New Year's challenge: Ordering your affections
"We always love, but not always properly"
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux
I love New Years day as it is both a time of reflection and a time of hope. It is the recognition of how blessed we have been as well as losses we have incurred. We identify opportunities that we have both seized and ignored. We gather these sentiments together and propel them into the next year, where we hope to keep momentum from the good, and make changes to the bad. Interestingly, New Years Day calls us to make choices and define our values.
I have been wrestling for several months with the concept of idolatry. Even writing the word conjures up ideas of bowing to bizarre statues and chanting incantations while smoking hallucinagenic herbs. Yet, idolatry is much more subtle, even sublime. It is so common that we often think of it as normative. I wish I could say that idolatry was foreign experience, but God is dealing with me and the community in which I pastor about the idols in our lives.
Idols are simply people, possessions, powers, or privileges (can somebody see a sermon series down the line) that we value, honor, and are devoted to, above God. Now the simple person, sees this as a religious challenge, or a challenge of our faith, but the wisdom of God demonstrates that the idolatry is challenge of our affections, or a challenge of our loves.
People are created to love. We love naturally and that is one of the ways we reflect the nature of God. However, it is the right ordering of our loves that defines God's call to His people. The Bible is filled with stories of the people of God who were religious and centered their lives around the worship of God, but prioritized their affections on other things, people, and even nations. God uses the provocative metaphor of the whore/prostitute throughout scripture (Hosea in the O.T. and Revelation in the N.T. are great examples) to demonstrate this concept of misplaced affections. Its not that the idolators in the Bible did not love God at all, its that they did not love Him enough or primarily.
This New Year, its time to deal with our idols and prioritize our affections to have a deeper walk with God. As you reflect on your year, consider 3 types of idols that are common today:
1. Relational Idols: Seeking to have people fulfill the roles that only God can. Allowing relationships with another separate you from seeing, hearing, and experiencing God. If you are in a relationship and find yourself distancing yourself from God, most likely its idolatrous.
2. Vocational Idols: Seeing your careers as an end as opposed to a means of honoring God. Does your job serve God or do you worship God to help you with your job. When it comes to time management, does God have priority or does your job?
3. Narcacisstic Idols: Putting love of self above love of everything. Your desires frame the paradigm inwhich you see the utility of everyone and everything. Worshiping yourself can be difficult to see but its endorsed by a society that sees self-fulfillment as the highest goal.
I pray that in New Years, that you will experience the depth of God's love for you and the freedom that comes from worshiping him in spirit and truth. This comes when we prioritize our affections.
May God bless you,
Happy New Year,
Pastor M Traylor