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Tearing Down Altars.

Goodness, the Lord has been doing some disciplining on my heart over the last few weeks. I’ve debated on sharing this, because it’s not my best moment. But I know that I’m not the only person struggling with this, and I want to be authentic here in this space.

I was reading through Hosea (definitely one you should read if you haven’t). In sum, the Lord commands Hosea to marry an adulteress wife. Crazy, right? But the Lord does this to give a picture of His love for His people, Israel. As Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him, Israel was unfaithful to the Lord their God. The Scriptures talk about how they whored after other gods, gods that were dead and could do nothing for them. Yet, as unfaithful as Israel was, the Lord still remained faithful to them. What a beautiful picture of the steadfast love of the Lord!  Even when we are faithless, He always remains faithful.

As I was reading about Israel’s idolatry, I prayed that the Lord would reveal my idols. I felt the Spirit convicting me that I had let my phone, especially social media become an idol. To be totally honest with you, I tried to brush this off. The next day, I jumped back in to Hosea.  The Lord spoke about how He was going to tear down Israel’s altars that they had made for their gods. Again, I felt that same conviction, and this time, I responded in prayer and even prayed that the Lord would tear down the “altars” in my life.

Well, tearing down the “altars” is exactly what the Lord did. I took my Sunday afternoon nap and woke up to an inbox full of emails letting me know that my Facebook account had been hacked. I immediately began trying to recover my account, but nothing was working. For the rest of the day, I spent time trying to get my account back, with no luck. I grew frustrated, and I let this small, insignificant thing change my attitude, and not for the better.

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And then I remembered Hosea and the things that I was praying about. Ouch. The Lord tore down my “altar”, and here I was continuing to chase after it.

So, I say all of this to say, is this you? I know that I can’t be alone in creating my phone/social media into an idol. Maybe that’s not you, but unfortunately, we all struggle with heart-idols. Our idols don’t seem so obvious to us, because we don’t construct figures like they did in the Old Testament. But often, our idols are good (or neutral) things that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we make them bad by putting them in the wrong place. So, social media itself isn’t bad, but my response, use, and the place that I put it in my life was. Here are some questions to ponder when thinking of what your heart-idols might be:

  • What (or who) are you willing to sin for in order to have? For example, are you willing to do something that you know is sinful with a friend, to not lose that relationship?
  • What consumes your thoughts? What are you thinking of as you fall asleep or as you drive? What’s keeping you up at night?
  • What are you doing instead of doing things of the Lord (spending time in the Word, church, etc)? We like to say that we are “too busy” to spend time in the Word, serve in the church, etc., but I encourage you to truly evaluate your time. Maybe something like Netflix or sports needs to take a backseat to things of the Lord.

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  • What is the thing (or person) that you feel that you literally can’t live without?  Or that you feel that you need in your life to satisfy you?

Did it sting a little as you pondered these questions?  If so, I know that it doesn’t feel good, and you might not have the warm-fuzzies right now, but it IS good.  The Lord only disciplines those that He loves.  We get so busy that we often don’t pause to truly evaluate what we could be worshiping instead of our Lord.  Because, like I said, the idols that we’ve created sometimes “sneak” into our lives.  Potty training, Mom’s cancer, and Netflix are just a few of the idols I’ve let sneak in (you can read more on that here).  Maybe for you, your boyfriend/girlfriend has become an idol, or fitness, or even your to-do list.

So, friends, wrestle with these questions.  Seek the Lord and ask Him what your idols are and to take down the “altars” in your life.  We must remember that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.  He is the one who has given His life for us, the one who has given us the grace and mercy that we do not deserve.  The idols that we worship are not worthy like Christ is.  In fact, they are dead.  Our idols offer us absolutely nothing of eternal value.  One day, moth and rust will destroy these earthly things that we chase after, but the Lord and His Word will stand forever.

I’ve been wrestling with all of this lately. It hasn’t been pleasant necessarily, but if we’re truly walking with the Lord, then “unicorns and rainbows” shouldn’t be happening 100% of the time.  When we truly walk with the Lord, He sanctifies us to make us look more like Him for His glory.  But as I’ve wrestled with idolatry, I have found the Lord to be so kind, merciful, and good.  Believing friends, there’s forgiveness for your idolatry too.  Take your idols to the Lord, repent, and return to Him with a whole heart like He encourages Israel to do so many times.  Rest in His forgiveness, and know that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

In your repentance, take action.  Once we realize an idol, we must do something to remove it or put it back in its appropriate place.  I’ve been praying about this because (if/when) I get my Facebook back, I want it to be in its rightful place and to use it as an offering pleasing to the Lord.  Here’s some practical things that the Lord is bringing to mind:

  • Put my social media folder on the second screen of my phone.  That way, that bright red “1” notification isn’t driving me crazy every time I open my phone.
  • Take Sundays off from social media (or at least try… there might be some instances where I hop on for student ministry purposes or something).  And side note: we aren’t under Sabbath laws anymore.  We rest in the finished work of Christ, so maybe for you it’s another day you take off, but it’s just the idea of taking an extended, intentional break.
  • Try to keep my phone away at important times such as meals, Bible study, play time with the boys, family time, etc.

These are just a few that the Lord has brought to mind.  What about you?  What are some practical things that you do to keep social media in its rightful place?  And if social media isn’t your idol, I encourage you to pray for practical ways that you can battle against your idol and give your full worship to the Lord.

Friends, rest in the finished work of Christ, but heed His discipline.  May we give our worship to the only one who is worthy- Christ Jesus our Lord.

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