Idolatry: Cleaning the Junk from our Lives.
By Kevin Probst
My mother passed in April of 2009. The following summer my two brothers and I met at her home in Meadville, Pennsylvania to conduct an estate sale and put the old homestead on the market. We cleaned out the attic, the garage and the basement. We set up tables in the yard and placed an assortment of items on them to sell to those who were passing by. I grew a bit nostalgic as I looked at the objects I had grown up with. There was mom’s favorite chair. There was that old hammer dad always used when he was involved in some building project or just tinkering around the house. When I was a child all that stuff had value but now that decades had passed we were just selling a bunch of junk. My memories made it valuable to me but for those coming off the street it had little value at all.
We accumulate a lot of junk in life. At the moment of purchase it seems to have great value. Then as the years pass it slowly transforms into a piece of junk. Eternity is going to change all our stuff into junk. All the hours you labored for your employer, all the minutes you sat in front of the T.V. and all the time spent mesmerized in front of your computer ….a thousand years from now it will all just be junk. I think this is what Jesus was teaching when he said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)
When we are willing to give up our idols and commit ourselves to Christ a lot of things in life we used to value becomes junk.
An idol is whatever we have chosen to be center-stage in our lives. God created us in such a way that we can’t possibly experience total joy and satisfaction unless we place Him at the center of our lives. Tim Keller, in his book, The Reason for God, warns us of the consequences of placing other people and other things at the center of our lives:
•"If you center your life and identity on your spouse or partner, you will be emotionally dependent, jealous, and controlling. The other person’s problems will be overwhelming to you.
•If you center your life and identity on your family and children, you will try to live your life through your children until they resent you or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.
•If you center your life and identity on your work and career, you will be a driven workaholic and a boring, shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.
•If you center your life and identity on money and possessions, you’ll be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.
•If you center your life and identity on pleasure, gratification, and comfort, you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the “escape strategies” by which you avoid the hardness of life.
•If you center your life and identity on relationships and approval, you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends. You will fear confronting others and therefore will be a useless friend.
•If you center your life and identity on a “noble cause,” you will divide the world into “good” and “bad” and demonize your opponents. Ironically, you will be controlled by your enemies. Without them, you have no purpose.
•If you center your life and identity on religion and morality, you will, if you are living up to your moral standards, be proud, self-righteous, and cruel. If you don’t live up to your standards your guilt will be utterly devastating." (1)
Paul addressed this problem of choosing something or someone other than God as the primary object of worship in our lives. Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, crated to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Paul is saying, “When I was clinging to the old self, the old life-style, I was holding on to a bunch of worthless junk. But when I responded to the call of Christ he swept the junk out of my life and made me a new creature.”
When I was a child I always hated to hear my mother say these words, “Kevin, you need to clean up your room.” Now I have a five year old son who hates to hear his mother say the same words. But after the deed was done I felt so good to have the mess cleaned up, to have all the junk cleared away. There was such a sense of satisfaction to be clean and to know my mother was pleased.
Christ wants us to clear the junk from our lives. When we allow him to help us do that we have such a since of satisfaction. The song writer captured it just right when he wrote:
"All my life long I had panted
For a draught from some cool spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.
Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul's sad cry."
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His life I now am saved.
1. Tim Keller – “The Reason for God.”
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.