Hey there fellow minister. A couple of quick questions. Do give them due thought so that you may answer truthfully rather than correctly. Here goes : Which brings you the most joy , talking about God , or talking to God ? If you picked the latter , then you have answered correctly , but have you indeed answered truthfully?
Pause … It just entered my mind that I am about to talk about God and I didn’t bother to talk to God first. Not just in preparation for this blog , but through out the day and it’s now evening as I am writing .
Pause seriously… prayer break.
I define Idol as anything that we give precedence over God. A tangible carved-out image is only surface deep. What makes an Idol an Idol , requires a deeper delve into the non-tangible world .And indeed scripture gives many examples of none tangible things which amount to idolatry .
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5 ESV
The deeper treachery of Idolatry is that the adoration and servitude which rightly belongs to the one true God , is pimped off to the highest bidder ; a whom or a whatever that makes a promise to bring us ultimate satisfaction. Some find this highest bidder to be a car , others a house , yet others a spouse and for someone us it is ministry. The idols are limitless. But in each case , the righteous jealousy of God is provoked as He sees what is his , what should only come to him , given to something or someone else.
You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,
Deuteronomy 5:9a ESV
The something else up for discussion today is ministry. Ministry is simply our service rendered. So a Christian’s ministry is the service he renders to other people on behalf of God. This may be through song , dance , poetry , blogging , acting , giving, mercy , cooking , cleaning and just about any other action that someone can do to benefit another person . All these ministerial portfolios are good , and that is precisely want can make the idolatry of ministry so subtle and thus evasive from our awareness.
How can it be bad to do all these good things ? How can blogging or preaching , activities which are making disciples or strengthening saints , be Idolatry?. As I’ve already alluded to earlier , a ministry becomes idolatrous when our pride and joy comes from its success and not from our God who called and empowered us .
Where as you were content with sitting at the masters beautiful feet learning from him , now you smile only at your own beautiful feet , which are well chiseled from preaching the good news (Romans 10:15) . Where as you found your worth and significance by identifying with Christ (Ephesians 1:5 , Colossians 2:9-10, 1st Peter2:9) , now your identity is wrapped up in your social media image. Where as you were once not fit to even untie the straps of the messiah’s sandals , today you swear Christ is seen because you prop him up on your shoulders . Where as your claim to fame was that your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelations 3:5) , now it’s simply that it’s in Neon Bright Lights …or a dot com.
Let me piggy back off this last reference about where our name is written and introduce a text that really captures for us an example of where some disciples of Christ lost sight of what was truly important. They had just returned from a successful time of ministry and so caught up were they with what they had done that Jesus had to jerk them back to reality
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:17-20 ESV
Verse 17 finds the disciples gleefully boasting of their ministerial escapades where even demons where left shaking in their boots. Pride is coursing through the disciples veins. Their source of boasting is no longer in God , but in what they had done.
Verse 18 , Christ offers a first check to their pride . He lets them know that he saw Satan fall from heaven. This could be a two-fold admonishing. 1) I saw the master of these demons fell, so it’s no surprise that his foot soldiers are scared. 2) Satan fell from heaven because his pride got the best of him (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:13-17) . Be careful that you too don’t fall like him because of pride.
Verse 19, Christ hammers in check number two. He reminds the disciples that all what they had done was by the power he gave them.
Verse 20, Christ focuses their attention to the one boast we should ever make. That boast being that “my name is in heaven”. And of course if you have been exposed to a half decent gospel, you know, that means salvation and that salvation is by Grace through Faith, not by works, so that no man may boast [in himself]. The take away here is that it is not the gifts , like power to tread over serpents, that should most consume us, resulting in idolatry, but it is the Giver who should always be our prime focus of adoration, because he has given us salvation freely.
We must never allow ourselves to be more infatuated with doing work for God, than we are with God himself. Oh what a tragedy it is when a husband breaks his back, working long hours to put food on the table for his wife, but he never actually takes the time to sit and eat with her. What highway robbery it is for a parent to pay for a child’s music classes and then never show up to any of the child’s performances. Is it not insane for the farmer to grow the crop but never taste of the harvest? Or the doctor who develops a cure to a disease but then dies of that same disease because his sole satisfactions was in creating the cure, and not in being healed?
Each one of these scenarios paints for us a picture of someone with their priorities twisted. They loved their mission more than the object (person) of that mission. They have truly put the cart before the horse.
Is that also my plight , have I loved my God given mission more than the God who gave the mission ?
Am I content when people love my way of preaching and say I have a way with words , even though they remain unrepentant and wayward .
Does the word play of this Blog excite me more than the word of my God.?
The reality is I am a narcissist. Yes I love God , but far too often I love me more .I want the glory , I want to be the best blogger in this “Idolatry” series . When Chadia reached out to me to write a piece on idolatry it didn’t take me a minute to know that I would tackle it from the angle of ministry. Ministry is my pride and joy you see : Post a new blog , make it transparent so it connects with many people , then sit back and watch the stats rise…in conjunction with my joy . Or preach a sermon, make sure I have the audio recorded to share , because this stuff that I’m churning out deserves a wider audience than the 12 or so I get at my local church. A “well done my good and faithful servant” is not quite music to the ears like “Bro. Excellent message , You were on point as usual , I really appreciate your preaching”.
Did I say all that out loud ?
Well what better way to show you ministry as an Idol , than to give you access into the workings of the mind of a minister who idolizes ministry .
Of course I don’t leave it there . Step one is to admit your fault ; I admit that far too often , I do ministry for the praise of man. Matthew 6 again and again warns that those who do their “righteous” deeds for the express purpose of being seen by man , have already received all they will ever receive … ie the praise of man.
Is that my lot ? Comments , likes , hearts , shares and momentary euphoria . Whoa , that sucks .
Yep that sucks , but such is the futility of making Ministry your God. Only thing ministry can give me is momentary fame in a world that is passing away. It would seem wise to make the one true omnipotent God my God and there by having my name written in heaven.
Which brings me to step two. Repent . Turn from the sin of Idolatry . I must give God his proper place , I must place his importance above ministry . I must take up the spirit of John the Baptist when it’s comes to ministry .
He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30 ESV
But what happens if by my very effort to humble myself , I end up being exalted (James 4:10) ? Well I should obey 1st Corinthians 10:31 and give glory to God in all things ,less my fate be like that of Herod’s who was struck down for not giving glory to God , which is Idolatry.
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
Acts 12:21-23 ESV
Idolatry is serious business , life and death are at stake. So Ministers ,do not take this lightly .Bow down and serve only the true and living God , and never ministry. Yes ministry is good , but to take your greatest satisfaction , or worth , or identity from it is nothing short of idolatrous and evil.
So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.
Romans 14:16 ESV
God Over Ministry.