking him to forsake his money and his reputation did not strike at the heart of this half-hearted not so religious guy like the one asking him to forsake his idols did.  Herein we find his true god which was no god at all.

Some men can put on a good show of religion until someone comes along and strikes at the heart of their true god.

In the end, Amaziah was killed by the very men whom he had tried to employ and trust in in the place of God’s presence.  Truly though, it was his pride and his lack of willingness to listen to sound, godly counsel that ultimately destroyed him.

There was something terribly wrong with Amaziah’s heart.  It was not whole.  Such is the lot of many a broken man trying to lead.  If you don’t get that thing fixed, and quick, the fate and pride of Amaziah may find you out.  Go to the master mechanic – Jesus Christ.  He is the only one who can fix a not so whole heart.

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angelofdeath

Here it is.  In Exodus 12, we find the wages of sin.  Pharaoh had enslaved God’s people.  He had held them captive and oppressed them for a great period of time.  Their babies, save Moses, had been slaughtered, their lives had been greatly burdened, and their God had been mocked.

God, in his mercy, had not carried out swift judgement.  Instead, he send his prophets.  They dealt reasonably with Pharaoh.  God gave many warnings, signs, and wonders.  Pharaoh refused to listen.  Time after time, Pharaoh hardened his heart.

Finally, here in Exodus 12, God touches what is most dear to Pharaoh.  God smites his firstborn child.  Not only his, but all of Egypt’s firstborn children.

And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. ~Exodus 12:30

There is not a person our sin does not affect.  When an influential person sins, the results are widespread and catastrophic.  Egypt was guilty of killing the Hebrews’ children.  Now, God’s perfect justice had taken theirs.

Like Pharaoh, when God has been dealing with us for a long time over a specific issue and we have not listened, he brings judgment to the place where we feel it most deeply.  Often, the judgement reveals not only our sin, but our idols.  It reveals our hardened refusal to deal with the very thing God wants to deal with.  For Pharaoh, his child was not just his child.  Pharaoh’s firstborn was Pharaoh’s future.  This was his heir; his successor; his life after death.  All of Pharaoh’s power would be gone once death came so his child was his immortality; his continuation; his very salvation.

Don’t touch my child, God.  My child is mine.  I will protect this part of myself and excuse my sin no matter how many times you try to deal with it.  Just don’t touch me there.  This part of my life if off limits, God.  Leave it alone.

We all have “children” in our lives.  These are our idols.  They are those things we try to make untouchable when God reaches for them.  Don’t touch my child, God.  Don’t touch my marriage.  Don’t touch my health.  Don’t touch my finances.  Don’t touch my family.  Don’t touch my job.  Don’t touch my recreation.  Don’t touch my relationships.  Don’t touch my ministry.  Don’t touch my plans.  Don’t touch my pain.  Don’t touch my happiness.  Don’t touch my fear.  Don’t touch me.  Just don’t touch me, God.  Leave me and my precious child the hell alone.

Pharaoh lost his child as a result of stubborn rebellion.  All those who followed him lost their children, too.  Matthew Henry notes that “…the Egyptians could have no help, no comfort, from their neighbors, all being involved in the same calamity.”

 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” ~Exodus 12:31-32

Judgement for one meant freedom for another.  God’s heavy hand upon this ruler humbled him to the place where he finally submitted to let God’s people go.  He even went so far as to ask them to bless him!  God’s people would no longer be enslaved and oppressed by the control and corruption of an unconcerned master.  God’s people were finally free.

This final judgement teaches us just how obstinate we humans are.  Look at what it takes to humble us!  Nothing short of death.  Consider the depths of our sin and the lengths God is willing to go to in order to set us free!  Where there is judgement, there is often hope; there is freedom; there is redemption if we just surrender – idols and all – and God passes over us in extraordinary mercy.

So, Lord, please.  I don’t want my child to die but I don’t want my child to be my idol either.  Touch my child and make me willing to submit her to you.  Touch my marriage.  Touch my health.  Touch my finances.  Touch my family.  Touch my job.  Touch my recreation.  Touch my relationships.  Touch my ministry.  Touch my plans.  Touch my pain.  Touch my happiness.  Touch my fear.  Touch me and make me willing to submit everything to your good and perfect will.  Whatever you do, do not leave me alone with my idols.  I am listening.  Help me surrender all to you.

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sand

The church in Colosse was dealing with cultic influence and practices including asceticism, mysticism, worship of angels, and legalism.  Just like today, many religious leaders among the true people of God were teaching, preaching, and practicing a false gospel of salvation through Christ and rather than Christ alone.

