Have you ever known anyone who was a cultural sponge? Whatever the most popular band, movie or television show was at the time, they were up on it and it was their favorite too. Their tastes, opinions and styles were constantly changing to match the spirit of the times.
Israel always struggled with its own sort of “spiritual” sponginess and it constantly got them in trouble. God knew this was their weak spot. Repeatedly God tells them to break down the altars to foreign gods, smash their sacred stones and cut down the idols.
A theme begins early on as the Israelites move into the Promised Land and give God something short of their full obedience. They fail to destroy cities as God directs, leaving altars and idols intact within the Promised Land. They fail to destroy the wicked inhabitants and instead intermarry with them! And Israel’s love affair with foreign gods soon begins and grows to be a rot that one day destroys the kingdom altogether.
Before we start feeling smug and self-righteous, we must ask “What are the idols of the cultures around us today”? Perhaps we have not begun worshiping at our neighbor’s Asherah pole, but there are religious views from the culture that can creep into Christianity and it’s more subtle than what the Israelites had to deal with. Perhaps some of these ideas sound familiar:
“It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you have faith.”
“Religion is private and shouldn’t affect our public, social or political activity.”
“Jesus is just one of many ways to God. All religions are equally valid.”
“All truth is all relative. What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.”
These sorts of ideas make up the spirit of the age we live in. But God, revealed through his Word and his Son, insists that our faith and truth be grounded in him. God is just as jealous for his people today as he was for his people in the Old Testament times. So beware the subtlety of the modern idols if we preserve them and intermarry with pop culture religion.
1. In what ways do we as Christians give God something short of our full obedience?
2. Considering the religious ideas from the culture around us, put a checkmark next to each of the four quotes on the previous page if you have heard them before. Is it tempting to believe any of these ideas? Why or why not?
3. How might you refute such ideas in your own mind? Can you think of any specific texts of Scripture that would “break down” such a pop culture idol? How might you counsel a Christian friend who is beginning to believe in such a way?
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