something that God has been bringing to my attention a lot lately is idols. i dont mean things like money or popularity, i mean carved images, often ornate and valuable, people burn sacrifices to them. i’m just kidding, i meant the other kind. things we hold on to instead of God, things we put our faith in or find comfort or meaning in. i had a short email conversation with the pastor from my church today about the passage in Romans 14 where paul talks about how we aren’t bound by the old testament dietary laws. i wondered, and so asked my pastor, why certain parts of the old testament law are still followed even in the new testament. we’re allowed to eat bacon and wear clothing of blended fabrics, but we still aren’t allowed to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols (seriously, who hasn’t been tempted to do that, amirite?), there are still rules that apply to sex. why did God draw the line where he did? i think it has to do with idolatry.
i’m fairly sure the dietary restrictions and clothing restrictions, and other related laws, were intended to differentiate the jews from the surrounding nations, so that they would hold themselves apart from the other people. i suppose that would be a concern, considering how easily they adopted foreign gods at various times in their history. the parts of the law that we still hold to after the gospels is a different story. i think that the reason we are called to, for example, not commit adultery, is that marriage is a sacred bond that reflects Christ and the church. by violating that bond, we mess with something that God has intended to point to him. sex and relationships are also something we try to find meaning in. the idol food part is a little more cut and dry, it’s an idol worship thing even at face value.
God seems to be of the opinion that bacon isn’t a matter of idolatry, but i think that’s what paul is talking about in Romans 14 when he talks about how we need to be sensitive to those who feel it is necessary for their faith for them to abstain from such things. i can see how if something is not necessarily a bad thing but one that easily tempts you, you might abstain from it altogether. bacon is one of those things for me, but God has strengthened my resolve and i feel confident that i can go forth and eat bacon boldly, but if that’s something you struggle with, or you have doubts about it, you should abstain. “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” Romans 14:23 ESV.
to me, that verse ties it up nicely. if something is detrimental to your faith, you should stay away from it. there are some things God has declared are always in that category, they detract from his glory and give you a wrong image of who he is, they put your faith and hope in something besides his grace and justice and mercy. a recent article (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/whats-at-stake-in-the-homosexuality-debate) by tony reinke put it nicely, while talking about sexual sin: “Heterosexual sin and homosexual sin alike are ultimately rooted in a worship disorder, a worship disorder that robs the soul of joy now and robs the soul of joy eternally. The fullness of joy we all long for is reserved for those sinners who, by God’s grace alone, have been healed from this worship disorder, who are rightly oriented with the Creator, and who turn away from selfishness that kicks against the created order.” God wants us completely for himself. he will not take second place in your life. whether your idol is a relationship, success, the government (big or small), praise, your job, alcohol, veganism, facebook, music, even your church, your family, your daily routine of reading your Bible (routine can be dangerous), leading a youth group, whatever it is that you find security and meaning in, God will not take second place to it. and what’s more, you will not find happiness and fulfillment in anything less than the perfect God you were created to serve. God has no secondary helper either. none of the things i just listed are inherently bad. they can be good. they might even be things that God has called you to or given to you. but you need to be very conscious that they aren’t even a distant second place to God. they are like a millionth place. as the ever wise c. s. lewis put it, “don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” you can’t lose God. he will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). there’s nothing better than that. and what’s more, there’s nothing else but that.
are you dissatisfied with life? there’s your answer. you’re not going to find anything that works but God. and it won’t be easy. you can fight it as long as you want, but the Truth doesn’t change. God is the only thing that is going to satisfy that craving you have, that hole in your soul. give him a real earnest chance. give yourself no backup plans. you’ll be surprised.