James Merritt - Idol Hands, Devil's Workshop
It will be difficult for some of you to not check out about two minutes in when I tell you what we're gonna talk about today. Because most of us think that what I'm gonna talk about, you think, "That's not my problem. I don't have an issue with that. In fact, I'm not even sure why we're talking about this in the 21st century". So let me go back and tell you a story. When I was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the convention had divided the world up into 14 different regions where we had missionaries. Well, they asked me to go to all 14 regions. So over a period of about 14 months, I went to 14 regions of the world. Teresa will tell ya, I probably visited about 55 to 60 countries, somewhere in there. It was exhausting but it was also exhilarating. And it was exciting and it was encouraging with one big exception.
When I got back from India... Now you know, a lot of you don't ever see me outside this pulpit but my wife will tell you, I don't put on a show up here. This is who I am. I'm a pretty upbeat guy. I'm excited about life. I see the glass half full not half empty. I'm ADDDDDDDD. I mean, that's just who I am, okay? And I mean, I'm the same outside that I am inside. But when I got home from India, I was moping around the house. I didn't really talk to her very much. I would get away in my study. And she thought for a couple of days, it was jet lag. And then she began to realize, "Okay, something's going on". So she walked into the study and she said, "Okay, what is the matter, what's wrong with you, what's going on"? And I said, "What do you mean"? She said, "You're not yourself".
And I told her a story that I could not to this day, get outta my mind. When I went to India, I met a man named Steve Nolan. Some of you will remember Steve and know Steve. Steve used to be our missions pastor here. He was one of the resident missionaries for the convention over there, that's how I met Steve. So I fly to New Delhi, never been to India in my life. I fly to New Delhi, he meets me at the airport. We spent the night then we fly to Calcutta. And you think traffic is bad here? You oughtta go to India. You hadn't seen traffic like you've seen in India. So we're in a taxi cab, stuck in traffic. Can't go anywhere. And we're next to a park and I look outside the window and I see this guy and he's paralyzed from the waist down. And he's pulling himself on the ground and he's you know, just pulling and pulling and pulling. And every now and then he'd stretch his hand out.
And I'm watching this guy. Well then out of the corner of my eye, about 20 yards from me, I see this cow out there. And I said to Steve, I said, "Steve, what is this guy doing"? And he said, "Well you know, in India they worship cows. Cows is their God". And he said, "This man believes that if he can just get to this cow, this bull, this Brahman bull. If he can just touch this cow, he'll be healed and he'll be able to walk. I couldn't believe it". I said, "You're kidding me". It was one of the most spectacular demonstrations of idolatry I've ever seen in my life. But then we get on an airplane. We fly from Calcutta to Mumbai. And he said, "Hey, I wanna take you to a mall, you'll never go to a mall like this in America". I said, "Okay".
So he takes me to this multilevel store and we go walking in. And there's floor after floor and aisle after aisle of all these different idols. Little bitty gods that are handmade. People crafted out of wood and marble. And if you wanna spend some money, emerald and you know, sapphire and things like that. And you could go and pick out as many gods as you wanted to, put 'em in a box, take 'em home and then you could worship the god whenever you wanted to worship that god. And I realized that in that country, idolatry is big business. And the overwhelming devotion I saw to a piece of wood, to a piece of glass.
I wanna tell you, it just crushed my heart. It took me weeks to get over that experience. And it's experiences like those that made me realize why the very first two commandments God ever gave to Israel deal with idolatry. Here's what He said. "Don't have any other god before me". That's right out of the shoot. Whatever else you do, don't have any of the god before me. And then, "Don't make an idol for yourself". Now here's why I say this is tough for some of you today. You don't hear a lot of messages on idolatry. And we don't talk much about idolatry because we don't think idolatry is really that kind of a big issue here. I've got news for you, it is alive and well today. And here is the real shocker, you don't have to fly to a non-Christian country to encounter idolatry. And I'll tell you something else that's even a bigger shock. Idolatry is alive and well in the church. It is here.
