Pursue God First

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False Promises of Idols
Psalm 115:9 says, “All you Israelites, trust in the Lord – he is their help and shield.” The idols in your life can’t and won’t ever deliver on what they promise. They always disappoint. They always leave you disillusioned. They cannot provide for you. They cannot protect you. You put your trust in God, because he is your helper and your shield.  So, how do we do that? How do we live that way? Spiritual disciplines teach us to do this by helping us make room for God. They give us a greater desire for him. As our desire for him grows, our desire for these other things begins to become less. When we're not practicing spiritual disciplines, our hunger for the things of this world increases because we are not filled with godly things. By pursuing Jesus first, it has a way of helping us not worship these idols because we are able to recognize that these idols are cheap substitutes.  About 200 years ago, there was a minister named Thomas Chalmers who preached a sermon discussing the secret to crushing idols in our lives. This sermon was called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, and in this sermon, he makes the case that the way you defeat an idol in your life is not by focusing on defeating the idol. The way you crush it is to replace it. The way you crush an idol is to put Jesus in his right place. When we clear the stage of the things of this world, and give Jesus our attention and our affection, the things of earth grow strangely dim. Reflection/Discussion Question: What is one step you can take today to displace one of the idols in your life?
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Identifying Our Pursuits
What are you currently pursuing? Our pursuits reveal a lot about what is most important to us so it can be helpful to evaluate what you might be pursuing - sometimes without even realizing it. For example, you may have placed your hope in the wrong person, and when that person doesn’t live up to expectations, we experience disappointment. The Book of Romans says there's only one hope that doesn't disappoint and it's Jesus. So, when you feel overwhelmed with disappointment and it doesn't go away, it's a good indication that you’re allowing someone or something to take priority in your life, and you need to refocus and pursue God. Going through the following questions can help us identify some things that we're pursuing a little too much. So, what do you complain about the most? Maybe this is hard for you to identify but ask the people that you do life with how they would answer this question for you. It could be a relationship, politics, economy, finances, or any number of things. What you complain about the most has a way of indicating something that you're pursuing a little too wholeheartedly.  What do you worry about the most? Psychologist Alfred Adler says, “If you want to find out what you're living for, pay attention to your nightmares.” What's the one thing you just can't imagine living without? Who's the one person you just can't imagine surviving without? Where do you go when you're hurt? Henry Blackaby defines an idol as anything you turn to for help before turning first to God. Lastly, what brings you the most joy? These are good things that are gifts from God, but these good things should make us love the giver. The gifts should draw our heart towards the giver, and when the gifts get in the way of our relationship with the giver, then it becomes idolatry.  Reflection/Discussion Questions: Which of the questions listed above do you find most convicting? Why?
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Chief Competition
While so many things in this world can tempt us into giving up the throne of our hearts, it can be the easiest to become your own idol. It’s important to take time to examine your heart to see if maybe you’ve put too much emphasis on yourself and your own desires and wants.   Do you find yourself criticizing and blaming others? Instead of focusing on what you need to do or taking responsibility for your own emotions, you find yourself blaming the other people in your life – you have a felt need that they're not meeting. Are you constantly anxious? There are a lot of reasons for anxiety, but when we're constantly focused on ourselves, whatever reasons you might have for anxiety are going to increase. That's why we see this direct connection between social media and anxiety, because the more we put ourselves at the center of things, the more anxious we start to feel. What would it look like if you began to filter your words through the prayer found in Psalm 115? “It's not about me, it's all about God.” What if you just began to think of your future in terms of this verse where you're thinking about your life and where you'll live, or who you'll get married to, or who you're going to date, or what you're going to do for a living, and you just begin to pray, “God, I don't want to make all these decisions by thinking about me, and instead focus on what is going to bring you glory"?  When you initially read through the ten commandments, you may believe idolatry is not one that is pertinent to us anymore in our culture. We don't have idols like back then since we don't know anybody who bows down to golden images or carved statues in their homes. But idolatry is still very much an issue for us - we just have a harder time recognizing it nowadays because it doesn’t look like it used to in Scripture. Idol ideology has never been more relevant because God has never had more competition and our idols have never had more access to us.  Reflection/Discussion Questions: Do you view yourself as struggling with idolatry? Have you made things too much about yourself?
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Defining an Idol
Spiritual disciplines, no matter how much time and energy we devote to them, don't really mean much to God if our heart is divided, and we are passionately pursuing someone or something else above our pursuit of him. Throughout the Old Testament, whenever you read about a revival or awakening, it's almost always closely connected to crushing idols when God's people would turn back to him. They would read Scripture, they would pray, they would sing, and they would worship, but most importantly, they would get rid of the idols in their lives. In Psalm 115, we read that the psalmist is praising God. He puts God in his rightful place and then warn us about what happens to those who settle for idols. It begins in verse 1 by says, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” When it comes to what we pursue, if we're honest, we'd probably have to put ourselves at the top of the list. It often feels like the most natural thing to pursue is what makes us happy, what satisfies our desires, and what makes us comfortable. And so, one of the reasons that we practice spiritual disciplines is that they teach us to get ourselves off the throne of our hearts and put God where he rightfully belongs. It's declaring our dependence on God and our own insufficiency. By praying the prayer at the beginning of Psalm 115, you're putting God on the throne of your heart, and spiritual disciplines help you live out this prayer. Reflection/Discussion Question: What idol(s) are currently sitting on the throne of your heart?