Some of “extra” requirements were abstainence of certain food and drink and idolatry.  Observance of these things were being substituted and viewed as true sanctification.  These men taught the Christians that if they proved pious externally and used their appointed channels for mediation to get to God, then they would be saved.  Christ himself was not enough.

Paul wrote to refute these false ideas and replace them with the truths that 1.Christ is sufficient and our only mediator and 2. internal, not external, purity leads to wholeness and true sanctification.

Many people in the church today are deceived by these same false teachings of external piety, idolatrous mediation, and asceticism.  For people like us and people like the Colossians, old habits die hard.  If I have spent my life believing that it’s coming to church or skipping meat or wearing a long skirt or praying on a necklace or being moral or doing good deeds or praying to saints or teaching Sunday school or, or, or, or, rather than living day by day in Christ by faith worshiping in everything I put my hand to do that saves me and makes me holy, it’s going to take some kind of example to undo what I have always done; what I have always believed; what I have always trusted in in place of Jesus Christ.  If I have been taught to abstain from certain foods and certain drinks and I feel superior to other sinners because of my abstinence, it is going to take some serious study and honesty with the scriptures before I really begin to recognize my sin.  More than that, it is going to take someone who cares a whole awful lot to talk with me and show me my error in love.  Why?

Because self-righteous religion always demands others’ do all of exactly what I prescribe.  It is bondage to man made rules and regulations and men do not stop oppressing until someone or something stronger makes them.  Conversely, Christ-led relationship simply calls others to do exactly what He prescribes in the scriptures.  No power can out wrestle the Holy Spirit’s work in a man’s heart.

Paul is wise to begin with prayer.  He knows these things are hard to understand and even harder to change.  He does not go in with guns blazing.  He goes in with lips thanking.  Directly following his introduction, he gives thanks for these people.  He reminds them who they are in Christ.  He tells them how constant he is and always has been in prayer for them.  He wants them to understand that he understands.  He knows the key to their hearts and minds will not be found in more regulatory rule lists.

Therefore, Paul opens with encouragement.  The Colossians had more than their fill of bad leaders demanding and commanding them on what to do and not do.  Although he, if anyone, had the authority, Paul is not about to go there.  Instead, he goes somewhere far better – Christ.

In his opening statements, Paul is pointing to something unmistakable.  The focus he uses to draw his struggling, swindled, sorely mistaken brothers and sisters in?

You are in Christ.

You are in Christ.

You are in Christ.

The platform he builds from is one with which they would not want to argue.  It is like he’s saying, “Hey guys, I know you and guess what.?  You’re his.”

The next rung?  Do this, do this, do this?  Don’t do that, don’t do that, don’t do that? NO!

Christ is…

Christ is…

Christ is…

He tells them who they are to be submitted to – really.  Not men.  Not angels.  Not rules.  Not food.  Not drink.  Christ.  And here’s who he is…

Jesus.  He is exactly what God looks like.  He is the visible proof of our invisible God.  He is the firstborn, not that he was created, but that he is heir of all things.  He is creator of all things.  He is ruler of all things.  He is owner of all things.  He is above all things.  He is sustaniner of all things.  He is head of the church.  He is the beginning.  He has power over all things.  He is all that God is.  He is the firstborn of the dead which makes him your principle hope, joy, future, resurrection.  He is your peace with God.  He is your reconciliation with man.  He is your Savior.

Yes, Paul comes back to his people.  As he began, “You are in Christ” and filled in the blanks with “Christ is…,” he finishes his opening statements with “You are in Christ.”  Paul did not fail to add the needed disclaimer “if.”   If you continue in faith, he says.  Paul proves that this discourse is not a blanket statement of universalism telling any and all that they are saved.  No.  Make no mistake, this is for those who hold on to the true gospel with both hands and honest hearts.

What wisdom!  What importance there must be in reassuring and reminding God’s people of who they are in light of who He is!

The only way to draw struggling, swindled, sorely mistaken brothers and sisters in is through Christ.  Show them his beauty.  Show them his grace.  Show them his love.  Show them his concern.  Show them his Word.  If you have any inclination to do such things, do the gospel a favor and stop showing them your man-made preferences.  Show them the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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idol

Ok.  So maybe this isn’t a topic most people think about.  Maybe it isn’t something that’s an issue for anyone besides me.  Or maybe most just don’t recognize idolatry when it rears its ugly head.  In any case, placing my security, hope, joy, faith, and trust in my abilities, my spouse, my appearance, etc., etc. has been a struggle for me for the better part of nearly two decades now.  Well, as long as I’ve been a Christian.  Let me try to explain.