Now, if you're watching right now by TV or you're watching on a computer or you're here for the first time visiting with us, we've been in a series we've been calling Red Sea Moments. We've been studying the life of Moses. And let me just kinda tell you what's going on. If you've brought a copy of God's word, turn to the second book of the Bible, the book of Exodus. Turn to chapter 32, that's where we're gonna be this morning. Let me tell you what's going on. Israel's been in bondage for 400 years of slavery.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has delivered the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God's taken them onto a journey. God has said to these people, "I didn't just deliver you out of Egypt to get you outta slavery. I've got something bigger. I've got something better for you. I wanna take you to a land called Canaan. It's flowing with milk and honey. You'll enjoy liberty like you've never enjoyed it before". And they've come to a place in Exodus 32 called Mount Sinai. Moses is on a mountain with God. And God is giving Moses what we call the 10 Commandments. Now just as a side, God didn't give the 10 commandments because he's into rules and regulations.
God said, "If you wanna live a life of happiness and a life of health and a life of holiness and a life of meaning and a life of purpose. If you wanna live life the way life is meant to be lived, don't do these things and do those things. Because I want you to help yourself to happiness. And I want you to avoid anything that will hurt you".
Well before Moses can even read the first two commandments, Israel is already breaking them. See, up until this point in Exodus 32, the people had been treating God like a heavenly bellhop. And so what they wanted God to do was to give them whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. They wanted God to be at their every beck and call. And anytime God waited, anytime God didn't do what they wanted when they wanted it, they griped, they moaned, they complained, they got upset. And so Moses is on this mountaintop meeting with God. And so the people get tired of waiting on Moses. They decide to take matters into their own hands. So they go shopping for a God more to their liking.
Now you need to stop right there. You may say, "Okay, this is a story that happened 3,500 years ago. What in the world did that have to do with us"? And here's the truth. And by the way, I'm preaching to me, you just get in the way. We all have idol hands. Not I-D-L-E, I-D-O-L. We all have idol hands. And what we want to do, whether we wanna admit it or not, is we so often wanna transform the God that we want into the God that we worship. 'Cause I got news for you, the God that I find in the Bible a lot of people don't worship. They worship the God that they want. So here's what we're gonna learn today. Here's the lesson. If you are for God, you won't put anything before God. If you are for God, you won't put anything before God.
Now here's the strange thing about idolatry. And I have to say this to myself. Idolatry is one of those sins, you can practice it and you don't even know you are. There's some of you right now, I could say, "You know, I've been watching you and I believe you got an idol in your life". And you'd say, "Not me. I don't have a problem with idolatry, it's not that at all". In fact, you may have even discovered this morning, you've got an idolatry problem and you didn't even realize it. So my prayer today is this, you'll understand how and why we worship false gods, what happens when we do and why it's in your best interest and my best interest to give our full loyalty, our complete love and our total devotion to the only God that there is.
There are three things I wanna share with you this morning. Number one, idolatry moves us to deny the true God. Idolatry moves us to deny the true God. We're in Exodus 32, we pick up in verse one. "When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, 'Come make us gods who will go before us.'" I love what they call Moses. "As for this fellow Moses", don't you just love that? "As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what's happened to him". Now, Moses has been on the mountain with God for 40 days. That seemed like a long time to the people. They had been waiting for a while. And as days stretched into weeks, they got kind of impatient. And here's what I love. They don't even file a missing person's report. They don't really even care where Moses is.
As a matter of fact, they basically accuse God of kidnapping Moses. 'Cause I love the way they refer to Moses, "This fellow Moses". "This fellow Moses"? You mean the guy that took his life into his own hands when he went to pharaoh on your behalf? You mean the Moses that led you out of Egypt? You mean the Moses that parted the Red Sea so you could go through? You mean the Moses that gave you water out of a rock when you were thirsting to death? Do you mean the Moses that prayed manna down from heaven when you were starving to death? That's the fella that you're talking about? I mean, just days before Moses was this wonderful leader. Now he's just John Doe. They don't send out an Amber alert. They don't form a search party. They just turn to the second in command and they say eight heartbreaking words, listen to this. "Come, make us Gods who will go before us".
