Gods of Pleasure, Part 2
From the series Gods at War
Are you tired of trying really hard to beat a sin problem, only to be met with failure over and over again? In this program, guest teacher Kyle Idleman provides another option… as he continues teaching his series “Gods at War.” Don’t miss how you can find real, lasting victory over that reoccurring sin in your life!
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About this series
Gods at War
Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart
When you hear the word idol… you probably picture those big stone figures that people worshipped centuries ago. But did you know that - while most people don’t bow down to man-made statues anymore - we all worship something? In this series, our guest teacher Kyle Idleman reveals the subtle nature of idolatry and just how rampant it is in our lives - oftentimes without us even realizing it! He unpacks the ways we’ve put money, pleasure, achievements, careers… even our families, in place of God….And how we’ve allowed those false gods to satisfy, control and define us. Stay with us, as Kyle exposes the idols we’re holding on to … and challenges us to take radical steps to get back to worshipping the one true God.More from this series
God sends Elijah and says to the king, “Listen, there is going to be this drought in the land.” And a few years pass. There is no rain. God has made His point. And He sends Elijah back to Ahab and basically Elijah sets up what you could call a cage match between God and all the gods of Baal and of Asherah.
1 Kings 18, verse 19, Elijah goes to Ahab and he says, “‘Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.”
Mount Carmel was kind of an ancient location of where God had been worshipped and they had brought sacrifices to the Lord from years ago. So they decide to meet on Mount Carmel.
Verse 21 says, “Elijah went before the people,” so he stands in front of this crowd of probably thousands and he says, “How long,” this is what he says to the people, “how long will you waver between two opinions?” Does this sound familiar from Joshua 24? “How long are you going to go back and forth? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
And then it says this, “But the people said,” what? “The people said nothing.” Now you have to ask yourself why. Why were they silent? I see myself in this. They were silent because they didn’t want to have to choose. They wanted both. So, they thought it best to just say nothing at all.
If they wanted Baal instead of God, they would have said, “We choose Baal.” If they wanted God instead of Baal, they would have said, “We choose God.” They wanted both and so they said nothing. We don’t like to be forced to choose.
This is why many people don’t come to church, you understand. They would say if you asked them, “Well, I love God. I really do. But I don’t go to church.” “Well, why?” If you get down to it, I’m telling you, this is it. They don’t want to have to choose. They don’t want to put a throne on their hearts where God sits. Instead, they, I can do it too, “Well, we much prefer instead of a throne, we prefer a loveseat. A loveseat.”
Or we invite God to sit on the loveseat of our hearts, “God, You’re welcome, we want You on the loveseat of our hearts. Just understand you’re expected to share that space with something or someone else.”
And so, this is what some of us do and we say, “God, here You are. You can have my loveseat and You’re going to have to share that space with television.” And that’s what some of you have done. You have said, “It’s God and it’s television.”
God doesn’t even like the stuff you watch. And so, we put God on the loveseat of our hearts and maybe you have said, “God, I’m going to share You with sports.”
Or worse yet, maybe we try to share Him with something that is completely contrary to who He is. You don’t want to have to choose between God and pornography. And you don’t want to have to choose between God and alcohol. You don’t want to have to choose between God and fixing up your car or decorating your house. You don’t want to choose between God and golf.
And many of these things that we share our heart with, they are not evil and wrong. But remember what we have said when good things become god things then it’s idolatry. And God won’t have it. If you think you’re sharing God with something else in your heart, God, He’s not sitting there. He wants you to choose. He is a jealous God. And so, the stage is set. The people are all watching to see who is going to win this great battle, this great war between the gods.
It’s one prophet, Elijah, with the Lord God. There are eight hundred and fifty false prophets with the gods of Baal and Asherah. And there’s a lot of excitement, somebody starts the wave – it’s exciting – on Mount Carmel. 1 Kings 18, verse 25 says, “Elijah says, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first,’” he is giving them homecourt advantage. “You get the ball first.”
“…since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So, they are looking for their god to supernaturally light this fire. Verse 26, “So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them.”
So, he is trash talking. You’ve got to like this guy. He starts trash talking and he says, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is busy,” this is a very kind translation. What Elijah says is, “Maybe your god is relieving himself.” That’s the way it should be translated. It really should; I’m not making that up, in case you’re wondering.
And then he says, “‘Maybe he is traveling, maybe he is sleeping. Maybe he needs to be awakened.’ And so they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.”