Every single person who has ever come to Christ has come out of need.  We need many, many things in this life that we are not capable of obtaining on our own.  We try.  And we try.  And we try.  But we always seem to come up short no matter how much money, entertainment, material possessions, relationships, or busyness we can possibly fill our lives with.  Idol after idol after soul-starving idol.  Continuously our gods fail.  We simply cannot climb out of the hamster wheel of wants because it is always the next one which promises what the last lacked.

For men, jobs and accomplishments are usually at the top of the idolatrous list.  For women, though, idolatry is often even more close to the place God seeks to occupy: the heart.  Yes, our idols also include material things and status symbols and I suppose I could write for days on the effects of our greed in those areas.  Instead I would like to focus on the idolatry of relationships for a moment.

What happens when Christ meets our need for a marriage relationship or a child…and we trade intimacy with Him for that blessing?  What are we to do when we are called by God to please and to serve another human being but it feels almost like we do so in place of serving Him?  Is that even possible?  What you do to the least of these…right?

We’ve all learned that it’s easy to do the right things in the wrong way.  How can we know whether our service to another is bona fide service to God or whether it is idolatry?

I’m asking, by the way.

I try to recognize the facets of idolatry, but it often still leaves me second guessing myself.  For example, there is no peace when your idol does not produce joy.  On the contrary, there is perfect peace when God is in the right place even when others are difficult to deal with.  Still, when sensitivity is your most dominant character trait, it is hard to know when you are practicing idolatry in a relationship or simply being both human and female.  Is sensitivity a sinner’s excuse for idolatry?  Or is love simply an emotion that is difficult to override?  Where is the peace that passes all understanding?  Surely it applies here as well as anywhere else.  But sometimes we pray and pray and fast and study scripture and pray some more…and that peace still eludes us.  Why?

I’m asking.

What if sacrificing for another person comes at the expense of sacrificing for God?  Or vise versa?  How do we know which is best?  Or are they one in the same?  What did Jesus really mean when he said  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” ?  Why would God give us good things only to use them as a test to see whether we love him more?  I.  Don’t.  Understand.  Am I reading it all wrong?  Perhaps.

Conversations on the drive to church bits of pop culture trivia borrowed from the radio and pieces of our own motley collection of philosophies.

“Janet Jackson turned down the role for Trinity in the Matrix?  She doesn’t seem athletic enough for that role.”

“What?!  Janet was my role model!  She went through phases.  Sometimes she was extremely fit but other times not so much.”

“Well I’m sure it’s hard when you’re rich and famous.  Confusing, really.  You probably have to try everything to be happy.”

“When you have everything you want there’s really no hope at all for happiness outside of Christ.  Because when you have it all, you know nothing satisfies.  At least when you’re striving for things you ‘think’ things will make you happy.”

How does Jesus satisfy us, though?  And if he satisfies us, why do we so often seek satisfaction elsewhere?  Do we not allow him to satisfy us or do we want things he never intended to give us?  Health and wealth preachers will falsify the gospel and contend that he gives us what we want.  We sure would like to believe that, too, but it simply isn’t true.  Because it isn’t true, at least on this earth, we often seek fulfillment and happiness elsewhere – keeping Jesus in our pocket in case something goes wrong with our self-sufficient climb.

The pastor warned us of seeking Christ for what we want instead of who he is.  To be very honest, it concerns me.  I evaluate myself over and over and over again.  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love him?  Do I love him?  Do I trust him?  Do I believe him?  Do I live like it?  Do I?  I imagine scenarios of loss and consider what I would really do.  I know the right answers.  I study them diligently.  But do I have the faith it takes to carry them out if I’m called to?  These are the thoughts that trouble and terrify me day after day.  Am I accused by the Enemy or am I convicted by the Spirit?  How can I not know?  Why can I not tell?

Answers too often escape me.  Still, I know him.  I hear him.  I seek him.  Therefore, I choose faith.  As Piper calls it, faith in future grace.  I do not understand right now.  I do not know what I would do if x, y, or z happened to me.  But I know that I desperately want God.  Therefore, I will fear no evil.  Father, keep me from the sin of idolatry.