Now, if there is one lesson, these people should have already learned after nine months, they should have learned this one lesson. There is only one God. There's not a bunch of gods, there's not many gods. There is only one true God. And their God is not a lowercase G, god. He is an uppercase, capital G, God. He's not one of many, He's the one and only. Because the moment you start talking about little gods, you start going down a path that leads to defeat and disappointment and disillusionment and ultimately destruction. Now that shouldn't surprise us. Because this whole concept of idolatry goes all the way back to the very beginning of human history. Because what was the first temptation that Adam and Eve faced? Here it was. "You'll be like God".
That's what idolatry is, when you wanna be like God. See here's what we don't get. The most basic form of worshiping an idol, the most basic form of idolatry is not worshiping a statue. It's worshiping yourself. I'm gonna tell you something that I bet you've never heard before. The devil's number one goal is not to get you to worship him. The devil's number one goal is to get you to worship you. That's his number one goal. For you to put you before anything else and you to put you before anyone else. That is his number one goal. That's the basic form of idolatry. And what happens is when you... Here's when you see an idol. Is when you make a god out of the person that you see in the mirror.
Let me give you an example. "You know why I've got what I've got, 'cause I worked for it and I earned it". You just made yourself an idol. "You know why I've been able to climb the corporate ladder? 'Cause I got the personality, I got the looks". You just made yourself an idol. "Do you know why this has happened to me or that's happened to me? It's because of my efforts". And you may think, "I determine my destiny. My desires matter most". You make yourself equal with God. Well here's the good news, we think. Surely Aaron's not gonna fall. 'Cause you know, Aaron is Moses' brother. He's the right hand guy. And they go to Aaron and they say, "Aaron, we want you to make this false god".
So you think to yourself, "Come on down. This is Aaron. Aaron's not gonna do this". I mean, after all God even said to Moses, "Leave Aaron in charge, you come up the mountain. You just tell your brother to take over while you're gone". So you think, "Well Aaron, he'll do the right thing. He knows, he's seen what Moses has seen, he's been with Moses when Moses has been with God, he knows what this God could do". So you would think, "Well, he'll do the right thing". Oh no. He folds like a napkin in a five star restaurant. Just folds right up. Watch this. "Aaron answered them, 'Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons, your daughters are wearing. Bring them to me.' So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, 'These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'"
Now here's the thing that breaks your heart. Aaron is handed an opportunity on a silver platter to do the right thing. And he turns it into a gold plated failure. I mean, if I could've been there right then I'd've said, "Aaron, this is not hard. This is not brain surgery, Aaron. All you gotta do is just say one thing, 'No.' No, I am not going to do that. Do you guys not get it? There's only one God. He's the God that brought us out of Egypt. He's the God that brought us through the Red Sea. He's the God that freed us from bondage. The answer is no".
But you know what Aaron did? Do you know why Aaron did it? He lacked the courage and he lacked the conviction to do the right thing. And he did what a lot of pastors do today and a lot of preachers do today and a lot of politicians do today and a lot of principles of schools do today. He checked the polls. Where's the majority of the people? What do they think? Which way's the wind blowing. He feels the peer pressure and he caves. So I'm gonna chase a rabbit for 10 seconds. I wanna remind you of something about preachers. And I'm not saying this arrogantly, I'm trying to help you. There are other churches you can go to, there are other preachers you can hear and I'm cool with that. But just remember one thing, there's only two kinds of preachers around the world. It doesn't matter where you go, there's only two kinds.
There are those who will get up and say, "This is what God says". And they are gonna preach to you what they believe God has led them to say. And then there are preachers that will tell you what they think you want to hear. And those are the only two kinds of preachers that there are. And Aaron reveals he's the second kind of the leader. And then to add insult to injury, listen to what kind of an idol he makes for the people. We're told that he made a calf. And that sounds kind of innocuous. That sounds kind of innocent. I mean just a little calf. Well, that's not what he made. The Hebrew word there is the word, you don't need to remember this, is egel. E-G-E-L, egel. And that doesn't mean a small, young animal. What it means is, is a young bull in his full strength.
Do you know what that calf was? It was the exact representation of a calf called Apis, A-P-I-S. Do you know who Apis was? He was the Egyptian bull god that the Egyptians worshiped. In other words, you're talking about throwing dirt in God's face. They didn't just make a calf. They had the audacity to devote themselves to the very God of the pagan nation they had just got delivered from. So, no wonder we read later when Moses comes off the mountain, he asked Aaron a question. He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you that you led them into such great sin"? Why does he call it a great sin? Well, who committed the sin? The nation of Israel, the chosen people of God, the people that had been delivered from bondage.
