Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. 1 John 5:21 (NLT)
I think a lot about idolatry. I think about the things I worship and I think about the things my counselees worship. Much of what I deal with in counseling is issues of idolatry that manifest themselves in actions such as sexual immorality, excessive spending, deception, outbursts of anger and rage, drunkenness and drug abuse.
We know these particular issues are idolatrous because they are rooted in a heart that worships self. Furthermore, we know that a person who worships self is very clued in to how they feel on a moment by moment basis. They will frequently talk about how they just feel this or just feel that; and nearly 100% of the time they misuse the word “feel” in their disclosure.
What a person really is trying to tell me is they think, believe, or desire something that is very important to them but they have been conditioned by our culture to feel it rather than correctly articulating it as a thought, belief, or desire.
Well you might be wondering, “So what?” Who really cares how a person expresses themselves? Does it really matter? I am here to tell you, “Yes. It really does matter.”
Words matter. What you say and how you say what you say really does matter! Words can reinforce lies that we tell ourselves and lead us further into unbelief or other sin. Words can harden the heart of the listener, and words can shipwreck your life (James 3).
Using clear and concise words help us to determine if something is biblical or unbiblical, sinful or not sinful, idolatrous or not idolatrous. This is why I am so firm on identifying things as thoughts, beliefs and desires instead of feelings.
What is the difference between a desire and a feeling? Can it be both? Yes, it can be both.
Thayer’s Dictionary of Scripture defines our desires in various ways that boil down to desires being either a particular mode of thinking or judging or cravings that can be either good (food) or bad (lust).
A counselee must be able to support their desire as biblical with Scripture (in context). This is important because emotions can lead one to justify their desire for certain things. Yet feelings prove unreliable as a method of living life to glorify God. We often wrongly believe we “deserve” things for unbiblical reasons. Our wrong beliefs can lead us to wrong emotions.
We are to place our desires and wants on the altar of sacrifice to God. Surrender them to Him for His approval and then act in obedient response to the will of God.
This is the action step of change. If we do not take this most important step of acting on our new beliefs or understandings, than the rest is useless. Please do not fall into the trap of thinking that just knowing about it is enough, we must act on what is right!
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
The idolater has had little difficulty with worship; it is just that the object of worship is wrongly directed. We have provided Scriptural admonition and some practical application for action, but how can one be taught to fall in love with God?
The short answer is we can’t! Numerous passages in the Old Testament recount God commanding Israel to love Him (Deut. 6:5; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16; Josh. 22:5; 23:11) and to demonstrate their love by being faithful to Him and worshiping Him only. They were a dismal failure at this! We are incapable of worshiping God or loving Him without the enablement of the Holy Spirit.
Allow me to draw you a word picture what this might look like; we are to display the evidence of the love of Christ in our actions. This love should well up within us like a geyser and overflow onto the lives of others! Because of all that Christ has done for us, and all that we are in Christ, we are to continually reflect glory to God through worship as we obey the Word, serve others, demonstrate forbearance, and overlook hurtful offenses and so on. This is worship as we passionately live life for His glory!
Often those people who benefit from the reflection of our love for Jesus Christ are people who we have conflict with: our spouses with whom we have discord, children who are ungrateful, or co-workers and employers who take advantage of us. Our view of their response to our graciousness changes radically when our motive for doing these things changes. You see, if I am serving others for the glory of God, then does it matter if I am appreciated? If I am obeying and submitting to a harsh authority because of Christ, and because it pleases Him, then is it going to be bearable?
I maintain that when my goal for all I do in life is to glorify God then nothing else matters. God receives my spiritual acts of worship (Romans 12:1), and I experience joy because man’s response just doesn’t matter anymore! It has ceased to be about me and my feelings and my wants and my perceived needs, and it is now all about Him. It is how I can bring Him glory in daily living.