As I have been spending time in the Word of God today, studying to learn more of who God is and what I am really like, I discovered an important Truth that I would like to share with you here in this article. I am preparing to teach this message on Wednesday to my staff. This school year, we are learning about Abraham as we teach these truths to the children at Treasure Trust Club. It is so neat to see the children begin to understand how to begin a real relationship with God, the way that Abraham did. It is also neat to see how we learn to walk with God the exact same way that Abraham did. This lesson covers the topic of faith and idols. I recently taught a lesson on faith and fear, about how they cannot coexist in the same place. One will drive out the other. The same is true with faith and idols. When they clash, one will drive out the other. In this article, we are going to examine Abraham’s faith and his battle with his sin nature. If we are ever going to have success in our battle with our sin nature, we must learn how to spot the idols in our lives because, these idols give power to our sin nature. Faith in Christ removes our sin nature’s power. Idols cause us to empower our sin nature that continues to dwell in us. Let’s take a look at Abraham’s example and see what we can learn about faith, idols, and the work of God in our lives.
We know that God allows/uses all things that happen to us in our daily lives with a purpose. He wants to conform us to the image/character of Jesus Christ, moment by moment, day by day. When good things happen, God wants to use them. When bad things happen, God will use them. If we do bad things that bring serious consequences, when we turn to God and cry out for help, He will intervene and use that situation for our good, to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.
I. Abraham’s struggle with idols
In Genesis 20, we see Abraham continuing to walk with the Lord. He has had his entire life radically transformed. He was an idol worshipper, called by God. Abraham answered the call. He believed in the Word of God and became a believer. In Genesis 17, Abraham’s character was changed because he took on the character of God. Even though he has the character of God, Abraham also has the sin nature that he was born with, like all of us on this earth. Abraham had made a mistake early on in his walk with the Lord. He went to Egypt, a place in the Bible that represents the sinfulness of the enticing world. It is a place that tempts our sin nature, desiring us to give in and be enslaved to our sin nature. God set Abraham free so that he could follow Him. Abraham willfully went to Egypt, lied about his relationship to Sarah, and got himself into some trouble. Abraham cried out to God and God intervened, rescuing Abraham and his family from their mistake. In Genesis 20, we see Abraham moving back toward Egypt, as I mentioned earlier. Why is it dangerous to play with the idols of the world? In I Corinthians 10, the Corinthian believers had been saved out of idolatry and they began to boast that they could hang around idols and not be impacted in a negative way. The Apostle Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to write to the Corinthians to warn them of idolatry.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10)
The verb flee in the Greek language is Present, Active, Imperative. This means that God, through Paul, is commanding believers to run away from idols. They have to make the choice to do it. Present tense means that they are to go on running away from idols. It is not a one time thing. It is a constant thing. Abraham is actually moving closer to idolatry. This was his old life. This is the way that he lived before he knew God. You can guess what is about to happen. We know that one bad choice always leads to another bad choice. It is a downward spiral. History seems to repeat itself. Abraham ends up deceiving Abimalech about his wife Sarah. He only tells half the truth about who Sarah is. The consequences of these actions bring trouble to the people around Abraham. When people sow to the flesh, they also reap the results of sin. Those consequences impact the person sinning and the other people in their lives. God intervenes for the good of Abraham, Sarah, Abimalech, and Abimalech’s people.
The Apostle Paul gives us some more insight in his letter to the church in Galatia on how idols work together with sin nature against the ways of God. Take a moment to read Galatians 4:21-31. In verse 23, we see that idols appeal to our sin nature. This temptation, if allowed to linger, will lead us to sinful thoughts and activity. When a person gives himself or herself over to sinful thoughts and activities, he or she becomes enslaved to his or her sin nature. Verse 29 teaches us that when we give in to our sin nature because of idols, we end up going against God and the noble spiritual life that He has called us all to live. If you remain on this path, you may end up persecuting those who are walking with God. Verse 30 teaches us that we are to throw our idols away as soon as God reveals them to us. The Apostle John wrote 5 chapters in his first epistle. In this letter, his message is all about loving God, walking in love, showing love, love, love, love, love . . . Yet, the very last sentence of his letter reads like this:
21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (I John 5)
Idols will keep you from loving God. Idols will keep you from walking in love. Idols will keep you from showing God’s love to others. In other words, God’s love and idols cannot coexist.
II. God’s intervention
I mentioned earlier that God intervened in Abraham’s life to help him after he flirted with idols, leading him to make some very poor choices. The first thing that God does is to confront Abimalech and let him know that he was sinning against God. In Genesis 20, God confronts Abimalech and Abimalech listens to Him. He is not a man of God yet, he responds better than Abraham does in this case. God, through the Apostle Paul, in II Timothy 3:16 teaches us that in order to help us, He first has to rebuke us. Rebuke means to show someone where and why he or she is wrong. God rebukes Abimalech. Then God uses Abimalech to rebuke/confront Abraham. God keeps His promises even when His people are unfaithful. Abraham made mistakes, as we all do, but, he always turned to God for help and he allowed God to work all things to conform him to the image of Jesus Christ. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is always faithful to His promises. He warns us to keep us from making mistakes, but, even when we make mistakes, if we cry out to Him, He is ready and willing to intervene. Let’s turn our focus to Abraham’s faith in action.
III. Abraham’s faith
The first thing that we learn about genuine faith from Abraham’s example is the fact that when Abraham is confronted with his sin, he does not blame others or try to shift the focus. He takes responsibility for his actions. In Genesis 21, we see Abraham back on track. He is completely obedient to God. He names his son Isaac just as the Lord had told him to do. Abraham had trusted in the promises of God for about 25 years. According to Romans 4:13-25, Abraham did not lose hope in the promises of God over those 25 years of waiting. He did not let the obstacles that appeared stop him from trusting in the promises of God and walking with God. He did not allow his own created obstacles drag away his focus. He made plenty of mistakes but always ran back to God for help. He remained focused on God, specifically on the Promised One, Jesus Christ. As a result of his faith in Christ, Abraham was made righteous, correct with God. Abraham acted according to his righteousness. Again, he made mistakes but, his way of life was dependance upon God and His provision. One of the idols in Abraham’s life is hanging around in Genesis 21. The idol is Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah was also walking with God and she noticed the idol in Abraham’s life. By the way, the best person to consult when you want to find out what idols you have in your life is your spouse. He or she can tell you right away what they are. Abraham is torn. He loves his wife Sarah. He loves the Lord. He also wants to hold on to his idol. God intervenes and tells Abraham to listen to his wife. Abraham ends the chapter with removing the major idol in his life. This is what genuine faith must and will do.
My dear friend, what idol has God brought to your mind while reading this article? Are you ready to ask your spouse to name the idols that you have? Will you throw them away and flee from them from now on? You idol will impact your relationship with God, with others, and even with your spouse. Idols are worth giving up. As God reveals them to you, please throw them out because a little bit of leaven ends up leavening the entire lump of dough if not dealt with promptly. May the Lord help us stand firm in genuine faith and say no to idols!