Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
"Who Is God?" Making God In OUR Image

Making The God Of MY Choice (3)

Isaiah 40:18-25

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. A missionary in Sierra Leone called on a heathen widow and was surprised at the evidences of paganism in the home. She had in her room 4 gods -- one for herself, one for her husband, and one for each of her two children. She had been rubbing eggiddi (a rich foods paste made of corn flour mixed with palm oil) on the idol's mouths, but they did not eat. The missionary tried to show the woman the folly of her act but she would not listen. She was "joined to her idols"!

II. Idolatry has always plagued mankind. Man has seldom been content to worship/serve God according to God's directions. S/He has always wanted to modify the divine decrees in some ways. Even in the New Testament dispensation the allurement of idolatry continues to entice man to devise a modified version of the Almighty (cf Ac 15:19-20). Those who re-design God are "polluted." Use of this term indicates that in turning to a concept of God, other than that presented by revelation, corrupts the purity of religion (cf Dt 4:16). Our modern campaigns against pollution of the eco-system follow a carefully orchestrated strategy to show the putrid consequences of allowing self-centered desires to destroy the intricate balance of nature. This is exactly what happens with idolatry -- the purity of religion devoted to the Almighty God is corrupted by self-centered desires. Just as a polluted eco-system is repulsive so is the polluted religious system. When we make God in OUR image, we are corrupting a very delicate system. Consequences will be catastrophic!

III. The very suggestion that Christians in our enlightened era can be enticed to idolatry is shocking! We are confident that such will never happen to us. However it is possible (1 Co 10:12). Past lessons have revealed disturbing points:

1. The biblical awe/reverence for God has been lost in our day. We dare approach the Almighty God with a casual indifference -- no sweaty palms, no shaky knees, no humble heart. A rabid individualism rules our religion and each feels comfortable to "find God in his own way." This situation existed at Mt. Sinai and brought doom (Ex 32:1-4).

2. The practice of idolatry is not the bowing down to a graven image but is the result of our efforts to re-design the Almighty to become a god of individual tastes. Stubbornly this re-vamped god is worshiped and zealously defended as the divine advocate for self-centered faith (Jere 23:16-19).

3. Self-centered idolatry has designed a pantheon of gods that are well-suited to our individualism: The god of MY Cause leads me to create a god who is used to promote 1 issue; the god of MY Understanding is the promoter of the 1 doctrine which I feel is important; the god of MY Experience is the god that authorizes feelings to govern.

4. We turn now to examine 3 more gods of modern religion. Each shares a common point with all others -- self-centeredness! Hearts are unwilling for the Almighty God of the Bible to rule so He is re-designed and His doctrines are re-fashioned.


A. The God of MY Comfort.

1. If there is one word which aptly summarizes our present culture it is "comfort." We are living in times that worship comfort. Anything offering instant relief, soothing satisfaction, or inner-peace is a best seller. From international coffees, to flavored teas, to St. John's Wort, to a myriad of OTC medicines our society is seeking comfort! Self-help books are the best sellers because they offer the definitive way to find comfort from obesity to boredom to laziness.

2. If we can demand and receive comfort from fitness to diet programs we think the same self-centered demands can be provided in religion. 

3. "At one time theologians argued that the chief purpose of humankind was to glorify God. Now it would seem that the logic has been reversed: the chief purpose of God is to glorify humankind. Spirituality no longer is true or good because it meets absolute standards of truth or goodness, but because it helps me get along. I am the judge of its worth. If it helps me find a vacant parking space, I know my spirituality is on the right track. If it leads me into the wilderness, calling me to face dangers I would rather no deal with at all, then it is a form of spirituality I am unlikely to choose" (Robert Wuthnow, "Small Groups Forge Notions ... of the Sacred" Christian Century, Dec 8, 93, 1239-1240).

4. Those in the world are enticed by a god of comfort. They want such a religious "good-time god" who advocates "Do your own thing, the way YOU want! Eat, drink, and be merry -- only have a good time with God!" 

5. Of course the biblical call for self-surrender must be changed in order for this "good-time god" to reign. So many seek to reach into the world by offering a cafe menu of religiously associated items in order to "meet felt-needs" of the community. "Perhaps this is why we rarely hear the church speaking the language of conversion (e.g. 'born again,' 'new life in Christ'); instead its lingua francha is rehabilitation (e.g. 'renewed,' 'journeying toward wholeness,' 'discovering meaning'). Christian ministry has become an effort to help people cope with their problems well enough to find a bit of happiness" (DMc, 41-42).

6. The interesting, but sad, point in this search for comfort the Almighty God is not ignored but is brought in to help, something like the "great Therapist" who can offer the right answer if He is properly invoked! Thus the God of Scriptures has become the therapeutic god offering the supreme comfort. Bowing before this god will help me get what I want!

7. People lured by this god of comfort come wanting to be happy and expecting God to make it so! Their "needs" are focused totally upon SELF; their "desires" are not seen as the problem.

8. How does this god of comfort harmonize with Scripture?

a. Mt 4:1-11 -- If ever there was a passage that would support this philosophy, here it is! Whatever "god" promises to fulfill all of our desires is the devil is disguise!

b. Scripture teaches that Christians are not guaranteed "comfort" because of faith. In fact, Christians will find less "comfort" than those in the world (Lk 9:23; 2 Ti 3:12; Philip 1:20).

c. Is 45:9 -- The idol to the god of therapy allows Self to dictate its demands ("needs") to the Almighty. It leads one to no longer follow God's Word (Scripture) but self-pacification!

