Continuing our series on the high places we put into our hearts. Our previous lessons might have been easy for us to go through — physical idols, the high places of past times, and the problems with false teachers. Those are easy for most of us to look at and say we have little attraction to those. This week, we’re going to look at something a little more personal and one we might have a hard time admitting — the idol of self.
Recognizing Our High Places
Of the better kings of Judah, we can find many that did pretty well in the Lord’s sight, but they failed to take down the high places. We too can be a Christian for years and years, and we can keep our high places. When there is something wrong in our lives that we simply cannot let go, we are failing to truly worship God in our lives. We may be doing many things right, but we may still have high places hidden in our hearts.
These can be the type of entertainment we choose when we’re away from worship. The way we speak, the addictions we allow, the desires we give in to, hatreds we continue to hold, possessions we prioritize — these and more speak to our challenges in truly denying self and putting God in the highest place in our lives. We can’t be acceptable to God on our terms; we have to live by His.
Distractions from God
Back in the Old Testament, we can read about Hezekiah tearing down places of ungodly worship. King Josiah did the same, and these two kings are spoken of more highly than any others. It’s because they took that extra step. Not only did they restore Jehovah worship, but they removed those other gods that distracted from the Lord.
What distracts you from God? What do you hold so dearly in your heart that it can take precedence over God in how you conduct yourself? Getting rid of these things begins and ends with self denial. Being a Christian is not a token effort; it is a commitment that redefines everything about us. This means we give up things that were once important. It may even damage relationships, but none of those things can come before God.
We make the choice every day. Think about what Joshua says to the children of Israel in Joshua 24:15. He calls on them to choose. Choose this day who you will serve. Stop waiting for some indeterminate day in the future to make that choice. Choose now to put God first on all things, and then let that choice change you. Let it move you to completely tear down your idols, deny self, and follow Him.
Deuteronomy 30:15 records Moses telling the people how serious this choice is. It is a choice between spiritual life and spiritual death. We may never see the consequences of our choices in this life, but this life will affect the next. Because Moses put himself first when he and the people were wandering in the wilderness, he missed out on a physical promise. Putting ourselves first in this life can cause us to miss something bigger than Moses was working toward.
Will we let addictions keep us from God — whether they are as obvious as drugs and alcohol or less overt things like hatred, social media, or lust? Do we let our physical appearance consume our interests? What about the forms of entertainment we pursue or the language we allow ourselves to use? Does our job or our financial future distract us? No matter the justifications we make, the fact is that we are putting self before God in many of these situations.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says we cannot serve two masters. When we make those everyday choices about how we spend our time and resources, we decide who and what we are serving. Let’s be self aware, so we can practice true self denial and remove the high places that continually distract us from God. It begins with recognizing the role we play in distracting ourselves from God, and then it takes effort and sacrifice to completely deny self to put Him in the highest place.
lesson by Steve Jones