So says Philip Yancey1 in describing man’s penchant for denying God and any accountability to him, while filling the void thus created with alternatives that become lesser “gods;” often exerting as much influence – however negative – as God would. At times, there may be no conscious intent to exchange God’s influence on our daily activities with something else, occasionally the things that get in the way of our exclusive allegiance to him are good in and of themselves; they just don’t belong in competition with God.
We must work to pay our bills and achieve success in our professional lives, we should love our families and provide for their emotional and physical needs, there is nothing wrong with being involved in politics or with efforts to protect the environment, and attempting to alleviate the needs of the less fortunate is a worthy endeavor. In fact, “It is precisely because of the eternity outside time (the supernatural) that everything in time (the natural) becomes valuable and important and meaningful. (That’s why) Christianity …makes it of urgent importance that everything we do here should be rightly related to what we eternally are. Eternal life (being) the sole sanction for the values of this life.”2But when hobbies, sports or sex; our jobs, family or friends; environmentalism, social activism or anything else takes priority over our relationship with the supernatural Christ, they have become an idol – a substitute for the real thing – which is a sin and separates us from God.
Many have gone astray, God giving them the “right” to choose their own way. “Yet he has not left himself without testimony…” Acts 14:7 For, “…what may be known about God is plain… because God has made it plain… For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:19,20 The intricacy and beauty of God’s created universe and the world upon which we live proclaim the greatness of God in ways mere words can never do, as “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Ps. 19:1,2The realization of God’s greatness throughout the world and in his own life prompting David to confess, “The Lord is my light and my salvation…” while challenging the complacent and arrogant unbeliever with, “How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” Psalm 27:1 & 4:2
The problem Paul addressed in his letter to Timothy was rooted in the same rebelliousness exhibited from the very beginning, as God has repeatedly dealt with men, who “…will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3,4 (See also Job 21:31 and Is. 5:20,21 & Is. 30:10,11) Prompting God to exclaim in exasperation, “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it that way. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:30,31 “For God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Romans 2:6-8 (See also Ephesians 5:6)
What we see, hear, touch and taste – what we embrace and involve ourselves in – does make a difference; not just how we act and react in the here-and-now but where we spend eternity in the here-after. Jesus put it this way, “The eye is the lamp of the body. (Through which we expose ourselves to much of what is good and profitable or evil and a hindrance.) If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22,23Where is the light that illuminates your path taking you? Jesus claimed to be, “…the light of the world.” And promised, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 In consequence of our partnering with him, we then become, “light(s) of the world” as well; instructed to, “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14 &16
Which is at times difficult to do, as “The heart (or the emotions, desires and lusts that motivate us to do so much of what we do) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 That’s why Jesus goes to such lengths to caution us about what we “treasure;” who we admire, the ideas we embrace and the lifestyles we emulate. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
There will be those who won’t, “…think it worthwhile to (gain or) retain the knowledge of God,…” Romans 1:28 Again, Jesus deals with them in his parable of the sower. Some people, either out of arrogance or ignorance, refuse to listen and believe. (Mark 4:4 & 15 – their path already chosen. See also Luke 8:15) Some are receptive at first, faith sounding easy and grace offered freely; only to lose that faith quickly when the difficulties of life reappear, exhibiting a shallowness of character and belief. (Mark 4:5,6 & 16,17) Still more hear the word, yet allow and at times invite the distractions, deceits and worries of the world back into their lives; choking out the Word and its benefits. (Mark 4:7 &18,19 Paul and Peter’s description of such people and God’s judgment on them – recorded in Romans 1:32 & 2 Peter 2:17-19)
Even so, some will genuinely listen to the Word, accepting and embracing the Savior “planted” in their hearts through that Word, learning to be a productive follower and effective witness of the one true and supernatural Lord, Jesus Christ. (Mark 4:8 &20)
1From Rumors of Another World – What On Earth Are We Missing? Zondervan Publishing
2Dorothy Sayers, noted Christian author
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