American author James Michener wrote in one of his novels, “The Source,” about the character Urbaal, who worshipped the god of death and the goddess of fertility. The priest at the god of death said that, in order to please this god, Urbaal had to sacrifice his son.
So he dragged his wife and his son to the priest, and there before this great fire Urbaal took his son and threw him into it. And then the priestess of the god of fertility announced there’s a new temple prostitute.
And Urbaal discovered that if he wanted to have good crops and blessing in the year to come, he needed to go and spend a week sleeping with this temple prostitute. His wife noticed this great desire in the eyes of her husband, and she began to leave.
In an instant, she lost her son, and in a sense, she lost her husband as well. And in the book, Michener puts these words in the wife’s mouth: “He would’ve been a different man if he had different gods.”
We become like what we worship. You and I are going to become whatever we have chosen to make the center of our lives.
And the god that receives the most worship in our country is the god we see every day when we look in the mirror. The largest religion in the world is dedicated to the god named “me.”
And it all began in the garden. You remember the scene well. When Satan came to Adam and Eve and said, “Why doesn’t God want you to have that fruit?
“He thinks everything’s about him. Why does he think everything has to revolve around him? Why can’t you be the center of things?”
And that sounded appealing to them. They bought into the lie. And this lie — that we can be the center of everything — has been passed down from generation to generation, to every man and woman living today.
Did you notice you never had to teach your child how to say “me” or “mine?” You never had to do it, because it’s our nature to think of me first.
The god of “me” is the chief idol of today. And it’s the idol that Jesus came to destroy. Mark 8:34 says, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”
Notice Jesus did not say that he must deny himself things. Now, that’s typically what we think about when we read that verse. We think about the things in our lives that we need to give up for the sake of God’s glory.
Maybe I need to give up drinking too much, or I need to give up gambling. I’m going to give up X, Y and Z. But those are only steps, not the whole staircase.
No, Jesus said, he must deny himself.
His whole life, his whole being, his motives, his future, his goals — all of it must be mine if he wants to follow me. He’s not asking you to become more religious, he’s asking you to be crucified.
Our nature is to promote an “all about me” agenda. But Scripture reveals an “all about God” story. The Bible says that God does not exist to make much of us.
It says we exist to make much of God. Yet, part of his magnificent glory is bringing us back into a relationship with him despite our sin. Truly, God’s priority is to reveal himself and make himself known through us.
Psalm 8:1 reads, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” You can’t look into the heavens and see how great you are. You see how great God is.
From the beginning, this has been God’s story. But that means the idol of “me” has to be destroyed. Did you notice that the only remedy for idol worship in the Bible is that people had to smash them?
You have to smash them every day. And you have to start with one in particular.
The one you look at in the mirror every day.
Justin White is senior minister at Columbus’ First Christian Church. He can be reached at 379-4491 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.