So today should be interesting, because I am speaking to you about another way to wreck your heart. That is to run to things for what only God can give you. What we are talking about today is idol worship. Now I know for a lot of us when we talk about idol worship you think of stuff. You picture the children of Israel bowing down to the Golden Calf, and think who in their right mind would ever do something so silly. We read through the Old Testament and watch God do amazing things for the Israelite people over and over again, and then we watch them turn from God and bow down to idols…its ridiculous right? We think to ourselves, we love God…we would never do such things right? I would like to think that if we saw God move one day, we wouldn’t be making idols the next. Here’s what is funny, every time I have ever talked to you about idol worship…I have gone there. I have brought up the idea of what idols are. I have talked to you about how we get caught up in the same nonsense the childrenof Israel got caught up in…and I use all the scripture that a Pastor should use when talking to you about idolatry. It all sounds so simple. Then I walk around our town. I talk to people. I sit at soccer tournaments. I look at my own life and wonder how it is that we can know what idolatry is, and go right back to our own personal idols, moments after we learn and agree with why we would never worship anything but God. Seriously listen to these words from the prophet Isaiah, when we read this doesn’t it hit your heart?
Isaiah 44:9-20 All those who make no-god idols don’t amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing — they’re total embarrassments! 10 Who would bother making gods that can’t do anything, that can’t “god”? 11 Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them. Get them out here in the open. Make them face God-reality. 12 The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil — such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst. 13 The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape — a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. 14 He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. 15 Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships — carves it into a god shape and prays before it. 16 With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.” 17 And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design — a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.” 18 Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? 19 Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!” 20 This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy.” (THE MESSAGE)
The prophet describes these people as “lovers of emptiness” and there is something about that phrase that I can’t get out of my mind. I would like to think to myself I would never be a lover of emptiness. I would never be this out of touch with reality. I would never pray to a stick. But it’s in the middle of these words from this amazing prophet that I realized something. We do this…we are lovers of emptiness. We love convenience. It’s sounds silly to pray to a stick, but the reality is that it is much more convenient isn’t it? Look at verse 17 again…
17 And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design — a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.” MSG
Well now we are on to something…a handy and convenient god for me to worship whenever I feel like it. I see something here.
We live in a culture where we seek comfort. We seek convenience. Let’s face it, we don’t have the time or the margin to engage something more than that do we? So we may not worship a stick but let’s be very clear here…if we can create something better to give our hopes and life too…we will go there, rather than engage God. We say we are not the “lovers of emptiness” that this prophet describes because we don’t pray to a stick but we will check out on life and stare at our new iphones all day. We will escape into movies, and soap operas…or stare at a football game all day. Why? Because it’s nice, it’s relaxing…and frankly, it’s easy. No we aren’t lovers ofemptiness but we run to alcohol and other things to just take the edge off of another day. We pour money into our homes, our cars, our children’s sports careers. We pour hours, and energy, and will travel across the state for a game our 8 year old plays on a weekend. We run to a lot of stuff don’t we? No we would never pray to a stick, but we pour money, time, energy into anything and everything but the God of the universe. And Jesus tells us this…
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV
So he is saying where your pocket book goes…where your time and where your energy and where money goes…that is where your heart is. That is what you worship. I hear you, “Sam, you don’t get it…if I don’t specialize little Johnny in his sport and get him trained in it all year round, he will fall behind and never get a Division 1 scholarship to play soccer!” Well first of all Johnny’s 5…and second of all I’m smack in the middle of this too. I have 4 children in sports and I feel this same tension and I even coach travel soccer…which just gets crazier as the kids get older. I love sports they are great…but to me the more I’m around it, the more I’m realizing that it actually is one of the biggest sticks that we all end up worshiping and sadly I’m stuck in that vacuum too. So what is the result? We have a culture of busyness. A culture with no margin. In a world that is set up deliberately to give you everything and anything to run to, so that you can escape the chaos of life for a few hours at a time. Because let’s face it we have lots of stuff, lots of clutter, and lots to do. So whether it’s kid’s sports, or your work, or your material possessions, or your home, or your children, or success…or whatever it is, we have a lot of what Isaiah would say are no-gods. Now we can’t call it out because it’s all good things that we are doing. I’m not bowing down to a stick…I would never do that…but my time, my energy, and my resources are pouring into the things I worship…and sadly most of the time it isn’t the God who created you, loved you and redeemed you.
So do you want to wreck your heart? Spend your days creating things to give your life and your hopes too.