When did they do it, where did they do it? At the foot of Mount Sinai, where they're about to receive God's law. They were about to meet with God. They were about to see God's glory. But it's also because of what they had done. They had already seen what God could do, heard what God could do, felt what God could do and experienced what God would do. And they still turned their back on God. They had already seen God deliver them through the Passover. They had already crossed over the Red Sea. They had drunk the water, they had eaten the manna and they had seen God lead them day after day through terrible desert. Snakes and scorpions and all kinds of animals, didn't even have a scratch on them. And at the drop of a hat turned their backs.
Let me give you a little lesson. Miracles and signs and wonders will not guarantee people will believe in God. I've talked to people. I've talked to these skeptics. I've had people say to me, "You know what, you want me to believe in God? I tell you what, tell God to do this right now. If He does it, I'll believe in Him. Tell God to do a miracle". I've heard people say, "I'll tell you what, if God will heal my son, I'll believe in God. If God will save my marriage, I'll believe in God". They look for a sign, they look for a miracle.
You know, "If you want me to believe in God, I wanna see a sign". Listen, never in history in such a short time, had more people seen more miracles than the people of Israel and they still turned their back on God. Say, "What's the point"? Here's the point. If you won't believe what God said in His Word, you won't believe a miracle. You won't believe a sign. You won't believe some miraculous manifestation. If you won't believe what God's already said, you're just not going to believe.
That's what idolatry does. It moves us to deny the true God no matter what else God does. But idolatry doesn't stop there. Idolatry leads us to devise a false god. You don't just deny a true God. You will devise a false god. An old Puritan named Thomas Watson once said this, "God made man out of the dust of the earth and man makes a god out of the dust of the earth". So here's what they do. Aaron said, "Take off your earrings". I find that interesting. I'm gonna make this god out of your earrings. That's kinda interesting. You say, "Why is that interesting"? Well, the god they're about to make is death. He can't hear a thing. And they make god out of earrings. But it doesn't matter, the first church of the golden calf is open for business.
So we read these words. "When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, 'There will be a festival to the Lord.'" Now watch how the people respond. "So the next day the people rose early", they get up early. And they, "sacrificed burnt offerings and they presented fellowship offerings". Now here's what amazes me about that scene. If you've been with me in this story, what have they done the whole journey? They've griped, they've complained, they've moaned, they've groaned, they've doubted God every step of the way. And now they're worshiping a false god. And they're showing more enthusiasm and more excitement in the worship of a false god than they ever showed for a true God, ever. You know what is just so eye-opening about that? The closer we are to the true God, the closer we want to get to Him. But the farther we are from God, the more attractive false gods become.
Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist said this. He said, "Satan, doesn't care what we worship as long as we don't worship God". Now here's the problem, here's why it's so hard for us to really relate to this. Because we don't make idols with our hands anymore. You can't go to a store today anywhere and find an idol. I mean, you may find some every now and then but we don't have stores for idols like they do other places. Here's our problem. We don't make idols with our hands, we make idols with our heart. So I'll give you a true story. I'm not making this up. John Ziegler, 34-year-old talk radio host, loved to play golf. Had a zero handicap. He attends Georgetown, the Jesuit university. But after college, he you know, grew disillusioned with the church. Kind of turned his back on you know, religion.
So during the masters in 2000, true story. During the masters of 2000, on April 1 he declared himself the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Tiger Woods. He even launched a website called tigerwoodsisgod.com. Now you may think, "That's crazy. That's funny. That's ridiculous". But the truth of the matter is we're all tempted to take a big God and turn Him into a little god. So lemme give you an example. And it's what you're seeing in the church today. We don't want a God that tells us what to do. We want a God that we can tell what we're gonna do and He better like it. We don't want a God that we serve. We want a God that serves us. We don't want a God that we please. We want a God that pleases us. And there's even something more subtle under the surface about idolatry.
