Tag Archives: false worship

Living in Dread…

I often tell people that whatever we fear is what we serve, so that the object of our fear basically becomes our god. This morning a passage in Isaiah reminded me of that truth.

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?  I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection [of idols] save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Is.57:11-13).

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me…” I’m not sure how much more clear that could be! At the heart of being unfaithful to God is usually a fear of something else (no matter what that something else is, I’d call it an idol). An idol is anything we meditate on, and spend our time trying to appease. For years, I did the dance of fear trying to keep an abusive husband happy so he wouldn’t lash out. I feared him much more than God, and the result was I served him rather than God. In fact, he became my god, because of the way I served him.

Another interesting thing about this passage is “I will expose your righteousness and your works…” Very often people do good works out of fear—they worry what people think and are trying to impress them rather than God. This fear of man is idolatry of the worst sort. It becomes works-based rather than love-based. God does not desire our feeble efforts; he desires our love. From that love, genuine works of righteousness will flow naturally. The ones born of fear of man are wood, hay, and stubble mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 3. These works may look wonderful to people, but they cannot stand before the Judge.

This passage should be a wake up call to the people of God. The warning here is not based on actions, but on misplaced fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and when we are more worried about pleasing him than people or unpleasant circumstances, that is wisdom. Then we will be like the man who built his house upon the rock in in Matthew 7:24-25. No matter what life brings our way, we can overcome because we know the One we fear is in control and his love casts out sinful fear. We can stand firm knowing he is in charge. Sinful fear dreads losing control, and that is why the Israelites sacrificed to idols. They believed that appeasing them would make things run smoothly, and that if they didn’t sacrifice things would go badly. When we live in fear of man, we have a similar mentality. “If I can just…” everything will be ok. We’re trying to maintain control. Yet, the Lord calls us to leave the control in his hands. That is what the fear of the Lord does. It trusts in his goodness for the outcome, and we have nothing to dread.

Lord, help me never dread anything more than I desire to love and please you. Help me to avoid the trap of misplaced fear. Nothing on this earth is more powerful than you, so I need to reserve my fear for you alone. Yet, it is a different sort of fear than dread. It is honoring you above anything else, and resting in your control rather than trying to be in control. You are worthy of all honor and praise. Nothing on earth can ever cause me to be consumed with fear as long as I am consumed with you. Amen

Missing God’s Best

For years I lived in a state of divided worship. My main goal in life was to secure God’s blessing on my agenda. Sure, I loved him, but I’m afraid I loved myself more. Worship was all about me, and what I could get from him, rather than surrendering myself to him. Funny thing is that my agenda kept me in complete bondage, because idolatry leads us to a state of total fear. When we direct our worship to anything other than him, our peace and joy are totally dependent on the temporary circumstances we desire. We constantly fear losing the objects of our affection, and that fear controls our actions. True freedom is only found in true worship. When we surrender all to God, we have nothing to fear. He is never changing and eternal. He is all loving, and has a good plan for us, so when we learn to rest in that knowledge, we no longer feel threatened or afraid. We are free. God does not merely demand true worship for his sake, but for ours. He knows that all other forms of worship will lead us back into bondage. His ways are so much higher than ours, and following them is the path to blessing.

The passage that stood out in my reading this morning stressed that truth. Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you. (Dt. 12:13-14)

 As the Israelites took possession of the land, it wouldn’t be a lack of worship that would be their downfall; instead it would be improper worship. The Lord gave specific instructions on how they should worship, but they had their own ideas of how it should look. God warned them not to take on the practices of the nations surrounding them, but it did not take long for them to follow their detestable practices. Within generations they would even be sacrificing their children in the fire.

God calls us to surrender all to him—that means giving up our own agendas. However, far too often our worship becomes an effort to convince God to bless our selfish plans. We sacrifice our children to idols of convenience and pleasure, and there is very little self-surrender involved. To the contrary, we end up surrendering everything good and holy to our desires for comfort and blessing. Basically, we are worshipping, but we are not worshipping God. Our idolatrous desires steal our affections away from him, and rob our lives of his blessings. We reach out for what we think we need, and all the while are throwing away his best for our lives.

Lord, I have wasted too many years focused on false gods, and worshipping in my own way. Help me to be fully surrendered to you, and to worship in spirit and truth. Do not let me be deceived into thinking that anything in this world can offer true satisfaction. Only you are the Living Water that can satisfy the thirst in my soul. Forgive me for ever trying to replace you by digging my own broken cistern that won’t hold water (Jer. 2:13). You are worthy and good. I choose your ways over my own. Amen