The competition for your devotion is fierce.
We just arrived in India: it’s my second time visiting this beautiful nation. One of the first thing that strikes you as a Westerner is just how different religious devotion manifests itself in this country. In this Hindu nation, the competition for devotion is manifested in the temples—some lavish, some simple—erected to the 33 million Hindu gods. The gods scuttle for devotion based on geographic region, power, and personality.
If Hinduism is foreign to you, you might roll your eyes at the idea of 33 million gods clamoring for your devotion. It might as foolish as believing that leprechauns are at the end of a rainbow or that there are unicorns sipping water in faraway forests.
And yet, is our context any different? There are no fewer gods fighting for our hearts in America than there are in India.
Many Christians would be on guard in a Hindu context. You might even feel a measure of oppression passing in front of a Hindu temple. Perhaps it would make you pause and pray. And yet, the gods of the Western world barely register in our daily lives.
What gods am I speaking of? The gods of self, pride, respect, lust, comfort, distraction, law, religion, bitterness, fear, and anxiety fight for our hearts. The demigods of money, vocation, social media, job titles, cable, internet, sexuality, cell phones, productivity, health, pornography, education, body-image, cars, spouses, children, friends, sports, and on and on can do the bidding of gods.
33 million doesn’t seem like such an overwhelming number all of a sudden.
It ought to give us pause. If we were walking the streets of Chennai passing temple after temple, we would be on high alert spiritually. And yet, as Westerners, the gods of Hinduism pose a miniscule threat compared to the Western gods that litter our lives.
Gods and the Commandments
When God pronounces the Ten Commandments, he begins with a declaration of who he is: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” And then, he launches in, with the first of the Ten Commandments dedicated to admonishing his people to flee from idolatry, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
The very first commandment demands we expunge other gods from our lives. This isn’t a relic from an age-gone-by, it is a statement about the tendency of the human heart, a tendency to seek out other gods. We are those who, on our own, do have other gods before the one true God. And we must fight to rid our hearts of our attachment to these false gods.
And then, believe it or not, with only nine commandments left, God devotes yet another commandment to idolatry. He says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5a).
Gods Put to Death
In Colossians 3, Paul declares with the incredible truth that we “have been raised with Christ (!)” Wow. That means “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” What security we have! And yet, following on the heels of this, Paul admonishes us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
In other words, we have the resources of our new raised identity in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within us to work against the temptations of this world, and yet, we must not sit idly back and expect the idols of this world to be expunged from us. We need to be active, putting to death the gods (idols) of this world.
What are the gods in your life that you’ve become so accustomed to that you casually register their existence like an anonymous passerby on the street? Or, worse yet, we consider them our friends: they are part of the fabric of our lives and parting with them seems inconceivable.
What are the gods that already have a grip of your devotion? Where, if a loved one were to prod, would you be most defensive? What do you lean to as an emotional prop? What have you stopped fighting against because you’ve failed too many times?
My prayer is that God would give me fresh eyes in my life to see the gods straining for my devotion that, through his strength, I might put them to death. May we fight for the purity of our devotion as hard as the enemy strains to garner it.