See here's where it really gets us. I'm gonna really help you, this is gonna open some eyes. The reason why most of us are sitting here right now, just being honest, and you're thinking, "I'm sorry, I just don't have a real problem with idolatry. I don't even know why you're talking about this today". The reason is this. 'Cause we're not really tempted to worship evil things. Here's what we do most of the time. You know what we do? We don't worship evil things. What we do is we put God second to good things. Because see, remember what I said, if you are for God you don't put anything before God. And here's what we all tend to do. And most of the time we don't even realize it. We take something good and we turn it into a god.
Now watch this. A family is a good thing. I love my family. Family's a good thing. But I know people who worship their family. Money is a good thing. But I know a lot of people who worship their money. A beautiful home is a good thing. But some people worship their home. You ready for this one? Here's one. A car, a new car is a great thing. But I know some people who worship their new car. There are some people that are more concerned, they get more upset if somebody nicks their car in the parking lot, than they are that people are not going to heaven. I know we can get an amen to that, that's okay. So there are people who go to stadiums. I was in one yesterday, as you can imagine. And I saw tens of thousands of people and you know what they were doing? They weren't watching 22 men chase a bag of zipped up air in a cow pasture. You know what they were doing? They were worshiping their God, that's their God. Their whole life is built around that football game.
And here's an even greater problem, you ready for this? Look what happens. "Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry". That word for revelry suggests sexual immorality. You know what that means? This is the real danger of idolatry. Idolatry will always lead you to immorality. Now not the kind you think. You say, "Well, what do you mean it'll always lead me to immorality"? Give an example. If your God is fame, if your God is for everybody to know who you are, you will be tempted to compromise your character to become famous. If your God is money, you'll be tempted to rob God so you can have more money. If your God is your job, you'll be tempted to sacrifice your family on the altar of climbing the corporate ladder. And here's the greatest irony of all.
Listen to this. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Go down, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They've been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt". While Moses is up on the mountain and God's giving him the law, they are already breaking it, haven't even seen it yet. And what should've been a time of celebration instead became a time of condemnation. Instead of experiencing the wonder of God, they were about to experience the wrath of God. And this is what breaks your heart. Whenever you decide to put a false god ahead of the true God, you begin to worship a God who can't save your soul, who can't solve your problems, who can't strengthen your weaknesses, who cannot supply your needs.
And you read this story and you read about they're so excited, they're so enthusiastic. They get up early in the morning, they build the altar, they sacrifice the cows. They're jumping around, they're singing and they're dancing. And I was thinking about this message yesterday. And listen, nobody enjoys their football team more than I do, you know that. And I'm not ashamed. I love Georgia football, I love it. I go to all the home games. I go to some of the away games. I'm going to the national championship game if I have to sell my house, I'm going. Hadn't told her that yet, I just did. But there's something wrong. I'll see my buddy Scott back there. Scott, there's something wrong when we get more excited about a scoreboard than we do about people who need Jesus. There's something wrong with that. There's something out of kilter there. There's something outta whack there.
So here's the point. Idolatry, it will move you to deny the true God. It will then motivate you to devise a false god. And now we come to the climax of the story and just about done, you ready? Idolatry forces us to decide on one God. You say, "What do you mean"? There is no other area in your life or my life where God draws a line in the dirt like this and says, "Okay big boy, okay young lady, you're gonna decide which God you're gonna worship. You're gonna make up your mind. You are not going to straddle the fence. You gotta make up your mind. What do you love the most? What is the most important thing to you? What is something that you would absolutely die for other than Me"?
Listen to this quote. "In every human being there's a deep ongoing search for meaning and transcendence. Part of the image of God in our very nature. Even if we flee God, the religious imprint remains. Everyone worships some kind of God". That is so true. "Everyone believes in some kind of deity. Even if that deity is an impersonal substance, such as matter, energy or nature". That is why the Bible preaches against idolatry, not atheism. Do you know how many verses there are in the Bible about atheism? One. One. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" You know what God says about an atheist? "Buddy, you're a fool, I can't help you. You don't believe in Me, I can't help you". But I mean from Genesis to Revelation, I read it again this morning in my quiet time, reading through the Bible. I'm just about done in Revelation. Idolatry, idolatry, idolatry.
