Tearing down my religious idols

ReligiousIdolsI’ve had to deal with a lot of idols in my life. And I mean as a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian who has also been in leadership for over 25 years, including currently being the Senior Pastor of a local church for nine of those years.

Am I talking about putting my work or family or money ahead of serving God? No, I’m talking about my religious idolatry while faithfully serving God.

I define religious idolatry as making anything having to do with following Christ more important than my relationship with Christ Himself.

And I’ve found religious idolatry more insidious than any other form of idolatry. Why so? Partly because we often revere these things as important to being a “good Christian.” And many of these things actually are important, but they become idols when we put them before God Himself, or when they subvert His nature and purpose in our lives.

Here’s just a partial list of religious idols that God has had to deal with me about over the years…

– I’ve made the Cross more important than Jesus Himself

– I’ve made going to place (heaven) more important than knowing a Person (my heavenly Father)

– I’ve made going to heaven when I die more important than living from heaven now

– I’ve make knowing God’s Word more important than knowing the God of the Word

– I’ve worshiped worship more than God

– I’ve made the church building the “house of God” instead of my heart

– I’ve made building my church more important than Jesus building His Church

– I’ve taken heed to preaching, commentaries and opinions of men about what God says in His Word more than what God actually says in His Word

– I’ve exalted my opinion about who I am over God’s by contradicting what He says about me in His Word (I called myself a dirty sinner with an evil heart;, He calls me a new creation, dead to sin, with a new heart!)

– I’ve made knowing who I am in Christ more important than knowing the Christ in me

– I’ve made being a servant of God more important that being His son

– I’ve made my efforts more important than His affections

– I’ve made His blessings more important than His embrace

– I’ve made trying to obey God more important than just believing Him

– I’ve made my authority in Christ more important than my communion in Christ

– I’ve followed after signs and wonders instead of having them follow after me

– I’ve made success in ministry more important than His affirmation of me

– I’ve made head knowledge more important than heart knowledge

– I’ve preferred to study about God rather than actually know Him

– I’ve made love a thing rather than a Person

– I’ve made myself more loving, merciful and compassionate than God when He didn’t answer my prayers the way I thought He should’ve

– I’ve let denominations (or non-denominations) and doctrinal differences divide me from other believers in Christ

– I’ve made doctrine more important than our union in Christ

– I’ve made defending “truth” (which is my interpretation of truth) more important than coming into the unity of the Spirit

– I’ve made having to be right more important than seeking to understand

– I’ve made politics more important than the Kingdom of God

– I’ve made being a uncompromising conservative more important than being a bleeding heart liberal with the Father’s love

– I’ve hated and feared the world that my heavenly Father loves so much that He risked everything by sending Jesus to die for them so that they might be with Him

– I’ve made my eschatology more important than showing the Father’s love to the precious people of the world religions I’ve demonized

– I’ve let keeping a moral standard be more important than being caught unconditionally accepting people where they are

– I’ve played God by condemning people’s lifestyle or unrepentant behavior

– I’ve played God by withholding forgiveness from people who hurt me

– I’ve made playing “God” in people’s lives more important than loving them

– I’ve made telling people what’s wrong with them more important than Who loves them

All of these religious idols have come crashing down, one by one, swept away by a continual flood of God’s overwhelming love–so overwhelming at times that all I can do is lay at His feet until my strength returns. And every time I encounter the Father’s outrageous love this way, I love others a little more and critically judge them a little less. And all of my frustration and vitriol against what I think is wrong with the world—and with everybody else but me–gives way to endless waves of joy that floods my soul.

One thing I know for certain now…His love never fails.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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19 Responses to Tearing down my religious idols

  1. Cindy Powell says:

    Oh yeah … I can relate to many, and could probably add a few more of my own! Had one of those encounters with His love this weekend – the kind that leaves you feeling completely gutted and ripped open from the inside-out, You walk away (when you are finally able to walk again, that is!) raw and bleeding but so gloriously undone and in awe of this One who IS Love. The good news really is GOOD news–and He really is so much better than we know. Those words sound pathetically simple and inadequate, but they’ll have to do for now. Thankful He knows our hearts and all that words (still) can’t express. Thanks for another great post!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ha…yeah, I’ve got a lot more too, but I didn’t want the post to go on and on. 🙂 Sounds like you had an wonderful encounter with Papa. His “gutting” does make you so gloriously undone, doesn’t it. You come away feeling more alive and full of Him. And, yes, on words being pathetically inadequate. Actually, that’s why I decided to blog in the first place. It’s my quest to find a language for what God is doing in me–it’s my happy frustration. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing an awesome testimony and for your encouragement. I think God is redefining “better than we know” with each encounter. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably God! Blessings.

