AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
God gets furious when we worship other things in His place. But why? Well, suppose you bought your daughter a very expensive diamond ring. When you first give it to her, she is very excited. She says she loves it. She promises to wear it all the time. But the next time you see her, she has a bit of dirty old string tied around her finger where your ring used to be.
“Yuck, what is that?” you ask.
“It’s my ring—isn’t it great?” she asks with a bright smile.
“No, it’s gross. It smells. It looks like it’s coming apart. Where is the diamond ring I gave you?”
“That old thing? I wore it for a while, but then one day I was taking my trash out to the dumpster and I saw this little bit of string lying in a puddle of muck. I plucked it out and it was a perfect fit! You know how much I love rings—this one is my new favorite.”
Does this logic stream make sense to you? You know that your daughter loves jewelry, so why would she set aside some classy, sparkling diamond ring for a nasty old piece of string?
When we toss God over for mere created beings, He is quite justified in feeling insulted. It’s one thing when we don’t know any better. If we were raised to believe that God actually likes us praying to Mary and other saints, then He knows we aren’t trying to stick it to Him when we worship dead people. He still doesn’t like it, and He will eventually educate us about His jealousy, but He doesn’t blame us for not having wisdom which He is withholding from us.
But those of us who have been introduced to God’s jealous Nature are in a whole different camp. Once we know that God despises it when His people worship and adore created things more than Him, well now we’re guilty of rebellion when we go oozing over some silly mortal. It doesn’t matter whether we’re admiring their talent, character, personality, or career—they aren’t God, and that means that they have nothing which God hasn’t given them. To marvel at humans is like praising your car for the design of its engine. Your car had nothing to do with its own design—it was created by someone else. It’s that someone else you should be talking to if you want to learn more about the features you like in your car. In the same way, when you come across a human who has some impressive quality or talent or lifestyle, it’s God who you want to look to for further wisdom and insight. We don’t applaud created things. We applaud God.
HUMAN ROLE MODELS
Now there are many attitudes and characteristics which God wants to cultivate in you as He draws you closer to Himself. He knows that it is very helpful for you to see examples of these things in other humans. If He were to just say, “I want you to have faith,” you would not know what He’s talking about. But if He then points you to stories like Noah building an ark and Peter walking on water and says, “That is what I mean by faith,” then suddenly you have understanding. This is why God has preserved so many historical records for us—other people are excellent teaching tools for Him to use in your life. As He leads you through this world, He will intentionally introduce you to people who are modeling both positive and negative things. “See how she trusted Me like that? That’s the kind of trust that pleases Me. Did you hear what he just said about Me? That kind of talk displeases Me.” There is so much we can gain from studying the people that God brings into our lives, but which ones do we study? They’re not all brimming with lessons for us—only some of them are going to be chosen by God to teach us valuable insights. If we’re going to collect useful role models, we need Him to choose them for us. We then need to listen to HIS analysis of the person—we can’t just decide someone is a wonderful example because we are jealous of what they have or because they act a certain way. Today far too many Christians are forming lofty opinions of people simply because of the way they play guitar on stage or because of how much money they have. When we use our own value system to choose role models in life, we end up trying to imitate qualities that God doesn’t like.
There is no such thing as a perfect human being. This means that no matter how many admirable traits you think a person has, they’ve got some very negative traits as well. It’s always a bad sign when you hear someone exalting their role model as “perfect.” Such a ridiculous claim only shows how effectively someone has tuned out the Holy Spirit. God will never hold up a fallen human being as a perfect standard for us to strive towards. People are not our judges in eternity, God is. He will judge us each by how well we responded to His convictions in life, not by how well we imitated someone else. God doesn’t want two of anyone. He created us to be unique individuals, not a population of clones.
