If you were like me, you grew up playing a lot of games. At times it was funny and appropriate, but there were plenty of times that the words, ‘quit messing around, this isn’t a game,’ was shot my way. God gives us humor, pleasure, delight, enjoyment and the ability to play games. But there are also times and places where there’s no place for games. Where God would say to us, ‘this isn’t a game.’
Malachi 2 is one of those places. The people of Israel were playing spiritual games with God, and God simply wasn’t going to have it. There were two specific ways that the people were playing games with God: idolatry and unrepentance.
Reject all forms of idolatry: I know what some of you are thinking. ‘Uh, Mike, we don’t have any idols.’ The reason we think that is we think of idols as wooden or stone statues that we burn something to or pray to. Problem is, the forms of idols have changed, the reality of idolatry has not. Today, we have idols that are much more subtle, but in reality become functional saviors in our lives. An idol or functional savior is anyone or anything that would take Christ’s rightful place in our life by becoming our primary source of hope, trust, identity, security, love, passion, comfort or any number of other things. Most of the things that we create functional saviors out of aren’t inherently bad, it’s what we do with them that make them bad.
Here are 6 commons idols or functional saviors in our society today.
Idol of Pleasure: This is where I find my hope, comfort, or love in pleasure. Our hyper-sexualized society races to this. The heart and mind that constantly says, ‘Entertain me! Amuse me!’ finds themselves here.
Idol of Security: This where my security, my hope, my safety net isn’t found in Jesus, it’s found in my home, my job, my bank account, my retirement or any host of other things not named Jesus.
Idol of Success: The ‘American’ Idol. The idea that if I’m successful, then I’ll be fulfilled. In this idol, my hope rises and falls based on my performance and accomplishments, not the finished work of Christ.
Idol of Appearance: ‘If only I had her __________.’ ‘If only I was like him in ____________.’ We believe that fulfillment and purpose is found in how we look, and not in what God has for us.
Idol of Righteousness: This is the Christian idol. Where my service, family, ministry fruitfulness or personal holiness is what will give me identity or hope. This is a massive distortion of God’s intent for us, and His work within us.
Idol of Comfort: We chase comfort. We hold it in esteem that simply exceeds its rightful place in our lives. But we allow comfort, or maybe a better way of saying it, the absence of struggle, to ultimately determine our source of hope, trust or love.
Loved ones, let us not succumb to these functional saviors, but serve the One, True Savior.
Reject all forms of faithlessness and unrepentance: The people were faithless, and when exposed, they didn’t repent. Yeah they covered the altar with tears, but not tears of brokenness or repentance, but tears of sorrow that God wouldn’t continue in this game with them. Is this you? Are you playing this game before a holy God? If so, take a lesson from the nation of Israel, repent! Quit serving some functional savior. Quit responding the God’s prompting in your life in faithlessness. Instead, throw yourself fully into the gospel of God’s grace.