What is a god? What god(s) battles for your heart? How do we know?
A god is anything that we put in God's place in our life. A.K.A. something we make sacrifices to, something we commit our lives to, something we serve. If we are sacrificing, committing, and serving something it becomes our god because these are the necessary ingredients for worship.
Now, for a lot of us when we think of lower case "g" gods, we turn to Greece, Roman, or Egypt. We think of the pantheon, temples, and statues made of rare metals. When this is what we consider a "god" most of us can say we don't struggle to believe in only the one true God of the Bible. Most, if not all, of us, don't believe any of these other deities exist. So, we think to ourselves "well this doesn't apply to me". That's where we can all make a grave mistake.
In Exodus 20, God is telling Moses the ten commandments for His chosen people on Mount Sinai. In verses 2-5a, we see the commandments surrounding how we should view other gods,
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God..."
First, God is declaring Himself as LORD. Second, there shall be no other gods before Him (we will come back to this). Third, there shall be no physical thing to worship. Fourth, we are told that God is a jealous God, He wants our attention.
So, let's return to our question above, what is a god? To the Israelites, this would have been a wake-up call to avoid worshipping the gods they picked up from the Egyptians they were enslaved to for so long. For us, it's still about what we worship. We said a god is something we sacrifice to, commit to, and serve. So, gods aren't just some deity but can be something we desire so strongly that we turn to it instead of God. This is terrifying because it opens the door to so many other gods that can become our central focus instead of the one true God.
These gods are at war to be the ones you choose to worship. They want to distract you from big "G" God and become who you serve. As Christians, we've gotten used to this language of "the heart". It's our emotional center, the core of our being. So, these gods want to be at the center of your being and block God from sitting on the "throne of your heart". For some of us, we say, "fine, God can have the throne, but I still want these other gods in the room because I'm not willing to give them up completely." This is DANGEROUS. But I've heard Christians say, "God says none before me, He's talking about that come before Him numerically..." People sometimes see God as talking about a pyramid scheme of gods where He sits at the top and as long as you understand that you're fine. Except that's not the case. In fact, the Hebrew word used here is "עַל" or "`al". This word in Hebrew is more accurately translated as "in conjunction to or juxtaposed". Meaning, God expects there to be no other gods in the room, so to speak. He should be the desire of our heart and will guide us in a manner pleasing to Him. This is why God is considered a jealous God. He longs to be the only one on the throne of your heart because realistically we can only serve one god at a time.
This conversation is crucial because more often than not, the root of our sin comes from some god that we have placed on the throne instead of God. We are sacrificing, serving, and committing to something other than God and it leads us astray and directly into sin. For some of us, this started when we were teens. Maybe we struggled with acceptance and some terrible stuff to be "the cool kids". Maybe we struggled with lust and fell into pornography or sex as an addiction. Maybe we struggled with the way our bodies looked and began to binge and purge. Whatever it was (or is), a lot of us could say it began in high school or as young adults. So, that's why we are talking about this now with our students.
This brings us to the big question though, how do we know who we serve? I'm going to include a list of questions that can help us gauge what sits on the throne of our hearts. This list is not all-inclusive and if you only choose "the right" answers, then your results won't actually show what god or gods are battling for the throne.
What disappoints you? What do you complain most about? Where do you make financial sacrifices? What worries you? Where is your sanctuary? What infuriates you? What are your dreams?
I want to challenge everyone to read and answer the questions above. If you're a parent of a teen, sit down and talk about these questions. Don't make them give you answers, but welcome them into reflecting on them together or on their own.
If you want to see the teaching this coincides with you can check that out below: