Seasonal Idolatry

We use phrases in Christianity that really have no meaning behind them, because they have not impacted us personally. These phrases are just things we say to fit into the Christian mold. One of these phrases I’ve always heard is the war cry, “Stand up for Jesus!” It’s easy to merely say stand up for Jesus, but if your heart has not been personally impacted by the Gospel, these words are empty.

Standing up for Jesus is a great thing to the average believer, just as long as it doesn’t upset any apple carts so to speak. Standing up for Jesus is fine, as long as it doesn’t fly in the face of any man-made traditions. You see we place price tags on standing up for Jesus.

American Christianity says, “Amen to standing up for Jesus, as long as what Jesus says doesn’t offend me or threaten to alter the way I live my life.” What we are really saying is “God not offending me is more important than me not being offensive to God.”

It is a sad day indeed when the Gospel begins to penetrate darkness in our world, but we slink back into the shadows because the darkness was more of a comfort to us than the radiant truth of the light. I don’t understand why so many people in our world today profess Jesus as their Lord, yet fight so hard to not let the Gospel change anything about them. This is seen especially in our current Christmas season.  During Christmas, many professing believers will use the phrase, “It’s is all about Jesus.”

But in reality, if Christmas were a beautiful steak dinner with all the fixings, Jesus would just be the garnish on the side.

Our world puts so much emphasis on the glitz and glamour of the season and making sure that all the age-old traditions that accompany Christmas are in place, and Jesus just becomes sort of something we feel obligated to mention sprinkled throughout the month. Kind of like the green kale on the side of a fancy dinner or that pink ginger substance on the side of a plate of sushi.

Jesus is not the main course, and not even a part of the meal that is looked forward to. He just makes the plate look nice.

Standing up for Jesus is a radical thing. It’s a dangerous concept. Its scandalous. Because when the Gospel collides with modern-day culture, it literally changes everything. When a person has been truly impacted by Christ, they cannot help but see the world through a different lens. Every aspect of life is filtered through the Gospel. Its more than just memorizing scripture. It’s so much more than church attendance. Gospel transformation is actually taking to heart what the word of God says and then applying it to every area of our lives, even if it threatens to disrupt the way we’ve always done things.

Here is an example from scripture of what happens when the Gospel collides with tradition. Paul and his disciples had been preaching the gospel, which was contrary to a lot of Macedonia’s tradition. And this Gospel that Paul preached caused a big disturbance in the culture.

“About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.  For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.  These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” Acts 19:23-26.

Demetrius made his living by making statues that some people worshipped, and Paul had come to Macedonia preaching against worshipping any other God or making an idol into a God. But this was the way they had always done things! Who was Paul to come in and disrupt their way of life? Demetrius gathered together some of his buddies and began to gossip and slander Paul for how serious he was taking the Gospel.

When the Gospel collides with our traditions and our idols, it disrupts everything. Because everything we thought we knew by the worlds standards proves to be wrong. And we are a people that doesn’t like to be told we’re wrong.

Demetrius had always made idols, and they were more important to him than the Gospel. And like Demetrius, we have idols that we’ve always had and may seem as innocent as statue making seemed to Demetrius. But in reality they stifle the gospel.

“And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition.” Mark 7:13.

Read the above verse once more. Then read it again. Let it sink in. Is there something in your life that you’ve been holding higher than God? Notice the verse mentions tradition. A tradition is something that has been passed down through the years. We have many traditions in our world today. And many of them are seasonal. Granted, not all traditions are bad. But when tradition collides with the truth of the Gospel in your life, which one wins?  Is the word of God canceled out in your life by a love of holiday tradition?

All the great things that come along with the Christmas season are great, but if they steal any of the focus off of Jesus, then they are merely idols that we’ve made into Gods.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21.

Christmas can become an idol if we are not careful. Idols are seemingly good things in our world that have become more important than God and His word in our life. Idolatry is when a good thing in your life becomes a God thing. So how do you know if Christmas has become an idol for you?

Examine yourself. When traditions are exposed for stealing glory away from God, do you fight and rationalize in your mind how it’s really not a bad thing? Or do you simply submit to the word of God, repent, and turn back to the Lord?

Human nature is that when our idols and traditions are confronted with the Gospel, we begin to try and speak up for them and in some way justify them. We defend our idols passionately. But look at what Isaiah would say of those who speak up in defense of their idols.

“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” Isaiah 44:9.

What bold truth there is in that verse. We are naturally blind to our idols. Because to us, they are harmless and have been just something that everyone does. But how often do we actually stop and examine what we are doing laid up against scripture? Isaiah says if we are unwilling to do that, then we are ignorant people. In standing up for our idols, we take a stance against the Gospel.

“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:8.

Some would say I’m taking God too seriously. Perhaps. However, I would rather stand before the Lord on judgement day and Him say to me that I was taking Him too seriously rather than Christ say that I had not taken Him seriously enough. 

I’m a literalist. I think the Bible means exactly what it says. When Jesus said to turn from sin, I literally believe He meant for us to flee from sin. When Jesus said that a person who lies is an abomination to God, I literally believe that God cannot stand a liar, and that we should not lie, even if it is just a little white lie.

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!” Psalm 135:15.

Like silver and gold, many of the idols we have in our world were created by man. But the thing about man made idols is that they have no life in them. And according to scripture, when we put our trust and give importance to any idol, we become just like them…lifeless. We have so many idols in our world from how we live our daily lives, to how we do church, even how we do holidays, that are built on untruths. Yet we continue to pass them down throughout the generations for the sake of honoring tradition! Read once more the verse above and think about what it is saying.

God pointing out our idols is not Him trying to hinder our fun, but rather it is God saving our life.

Therefore, when God through Christ and the writers of scripture continually warns me to be on look out for idols, I do not take offense, because I see the serious nature at hand. The example I use quite often is of my child playing in the street. If I scream at him to get out of the street, Im not trying to hinder what seems fun to him or hurt him in any way. I see the seriousness of the situation even when all he may see is daddy ruining his fun. I love my child enough to chance ruining his fun in order to save his life.

Why is Jesus so urgent in warning us of the dangers of material and traditional idolatry?

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ” 1 Corinthians 6:9.

These are damnable sins mentioned that if practiced as a regular way of our lives, without any turning from them, will restrict us from entering the kingdom of God. Notice the second sin mentioned is idolatry. And Jesus warns us over and over about the dangers of idolatry because it is one of those sins that can come in the guise of seemingly good, ordinary things that all people do.

“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Jonah 2:8.

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:44.

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” Galatians 4:8.

Christmas is a joyous time full of special moments with family and friends. The stripping away of our traditions and idols that have become so cozy and comfortable to us is hard and at times painful. But here is the beauty. Once we submit to the Gospel, the blinders come off, and we are set free to experience an even greater joy than the traditions of our world could ever offer. There is an unexplainable, supernatural joy that accompanies deeply knowing Christ and making it your life’s pursuit to glorify His great name! This joy supersedes all the great holiday food, all the presents, and yes, even the age-old Christmas traditions that have been passed down through the generations. There is no greater joy than Jesus. This Christmas season, don’t miss the beauty of Jesus due to being blinded by seasonal idols.

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