Hosea 9:10b tells us, "They became an abomination like the thing they loved." In other words, you are what you love.
Idol worship is still alive and well among God's people. We may not worship graven images, little icons, or golden statues but we still have an abundance of idols. What is an idol, exactly? It's something you give power that it doesn't have. Do ding dongs lure you out of bed and down into the pantry? Can you hear them calling, "I'm down here, come get me!"? The reality is that ding dongs have no power. They are a compilation of foodstuffs and chemicals. Those who serve the god of gluttony give power to food.
How do you tell whether something is an idol? Here's four ways:
1. Time. How much time do you devote to a thing? Say, television? How many hours a week do you sit, glued to the tube? Which programs do you rush home to so you don't miss them? Which programs do you record faithfully if you're going to be gone? Do you schedule your day so that you will not miss a beloved program?
2. Thought. If God doesn't have your thoughts, He doesn't have you. What dominates your thinking? Entertainment, politics, gossip, fun, worry--these are the usual suspects. How much mental energy do you invest thinking about these things?
3. Speech. Your mouth speaks what your heart's full of. Have you ever listened to what comes out of your mouth? What topics delight you? What kinds of words tumble from your lips? I used to work for a local ministry, filled to the brim with Christians. Yet, at our weekly staff meetings as we sat eating lunch together, talk rarely included God. However, if I wanted to know who'd been voted off the island or which contenders were still on American Idol (irony noted), all I had to do was listen. For 2 years, this was the norm. It struck me both odd and sad that week after week the bulk of conversation held no mention of God.
Here were acceptable topics of delight: clothes, shoes, hairstyles. These were relished with zeal. Motorcycling, piloting, and sports--these too, were greatly prized topics. God was not.
4. Have someone take it away. Is food your idol? What happens when someone gets between you and a pork chop? When someone tells you you can't have it? When someone says you need to cut back on eating? What happens in your mind and body? Do you rebel? Do you become defensive? Angry?
As many know, I've lost 137 pounds. Quite obviously food was an idol to me. Here's a lesson God taught me during my weight loss journey. He asked a question: How much time do you spend thinking about food? Hmm. I'd never really considered that. So, for the next week I made special note of how often I thought about food--buying it, cooking it, eating it, preparing it, storing it, reading about it, looking at it. I watched an average of 8 hours a day on the Food Network. During and in between programs, I'd engulf myself in cookbooks. Generally, I had no less than 30 from the library at any given time. I especially loved the ones with pictures.
About a week later, the Lord broached the subject again. I admitted, "Wow! I think about food constantly." He gently followed my statement with another question: How much time to you spend thinking about Me?
I must tell you, this cut me to the quick. The full impact of His statement penetrated my heart. The truth was that I rarely thought of Him at all. I knew then, that food was a idol I served with great zeal, I devoted time, energy and passion to this idol. I served it with all my heart. My behavior shouted who my god was. Oh how thankful I am to my Father for showing me this. Repentance restored me to the one true God.
Let me challenge you.
Time. How much time do you spend alone with God? Do you arrange your day so that you're sure to make your appointed time alone with Him? Do you run to your time with Him with the same delight as you to give your favorite program? What would happen if you switched? For example, give God the hour during your program. Shut off the television and spend that time with God instead. You won't regret it.
Thoughts. During the next week, pay particular attention to what goes on in your mind. On what kinds of things does your mind dwell? Criticism, gossip, mean thoughts about others or yourself? Your favorite foods, activities, programs? How many times a day do you think about God, or Godly things, principles, or His Word? Do you ever meditate on Biblical principles? Compare the sheer amount of time you invest in things other than God.
Speech. Your mouth speaks what your heart's full of. During the next week, pay attention to what comes out of your mouth. In your workplace, your church, your home--listen to your conversations this week. What you discover may shock you.
Take it away. Try to do without your idol for a period of time. What happens inside you when you stop watching your favorite program? What goes on in your mind and body when you fast for even one meal? What happens when you turn the television/computer/text messages/phone off for an entire week? Is internal angst stirred up? Do you get angry? Defensive? Lonely? Do you invent reasons why you can't do without it for a time?
In If You Will Ask, Oswald Chambers wrote: "The great difficulty in intercession is myself, nothing less or more. The first thing I have to do is take myself to school. My first duty is not to assert freedom, but to find an absolute master."
Something will master you. You get to decide what that something is. Choose Christ.
Choose Christ for He is the only good Master. He's the only one that restores, heals, transforms for good. The others may be fun, may be profitable for a time, may be satisfying but all these benefits are temporary. Only with God are the benefits permanent, always good, always restorative. Regardless of what the world shouts, He's the one true God. All else is but a poor imitation. Why settle for less than the best?