The first seven parts of this series have covered the critical elements of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ:
Luke 14:26 states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NIV) This hyperbolic statement (using 'hate' to mean 'love less by comparison') emphasizes that loyalty to Jesus must come before all other relationships and personal interests. We can define these as “false gods,” which I will address in the following sections:
• False gods for pastors and ministry leaders
• False gods for everyone else
WHO IS REALLY THE GOD OF OUR LIFE?
It is easy to give lip service and claim that we worship God. Before I got sober and surrendered my alcohol abuse to Christ in March 1996, I was an expert at keeping up a facade. On the outside, I would claim Christ as Savior and Lord. However, the truth is He was only my Savior. I was the Lord of my life.
Money was Lord. Fame was Lord. Power was Lord. I had many Lords. I bowed to many false gods but had not surrendered to the God of All, Christ Jesus. In 1997, I became a pastoral coach, dedicated a significant portion of my time to ministering to pastors. Then, seven years ago, I went a level deeper and formed the non-profit SOLIDpastors.org to better serve pastors and ministry leaders.
As I have shed layers of selfish, self-centered behaviors, I have continually renounced the world, which appears to me as a daily process requiring a significant amount of time devoted every day to that endeavor. Like the layers of an onion, I continually see there is another layer Christ is peeling away, bringing me, little by little, into ever greater surrender to Him. I think we are all on this journey, and we will never “arrive” until we are home in Heaven. What do you think? Have you “arrived” at a place where you have no false gods in your life? Before you answer this, please read on.
FALSE GODS OF PASTORS AND MINISTRY LEADERS
I have met with many pastors and ministry leaders as I turned my life over to serving Christ and serving them. My bubble has burst so many times when I listened carefully and heard these pastors talk about their gods, small “g.” So many have been consumed with:
• False humility: they were so self-effacing on the outside (their words and actions to the outside world) and yet inwardly were filled with spiritual pride because of the high degree of humility. They worshipped the god of the “appearance” of holiness.
• Power: they had a great deal of personal power and were drunk on the elixir of fame. Their name was on the cover of many books that they gladly had others read, but on the backstage (interior) of their lives, they were a “dirty cup.” The outside was sparkling clean and had a brilliant shine. On the inside, it was a mess.
• Approval: they were consumed with wanting the approval of others. Their low self-esteem got in the way of their worship of the one true God, and instead, they worshipped the god of what others thought about them. Passionate about maintaining a positive reputation, they worked overtime to ensure you liked them, and that they had a good relationship with you. But their fragile self-esteem was easily shattered and left behind broken relationships with themselves and others.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. The point is that we can have the appearance of a surrendered life and yet not have one. That is why Christ tells us not to judge others. Not only does He say it in the negative sense, for example, accusing someone mentally of a wrong motive. Christ also tells us not to judge in the affirmative sense and making up our minds that we know a certain person is holy because of what they appear to do on the front stage (the public) side of their lives.
You never know, my friend, what you will find when you pull back the curtain on many of these supposedly Christ-following leaders. Those who coach, mentor, and disciple pastors would shock you with the horrendous stories of idol worship in the world of vocational and bi-vocational ministry.
FALSE GODS OF EVERYONE ELSE
We must not have any false Gods before the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The single authority over all that is seen and all that is unseen. Christ is Lord, Master, and Ruler of all. Anything we put ahead of Christ is an idol. The entire Old Testament can be summed up in this phrase: “God said only worship me; man continually disobeyed and worshipped false Gods.” I’m no theologian, but it seems pretty straightforward to me why Christ came. And yet, even those who preach about Him on Sundays or who lead ministries large and small continually put up idols of worship.
For those of you not vocational ministry leaders, look at some possible idols for yourself:
• Net worth; money; financial stability; security; having ‘enough,’ which is just a little “more” than you have right now; the god of More.
• Children; living for them; putting them first ahead of God; worshipping them in subtle ways that appear like good parenting but in the end is idol worship. The god of children.
• Time; having free time to do what we want when we want and using our time to indulge in pleasure after pleasure, distraction after distraction, and putting “free time” on a pedestal, ahead of Christ and His Great Commission. We can give lip service to it, but are we involved in Christ’s initiative to reach a hurting and dying world, or are we just doing enough to “look good” to our fellow believers. The god of free time.
Like with the list for pastors and ministry leaders, I could go on and on. I won’t. You get the idea. Anything. Repeat: Anything that we put ahead of Christ is an idol. Any activity can turn into idol worship. That is why Christ tells us to “renounce all.” It is a decision of the heart. Nothing can be more important to us than our intimate, personal, day in and day out, continual communion-type relationship with Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us daily renounce the world and all its possible idols and false gods, and let us surrender to God the Father, Christ Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Your aspiring servant, Daniel M.
January 16, 2024
POSTSCRIPT: Dear friends, if this daily, transparent “Conversations with Christ” blesses you, please go to www.SOLIDpastors.org, where you will find these posted, and a repository of all, in English and Spanish. If you ever want to chat, you can reach me at Daniel@SOLIDpastors.org. May Christ bless you richly as you have your own intimate, daily conversations with Christ.