When God uses other people as teaching tools in your life, He is going to focus your attention on specific traits or certain decisions that that person makes. He’s never going to give you a complete perspective of that person’s relationship with Him, because that’s none of your business. When God points out positive traits in someone else, it is to help you understand concepts that He is currently teaching you about. God will never say He wants you to turn into someone else, nor will He say that they are better than you. God doesn’t compare you to other people, instead He urges you to keep desiring His best for your life. Who you are today is not who God wants you to be a year from now or two years from now. He has created you to be a creature who continuously evolves.
To evolve simply means to develop. A seedling is supposed to evolve into a tree. A baby is supposed to evolve into an adult. Just because a group of morons decided that evolution is about slime turning into apes and apes turning into humans doesn’t mean we should throw out the whole concept of continuous change. Just by looking around at this Creation, we learn that God likes things to be in a constant state of flux. To Him, static is boring. He has designed us to be creatures with an infinite capacity to learn because He gets so much delight out of constantly teaching us new things. How you understand the love of God ten years from now will be different than how you understand it today. When you get to Heaven, you will take an enormous leap forward in your understanding of how good and glorious God is.
The fact that we are designed to continuously grow and change is one of the reasons it is so thrilling to be human. We can always be moving closer to our Creators. No matter how well we think we understand Them today, there is far more to learn. We will never be bored in eternity. God is not like a good book which we reach the end of and then sigh in disappointment that there is no more. God has no end. There’s always another page that can be turned to reveal a whole new collection of fascinating insights. But our Creators are the only Ones who can turn those pages for us, and this is why we have to submit to Their priorities for us. They aren’t always going to teach us in the order that we want to be taught. Sometimes we’ll want to know more about faith but They’re going to teach us about reverence. Sometimes we’ll want to understand some mystery about Them which They won’t be willing to unlock. But if we stay in alignment with Them by asking Them to have Their way in our lives, then we will find Their teaching program to be quite enriching and we want to be open to Them using a vast array of teaching tools.
Who is that you currently admire in life? Make a list of these people’s names, and then under each name, list the specific reasons you admire them. Now think about how much exposure you have to each person. Are you basing your assessment of them on a few scenes you’ve seen in a movie or on an act they put on at a worship concert? In most cases, our role models are not people who we stand up close to in life. We often end up admiring distant figures who we have extremely limited knowledge about. Then we fill in the gaps of our knowledge with perfection, and this results in larger-than-life figures who we are endlessly fascinated with.
It’s important to remember that you cannot see into a person’s soul—you can only see their external behavior. When you are impressed with someone’s behavior, you instinctively project righteous motivations onto them. How often have you heard of movie stars being described as humble and sweet? What’s humble about starring in a movie so that the whole world can focus on you? In the Church, our movie stars come with titles like prophets, pastors, and evangelists. “What a humble man of God,” we say. Then we ask Mr. Humble to autograph a copy of his book that he’s charging us for—a book of wisdom which he claims God gave him. What’s admirable about a guy trying to make a buck off of God? What’s honorable about a prophet posting twenty airbrushed pictures of himself online, flashing a holy title, and writing up a bio that states how wonderful he is? If you do an honest scrutiny of your current role models, you will find that they all have some ugly carnality stirred into the mix. If you can’t see it, then you’re either playing games of denial, or you’re standing too far away from them to get an accurate picture. Either way, there is no such thing as a perfect human. Every human has good points and bad points. So before you go trying to model after anyone, you need God to show you which traits are even worth desiring. Even more importantly, you need Him to teach you what kinds of motivations He wants to be present behind those traits.
It’s impossible for us to say that a man is truly humble because we can’t see into his heart. We can only say that he acts humble, but for all we know, he’s just a skilled conman. With enough practice and coaching, you could pass yourself off as the epitome of righteousness in the eyes of other Christians because all they can see is your behavior. Talk is cheap. Actions do not accurately reflect motivations. Because we can’t see the souls of people, we don’t know who they really are, so how can we imitate them? The most people can do for us is display actions, behaviors, and attitudes which God will then use to educate us about the kinds of soul attitudes He wants from us in life.