See here's the question I'm gonna ask you that may surprise you. I no longer ask somebody, "Do you believe in God"? I never ask that question. Here's the question I ask, "Which God do you believe in"? Everybody believes in some God. Even the atheist believes in God. His God may be sex, his God may be money, his God may be himself, but everybody worships some God. And the one decision that will determine the only kind of life you're gonna live on this earth and where you're gonna spend eternity is which God are you going to worship? Well for Israel, the day of reckoning has arrived. Listen to what we read. "Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God".
Remember He's the one that wrote them down. The writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. "When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, 'There's a sound of war in the camp.' Moses replied, 'It's not the sound of victory, it is the sound of defeat. It is the sound of singing that I hear.' When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned". It's all right sometimes for a preacher to be angry. "His anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them into pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire. Then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it".
I remember reading that story as a boy and I had to ask myself one question. So I'm getting here, so here's what Moses does. He takes that calf, he grinds it into pieces. He puts it on the big green egg. He barbecues it till it's nothing but ashes. Then he pours it into water and he makes the Israelites drink it. Why did he do that? Remember any God that you can destroy is a false god. Any God you can destroy is a false god. But why did you make them drink this concoction? I'm gonna get a little bit anatomical here but stay with me. If you know your anatomy, you know this, in fact, you practice it every day. What goes into your body gonna come outta your body. That's right. What goes into your body is going to come out of your body.
Do you know what Moses was saying? Do you know what God was saying to the people of Israel? You know what God is telling some of us today? This false god that you've given your life to, your job, your family, your money, your fame, your fortune, your car, your house, this false god that you put before me, is worth about as much as a pile of human dung. That's about what it's worth. And that's why idolatry is so dangerous. My buddy Ed Stetzer, put it this way. "Is it that a 12 inch tall piece of wood or bronze can do something bad to us? Or is it that we do something awful to ourselves when we place adoration and attention that should go to God in other things. When it comes to idolatry, the danger is not in an item, it is in..." Say that out loud. Us. It is in us.
So lemme give you an example. You're not gonna like it, that's okay. This is not one of those matches you're gonna come out and go, "Man, would you preach that again"? If you do not give a dime to God's work, you are an idolater. I can't make that any planer. That makes you mad, apologize, I'll forgive you. If you don't give a dime to God's work, whatever else you think you are, you are an idolater. Because when your money is so important to you, that you say, "But if I give money to God, I'm gonna have less for me". You just made your money into an idol. That's how subtle it is. We don't think anything about it. We go week after week, month after month, year after year, we don't give a dime to God's work. Never think a think about it.
And God says, "Wait a minute, I gave you the money. I gave you the health to make the money. I gave you the ability to get the money. And I'll tell you how generous I am. All I ask back is a dime out of a dollar. That's all I'm asking. By the way I could take it all 'cause I can take you out. Just want a dime". It's amazing the excuses we come up with why we can't do that or why we don't do that. I'm not here to preach on money. I'm just trying to make the point. 'Cause here's what idolatry does. Number one, it deadens your soul. It deadens your soul. It blocks the relational connection that you were meant to have with God to begin with. Then it deepens your sin. I mean, you live this life of constant rebellion and you never experience all the things that God wanted to do with you and through you and in you and for you 'cause you're too busy living as an idolater.
And then it darkens your spirit. You spend all of your life walking down a trail that leads to nowhere that you don't discover until you get to the end. Now, we're gonna get real, gonna get relevant, we're gonna be done. What's your idol? What is my idol? What is your idol? I read an article. It was entitled Six Surprising Idols We Worship Today. And so I'm gonna read these off and I just want you guys to be honest. See if you find yourself in any one of these false gods, you see. Number one, our identity. If you find your identity in anything, your work, another person, your achievements, how many friends you have on Facebook, how many people follow you on Twitter. That's your idol. Of course we know the big one, right? Money, stuff.
If you're hoarding money, buying stuff at the expense of supporting God's work financially and giving God back his tithe, your money and your stuff is your idol. Here's another one. Entertainment. If you find yourself more excited and more passionate about your sports team or you get more pumped up about going to a great movie or the lake or a concert than you do coming to church and worshiping God, that is your idol. Here's one we know is a big one. Sex. We've become a sex obsessed culture. We think more about sex than we do about money. And I'll prove it to you. If a man like me stands up today and advocates for a biblical sexual ethic.
