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(Part 15)


August 21, 2017

Today’s readings:
Judges 2:11-19
Psalm 106:34-44
Matthew 19:16-22

Our God is a holy God. He is set apart from all other gods. Thus one great sin is idolatry, when we forsake Him in favor of other gods.

Unfortunately, people are prone to such. Already knowing the one true God, they still turn to other gods. This happened with God’s chosen people, as “the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They served the Baals, and abandoned the Lord” (Jgs 2:11-12a). This happens today to God’s people, the Christians.

Today the evil one does not get people to worship him directly, though some Satanist cults do so. Rather, the evil one puts up attractive fronts, by which God’s people end up rejecting Him and in effect worshipping the devil as they idolize its works.

How do Christians today worship other gods?

One, they embrace secular humanism. As with the Israelites, they “mingled with the nations and imitated their ways.” (Ps 106:35). So many Christians today have taken on the zeitgeist, a worldly culture that is very unchristian. They are into consumerism, materialism and hedonism.

Two, they look to what the world looks to, such as money and power. In doing so they would do anything to achieve their wants, such as turning to corruption and even violence to those who stand in their way. As with the Israelites, “they served their idols and were ensnared by them.” (Ps 106:36).

Three, they accept the abomination of abortion, which is enshrined by modernists toady as a human right. Radical feminists even look to abortion as a sacrament. As with the Israelites, “they sacrificed to demons their own sons and daughters, shedding innocent blood, the blood of their own sons and daughters” (Ps 106:37-38a).

Four, they defile the sanctity of marriage by committing adultery. “They defiled themselves by their actions, became adulterers by their conduct.” (Ps 106:39). Christians, especially in the West, have embraced sexual licentiousness. The fruit has been divorce and family breakdown.

What is the way out for God’s people today? It is repentance for sins committed and returning back to God. When we turn to God as we realize the misery of lives of sin, God forgives. “Still God had regard for their affliction when he heard their wailing.” (Ps 106:44). Then, if we are to be fully restored to God, including in the afterlife, we are to live lives in obedience to God’s commands. “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:17b).

But it is not enough to repent and try to lead a good life. That is just the start. God wants more from His people. He wants them to be holy. We are to strive for Christian perfection. We are to imitate Christ and live his way of life. This is our protection from being enticed by the world and falling into its traps. God does not force us to be holy, but we must be the ones to desire it. Jesus tells the rich young man, “If you wish to be perfect” (Mt 19:21a).

In the case of this young man, he was living out God’s commandments. “All of these I have observed.” (Mt 19:20a). To his credit he wanted more. “What do I still lack?” (Mt 19:20b). Knowing that he was rich and how riches can be an idol for many, knowing that one cannot serve both God and mammon, Jesus told him, “go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Mt 19:21b). Keeping the commandments while keeping his wealth could have brought him to heaven. But there was a better alternative, a more perfect way. It was to have God alone, and not allow potential idols into one’s life. As it was, wealth already had a hold on the young man’s heart. On hearing Jesus’ words, “he went away sad, because he had many possessions.” (Mt 19:22).

Learn from the lessons of history, how God’s chosen people, both the Israelites then and Christians today, have veered away from the right path and into idolatry. The challenges today are the same. It is part of man’s fallen and sinful nature. It has been so generation after generation, as God’s people “would again do worse than their ancestors, following other gods, serving and bowing down to them, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn ways.” (Jgs 2:19).

We are called to holiness and Christian perfection. It is going beyond the basic requirements. It is being an authentic disciple, focused only on the Master. Let us hear Jesus say, “Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21c).

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For reflection and/or group discussion:

What are the idols in your life (you may not admit it, but search your heart more intently)? Is it money and possessions? Is it power, position and career? Is it recognition and acclaim, even with your Christian service?

Considering the rich young man (you may not be as rich as him, but considering the poor widow who gave all she had, you are rich), do you support the community generously with your money? Or is financial giving the last priority in your list, and the first to go when funds are tight? Then you rob God, and you have fallen into the idolatry of money.

Do you wish to be perfect? (Hint: there is only one correct answer).

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