Bearing Fruit? Or Building Totem Poles?
Deuteronomy 11:16 — “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them”
I wrote another essay that encourages us to ask God, “Lord, show me what I’m really like.” (http://faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=17669). We saw from John 15:1-3 that believers are the branches of Jesus the True Vine, and the Father is the Gardener who prunes us -- or cuts off our dead parts -- so that we can bear fruit.
Part of what He’s going to uncover and cut out of you are any areas of idolatry taking up valuable space in your heart, mind and life.
“What?!”, you may protest. “I’m a good Christian! I don’t practice idolatry! I worship Jesus, not idols!”
Oh really now? Well, before you get too defensive, read 1 Corinthians Chapter 10. Note verse 12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (NIV); and verse 14 admonishes to “flee from idolatry.” Such admonishments are directed to, yes, followers of God. Even we can be idolaters.
In Webster’s dictionary, an “idol” is a person or thing that is blindly or excessively adored. “Idolatry” is blind or excessive adoration or devotion. To “idolize” is to regard with unquestioning or excessive admiration or devotion. In Scripture, an idol is an image, a phantom; an image in the mind, and then, the image of a god (Bullinger’s Lexicon).
With that in mind, consider closer that pruning issue. In your life, who’s really got ahold of the cutting tool? Is God using His gardener’s shears effectively, to prune you so you’ll bear more fruit to His glory? Or are there also carpenter’s tools in your hands giving more and more idolatrous shape to your self-focused feelings, ideas and desires? While God’s trying to prune you, are you also carving idols? Are you bearing fruit, or building totem poles?
You see, you may not be worshipping graven images of false, lifeless gods carved from wood, molded from clay, hewn from stone, or shaped from fired gold. But maybe you’ve built up a stronghold of desires and ideas about someone or something to the point that it’s taking up valuable space in you that should be devoted to God. You have nurtured your feelings about it to the point that it’s become like a god to you, a carved phantom image that preoccupies your mind because you won’t let the one and only, true and living God Almighty cut it out of you. All of those feelings are built up like a totem pole in you, getting in the way of all the fruit-bearing worship and service you can give to the Lord.
When you’re asking God to show you what you’re really like, be ready for Him to show you what “idols” He wants to cut out of you so that you can bear more fruit. Just remember: Often it’s not the object itself that needs to be cut off but your excessive attention to it.
Here are some possible idols that even Christians need to tear down, or at least be careful not to build up disproportionately:
-- Knowledge, intelligence or talents
-- Popularity or personality
-- Physical appearance
-- Self-righteous “holiness” (so-called)
-- Prosperity (finances, health, family, etc.)
-- Career or education
-- Marital problems (“I deserve to be happy!”)
-- Getting married (“Is this the one? Or this? Or maybe this?”)
-- Your children
-- Past hurts or injustices
-- Your ministry or position in church
What other areas of idolatry are even Christians vulnerable to?
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