In the first post, we covered the fact that who you worship is ultimately the most important thing about you. The second post dealt with the fact that all false worship is ultimately self-worship. Now I’d like to zoom in a little and get down to some of the nitty-gritty details of what self-worship looks like in the life of the Christian. (spoiler: it looks pretty much the same as self-worship in a non-Christian, just without the excuse)
The Bible has a lot to say about worship and idolatry, because the purpose of the whole Bible is to reveal and glorify God to us, so that we will worship Him as He deserves. And no, Mr O’Steen, it’s not about you, me, OR your mullet. I’m flashing my best plastic Joel “Jesus-loves-my-mullet” smile right now, but you can’t see it.
One of the clearest passages that deals with the selfish urges that lure us down the gaping maw of idolatry is found in I John 2:15-16…
“Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
You could spend an enormous amount of time learning about worship just on that first verse, but here are just a couple quick thoughts on it:
There is no Biblical consolation for someone wondering if they are a Christian without a pattern of loving God displayed in their life.
- Like calls to like: The idols of the world call to us because our nature is twisted by the same sin. This means your odds of beating this idolatry is zero without the new birth. You’re going to be who you are.
- What you love most wins out, and what wins out reveals who you really are. There is no Biblical consolation for someone wondering if they are a Christian without a pattern of loving God displayed in their life.
This passage references the three basic building blocks of the world’s attraction, the three worms that bait the hook of all idolatry: Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life.
I. Lust of the Flesh:
I am writing this post from Los Angeles, and there is PLENTY of fuel for this rant. If you’ve never been to LA, it’s a little hard to describe how saturated this place is with that particular form of idolatry. On a 5 minute drive yesterday we counted 6 strip clubs, and 2 billboards for “Adult-con”, touted as the world’s largest pornography convention. A line from a well known rock song says this about LA:
“It’s understood that Hollywood sells Californication” Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’m not endorsing the song or artist when I say this, but they are right on the money on that count.LA produces over 90% of the pornographic material made in the USA.
Porn revenue, $57.0 billion world-wide, is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. US porn revenue, $12.0 billion, exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC (6.2 billion). As depressing as those statistics are, you may not be aware of how pervasive this worship problem is among Christians:
- In August 2006, a survey reported 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. (source)
- 40% of pastors have visited a pornographic Internet site, with over 33% doing so within the last 12
If you were to rank idols by how much is spent in their worship, sex would be bigger than any other religion in the world, and this particular idol is sitting with us in the pews.
“You weren’t just addicted to sin, you were in bondage to it. Then you got saved. It’s about the heart, not the drugs. Teach them to love Jesus.”
One of the ministries we were able to lead in our home church was Reformers Unanimous, a faith-based addictions recovery program. I remember how intimidated I was when I went to my pastor to volunteer to help in the ministry, and he told me I would be the director. I told him I wasn’t sure that was the best idea, I didn’t come out of a lifestyle of addiction. His response? “You weren’t just addicted to sin, you were in bondage to it. Then you got saved. It’s about the heart, not the drugs. Teach them to love Jesus.”
Sounds simple. But that’s the core of it: we don’t struggle as Christians with a porn addiction: we have a worship problem. We are caving in to our desires because WE are ultimately what matter most to us, not God.
Most of the “help” given to Christians struggling with this idol doesn’t really help with the root problem. Here’s what we tell them:
- Don’t do it, it’ll hurt you. That’s very true, there’s plenty of Bible and life examples to the fact that sexual sin is essentially spiritual suicide. The problem is that its a lesser motivation, but not the primary one. If making your life better is the motivation, in the moment of temptation it becomes pretty hard to remember that what feels good and seems good is not worth it. You are still the focus, and even if you remember that it hurts you, well… That’s your choice isn’t it?
- Don’t do it, it’ll hurt someone else. Also true. Sexual sin doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts everyone in your life. It’s a raging fire that destroys everything and everyone in its path. So what’s the problem with this being the primary motivation? First, it’s not always going to work in avoiding sin, because our sinful nature doesn’t start by leading us into huge family destroying sin, but makes small compromise after small compromise: “This is too small to really cause a problem… This won’t hurt them THAT much”.
The problem with both of these is that it focuses primarily on the wrong person. King David understood this after his adultery with Bathsheba, saying in Psalm 51, “Against thee and thee only have I sinned”.
So how do we fight this idolatry? I think the answer goes back to our verse in I John 2:15. When the Bible says “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”, the inverse is true: if any man love the Father the love of the world is not in him.
- Identify Idols: Start with understanding that you love imperfectly, and worship yourself better than you worship Jesus. It’s hard to admit, and it hurts. Writing these blog posts have made me do that, and it breaks me to think that I stink at returning the perfect love Jesus shows to me, especially because the difference is that He actually deserves that love. Somehow it’s easier to say I have a problem with wrong thoughts than to say I commit spiritual adultery against my King who loved me and gave Himself for me.
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness.” James 4:9
- Submit to His Working: Just as naturally as the world and our sinful nature pull us into idolatry and self-love, the Spirit of God dwelling in us is constantly pointing to Christ, exalting Him, revealing our new identity IN Him, and creating a love for Him and His glory. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29): When this fight seems to hard, just remember He is never going to stop that inward working. The hard part is His, He just calls you to let Him do it.
- Don’t Avoid Sin, Seek Jesus. Much of our teaching involves telling people to run away from sin, but that’s really only half of the equation. Our church uses a program called Covenant Eyes that monitors internet activity and helps us stay accountable, and I recommend that and any other way to not “give place to the Devil”, but if all you do is run from sin you are at best tired, scared, and worthless to the Kingdom, and at worst, falling back into that sin because it’s all you focus on. Often we rely on will-power and self-control when we are tempted, and treat the Bible like a mental discipline that will help us win the fight. “If I quote enough verses… If I fight hard enough”. Acting like we can handle sin on our own is just a rebellious as the sin we are running from! Let temptation drive you into the Bible, not as a mental discipline or way to distract yourself, but as seeking His face and presence, asking Him to help you love Him more. Can you say like David that He is your tower, your shield, your fortress?
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded.” James 4:8
What am I really trying to get across? I naturally like porn because I naturally worship myself. And don’t take that out of context, if
Theology beats biology. I don’t need to run away from sin, but run to Jesus.
you are a man your flesh likes porn too, at least I’ll be honest and admit it. But I naturally love Jesus more because I am a born again Christian: Theology beats biology. I don’t need to run away from sin, but run to Jesus.
I’ll end with a quote from Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”,when Christian is faced with temptation from Satan:
“I count that the Prince, under whose banner I now stand, is able to absolve me, yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with thee. And besides, O thou destroying Apollyon, to speak truth,I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than thine; therefore leave off to persuade me farther: I am his servant, and I will follow him. “
That’s the kind of defiant love for the Master that makes the difference that no internet filter, no accountability partner, no support group can match. Fall in love with Him, give Him the worship He so rightly deserves, and let Satan keep his stinking pornography, adultery, and filth. I will follow Him!