‘But I don’t have any idols’ I often tell myself to escape the fact I spend more time scrolling down news feeds than I do seeking God. We are told in Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:27 that the most important thing for a person is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (accompanied by loving our neighbor as ourselves). This is very similar to Deuteronomy 6:5 in which we are told to love God with all our heart, soul and strength.
It would seem Jesus adds ‘mind’ to the things we need to love God with, that’s not to say this wasn’t something present in the OT, in-fact the next two verses stress the importance of teaching (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Jesus however seems to be emphasising the point that perhaps we need to be using our heads more. But what does it mean to love God with all those things? What does it mean if you are not loving God with the entirety of those concepts?
If a husband loves their partner, they will love them with all of their body (and more, but this is the example I am using). They will not let someone else be as intimate with their body and will submit to their wife (1 Corinthians 7:3). Subjecting himself to another would be a violation of their relationship, a betrayal of trust. It is similar when we claim to love God, but spend more time doing things which will benefit us than benefit the kingdom.
‘My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ (Proverbs 4:20-23). Our heart is where our treasure is (Matthew 6:21), which for a Christian should be God’s word. We should treasure it above all else and store it in our hearts.
Everything we do flows out from our heart, so if we treasure and love bad things, our heart will produce bad fruit. The very next verses in Proverbs tell us exactly how to keep our heart guarded: ‘Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.’
The word for soul can also be translated to ‘self, ‘life’ and is even similar to ‘breath’. It is often described as the eternal part of you (Matthew 10:28). The part which God breathed into Adam which made him live (Genesis 2:7). It is also described as the seat of the heart, or the decision making part of us. When we make a choice, are we listening to our new nature in Christ Jesus, or do we sometimes act out of fear or selfishness? We have to surrender every choice to Jesus.
‘To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace’. If we recognise we are new creations seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6), and reckon (consider) ourselves dead to sin and alive in Jesus (Romans 6:11), then we will act accordingly. The more we know of our true identity in Jesus the better. If someone asked if you wanted to be in a boxing match, you may say ‘no thank you, I don’t box’, in the same way when sin comes and invites us we should say ‘no thank you, I don’t do sin’.
When we set our minds on other things we can become distracted, losing sight of who we are. It’s so much harder to do one task when you are distracted and thinking about another; how can we serve God and do what we are meant to do if we are busy worrying about what we will wear or what happens if nobody likes our latest posted pictures. There are positive and negative thinking methods, which hopefully I will discuss in another post, but a good question to ask when we are doing something is whether or not we have invited God into it, and what he thinks about it.
I confess, I stay up late watching videos online and scrolling down my feeds that when I wake up I’m too tired to do things. Morning prayers (which happens every weekday at my university) seems like a drag, and some times I would rather not go. I chose to invest my strength in staying awake the night before to watch cartoons and check my social networks, that I didn’t have the Strength to wake up in the morning. Sometimes I spend more energy on getting my own things done I don’t ‘feel’ like praying or going to church, I just want to sleep. When we give what time we have to God, he will renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31); when we haven’t the strength to wake up or to go on, he will provide it, providing our hope is in him and not in ourselves.
Anything your hearts treasures more than it does God, any selfish choice, any time we esteem our own thoughts and wants over God’s, and anytime we strive more for unfruitful things than we do for God’s kingdom, we are saying that that thing is more important to us than God. If we choose to go to the gym every week instead of going to church for fellowship, we decide our body is more important than God (Though God wants us healthy). If we decide to stay up late watching our favourite programs and are too tired to pray, we saying that our ways are more important (though God does want us to rest).
These things are our idols; it could be that we spend more time on our phone or thinking about last nights tv soap than we do with God, anything can be an idol. God can also use all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28)! We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what part of yourself you are not giving over fully, and taking steps to amend this. Everything is better when God is involved.
Though I have been seemingly very negative, I want to encourage you and let you know that God loves you, and though we all make mistakes he has new mercies and depths of grace every day. God delights when we spend time with him. We are all growing, every one of us, we all have parts of ourselves God is working on, don’t try and do everything at once. Take things one step at a time, acknowledging God in every step, and he will help you through (Proverbs 3:5-6). Being a Christian radically changes the way we live, but it is God who transforms us, we do not transform ourselves, he makes us new. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be better, but focus on God and know that as your draw close to him, he will correct and guide you as you move forwards.
God bless you and keep you always.