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Ezekiel 14:6-8

John 4:23-24
Lamentations 3:22-23
Luke 18:18-23

Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: Repent and turn away from your idols; turn your faces away from all your detestable things.  For when anyone from the house of Israel or from the aliens who reside in Israel separates himself from Me, setting up idols in his heart and putting his sinful stumbling block in front of himself, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me, I, the LORD, will answer him Myself.  I will turn against that one and make him a sign and a proverb; I will cut him off from among My people. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 14:6-8)

But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23

Our Journey Theme centers around identifying and rooting out our idols in order to worship the Lord with a deeper, more authentic love. Today’s Scriptures focus on how we can abandon our idols in pursuit of what God has always desired, for us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people struggled in their faithfulness to Him. In the prophecies in Ezekiel 14, God again called His people to repent and turn their hearts from their idolatrous ways, back to the Lord. The consequences of choosing idolatry, He warned, were disastrous. 

The New Testament passage in John 4 demonstrates what God wants: true worship, the antithesis of idolatry. The elements of true worship are laid bare in the passage—first, the motivation to worship. God’s word says His mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and Jesus clearly showed compassion for the Samaritan woman with whom He conversed. This woman was deemed immoral, an outcast, but Jesus calls everyone to true worship. Moved by Jesus’ merciful compassion, which broke through cultural norms and ended long-standing religious and ethnic divisions, the woman was drawn to worship Jesus.

Next, worship should be in Spirit and in truth. True worship is God-centered, and God is always looking at our hearts. It also comes from a sincere heart; worship for God is done because He deserves it. 

In both passages, the posture of our hearts is the deciding factor. Similarly, consider the story of the rich young ruler found in Luke 18:18-23. The ruler looked good on the outside, justifying his sin by his outward acts of religious piety. But Jesus saw his heart.

Jesus, who was God incarnate.
The same God Who repeatedly called His children to move beyond self-righteous ritual into actual wholehearted devotion to God as evidenced by lives overflowing in mercy, justice, and humility. (Micah 6:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:11-18, Matthew 9:10-13)

Jesus saw through the ruler’s futile attempt to self-justify and asked for his heart.

Sweep away all of your “good acts” from the throne of your heart, Jesus invited.
Demonstrate your heart’s transformation to mirror
Mine 
in humility by abdicating social power accompanying wealth;
in justice by providing out of your excess for My oppressed children;
in mercy by seeing and loving and ministering to My marginalized children.

The young ruler walked away, unwilling to slay his idols. 

There was a time in my life when I too struggled with the idol of justifying my sin, telling myself it was “older-child syndrome” and, “this is just who I am,” a characteristic pre-disposition. I needed to be in control of everything, and if things didn’t go according to my plan, I would become irritated and angry, throw tantrums and other acts of self-focused craziness. Through a series of faith challenges, God made it clear I wasn’t in control, and invited me to enthrone Him alone in my heart. Repentance and the Holy Spirit have since guided me.

So how do we slay our idols? Tim Keller wrote, “We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.” 

The first commandment states, “I am the LORD your God [. . .] Do not have other gods besides me. Do not make an idol for yourself [. . . ] Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them[.]” (Exodus 20:1-6)

An important step toward change, then, is to identify and dismantle idols of the heart. Joe Carter from The Gospel Coalition gives us a few areas to examine. 

  • Your attention-How do you spend your time? What does it reveal about your devotion to God?
  • Your prayer life-How do you respond when God doesn’t answer your prayer the way you wanted?
  • Your concern-What do you worry or become anxious about, or fear losing?

God has promised freedom from idolatry if we believe He is the source of everything we need. True worship is from the heart. When we turn to the eternal instead of the world, when we look to Him first and seek Him wholeheartedly, He will change our hearts and remove our idols. 

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March 4 - March 22, 2024 - Journey Theme #129

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