You get the picture here? They dance, they shout, eventually they cut themselves until the blood flows, trying to get the attention of their god, hoping for some kind of response.
Now, our instinct is to say, “How primitive is that?” But I think we bleed for our gods too. Some of you have bled for the gods of pleasure. You have sacrificed your family to a god of pleasure. You have sacrificed your career, you have sacrificed your finances, you have sacrificed your future, you have sacrificed your reputation, you have sacrificed your relationship with God for a god of pleasure. We have bled for these gods.
And I understand and I struggled with this to talk about to decide what gods of pleasure to talk about. Because there are many we could choose from. But I studied through the New Testament, and here’s what I discovered is that every single time the word “idolatry” is used in the New Testament, every single time, in the same sentence you find the phrase: “sexual pleasure”. Every time.
And so, what we have here with sexual pleasure is a gift given to us by God and it is beautiful as a gift, but it is horrific as a god. And some of you know what a cruel god it can be, because as your god, it has taken power over you; it now controls you. It’s what you think about when you wake up and when you go to bed. It’s not even what you want to do, but that’s what you find yourself thinking about when you’re at work. And it has power and control over your life. You have spent money on it, you have risked your career for it, you have put your marriage on the altar of this god and every day, you’ve got the Lord God over here and you’ve got the god of sexual pleasure over here. And you’re going back and forth. And sexual pleasure wins.
Listen to what C.S. Lewis writes on this issue. He says, “You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act – that is, to watch a girl undress on stage. Now, suppose you went to a country where you could fill a theatre, fill a theatre simply by bringing a covered dinnerplate on the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so that everyone could see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a lambchop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that something had gone wrong in that country and their appetite for food?” And something has gone wrong. Something has gone wrong.
What God gave us as a beautiful gift for marriage we have taken and we have turned it into a god and it is a horrific god. And instead of accepting His gift, we clutch our imitation pearls and we miss out on the real thing.
In some ways, sex has become the religion of our culture. It struck me when I was driving across the country and I noticed along the side of the road you see a few things. You see three things, you see churches and you see adult bookstores. You see churches and adult bookstores and Cracker Barrels but that doesn’t really apply to what we’re talking about here. Why? Well, because these have become our temples. These are where we go to worship.
And maybe you would never go into an adult bookstore, but maybe you enter into a website and it is this pagan temple where you go to worship. And for many people, the god of sex has become a functional savior. It has become a god-substitute. This is where you go for comfort and this is where you go for peace and this is where you go for joy and this is where you go when you’re down. This is where you go when you are lonely. This is where you go when you’re rejected. This is where you go when you get angry. This is where you go when you’re bored.
And it has become for you a god. And it has become one of the most popular gods in our culture. We spend incredible amounts of money on pornography. Last year, it grossed more than country music, classical music – which probably isn’t saying much, but still – country music, classical music, rock music all combined.
And pornography grossed more than professional baseball, professional football, professional basketball all put together. It made more money than ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX all put together. And according to the research I did, it’s the number one searched word on the Internet.
And seventy percent of pornographic Internet traffic takes place between nine o’clock in the morning and five p.m., which is where we are supposed to be working. You tell me, you’re telling me we haven’t bled for our gods of pleasure? We have bled.
We are hoping for some kind of response, but it always demands a little bit more.
And some of you have bled, you have bled for the pleasure of alcohol. You have sacrificed your marriage to that god. Some of you have bled for the pleasure of food and you have sacrificed your health to that god. You have bled for the entertainment of cable TV and you have sacrificed a relationship with your children for that god. And so, we bleed. We still bleed for our gods.
Verse 29. “Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice came. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”
So, they try and the altar does not light on fire. And so, now it’s Elijah’s turn. Elijah doesn’t build a new altar, he rebuilds an altar. In other words, he uses these stones that had once been used to build altars to the Lord God from years past. He rebuilds an altar, digs a trench around it, and then he puts the wood on it, then he puts the bull on it, then he has people come and bring gallons and gallons and gallons and gallons of water. He floods this altar. He floods it until the trench fills up with water. This is Elijah’s way of saying, “My God can beat your god with both hands tied behind His back.” That’s what he is doing here.