Pour your time, your energy and your resources…your heart into people, into your child’s sports careers or education, into your job or your spouse. Pour it into anything and everything but God and you will be devoured by this world. Because they only place you can go to get a perfect response is to God…you know why? Because he is perfection.
So what is the result of living for these things? What is the result of putting your faith, hope, and dreams into people and things of this world? You get hurt…it’s bound to happen. Why? You are going to imperfect things for perfect results. What is the result of building your own kingdom on this Earth? What is the result of running to people, to our careers, to our children’s future sports careers? What is the result of it all? Just look around, we are tired, we have no joy. We are frustrated and miserable. We are a busted up with a gigantic void in our lives, that we just can’t seem to fill. We have no margin, no focus, and no energy. And we often wonder where God is in all of this don’t we? Well here’s the deal, God didn’t go anywhere. We are just busy praying to sticks, and loving emptiness rather than worshiping, focusing on and praying to a living God. Frankly, it’s easier to create a god of our own convenience than to worship a God who wants you to want Him. What is really interesting to me, is that for many of us we don’t realize we are lovers of emptiness. We don’t mean to worship sticks. And the result is the exact opposite of the life that God says you can have when you engage Him. Can you relate to walking through life just beat down wondering where God is? Well I think Jesus tried to help you here…
Matthew 11:28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
Where is rest found? Where is life found? Where do we go to learn how to live freely and lightly? It is not to people and friendships. It is not to your job or your cars. It’s not even to your spouse or your child’s sports career. Jesus says it’s found in him…and you know what, we know that don’t we? We have heard this before? But this could be a challenge, and could mean we would have to make some decisions, and change some actions and well…it’s just not convenient. Why pursue Jesus when frankly our created gods give us some moments of satisfaction. Well, because a moment in time certainly isn’t filling a void in your soul that can only be filled with God. I know, I know you would never worship a stick, but in the end it sure is easier. I know we would never exchange our WWJD bumper sticker for a bumper sticker that reads “I’m a lover of emptiness” but as a people I think there is a pull to do the easiest thing possible. And many of us wreck our hearts going to anything but God to find life and hope…and when it doesn’t work out we end up wondering where God is…when all the while He is right here.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. NIV
See here’s where this sermon really takes a turn, because I can’t get this out of my mind. We want joy…we want life to the full, we want peace in our hearts. We want real rest. The Bible clearly tells us where we can find it…and then we run to anything and everything but God for it. Our hearts our being destroyed in the process as we run to emptiness rather than the fullness of God. I think there is no greater place to learn of what a relationship with God can be than in Psalms…this is where we see David’s (who God describes as a man after God’s own heart) relationship with God. I want to read Psalm 27 today…and I want you to think this through. When you live your life running to emptiness the result is clutter, exhaustion, frustration, and emptiness. When you run to God, when you seek Him, what could life look like?
Let’s look at David’s heart here. What an honor to learn from this…
Psalms 27 Light, space, zest — that’s GOD! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. 2 When vandal hordes ride down ready to eat me alive, Those bullies and toughs fall flat on their faces. 3 When besieged, I’m calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I’m collected and cool. 4 I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. 5 That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic. 6 God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down. I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that will raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to GOD. 7 Listen, GOD, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” 8 When my heart whispered, “Seek God, “my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” 9 Don’t hide from me now! You’ve always been right there for me; don’t turn your back on me now. Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me; you’ve always kept the door open. 10 My father and mother walked out and left me, but GOD took me in. 11 Point me down your highway, GOD; direct me along a well-lighted street; show my enemies whose side you’re on. 12 Don’t throw me to the dogs, those liars who are out to get me, filling the air with their threats. 13 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. 14 Stay with GOD! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with GOD. (THE MESSAGE)
So this is one of my favorite passages of scripture when it comes to intimacy with God and I wanted to break this down with you today.
Psalms 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? NIV
So right off the bat here David lets us know who God is to him. God is hope. God is salvation. God is protector. God is light, zest, energy…LIFE! Then he explains who he is with God in his life. He is calm, cool, and collected in the worst situations.
