Claiming to be wise, they became fools (because they didn’t glorify God or give thanks to Him, vs 21) so they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts… Romans 1:21-24
I used to think that it was just pagans, people who are totally separate from God and living in rebellion to Him, who Paul was writing about in these verses. Of course they would be the ones that suppress the truth through their unrighteousness. Not me. Last year I studied the book by Brad Bigney, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols. I learned that Christians are just as guilty as anyone else.
After getting through the book I realized my big idol is self. Self gets in the way of a lot of things. I want to do what suits me and will do whatever doesn’t get in the way of ME. But Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”
It is so easy to exchange other things for God’s glory. We do it all the time and not even notice it–until God brings it to our attention. But then there is verse 24 of chapter 1. It says, “God gave them up to the lusts of their heart.” That means that when we choose to say, “I would rather have all of these other things rather than Jesus,” God lets us have our way.
God lets things run their course in our lives so we see what it is like without Him. He doesn’t tear down our idols for us. We have to do it ourselves. The process is kind of a two fold thing at work between our choices and God’s intervening grace. James 4:5 reads, He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to live in us (2 Corinthians 6:16 We are the sanctuary of the Living God). vs. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
In other words, God’s Holy Spirit is inside of us and God doesn’t take that lightly that His Spirit lives in us. God is watching jealously over Him. So He is going to call us out, or make us miserable, or chasten us when we have other gods besides Him. But God also bids us to draw near to Him and then He will tell us what has to go. He will search us and try us and show us what is amuck, according to Psalm 139:24.
But God waits for us to ask Him. And we have choices to make to rid ourselves of the idols in our lives and to draw near to God so He can speak to us. If we don’t do that, He gives us over to the lusts of our hearts, whatever they may be.
****Check out the lyrics to this Casting Crowns song, The Change in Me (song from YouTube linked–it is powerful):
Your Spirit is a gentleman, standing at my hidden doors within; where You wait for me to let You in, so You can set me free. Your Spirit is a wrecking ball, tearing through my rebel walls. And one by one I watch them fall, ’til You are all I see.
Whoa-oh, You’re the life in me; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me
Your Spirit is a whispering, when all the lies are deafening. Speak to the very heart of me, and fear cannot remain. Your Spirit is a light ahead, calling me to the depths. And daring me to take the step, and let You lead the way.
Your Spirit is a holy flame, burning all the harm away. Here I am Lord, have Your way, ’til all that’s left is You, all that’s left is You. Your Spirit is my constant friend. You’re with me ’til the very end. I’ll never be alone again, You’re the change in me.
Whoa-oh, You’re the life; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me!
****One of the things I thought of for my application was to spend time at the beginning of this new year to ask myself some questions:
- What do I really love more than Him?
- What do I spend most of my spare time, energy and money on?
- What if I fasted from something for a month that might be consuming more time and devotion than it ought to?
- What if I spent thirty minutes (minimum) more a day in prayer, in the Word, or on a ‘mission’ from God (with people or putting something into practice)?
I guess it’s my New Years’ challenge. I’m a few days into it. I don’t want to exchange God’s glory for anything else, and I want Him to show up in fresh and exciting ways this year. Oh, how I need Him to be the change in me!