November 13, 2009
The Unique One
"You shall have no other gods before me."
Exodus 20:3 (NIV)
Are there really 330 million gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion? How can that be true? I wondered as I prepared for my trip to India. I began to think surely that number was made up by some cynical Christian, but as I read through a secular source the number was confirmed. Even so, I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming influence of idol worship in the culture of Calcutta.
There were idols of gods and goddesses everywhere I looked. There were idols at the entrance to the hotel, at the archway into the dining room and in booths all along the streets. Everything had religious significance. From fashion—the dots on women's foreheads and the bangles on their arms—to transportation, where the drivers had a goddess on their dashboard for safety. I started asking about each idol. "This is the god of milk," one store owner explained. "That is the goddess of candy," said a waiter. Suddenly I began to understand how there could be so many gods and goddess. Everything within my sight and senses had an idol attached to it.
This was hard to process for an American raised in a culture that is mostly monotheistic. I felt a little tug of pride until I began to think about the idols of my own country: wealth, leisure, youthfulness, work, children, power. The idols that surround me in America may be invisible. There may not be temples built to them with a beautifully sculpted statue in the center where offerings and sacrifices are laid. But America definitely has idols.
The Christian pastors in Calcutta explained to us that it is difficult to share the Gospel of Jesus with Hindus. Many times a Hindu will respond receptively to the Good News of Jesus with this sort of response, "Sure, I'll accept Jesus and add Him to all my other household gods and goddesses." It's difficult for a Hindu to understand and accept Jesus as the One and Only, so the pastors preach about the uniqueness of Christ.
While in Calcutta, I learned of the beautiful ceremony of baptism for new Indian believers. The new Christians line up their idols at the edge of the baptismal pool. They turn their backs on the idols to be baptized, and then the idols are disposed of. The exquisite symbolism of this practice pierced my heart.
I began to ask myself, Have I turned my back on my idols? Have I trusted and believed in Jesus more than anything else in my life? Do I value Christ as uniquely sufficient, or have I just added Him to my list of comforts and priorities?
I thought back to the year when my family had moved into a house that was badly in need of renovation. As a lover of all things decorative, I plunged head first into paint swatches, wallpaper books and HGTV. One morning when I finally had a quiet time with the Lord, He spoke to my heart that I had an idol that needed demolishing. An idol? God clearly showed me that feathering my nest had become my number one priority and had displaced Him in my heart. He asked me to fast from all the things that fed my decorating addiction for a year.
Sadly, I cancelled my subscriptions to Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living. My husband even agreed to cancel our cable subscription so I wouldn't have access to HGTV. The reward came as my heart's desire turned back to Jesus, the Unique One. I turned my back on my idols and their consumption of my time and focus was demolished.
When the year was up, I sought God's direction and permission to re-subscribe to my magazines and decorating shows. Knowing He had re-ordered my heart and taken up preeminence in my life, I felt His approval. My idol had been cast down, and I was able to enjoy these things as God's gifts put back in their proper place.
Dear Lord, help me to identify the hidden, invisible idols in my life. It is my heart's cry that I would put You first, above and over all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For encouragement on laying idols down, listen to today's Radio Show, Bring it to Me
Come Along: The Journey into a More Intimate Faith by Jane Rubietta
Pierced by the Word by John Piper
Visit Amy's blog - Ponderings from the Pathway
Read the Gospel of John and fall in love with Jesus as the Unique One.
Are there things in my life that have become idols?
What do I need to do to remove them?
Exodus 20:3-6, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (NIV)
© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.
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