  2. Oh, I cherish your blogs, Mel. This heart connection to God, this freedom to love and be loved brings me to my knees in tears of joy. This is what I read in His word, what I see in the character of Jesus, what I have come to believe is our true relationship with Him. This passing forward of His overwhelming love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. It seems the more we pour out, the more He pours in – this is our inheritance here and now, the deposit of the Holy Spirit. And what is yet to come is too abundant to imagine.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen and amen! God always goes way over the top for us. And we begin to see it when we open our heart to His embrace. And He’s always ready to embrace on His end! It’s such a joy to pass this forward. And I cherish your uplifting and insightful comments too. 🙂 Blessings.

  3. Thanks for always being faithful to provide inspirational posts! I’ve nominated you for the Most Influential Blogger Award…. whether you accept or not, this is my way of saying thanks for sharing the Good News! (Details: http://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/06/21/most-influential-blogger-award/)

  4. Guilty of so many, and so frequently. If not for His Grace, I would be immobilized by guilt and shame.

  5. Wow. This is so good Mel. And something I have actually been struggling with lately. Often times I feel like Martha, running around from one church activity to another. From prayer, to Bible study, to serving in ministry (even to blogging) and although it’s all “good” I miss out on choosing to make time for what’s best, sitting still at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him speak into my heart like Mary did.

    Religious idols are the hardest to be free from because they usually involve doing things that are helpful and benefit the kingdom of God, but if in the process of serving and fulfilling our purpose we neglect cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ through prayer and His Word then we miss the point.

    Thank you for the post and the reminder of what spiritual idolatry looks like in our lives. Be blessed!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Anna. Good insights here. Like you said, the serving and doing things for God aren’t bad, it’s just when we love them more than Christ Himself. Even Bible study, prayer or other spiritual disciplines can become an idol if they are an end unto themselves, not to come into that place of intimacy in Him. But the truth is, we will spend the most time with who or what we love the most. That thought has humbled me many times! 🙂 But the good news is, falling in love with Jesus, being aware of His presence and walking in His overflowing love automatically puts everything in its right place! Blessings.

    • Yes it does! The closer we are with Him the easier it is to not allow those things to replace Him in our lives. Hope you have a blessed day!

  6. naggie007 says:

    So powerful … So raw … So honest!! Well done Christ in you!
    As He peels back the layers and reveals our heart condition it is sore and it aches, but oh the freedom that awaits us! And the love that starts to pour out of us. May His revelation and refining never cease and may we continue to have courage, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, to walk this journey.
    Thank you Lord for your grace and the redefining process, that I may know who I am in You and who You are in me 🙂

  7. Pingback: Eating from the wrong tree | In My Father's House

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  9. jodiwoody says:

    I have to admit I am feeling a little conviction here, but that’s a good thing, right? Godly sorrow, the Holy Spirit’s conviction leads us to repentance.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ha…yeah, I know what you mean. And, yes it is a good thing! I felt a LOT of conviction on every one of those points! But I LOVE repentance because it always means upgrade. The word for “repent” literally means to be re-formed. It’s about renewing our mind by way of revelation. The Holy Spirit lovingly shows us what we’re missing in our experience in Christ and reveals something new about our life in Him. Without it we would never change. So this conviction is awesome! 🙂

  10. Fern Owens says:

    I dont even remember how I found this blog, but I am so thankful. It has taken me more than over 30 years of following Christ to start to encounter HIs love and mercy personally. What a difference this continues to make in my life with Him and with others. I have a long way to go, but I am learning to pursue Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yippee!!! Great is His faithfulness.

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