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Image

Idolatry.  Responsible for the first fallen angel, the last condemned sinner, and almost every evil in between.  Idolatry springs from pride, selfishness, entitlement, unbelief, and godlessness.  Without idolatry there would be no envy; no strife; no wars; no sin.  Little wonder why the first and second commandments deal with whom we must worship and how we must worship him, respectively.  Little doubt these are given firstly because our God of perfect order knew they must take absolute precedence over all else regarding our relationship with him.

Idolatry:  the worship of a picture or object as a god; the worship of a physical object as a god; immoderate attachment or devotion to something.

Satan’s sin was idolatry.  Eve’s sin was idolatry.  Need I mention Joseph’s brothers?  David?  Jezebel?  Judas?  Idolatry devastated them all.

The biggest issue the earliest Christians had in the church was…idolatry.  Christian Jews who had previously been forbidden could not fathom eating meat sacrificed to idols.  Gentiles who had previously been imbibing on far worse couldn’t see the big deal.  Pagans who had no intention to repent kept worshiping blatantly in the idols’ temples.

Sound familiar?  That’s because it is.  This is our culture.  Then, now, but, praise God, not forever.

The days are evil.  We must be wise, not foolish, and understand what the will of the Lord is.  How do we deal with our innate desire to be God and to worship anything but him?

Paul’s instruction for us regarding how and why we should most certainly abstain from that which is permissible at best, but clearly questionable in the eyes of many is pretty straightforward.

 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak,you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ~1 Corinthians 8:10-13

Paul, as the reputable leader he was, is setting a very high standard with his love-focused, self-denying example.  “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Here is a man who was far more concerned with loving well those over whom God had given him influence than with thumbing his nose at those who sought to restrict his self-absorbed freedom.  Precious little doubt which group Jesus concerned himself with as well.
So we never see Paul strutting around in the idols’ temples on a mission to make known his Christian liberty in the face of certain Jews who would tell him he did not have it.  On the contrary, we find only the law of love at work as he abstained from all he knew would hinder his brothers (1 Corinthians 8), circumcising Timothy (Acts 16), taking a Nazarite vow (Acts 18), and allowing for the most drastic changes associated with the New Covenant to be held off for those who could not readily accept them in good conscience (Acts 15).
Apparently it isn’t just statues and the eating of lifeblood that constituted idolatry.  I guess it never really was.  Idolatry is that motive lying behind every work that exalts a man above the will of God and the good of others for the sake of self – even in the most lawful things.  How much more in those things which are unlawful!
Therefore, Paul willingly abstains.  He isn’t begrudgingly submitting.  He is sacrificially loving – and this he lives to do!  Make no mistake, he writes with great zeal concerning this issue saying, “…I will never eat meat…” (if I must not.)  He knows his culture, he knows his brothers, and he is not about to injure them for the sake of his own flesh.  He was truly an imitator of God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love,as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ~Ephesians 5:1
Paul goes on in Ephesians 5 to speak about sexual sin, impurity, and coarse joking.  Guess what was going on in the idols’ temples?  Sexual sin, impurity, and coarse joking.  The words he uses regarding these things are pret-ty clear.  He instructs his followers to shun them and avoid all association.  He reminds his brothers and sisters of the grave severity of these practices.  He warns them of the coming judgement for those who practice them and the great danger of participating with them.  He knows well the great temptations he and his friends are met with in both the Corinthian and Ephesian cultures of pagan idolatry.  He knows their great tendency to believe the Devil’s first lie about sin: You shall not surely die.  So, he tells his friends to “Walk as children of the light.”  He tells them what light looks like, “for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.”  He tells them to ” and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Why?
Good leader Paul knows his friends.  Good leader Paul loves his brothers.  Good leader Paul understands the immense pressure they are under to conform to and imbibe in the ubiquitous godlessness in the world in which they all live.  Therefore, he tells them to take no part in darkness…and he does not make use of any liberty that would destroy his example or hinder their progress.  He directs them to expose the evil they encounter, be careful and wise, and be filled with the Spirit, holy songs, and thankfulness.  He warns them not to waste time, get drunk, or be foolish.  I guess idols’ temples tend to have those kinds of results.
What he did not say was, “Did you know we are allowed to eat dinner at the temple, guys?  I do it all the time!  I’m going this Friday night.  Who wants to come?”  How ridiculous.  Neither was he justifying any such action with Cain’s arrogance saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  How absurd.
Matthew Henry writes, “There are many ways of our being accessory to the sins of others, by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment…We must not only dread and avoid that which is displeasing to God but inquire and consider what will be acceptable to him, searching the scriptures with this view, thus keeping at the greatest distance from these sins.”
Clearly, Christian liberty is never a license to sin, approve of sin, accept sin, or disregard sin.  Food and drink is neutral — unless we possess knowledge that it grieves our brothers’ and sisters’ consciences.  Sexual immorality and course joking is not neutral.  Our culture, very like unto the culture of Corinth and Ephesus, tends to try to confuse the facts on matters of Christian liberty here.  Do not buy it.  The temptations of idolatry are never far from our own hearts no matter how spiritually mature we may think we are.  We must live by the law – not of legal duties or legalism but of love – towards both God and our brothers.  Because it is not about keeping rules, it is about keeping pure, keeping faith, keeping good conscience, and keeping ourselves and our brothers from the enslavement of sin as much as it depends on us.
Beware the idols’ temples, friends – where the jokes are coarse, the dress is scandalous, and the food and the sin are worshiped as gods.  Even if you still believe that in good conscience you can go, it does not mean you should.   Instead, let’s learn how to be imitators of God – ever willing to sacrifice and abstain from what is neither necessary nor edifying.
“If we must be so careful not to occasion other men’s sins, how careful should we be to avoid sin ourselves!  If we must not endanger other men’s souls, how much should we be concerned not to destroy our own!” ~Matthew Henry

