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Idols: Our focus determines our devotion

Merriam-Websters online dictionary gives one definition of an idol as “an object of extreme devotion”. The online dictionary defines devotion as “religious fervor”, “the act of prayer or private worship”, and the “fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal”. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to take a long moment to truly think about the answer. On a typical day, what do you spend most of your time devoted to doing or focusing on? If you answered God, good for you, you are in the minority.

My guess is that most of us want to be able to honestly say that we devote most of our energy and focus on God. However, I think most of us, if we are being honest, would have to admit that God often gets our sloppy seconds rather than our best firsts. I think we also may be guilty of thinking that if I don’t have a golden calf I’m praying to I don’t have idols. The third commandment states, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

It’s not just an image that we need to worry about. It’s anything we put before God and his commandments. For me, I have to be very careful because I often exaggerate good things and create idols. I love to help and serve others, but sometimes I take on their loads rather than their burdens and enable them in sin (Galatians 6). I am a goal setter and love to achieve, but sometimes reaching the goal becomes more important than doing God’s will. More important for me, God gifted me with an empathic heart and the ability to create harmony. Unfortunately, when I’m not focused on God, this gift begins to look like people-pleasing. I’ve just given you a glimpse of my idols: people, work, and achievement.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years agonizing about falling back into the trap of idols–I do it often. More recently, I have spent time focusing on the truth of God’s grace. He knows my struggle. He sees before I do when I will stumble and fall back into idolizing things other than him. Romans 4:7 states, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (ESV). Despite my weakness, I am blessed. Christ covers my sin and my transgressions are forgiven.

As a believer, I know that I will never not struggle with sin in this life. However, as 1 John 1:7 states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us all from sin” (ESV). Christ does the work. All I need to do is respond to the Spirit of God in me and continue to seek Truth and light. Daily time in the word, prayer, and meditating on his truth help keep my focus on him.

Contributed by Liz Hunt

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