Psalms 27:3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. NIV
So David is saying God is energy and life, and with God in his life He has everything he needs to live a life with courage, with peace, and with joy. Basically the opposite of the life we have been speaking of where we pray to sticks and run to emptiness. Then we see David’s one request…
Psalms 27:4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. NIV
What is David’s one request? Was it more riches? Was it more kingdoms to conquer? He has lots of kids was it that little Absolom could get into a few more select soccer camps this summer? Was it health, wealth, and happiness? Was it that he could just check out for a little while, drink of few beers and kick back from the difficulties of his work day running the kingdom? No, the one request he has is to dwell in the house of God all the days of his life…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…to seek Him, all the days of his life. I think what I’m hearing here is that David is saying I’m loving my relationship with you God and I want more of it. I want to spend my life engaging you, learning from you…living in intimacy with you. He makes it known that this is a long term thing…it’s not a sprint, it’s not a moment…it’s a marathon. You know what those sticks that we pray to…that emptiness that we run to satisfies a moment but does nothing for you long term except make you need to find yet another stick to worship…not that we would ever do that.
Psalms 27:5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. NIV
Why is David so at peace? Because dwelling with God leads to safety, comfort, courage and life…it is found by seeking and dwelling with God. So many of us run to friendships and other people to fill this void in our life for relationship. We yearn for love and safety and David understands something. By dwelling with God, spending time there, filling that need there he is safe because God is perfection and will not let you down. David gets it, he can let his guard down and be intimate with God because he is dwelling in and leaning on perfection…and it’s in that home of God that he can feel safety. Anyone going to people for what only God can provide will be let down. David gets it.
6 God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down. I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that will raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to GOD. MSG
David worships God. He is saying I’m going here for my worship, to perfection and I’m giving him my love, and my praise and my worship. For some of us we think we can’t worship because we aren’t musical, which brings up a good point that we touched on earlier. Worship is more than music…it was actually King David’s whole life…his music, his actions, and his sacrifice. Remember this from Romans?
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. NIV
So you do know how to worship, and frankly you are worshiping something by your actions, not sure what that is? It’s where your sacrifice goes. Where does your time and your energy and your money go? This really is the question, are you worshiping sticks and loving emptiness? Or are you worshiping God who can be your strength, your hope, your protection from this dark world. God worship will bring life to your soul? Or could it be you are building your own gods of convenience? Your actions and your life is showing worship towards something. David is pouring his into God. Let’s read on…
Psalms 27:7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. NIV
David prays, he talks to God…this is not a robotic thing he does because he has to…he seeks God’s face. Look again where is the safest place? David realizes even his earthly parents can let him down, but God will not…wow.
Psalms 27:11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. NIV
So David wants to seek God and learn as he spends time with him. He wants to worship him. He wants to pray to Him…and the last real action step of intimacy that David shows in this passage is that he wants God to show in the way, and David will obey him. David is willing to follow God down the path that God leads. This one is a bit challenging because really at the heart of a lot of our reasons to pursue and love emptiness and run to stick gods…is the fact that we don’t really want anyone telling us what to do…we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it right? I mean we work hard and earn the right to escape right? But we are not lovers ofemptiness. The results of a life lived for ourselves, doing what we want…escaping to moments of emptiness, is a miserable life. A wrecked heart…and a life wondering where God is…and David is showing us here how to enter into more. How to be intimate with God. David clearly shows us that if want the product of our lives to be energy, joy, and peace…we must seek God, learn from God, worship God, pray to God, and obey God! It’s when we run to God instead of all these other things that we find the truth and the life that will satisfy our souls. But you know what you and I…we already knew that…then go right back to doing what we want to do.
I’m not here today to tell you your stuff is evil. I’m not here to tell you that little Johnny shouldn’t have every opportunity to be a sports star someday…or that your successful business is wrong, or that you should never engage in friendships. I’m not here to tell you any of that…what I’m telling you is that these things cannot be the source of worship in your life.
We would never say that we are lovers of emptiness. We would never bow down and pray to a stick. We would never worship our child’s sports career or our car…but you know, it sure is easy to get caught up in it. What we have learned today is this…we can destroy our hearts by worshiping idols. When we go to anything but God for safety and life and hope there is a train wreck coming.
We must seek God and enter into an intimate relationship with Him…and that is hard to do in the world that you and I live in with so much to do, and enough resources that we can at the very least dabble in all of it! Do you think that is coincidence? No and I don’t think David did either…which is why he ends this amazing chunk ofscripture by saying this…
Psalms 27:14 Stay with GOD! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with GOD. (MSG)
You want joy, peace and life…it’s found in God, not in a glass of wine, it’s not in your kid’s sports team, or your job, or your nice things…it’s not even found in your friends or your spouse. It’s found in spending your days dwelling with God and being a lover of Jesus, rather than a lover of emptiness, but you know what…we already know this don’t we?