Read Deuteronomy 5:6-10
6 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
7 “You must not have any other god but me.
8 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 9 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 10 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (NLT)
What we worship shapes who we become. Worship money and you get greedy; worship pleasure and you become selfish and shallow; worship power and you become ruthless. If we worship, or give ultimate value to the God revealed in the Scriptures, we become more like him. Which is the aim of the game.
And so we have this warning which opens the Ten Commandments. If you claim to worship God, be sure you have got the right God and not some pale substitute. In those days, people were inclined to make physical, tangible images like golden calves. This is not our problem. Those of us who occasionally wear crosses, or those of us who find icons and images helpful in devotion to Jesus, are usually not guilty of idolatry.
The far more serious issue is that of false imaginings. We fashion a God according to a selective reading of Scripture, or according to vague Sunday-School memories. We create a Santa Claus God or an indulgent grandfather God. Or we imagine a fierce, tyrannical God just itching to hurl thunderbolts at all and sundry. Or perhaps a God who guarantees our comfortable lifestyle.
The safest way to avoid a false deity is to focus on Jesus, who is God’s human expression. Any other deity is a mere figment of our imagination—and a dangerous figment at that.
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