And after there had been this dancing all morning and there had been chanting and pleading and cutting, Elijah steps forward, he doesn’t dance around. He doesn’t flail around on the ground. Instead, he prays a simple and humble prayer. In verse 36 he says, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that You are the God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command. O Lord, answer me, answer me so these people will know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have brought them back to Yourself.”
And so, His motivation is God’s glory and that the people would be brought back to Him. Verse 38 says, “Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and they cried out, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!’”
And so, God, the Lord God wins the war. It really wasn’t much of a challenge, to be honest. But the people see the power that the Lord God has. They destroy their false idols. In fact, they slaughter these false prophets. And they turn to God Himself and they put Him back in His place of glory in their nation.
And this is the challenge for us. How do we defeat these gods of pleasure? Because let’s just be real honest. Some of you have a god of pleasure that now sits on the throne of your heart. And you have tried again and you have tried again to defeat it and dethrone it and it just crawls back up on there. So, where is victory found?
I want to introduce an idea to you. I believe this idea has the truth that will set some of you free for the very first time. I came across it, I was reading an old sermon by a man named Thomas Chalmers. And when I mean and old sermon, I mean, like, a hundred and fifty years old, right?
And this guy died in 1847. So, it’s an old sermon. And yet the truth that I think can set us free is found even just in the title of his message. The title of the message was The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. In other words, the only way, the most effective way to expel a false god that has a grip on your heart is to replace it with a new God, a God of greater affection.
When we try and gain control of a false god in our life by rejecting it, by focusing on that god, it just gives that god more power. When, as a preacher, I get up and I say, “Well, here are the consequences, here’s what happens when you worship this false God,” it might lead to repentance and conviction, but it rarely leads to long-term change. Why? Because there must be an expulsive power of a new affection. It’s not enough just to resist, but you must replace. You must replace. A little experiment I read about – we’ll try it here. Right now in your minds, whatever you do, do not think about snakes, okay? No one. Do not, seriously.
Now, how many of you right now, honestly are thinking about snakes, raise your hand! Okay, for those of you who aren’t, that’s impressive, you’re ruining it for me, but good job anyway. You should feel very proud of yourself.
Okay, now here’s what I want you to do. Switch gears. I want you to think about your grandma’s apple pie, okay? Her apple crisp that comes out of the oven and you get a piece of it and you put a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on it just so, and it melts. And it melts just enough to cover the apple crisp. And when you take your first bite, it’s just the right combination of hot and cold. And then picture in your mind a hot chocolate chip cookie coming out of the oven and you break it apart and the chocolate has melted so that it keeps the two pieces glued together with chocolaty goodness. Okay? Now, how many of you right now are thinking about snakes, right? See, it’s not enough just to resist. And sometimes focusing on what we shouldn’t do gives it more power, instead, we must replace it. It’s the expulsive power of a new affection.
And this is what is required in order to break free from these false gods. Thomas Chalmers puts it this way. He says, “It is seldom than any of our tastes are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction.” If you have a false god on your heart, don’t buy into this idea that it’s just going to naturally go away if given enough time.
“It almost is never done by mental determination.” You are not strong enough, mentally, to just make it go away. “But what cannot,” this is, here it is, it’s right here, “but what cannot be thus destroyed may be dispossessed. One taste may be made to give way to another and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.” So, one taste gives way to another. And so, here it is. God must be our greatest pleasure.
When God is your greatest pleasure, all the lesser gods of pleasure just fade away. The Bible says in Psalm 37, verse 4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” And so, we find our pleasure in God. There’s a lot of ways we can find pleasure in Him. I believe that to know Him is to love Him. And the more we know Him, the more we find pleasure in Him.
But one of the best things we can do is to worship Him. And as we respond to God for who He is and what He has done for us, we experience the pleasure of being His children. He becomes our greatest pleasure.
And so, when we worship God, I don’t mean when we just sing songs. I don’t mean when we sit and worry about what other people around us are thinking. And I don’t mean when we look at our watches and wonder how soon till we are done. That’s not what I mean when I say “worship”. But when we give our attention and focus and glory and honor to God, we find pleasure in Him.
If you’re here and you’re not a Christian, then what you need in your life is the expulsive power of a new affection. This is what you need. You cannot do it without it, you need to make God your greatest affection by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And maybe like the people on Mount Carmel there’s something within you that says, “Don’t do anything. Just sit and be quiet. Just remain silent.” But Joshua says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” And Elijah says, “How long are you going to go back and forth here?” And Jesus says, “Just come to Me.”