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From birth, Samson was marked out to be holy to the Lord.  Heralded by none other than an angel of the Lord, he was nothing less than a miracle given to his barren mother – destined to be the hope of Israel (Judges 13:5.)

But Samson had a problem.  He wasn’t holy.  Nothing we are told about his life was characterized by integrity, honesty, or purity.  No.  Samson had his own plans on how to conquer the Philistines.  He didn’t think he needed God’s strict laws.  I mean, they were so oppressive.  And, after all, he had God’s favor.  No need to listen to a God who chose him to be such a special person, right?  Clearly, God already liked Samson a lot so no biggie if he didn’t listen to those silly suggestions from Big Daddy, huh?

Samson did not listen to wisdom, even though he was quite blessed to be given it (Judges 14:3.)  He was secretive, self-absorbed, and impure according to the vow to which God had called him (Judges 14:6-7, 9, 16:1.)  He had great pride and a vicious temper.

Again and again…and again, Samson broke his covenant with God.  The man had no interest in self-control or self-denial.  He indulges in that which he sees as pleasing and right and, not surprisingly, it always turns out wrong for him.

Samson loved what he was born to hate.  His selfishness allowed him to be deceived by the very people God had chosen him to conquer and destroy.

Samson didn’t have to be blind and imprisoned; he chose to be blind and imprisoned.  No, he didn’t gouge his own eyes or lock himself up.  Nevertheless, every single time he chose to trust in himself and disregard the promises he was responsible for making good on, he was storing up wrath and judgement from his holy God.

Still, God was patient; Samson remained strong and continued to win.  Until…

 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her,“Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.” ~Judges 16:4-6

A beautiful woman who loved money and did not love God presented herself in an effort to cash in on his lust and disobedience, trading it for personal gain.  The text says Samson loved her.  Samson loved a woman who was void of God and whose only motivation was money; whose only goal was to deceive and destroy him.  Of course, this was nothing new for Samson.  He had done as much his entire life.  Samson did not realize who she was working for.  He didn’t think about the fact that the same men whose dirty, bloody hands were employing her were also plotting his torture and death.  No.  Samson made that woman – the one he should have loathed – his god.

In the end, God has his way with this blind fool anyway.  He was sent to save God’s people and he ended up desperately needing saved himself.  God eventually accomplished both.  How very tragic that a man so blessed with favor could not see past himself far enough to do God’s will when his eyes were still open.

 Our world is full of money-worshiping, God-hating, lust-inciting Delilahs. (Such were some of us.)  Every magazine, movie, commercial, and billboard breeds their beckoning.  Our young men are being groomed and encouraged to either remain or become fools.  Secrecy, self-absorption, impurity, pride, and anger will blind and imprison them for the rest of their lives.   Spiritually strong men must search for and save the strongest Samsons of our day.  Spiritually strong women must seek and save dirtiest Delilahs as well.  We must become a church who knows how to speak grace, truth, and warning into the lives of the sexually impure.  Yes.  This may well be the biggest issue within and without the church in our generation.

Our God is patient.  His wisdom calls now, but it will not call forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEgP4pmUlKE

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