If a man like me stands up today and says, "Let me make this real easy, all sex outside of marriage, between a man and a woman is wrong". You get crucified, you get vilified, you're judgmental, you're homophobic, you're negative, get with it. It's your idol. When you find your identity in your sex, in your practices, in your sex lives, and that becomes more important to you than anything else, that's your idol. Now here's a huge one. Comfort. If you practice a comfortable Christianity that calls for no sacrifice, no effort, never take a stand for Christ. Never stand out from the majority. Never say right is right, wrong is wrong. 'Cause you don't wanna be persecuted. You don't wanna be crucified. Your comfort has become your idol.
Now before you put the last one up there, okay? Everybody do this for me. Everybody do this right here. Do this right here, okay? Buckle your seatbelt. You ready for the last one? No, I'm not but you're gonna get it anyway. Cell phones. Yeah, I knew I'd get groans on that one. Smart phone addiction. You know we got a name for it now. It's called nomophobia. It is a fear of being without a mobile phone. It's the number one fear of Gen Z and Millennials. It's a disease that affects adults of all ages. When getting on your cell phone is more important to you than reading your Bible, being fully engaged in worship, listening to God's word and praying, it has become your idol. There's some of you that would rather lose your dog than lose your cell phone.
Now let's wrap it up. The good news is we can defeat idolatry in our lives. We can. But here's what it takes. You gotta go to a cross. Where the true God sent His only Son to die for us to make that happen. See the cross serves two purposes. We know one, we forget the other one. When I go to a cross, I see a Jesus that died for my sin. But when I go to a cross, I also see a place where I can die to my sin. And that's exactly what we need to do.
So we close with a climactic moment in this chapter and then we're gonna say amen. Here's what it all boils down to. So Moses, he. Moses, "stood at the entrance of the camp and said, 'Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.' And all the Levites rallied to him". So I'm calling for the same decision today that Moses called for 3,500 years ago. If you are for the Lord, you will put nothing before the Lord. And here's the hard truth. You can't straddle the fence with God. You can't have one foot with Him. And one foot with the world, that doesn't work. God says, "I've drawn a line in the dirt. You are either for Me or you are against Me. So what is it going to be"? So I close with the same words my spiritual ancestor closed with 3,500 years before. Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.
Would you pray with me right now with heads bowed and with eyes closed? Can I say a word for just a moment to those of you who say you know the Lord? Normally I'll talk about people that don't. Let me talk to those of you for a moment who do. You say, "I know God, I know Jesus, I've been saved". Can I, let's be honest. What's your idol? What's your idol? What are those things in your life that if you're not careful before you know it, they come before God. What is your idol? I've had to deal with it in my own life. God told me too, I had in my life I had to deal with so I'm with you. Would you right now if you've really committed, would you just say, "Oh God, I'm admitting to you that has become an idol in my life".
Would you let God today, just ground that idol into stone? Would you let God cook it away? Would you let God pour it away? And would you one more time, just say to God, "God, I will never, I don't ever wanna put anything before You because I am for You". And lemme just tell you this. If you've never given your life to Jesus Christ, you are an idolater.
You may say, "Well, I don't worship anything". Sure you do. Maybe it's your self authority. Maybe it's your self image. Maybe it's your self esteem. Maybe it's just yourself. Everybody worships something. And the reason why God sent Jesus Christ to die on a cross and pay for our sins and bring Him back from the dead was to show us who the true God really is. And if you've never given your life to Jesus Christ today, I wanna invite you to do that. If you've never given all of you, all that you are to all that He is, why don't you right now just tell Him this. Why don't you just say something like this? Why don't you say:
Dear God, I realize now I've been an idolater and I didn't even know it. I believe that You died for my sins, Lord Jesus. I believe that God raised You from the dead. I believe You're alive right now. Lord Jesus, today I turn my back on every false god I've ever worshiped. I ask You to save me today. I ask You to become the King on the throne of my life. I repent and turn away from my sinful life. I trust You as my savior. I surrender to You as my Lord. I ask You to forgive me of all of my sins. And I receive Your gift of eternal life.