BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Then some of the leaders of Israel visited me, and while they were there, this message came to me from the LORD: ‘Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that lead them into sin. Why should I let them ask me anything? Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: I, the LORD, will punish the people of Israel who set up idols in their hearts so they fall into sin and then come to a prophet asking for help. I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols. ‘Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign LORD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your loathsome practices. I, the LORD, will punish all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts so they fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, destroying them. Then you will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 14:1-8 NLT).
Your heart is the core of your being. By heart, I’m not talking of the organ in your body that pumps blood through your body. I’m talking of the heart which Jesus referred to in Matthew 15:18-20 when He said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (NKJV). This is the same heart Jesus spoke of when He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20 NKJV).
I’m also talking of the heart which the Bible says that out of its abundance, the mouth speaks. “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NKJV). I’m also making reference to the heart about which Proverbs 4:23 speaks and warns: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (NLT).
I’m talking of your spiritual heart. Your heart is the seat of spirituality, either of worship of God or something else. And God is always interested in what is in your heart, whether love for Him or love for something else. Deuteronomy 8:2 says, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (NKJV). God was interested in what was in the heart of the Israelites, so He tested them. Tests will reveal what is in a man’s heart notwithstanding what he says or claims.
David also pointed out God’s interest in what is in a man’s heart. He told his son, Solomon: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9 NKJV). God searches the heart of everyone though He knows everything and He doesn’t need to find out. Everything is laid bare before Him. He knows what is in your heart and cannot be deceived by what you say contrary to what is in your heart. He is the all-knowing God.
Jesus told the Pharisees who were always guilty of religious pride: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 NKJV). Jesus was telling them that God knew what was in their hearts despite their pretence.
God doesn’t tolerate idolatry
In your heart, you can have God or gods (idols). In your heart, you can worship God or worship idols. God forbids the worship of any other god apart from Him. This ranks first in the Ten Commandments. “Do not worship any other gods besides me. Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations. But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands, even for a thousand generations” (Exodus 20:3-6 NLT).
Why will God not tolerate the worship of another god? He told us the reason in that scripture you’ve just read. He didn’t hide it. He said, “for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!” Did you see that? Deuteronomy 5:7-10 records the same commandment. God is a jealous God and does not condone idolatry. He clearly told the children of Israel this severally very early in His relationship with them.
In Deuteronomy 12:29-32, God warned the children of Israel again: “When the LORD your God destroys the nations and you drive them out and occupy their land, do not be trapped into following their example in worshiping their gods. Do not say, ‘How do these nations worship their gods? I want to follow their example.’ You must not do this to the LORD your God. These nations have committed many detestable acts that the LORD hates, all in the name of their gods. They have even burned their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods. Carefully obey all the commands I give you. Do not add to them or subtract from them” (NLT).
The Bible also says in Deuteronomy 7:25-26: “You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. Nor shall you bring an abomination into your house, lest you be doomed to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing” (NKJV). God wanted the Israelites not to have anything to do with the gods the inhabitants of Canaan were worshipping.
Worshipping of idols is a mark of foolishness and stupidity. Why should any sane person leave the True God and start bowing before an image that he created? Jeremiah10:8-10 says, “The wisest of people who worship idols are stupid and foolish. The things they worship are made of wood! They bring beaten sheets of silver from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz, and they give these materials to skillful craftsmen who make their idols. Then they dress these gods in royal purple robes made by expert tailors. But the LORD is the only true God, the living God. He is the everlasting King! The whole earth trembles at his anger. The nations hide before his wrath” (NLT).
Unlike the children of Israel who worshipped idols in the Old Testament, contrary to the unambiguous commandment and instructions of God, a child of God must avoid worshipping idols (graven images). 1 Corinthians 10:6-7 warns: “These events happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did or worship idols as some of them did…” (NLT). Our love for God must be total and not shared with other gods. He is the only True God. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NKJV). God is telling you what He told the children of Israel.
God will punish idolatry
God punished the children of Israel for their idolatry and He will punish anyone in our day who does that. God says, “I will pronounce judgment on my people for all their evil — for deserting me and worshiping other gods. Yes, they worship idols that they themselves have made!” (Jeremiah 1:16 NLT).
In Amos 5:25-27, He pronounced punishment on them for their idolatry: “‘Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’ Says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts” (NKJV).
Because God is a jealous God, He will not overlook idolatry but He will judge it. He will disgrace those who worship idols. God will see to it that they’re put to shame by their gods that they worship to prove to them that He’s the only True God. “Those who worship idols are disgraced — all who brag about their worthless gods — for every god must bow to him” (Psalm 97:7 NLT). Isaiah 44:11 says a similar thing: “All who worship idols will stand before the LORD in shame, along with all these craftsmen — mere humans — who claim they can make a god. Together they will stand in terror and shame” (NLT). Make sure you don’t worship any god but the Living God.
I used the term modern gods earlier. Idols are not just graven images that someone sacrifices some animals to and bows before. Idols are whatever you have in your heart which you give devotion to above God. It could be money, wealth, ambition, vocation, hobby, or fashion. These are some of the modern idols that human beings worship. Anything else you worship apart from God is an idol. Whatever has captured your heart’s devotion is your god. And with this god in your heart, you cannot give God full devotion which is what God demands from you. He will not share your worship of Him with your worship of another god. You cannot serve God and mammon at the same time (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).
There is no relationship between God and the gods – no fellowship between light and darkness. “What harmony can there be between Christ and the Devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:15-16 NLT). It is either the Living God is sitting on the throne of your heart or an idol is – both cannot sit together. For God to be enthroned, you must dethrone that idol. You must cast away your idol and incline your heart to the Lord your God. Joshua told the Israelites: “Now therefore, he said, ‘put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel’” (Joshua 24:23 NKJV).
Repent and return to the Lord
Cast away your idols! Isaiah 2:20 says, “In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats” (NKJV). Also, Isaiah 31:7 says, “For in that day every man shall throw away his idols of silver and his idols of gold — sin, which your own hands have made for yourselves” (NKJV). Today is that day – the day to cast away your idols. This is what God expects from you today. He doesn’t expect you to hold on to your idols.
You must seek the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul for that is the only way to find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 22:19). You must love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Deuteronomy 10:12-14 says, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the LORD’s commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good” (NLT). But this is not possible when you share your worship of Him with something else that has won your devotion.
In the introduction to this message, we saw that in Ezekiel 14:1-8, the people of Israel set up idols in their hearts, which made God determine to punish them if they did not repent, turn away from their idols and stop all their loathsome practices. This is God’s call to you, too. Remove every idol in your heart; repent and return to the Lord with your whole heart. This was what Asa, King of Judah did. He returned the people to God. “And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the LORD that was before the vestibule of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 15:8-9 NKJV). Josiah, king of Judah did a similar thing returning the people to the Lord (2 Chronicles 34).
God is calling you to cast away your idols and return to Him today. Jeremiah 24:7 says, “I will give them hearts that will recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly” (NLT).
God wants your whole heart, not your partial devotion. Anyone whose heart is turned away from the Lord is under a curse and to be cursed is to be empowered to fail in life. No one under a curse can make it in life. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the LORD. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives’” (Jeremiah 17:5-6 NLT).
Conversely, under a blessing, it is impossible for anyone to fail. “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT).
God told Gideon to tear down his father’s altar of Baal and build a proper altar to the Lord and he did so (Judges 6:25-27). God is telling you too to cast down every idol in your heart and let the True God be God in your heart having your full devotion. Will you obey Him right now?
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947
Website: www.cedarministry.orgWebsite: www.cedarministry.org