The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.Mark 12:29-31
While there is only one true living God, there are many false gods that people worship and pursue. I once heard a pastor tell the story about a certain married man whose wife was beautiful and intelligent, and the two were quite happy together though they did have their difficult times. When the man was out shopping one day, he saw a female manikin that was fashionably dressed, pretty, and alluring to him; therefore, he took the manikin to be his new wife! Stay with me on this; it will come together in a few moments.
A friend asked him, “What in the world are you thinking?” The man replied, “Look! She never complains, she likes the things that I like, and I never have to explain myself. I tell you she is everything I ever wanted in a woman.” You are likely thinking this is such a ridiculous story because no one in the right state of mind would do such an outlandish thing, and I fully agree. But perhaps the story piqued your interest enough to want to know the underlying point.
Are you surprised to know that story is a perfect illustration of how some people approach their relationship with God when they place other gods before Him? Just as the man in the story sought an empty self-serving relationship with a false woman, so it is with those who seek self-serving relationships with false gods. These false gods come in all different shapes and sizes and can take the form of wealth, envy, pride, power, sex, and so on. All of which sums up to be the god of oneself.
God addressed this first and foremost in one of ten specific commandments given to Moses. God wrote, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exo. 20:3). Now that Scripture is quite straightforward, but people continue to pursue false gods because what they truly seek is driven by the age-old mentality, “It’s all about me.” I say age-old because this mindset traces back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve’s thoughts were not about serving God, but about becoming gods.
Let’s look at some biblical examples of people who chose to pursue false gods, thinking, “it’s all about me.” Aaron, brother of Moses, who forged a golden calf for the people to praise and worship, and, as a result, some 3000 lives were lost that day. Saul, who God anointed as king over all of Israel, fell by the sword, his sword, because of his ego and self-admonition, Saul committed suicide. Then, of course, we have Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver pieces only to hang himself for whatever reason.
Now, I am not suggesting that everyone who pursues false gods will commit suicide because Aaron was given a path to reconcile his relationship with God, and he did. Just as the Lord gave Aaron a path to reconcile, so He has done for countless men and women across time, and He will do it for you and me as well. Instead, what I am proposing is the pursuit of false gods will, at some point, lead to a disaster of some sort. If not in this life, it will undoubtedly be in the next. Now, let’s look at a few individuals who chose to place no other gods before God.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, remained unwavering in his faith even in great despair. A man whom God rose from the jailer’s cell to be the second-highest-ranking person in Egypt. David, a mere shepherd boy, whom God chose to be King of Israel for his faith and one who’s throne will always be present before the Lord. Apostle Paul, who was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and so on during his ministry travels, but one who remained steadfast in his faithfulness to God.
How did Joseph, David, and Paul achieve such success while Aaron, Saul, and Judas experienced utter failure? It’s simple. Joseph, David, and Paul placed their faith in God, whereas Aaron, Saul, and Judas put their trust in and placed other gods before God.
The god of self can take the shape of many forms, and often ones we may not easily recognize. Television, sports, our appearance, and even other people like celebrities can be viewed as gods by others. Ultimately, the god of self is Satan in the background serving as a puppeteer in an all-out attempt to lead people away from God. But, Jesus gives us the perfect defense to avoid this all too easy pitfall in Matthew, telling us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as ourself.
Some may perceive that as Jesus presenting two new commandments, however, what that passage entails is the embodiment of all Ten Commandments that God issued to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ref. Exo. 20). If we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we will not put other gods before Him. Secondly, if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we reflect God’s glory before others to share the gospel and open their eyes to the way, the truth, and the life, who is Christ Jesus.
If we are obedient to God’s word, He will always be in the forefront of our lives, leaving no room for the false, empty gods of this world, which, in turn, guards us against Satan’s arsenal of snares and pitfalls of temptation. In closing, I shall leave you to ponder Joshua’s words, Joshua, the successor to Moses, who led His people into the promised land. Joshua said:
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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