9. If your chief goal in comfort/pleasure, it makes perfect sense to find a church where the god of comfort/ pleasure is revered! If your church is concerned with drawing large numbers of those whose religion is based upon self-centeredness rather than self-sacrifice, it makes sense to offer the world this god of comfort! This was not an option in the 1st century (1 Co 1:18-29). 
B. The God of MY SUCCESS.
1. If "comfort" is our culture's first priority then "success" is a close second. We live in a culture that encourages a relentless yearning for success. The drive fore success is so forceful that many are trapped on the treadmill of self-destruction -- "It's tough to climb the ladder of success, especially if you're trying to keep your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel, your eye on the ball, and your ear to the ground" (DMc, 44). Because it's so tough WE need some divine help and thus re-design the God of Scripture to become the god of MY success (the "Celestial Ringer," the "franchise player" who will guarantee success!).

2. We look at Mt 7:7,11 and our idolatrous wishes are made. We pray for success but instead of spiritual help we seek a Management Consultant, Financial Advisor, and Personal Trainer -- all in One mighty Being! The chief business of God becomes material prosperity (a revamped Genie in the bottle but this time there are unlimited wishes!).

3. 1990 over 50 Japanese computer engineers held a temple ceremony in which homage was paid to old computer chips that were presented to Buddha. The Shogun confidently said, "No doubt this reverence will pay off for the Japanese people." 

4. Ac 8:18 -- Simon illustrates the idolatry of the god of success. 

5. If material prosperity is your goal, it makes perfect sense for you to worship this god of success. If you seek to relate to those in our culture who are worshiping this god of success it makes perfect sense for the church to be presented in ways that will draw them!

6. There is a big problem with this idol -- even when the god of success leads to prosperity, it cannot lead to happiness (1 Ti 6:6-10); it cannot lead to salvation (Lk 18:18-25). 

a. Eccl 2:1-11; 1 Ki 10:1-29 -- Solomon's god of success brought misery.

b. Philip 3:4-14 -- Paul found great success by turning to the biblical God!

7. We need to re-define "success" instead of re-defining God!  "The God who sent the beloved Son to reveal abundant life and let him die poor, powerless, and despised on a Roman cross has done precisely that: by declaring this death a victorious ending to a perfect life, God has not only redefined success for all time but has sent the god-of-my-success tumbling to the bottom of the ladder" (DMc, 46).

C. The God of MY NATION.
1. Nationalistic gods have always deluded men. Even in our modern era these nationalistic gods continue to pose problems (Ireland; Lebanon; etc.). Satan often tempts us with an enticing idea that one particular nation has a divine destiny to fulfill. Such is painfully true in the USA.

2. The USA has a national god that it holds as her Protector. A 1990 survey asked 113,000 Americans to identify their religion: 86% said Christian (by any reasoning this should make our nation one characterized by "Christian" behavior). Actual behavior suggests that our "Christian heritage" is only a sentimental preference rather than a deep commitment!

3. The true soul of our nation is exposed in this: "These are modern times. Nothing bad is going to happen to us. If we get fired, it's not failure; it's a mid-life vocational reassessment period. If we screw up a marriage, we can get another one. There's no shame in divorce. Day Care will take the kids, and the ex-wife can go back to [her career] ... If we get convicted of a crime, we'll go to tennis prison ... Or maybe we can join a support group and get off the hook by listening to shrinks tell us we don't like ourselves enough ... play our cards right, and we can get a book contract out of it" (P. J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores, Atlantic Monthly, 1991, 121).

4. In USA today, God is draped in red-white-blue and this is the nation on God's most favored list. What's good for America is good for God. So we legislate laws, loosen punishments, ignore morality and confidently worship the god of MY nation who agrees. To many citizens there is little difference between the Kingdom of God and the USA. In the primaries, party caucuses, political conventions, in the Congress and White House this god of MY nation is revered and used to give supernatural consent to our self-centered lifestyles!

5. What does Scripture say? Letting God define political commitments is one thing but letting political commitments define God is idolatry! When we allow the God of Scripture to be re-designed to fit our national crusades, we are sinning (1 K 12:26-33; 1 Ki 15:9-14; 2 Chron 16:7-10). When nations reject the Sovereign, Almighty God of Scripture and replace Him with the god of their nation, misery results (cf 2 Chron 28:23).


I. The Lord's Church has been more influenced by cultural trends than we want to admit. To be really frank, more Christians share a greater loyalty to cultural gurus than to the Lord Christ; a greater sympathy to society's feelings than to the Almighty; a greater commitment to Self's interests than to eternal priorities! These factors make a ready market for religious idols offering gods of individual tastes.

II. The psychologizing of the modern mind has led us to reject the God of Scripture. Today's idolatry has changed our vocabulary. Now "sin" is "low self-esteem," "justification" is "experiencing God's affirmation," "sanctification" is accepting "self-worth," "salvation" is whatever the latest self-help fad offers. This re-defining of "God" has led to abominations in our world (cf Dt 12:31). There is one great tragedy that is evident -- we may have lost a conscious awareness of sin and the vocabulary to identify sin, BUT we have not lost the guilt of sin or the need to have sin forgiven! Modern man struggles to atone for this guilt but is helpless to find an answer because completely erased is the fact that Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and daily follow Him in self-denial. Those who are caught in a profound self-absorption cannot understand this invitation because they are "joined to their idols"!

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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