Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one.

1 Corinthians 8: 4

 

As we start out today, I am making an assumption, and that is that very few of us are concerned about the consumption of foodstuffs that were previously used as sacrifices to various types and forms of gods or in other religious practices. This was a real issue in Paul’s world, and it is simply not as obviously pervasive in ours as it was in his. Yet, the fact that idols exist is something that I think is important for us to consider in our culture and in our lives, and almost in contrast to the approach that Paul took toward the sacrificial foods, I think that the way that we feed our idols and the idolatrous foods that we consume are important to consider.

 

We live in an age of consumption. It often seems that the primary fuel that feeds our world is made up of the goods and the services that we can purchase and utilize for the sake of personal enjoyment, pleasure, and self-worth appeasement. These things that take on great importance to us are not very different from the idols that were so prevalent in Paul’s times, for they too demand our attention, bring us to a place of worship for their sake, and engage our passion as disciples to their cause and of their personage. We can each look introspectively at our lives and into our hearts in order to determine where this sort of over zealous commitment to things of this world might be found. They can be relatively minor in their impact upon living for Christ, and they can be powerfully consuming and devastating to the same purpose and calling.

 

Regardless of the depth of commitment to the idol or of the amount of personal resource it demands from us, everything that ascends to this level of ownership over us is something that drives its wedge of distraction and distance between Christ and us. Anything that takes us away from our ability to focus on the Lord’s calling and commission for our lives or that places itself above Christ in priority for us, even if this is only momentary in duration, is an idol, and it will demand that we feed it out of the precious resource that is our love, devotion, and submission to righteousness. Fortunately Paul also gives us an answer to this universal challenge. He points us toward the one singular truth that changes everything in the fact that there is only one real God. All of these other things are false and are made by our hands out of the raw materials that God, Himself, created for us. So, everything in life that takes us away from serving Christ with the fullest possible expression of our heart and the complete engagement of our passions can and should be placed behind Christ so that all of our being is dedicated without distraction or diversion to service to our God.

 

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In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of His people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

Isaiah 28: 5, 6

 

God is merciful, and His grace is great enough to accept each and every one of us without regard to the ways that we are living or the things that we have done or even the multitudes of times that we have rejected Him and cursed His name. However, this marvelous grace and infinite mercy is balanced by the Lord’s unceasing desire for righteousness and His relentless demand for justice. Without righteousness, grace has no meaning. Without justice, there is no mercy. In one sense these qualities of God are like the scales that Lady Justice holds in her hand with their unbiased equality. However, in God’s hands there is no give and take of these counterbalancing elements of life. Instead, they are all applied in full and total measure.

 

People who love God are also called upon by Him to love righteousness and to strive to live justly in our world. Our thoughts, our words, and our actions can depict God’s will and desire to our world. The way that we treat those who are close to us and the manner in which we interact with strangers speak loudly about the way that we view this mandate from God. This is one of the hardest aspects of living for Christ. Most of us are either rather good at being accepting, gracious, and merciful, or we readily apply our view of righteousness and seek a sure and absolute form of justice. In either instance there is seldom balance, and deep, lasting restorative relationship suffers.

 

Christ brought living truth into our world. He never failed to note and to recognize the brokenness and the destructive nature of sin. He confronted it in individuals and in the culture. Jesus also embraced the sinner, and He granted His healing touch of eternal acceptance to everyone who would accept it. God wants us to do the same things. He sends us into our world to confront the sin that bathes us in its acid-like wash of corrosive evil. Christ wants us to stand with Him at the gates of our world and stop Satan’s aggression from gaining any more ground. Yet, He wants us to do it in the same way that Jesus did. We need to be willing to suffer, bleed, and die upon the cross of truth, of mercy, and of grace. Christ wants us to sacrifice all for the sake of eternal relationships.