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A Sneaky Idolatry

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples'” (Luke 14:25-33).

It isn’t always easy to hear from God, but when He does speak, you want to sit up and pay attention. God is calling the students at my church to deeper relationship with Him, and it is scaring them. Some don’t know what this means and are afraid to find out. For some, other priorities and activities crowd out time for church. We can push church attendance, but really that’s not what is going to change lives. Being with a strong community of believers can only add to this relationship and offer more opportunities to hear the Truth. The life changed comes with a relationship with Jesus.

Yesterday I wrote about clearing junk out of your life to make room for Jesus because, in fact, that is Jesus’ goal. Throughout the Old Testament, God identified Himself as a jealous God: “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). God did everything He could to rid them of anything that could distract them from Him. Because many things did. Reminders did not stick well in the Israelites’ heads, and before long, they meandered off to go find a new idol to bow before.

Today, we may not run after carved idols made of wood or mythical creatures rumored to dwell on mountaintops, but we have a sneakier form of idols permeating. You can make a singer or band your hero, your idol. That good-looking actor is idolized. So you binge-watch all of his shows and movies online. The newest phone has to be filled with all of the best apps immediately so that you can rack up as many followers as possible on all of your social media sites while friends get to track your daily selfie progress. Your phone buzzes every few seconds with another update that you can’t afford to miss. We track everything to measure and evaluate our success in our adventure for more. We need more followers, more popularity, more money, more time. Everywhere we look, screens and print congest our lives with messages. Constant bombardment.

No wonder it’s hard to hear God’s voice! We have clutter in our lives that insulates us from having to deal with what’s important. And these important issues are often hard to deal with: they cause us to hurt, cause us to lose friends, cause us to doubt everything we’ve worked for, cause us to question our worth. Yikes. Do I really need to deal with that right now? Because my phone is blowing up, and it’s been like 2 hours since the last selfie post…

I truly believe that the more clutter we find in our lives, the more need we have to stop and turn stuff off in our lives. Purposefully unplug. Silence the electronic idols. Yes, that’s right: Be silent. Be still. For many, this is terrifying! And boring!

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Nothing worthwhile comes without discipline and training. Jesus tells His prospective followers that life will NOT be easy. Not only will they lose out on creature comforts, they will also be mistreated, rejected, abused, beaten, incarcerated, killed. Simply because they identify with Him. Jesus didn’t disguise the costs of leaving all behind to follow Him. Recently I was listening to a podcast devotional where the speaker was comparing becoming Christ-follower with recruiting for the Navy Seals. This elite group is not looking for people who just want to better themselves, travel, and have a good time. No, the training will be excruciating and the assignments beyond what average people can handle, but they promote this. Meanwhile, the benefits are amazing: you are one of the most ripped people on the planet. You do things no one else does. You serve a cause so much bigger than yourself.

As we count the cost of discipleship, many give up. It is going to cost everything. You are being made into a new creature altogether. It demands your time, treasure, and talent: your very life. And this is where a lot of students become perplexed. Students are told to get good grades to get into a good college to pursue a good career and make plenty of good money and live good and comfortably. This is the way of the world. It’s tried and true. It’s good advice.

You can pick an outstanding career based upon your natural abilities and even change the world because you’re just one of those idea-leading people. You’ll be successful and rich and probably even well-esteemed. People will say nice things at your funeral. Trees may be planted and scholarships established in your honor. Someone may write about your life for the next generation to study and model; you’ll be idolized. Do we stop and ask you students, what is God calling you to? We may be advising you poorly.

So what if you take the unknown road – this scary little path that Jesus points to? He asks you to weigh your options carefully. He may not even reveal what’s at the end. But He calls you over to it. He says to lay down all of your clutter at His feet. Then put your foot on this path. Then the other. Then walk one step at a time and follow Him wherever this path goes.

-Sarah

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