“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:15 (NRSV)
Modern life and cultures have taken us into a post-Christendom world. Fewer people have heard the good news. Today there are children who have never heard the Christmas story. They have no clue why it is that we have a festive season in December each year.
We as a society have moved away from religion and more toward self-reliance. Even if we do know who God is, and profess to be a Christian, are we really humbled and committed to following his commandments?
In the days of Joshua, it was very clear who the other gods were. Humans and animals didn’t spring to life from nothing but a sudden big bang. Each group of people encountered in the Old Testament had a deity or two or more that they worshiped:
There are more mentioned in the Old Testament, and a few more in the New Testament. That isn’t the take-away, though. It would seem that the one thing that everyone agreed on and had in common is that there was some higher power out there.
Where they differed is that all of these false gods were dependent on their followers and needed the gifts and offerings brought by the worshipers to survive. If you wanted something from a foreign god, you needed to offer it a sacrifice in exchange.
The God of Israel, our God, however didn’t need the Israelites at all. He was (and is) all-sufficient in himself, but he chose them as his people and provided for them. God didn’t need their sacrifices of food or grains, and he never required human sacrifices (followers of Molech sacrificed their children) in order for him to continue providing for them or to continue to exist. The sacrifices the Jewish people did make were for the purpose of purification and forgiveness of their sins, but that is a topic for another time.
Fast-forward to our present age.
Just like the Israelites, God has chosen us to be his children. All of us. The offer is open to any person willing to accept the gift of saving grace offered on the cross. He accepts us exactly where we are and expects us to grow through the Holy Spirit’s leading.
But what about other gods? Are they still around in our present-day world? While there are still people who may worship a deity other than the God of the Bible, the false gods mankind is inclined to worship today are a little more materialistic. We seem to have decided we are self-sufficient and have no need for a God at all. We can provide for ourselves.
Today the list of false gods looks a lot different:
The list is endless. We don’t tend to worship and honor false deities, but Satan has supplied us with plenty of new false gods to take their place. Materialistic gods. Pleasure-seeking gods. Self-serving gods of our own pride and vanity. The whole purpose of them is to put distance between us and God, driving in wedges to keep us divided.
Often times we sit in our pews on Sundays to check off the religion requirement in our lives for the week, but then head out, back into the world of men forgetting the teachings of the rebel Messiah once we are out of the sanctuary doors. Are we truly committed to following Jesus?
Not just on Sunday mornings.
God wants a relationship with us all the time.
Every second of every minute of every day.
If so, we must separate ourselves from the false gods of our time and worship the one true God instead. We are called to live in the world but not of it. This doesn’t mean that we will have dull, grey lives full of things we CAN’T do. It means that we know that we are called by God and we want to follow his teachings and be used for the purposes he created us for.
We live with joy.
We see the world through the eyes of Jesus Christ as we act as his hands and feet on earth. He didn’t promise that we would have an easy road if we chose to follow him. What he does promise us is eternal life.
What or whom will you choose to worship?
Who is your God?
But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” — Mark 8:33-38 (NRSV)
Shannon Martin is an active member of Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, Ohio, and a Fellow with The C.S. Lewis Institute of Northeast Ohio Fellows Program. She writes at Wisdom Wanderings, where this post first appeared.