Growing up in the Bible belt, I learned early on the first of the commandments, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (KJV)
Attention today on the minds of many in the United States and beyond is the government shutdown that has many wondering what will happen next. In addition to making sure this shutdown is as painful as possible, the government seems to be playing politics with people’s lives. The agenda seems more important that the lives the shutdown is affecting. The president seems to be throwing a temper tantrum, unwilling to compromise. As the commander in chief, the buck stops with him. The whole situation is without a doubt cause for concern. If one is not careful, it can consume one’s thoughts.
Idolatry is defined as the worship of other gods or extreme admiration or love shown to someone or something. But idolatry extends further than the worship of other gods, people or things. It is also not recognizing or acknowledging the God of the Bible; placing him in a box, or making up some god in our own minds of who we think He is that is not based on the Word of God.
I’ve heard it said many times, “My God would never send anyone to hell. He is Love.” While those statements are true, God does allow people to choose to love and serve him or not. He honors individual choices.
If people choose to live their own lives with no regard to God, heaven would not be a place they would want to be, and God will not force anyone there. When satan left heaven, God did not force him back in, but prepared a place for him and the angels who followed him. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matthew 25:41 (KJV)
There are really two choices that people make; they choose to follow God or they choose to reject him, i.e., “Thy will be done,” or “my will be done.” One is to follow God, by believing on His Son, receiving the grace He offers, and then going on to live for Him. The other is to reject His grace, and live a life devoid of a desire to love and serve Him. He is a gentlemen and will not force anyone to obey Him. He will honor either choice.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3 (KJV) Anything or anyone that we place before God, is in fact our god. Some place their church or denomination first. For others it can be a person, position, the government, possessions, careers, or anything. It can sometimes be so subtle to allow other things to become our focus, but God wants us to live a life of peace, joy, and happiness. When other things take precedence over him, we lose the way of peace.
“If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life!” Luke 14:26 (KJV)
He doesn’t say that we have to leave those that we love, but we must be willing to do so, to follow Him.
‘Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’” Matthew 16:24 (KJV)
That may sound extreme to some, but God is good. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18 (KJV)
Those verses sum up the whole reason Jesus came into the world. It was His great love for mankind. God didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him for our redemption and salvation. If He spared not His own Son for our redemption, doesn’t he deserve our complete devotion. The rest of the verses explain what those who reject His Son will face; eternal judgment and separation from God’s love and goodness.
The One who first loved us and created us for Himself deserves to be first place in our lives. After all, we were created by and for Him.