About 2 weeks ago now we wrapped up our series on "gods at war". Up to this point, we have defined what we mean by "gods at war" and have taken tours in the temple of pleasure as well as the temple of power. Today we will walk through a new temple, the temple of love.
As we enter the temple of love we will yet again encounter three different gods. Each one preys on our desire to love and be loved. These gods are just as dangerous as the last 6 we've seen because they aren't inherently evil. The three gods in the temple of love are romance, family, and me (not me the writer, but you the individual).
Let's start with the god of romance. Romance is a beautiful thing, building a life with someone you love can be wonderful. But when we serve the relationship, the romance, we lose out on actually experiencing love. Instead, we end up feeling empty, craving attention, love, affirmation, and the "feeling". The issue is the promise of something so wonderful is so close we continue to chase it. We serve this god and don't even consider how we currently feel and just hope that we get the promised outcome. But that outcome never comes. We just fall deeper and deeper into this lonely dark hole.
Romance as a god isn't a new idea either. In Genesis, we see a woman who served this god and for good reason honestly. Her name was Leah. She was married to Jacob by her father as a trick as Jacob had intended to marry her younger sister Rachel. Leah had fallen for Jacob, but all he did was work to earn his love, Rachel. Leah had four sons in the time that Jacob ran after Rachel. The fact that in their culture Leah was still unloved after bearing not one but four sons would have been salt in her wound caused by unrequited love. But with her fourth son, we do see a change of heart. The first three sons Leah named them after her feelings of loneliness as cries to God and her husband to be noticed. With each son, Jacob did not notice her. With her fourth son, the narrative changed. She named him Judah in praise to God. She realized that when she served the god of romance and chased Jacob that all she got was emptiness. So, she decided to serve God and found love. Her children loved her, God loved her.
How do we go about dethroning the god of romance and serving the one true God? It's all by a simple question, why? Why do I seek love from another? Why is ____ never enough? Why is my desire never satisfied? When we can ask these questions, then we are serving the wrong God. When we truly serve God, His love fulfills our desire and keeps us from feeling lonely. Will the emotions arise from time to time, I can't say for certain, but it won't be your constant.
Mom, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparents, grandkids. All are family and all are meant to be a gift from God. For some of us, the entire family is who we serve while others have severed relationships due to division created by our fallen nature. Regardless we can all say we love at least one family member or have a bond with someone that equates to family. When we chose family first, we are choosing them over God. Our family then becomes a god and bears that weight. We allow our emotions to be dependant on them, our actions, our very being. No person is meant to carry that weight. The bond of a family then feels this weight. They'll never satisfy and they know it, yet we continue to pursue this end.
How do we know if we serve the god of family? Ask yourself the hardest question imaginable, if God asked you to kill your favorite (yes we know everyone has a favorite) family member would you do it? Now, God would never ask something like this without some sort of plan in place and honestly, I don't think He would ever ask this of any of us. But He did ask this of Abraham. After being promised a nation of descendants, Abraham and his wife Sarah bore a son. They were so happy and thanked God for interceding and allowing them to have a child. Then came the order. God told Abraham to bring his son Isaac as a sacrifice. This would have floored me and as a father, I know it would have floored Abraham. Regardless of the emotions and fears felt, Abraham, trusted God and didn't place his son as the first priority. AS they reached the alter Isaac wonder where their sacrifice was and Abraham said God would provide. In Genesis 22:9-13 we see how this plays out,
"When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now, I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.' And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son."
Bound and placed on the alter Isaac knew what was going to happen, death was inevitable. Abraham readied the knife and as he was about to take the life of his only son, whom he loved God said stop. My heart would be pound, mind racing, wondering what God was going to do. But Abraham didn't miss a beat, why? Because he served the one true God and knew that there was something greater at stake here.
Where does your family rank? Is it God first followed by your mom? Or maybe it's your children and then God? This can be a hard pill to swallow because we love our family so fiercely, yet without God, we wouldn't have them, let alone love them. God asks that we make Him our first priority and in return, He will open doors to love our family in ways we didn't even know possible. To deconstruct the god of family you must face the truth given by Jesus. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Hate here is meant in comparison. Compared to the love we have for God and where He ranks, we must "hate" our family. Loving God with our utmost gives us the fuel to love our family as God intended.
Our final god is one that can be the hardest battle. This god is always trying to make a case for the throne and even uses all the past gods we've talked about to dethrone the one true God and make his/her rise easier. As much as we'd like to say this isn't an issue for us, we all struggle with this god. This god is me (not Dakota Me, I mean you...for you). We want to have control over our lives and be the reason we achieve anything. So, we serve ourselves, our desires, our wants. It's like we become the seagulls from Finding Nemo chanting "mine" over and over. Every other god talked about up to this point can be linked to this god. We serve ourselves through seeking these other gods out. God is not unaware of this issue. In Ezekiel 28:2 it says,
"Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god"
We are not a god, but a man. This was to a specific king at the time but still rings true for many of us today. You can see us sitting on our thrones through arrogance, insecurity, defensiveness, or a need to be in charge. These attributes show themselves because a god is meant to be perfect. As a human, perfection will never be reached. So, when we are right we become arrogant, when wrong we become defensive, when cornered insecure, and in all things the one in charge. So, how do we overcome ourselves?
The answer is the Sunday school answer everyone knows and loves, Jesus. We have to choose Jesus over ourselves. It sounds easy, but we are quick to choose ourselves because it feels more natural. In John 4 Jesus has an encounter with a woman at a well. During this encounter, there is a dialog about water. The water in the well can satisfy for the moment, but the living water offered through Christ will last forever. Verses 13-14 say,
"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Imagine you are a cup. When we serve ourselves as a god, it's like taking a pitcher and refilling the cup. Then the cup gets cracked. As we try to fill it our pitcher runs out, then the cup runs out. Suddenly, there is no more water. Panic ensues and we hit the breaking point. Thirst overcomes and there is nothing we can do to stop. But if we give God control this scene never happens. Instead of using a secondary pitcher to fill our cup, Jesus causes a spring of water to emerge inside of the cup. This means that the cup with never run out of the water, even with the cracks. His offer gives relief to thirst forever.
So, in conclusion, when we put God on the throne of our hearts something unique happens. We become filled with the living water, our glass is no longer able to leak in such a way that leaves us in search of more. Instead, our cup now overflows from having a spring inside, we are able to pour out love, power, and pleasure into those around us.