If you follow the church calendar, we’re now in the season of Lent, a time of introspection and confession leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. The idea is to do some personal housecleaning, and hopefully grow closer to God as a result. Instead of giving up meat—or chocolate, or TV (which I rarely watch anyway), I’m trying something a bit different this year. Since I’ve been reading Deuteronomy, I’m asking God to search my heart as I focus on each of the Ten Commandments. How am I doing with obeying God?
On the surface, it appears as if I’m doing very well. I haven’t murdered anyone lately. There are no carved idols sitting on my bookshelves. I’ve never been part of a court case, so it’s unlikely I’m guilty of bearing false witness.
However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points out that our actions only scratch the surface when it comes to God’s will. No, I haven’t murdered anyone, but I have called some people (mostly other drivers) “Fool!” (or some other names we won’t mention here). I haven’t coveted anyone’s wife, or their house or car, but I admit to wishing I could go on some of the exotic birding vacations that my friends are taking. As I listened to the Holy Spirit nudge me, I’m beginning to realize that, while I’ve got the outside polished up and looking good, the inside still needs a bit of work. Okay, a lot of work.
I started at the beginning, with Exodus 20:2-3—“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
It’s easy to think that this doesn’t apply to us. Most Americans aren’t polytheistic. We don’t worship the sun god, for instance. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the hardest of all the commandments to keep. Why?
When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that all too often, the god I put before God is myself. I have my will, and it doesn’t always jibe with God’s.
For example, I have a hard time getting up early enough to spend time in prayer and Bible. God is eager to meet with me, and I’d rather sleep another hour. Perhaps a good night’s rest more important to me than God. Or, I want to spend money on a new outfit, but God wants me to give it to someone who needs it far more than I do. Do I obey? Or do I put my finances ahead of God?
I love our missions pastor. He’s originally from South Africa, which gives him a unique perspective on Christianity here in the United States. Recently, he was talking about things that interfere with our worship of God or that keep us from growing in our faith. His belief is that the primary stumbling block for the American church, the god that keeps us from obeying God in so many ways, is “comfort.”
It’s our insistence on comfort and convenience keeps us from obeying the Great Commission, to go make disciples among every people group in the world. After all, going to many parts of the world is uncomfortable, or even dangerous. We can’t even manage to bring the gospel to those who live near us—those in a nursing home, prison, or homeless in the park downtown. It means going out of our way. It’s inconvenient. It’s awkward. It requires going out of our comfort zone.
Now that the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes, I realize that I have an ever-growing assortment of gods in my life. It’s time for God to perform His holy surgery on my heart. And this is just the first commandment. There are still nine to go.