I hope you have all had the opportunity to read Jimmy's "Clearing the Stage" blogs this week on his facebook page. They have been phenomenal and full of truth and wisdom. He has mentioned a quote from Tim Keller defining idolatry as "turning good things into ultimate things." I love this definition because it reminds us that it isn't always something inherently evil that takes God's place; often times it is something good.
I began praying this morning that God would reveal more things that push Him out center stage in my life. As I wrote down things that came to mind, none of them were bad things: my desire to be a good wife and mom, my desire for a clean and orderly house, to be a good friend, just to name a few. All of these things are good and righteous desires, but often they are the very things that keep me from God. When my desire to be a good wife, mom, friend, or homemaker compete with my desire to know God more, it's my time with God that usually gets cut. I justify this by telling myself, "I can spend time with God any time I want to, but right now I need to (fill in the blank)." I am have become so quick to cut out my Jesus time because "I can fit Him in anywhere." But usually, the end of those days come sooner than I realize, and I find I haven't thought twice about my God.
Sometimes I wonder if I treated one of my friends the way I treat God, how would she respond? I have a lunch date planned with her to catch up, but the kitchen is really dirty and I had better clean it. So I cancel about 5 minutes before with no more reason than it isn't a good time any more. Or I tell her she is really the best friend I have and I want to meet at least once a week, but I only show up to half of the dates we set because I forgot or had something "more important" come up. I don't think she would be my friend for very long. Yet, sadly, this is often how I treat Jesus, the savior of my soul. Yes, it is true that if we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, His spirit dwells within us and we have access to Him 24/7. But should that really give me the right to treat God such flippancy and disrespect?
I think even more telling are the times that I am most desperate for God and consistent in prayer. It's usually in very difficult seasons when I am seeking Him for something. My tendency is to use God as a means to an end, instead of the only end that I really need. Let me share a quote from one of my favorite booklets called "The Abba Cry" by Don Lessin:
"Jesus must never become the means to an end. If your self-interests are the loudest sound within you, Jesus will become a means to that end. We may never admit it outwardly, but in our hearts we will know if Jesus is no longer the end we live for. If human relations take the place of Jesus, those relationships will become the loudest sound within you. Christian ministry can become the loudest sound that you hear. Ministry, marvelous ministry, can move Jesus into the shadows, even in the midst of working hard for Him."
Don shares from his own experience in ministry saying "Walking in and out of the presence of God, and looking to Him for quick answers, I found that Jesus had become the means to an end. I never ceased loving and serving Him, but He was not the center of my being." Oh how true this is in me at times. I let the peripheral things (family, friends, hobbies, cleaning, and ministry) take center stage in my life, pushing Jesus to the sidelines.
The more aware I become of this tendency in my heart, the easier it is to identify when I am slipping into this form of idolatry. Here are a few ways I have begun to notice Jesus becoming a means to an end: When my times with God become about what I can get from Him instead of how I can get to know Him. When my prayer life is only full of asking God for things, instead of talking with God about things. When I am quick to cancel my appointed time with Him for other lesser things. May this trend in my life come to an end as Jesus becomes the central theme and song of my heart. I pray that my heart becomes so bent on knowing Jesus more that my life would scream, "everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ!" (Phil 3:7-8) and that my time with Jesus would become so precious and dear to me that I will sacrifice other things to preserve my time with Him.
Let me close by sharing a challenge for us all by Don: "Is Jesus what you really want? Is He enough? It's not that ministry is wrong, or that having a beautiful family is wrong, but these things should be an outflow of our passion for Him. Way down deep, do you hear the voice of the Spirit of God talking to your spirit? Do you hear God saying, 'Turn off all the sounds within you, but My voice. Turn off the sound of business, family, and ministry. Turn off the TV, the radio, and the music. Turn off the call of sports and movies and entertainment. Let it all be silent within you, and hear My voice'? As you listen to His voice what do you hear? Do you hear the Spirit saying, 'Are you satisfied with Jesus? Are you really interested in taking time to be beautiful inside?' I encourage you to get quiet before Him today and nail down in your spirit what is the loudest sound that you want to hear."
Please, do yourself a favor and order a copy of "The Abba Cry" here. It costs $3 and will take 30 minutes to read through. I try to read it once every couple months simply as a heart check. Since it is so cheap, maybe order a few copies and give one to a friend or someone in vocational ministry.