Family & Relationships
Even unsuspecting things like family and relationships can still become idols. David covers a pyramid for how family relationships should really be structured.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Continuing in a series on idolatry called “the replacements.”
If you weren’t here last week, I want to catch you up very briefly on idolatry in general. What is it??
We use the word idol in our culture, but not always in the same way.
The most common usage of the word idol in our culture right now is, “American Idol.”
Which is actually on in the fall this year if you didn’t know that, it’s just called X Factor.
But in its present usage, an idol is supposed to be someone you adore or really admire, right?
But the real usage is closer to what teenage girls think of American Idols.
Did you know that the last 4 American Idol winners have been men?
David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreery
Conspiracy theorists believe it has a lot to do with young teenage girls being able to text in their votes…and they imagine 14 year old girls just texting over and over Scotty McCreery, Scotty McCreery, Scotty…
And THAT, that right there…is a good picture of idolatry
See, idolatry is: “The worship of something that isn’t God” OR “Letting something else take the place of your love and devotion for God”
We talked about last week, in the Old Testament, often people worshiped literal idols in place of God when He was acting as they wanted…
But in the NT, we see idolatry redefined in Romans 1
(Romans 1:25) – NIV
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
And thus, any created thing that we let take the place of God in our hearts, is an idol, or, a replacement if you will.
Today, we’re talking about the idol of family and relationships.
Now, you might be thinking, “Excuse me, what? Family and relationships?? That’s an idol?!?”
But see, the things where we go, “Huh, that’s an idol??” are often the most dangerous
And for many of us, we let relationships or family or marriage or you name it take the place of God.
We let those things become God or we let them become more important than God.
Now, we have a very diverse crowd age-wise in this church, which by the way, is one of my favorite things about this church.
We have a lot of young people in this church, but we also have a lot of people in their 30’s and 40’s as well, and even their 50’s and 60’s.
It’s what church should look like. Most churches nowadays don’t have a person under 40 in them, and if you find one that does, they tend to then not have a person over 25.
So, here you are, at a diverse church. Pretty cool.
But, that being said, this topic applies quite differently to many of you.
And by the way, we’re gonna work through the stages of life here, and if you’re not there yet, don’t tune out. You might be there eventually. If you’ve already been there, you might have children to navigate through this stage someday J
Many of you are single right now.
And maybe you were thinking, “All right, I’m off for this week, I don’t have a relationship or my own family…so I’ll guess I’ll just update my fantasy lineup…”
I wish it were that easy…sometimes the most gripping idols are the things we don’t yet have.
See, as humans, we often can’t help ourselves from thinking that the next great thing will fix our hearts.
That’s idolatry isn’t it?? The next THING will fix our hurts.
And for single people, often, not always, but often, that’s a relationship.
And a relationship can feel exhilarating, and it can feel amazing, but for some people, their thoughts are more fixed on the possibilities of a relationship than they are on God.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself if you’re single: How passionate are you about being in a relationship? Does your desire to be in a relationship exceed your desire to please God? Would your actions or your lifestyle reflect the answer you just gave in your head??
Relationships are often the single-handedly most dangerous idol for single people
This is one pattern I’ve seen over and over (too many times) in my 7 years of ministry
It’s illustrated in the Bible as well. In the story of Samson and Delilah
Samson is often portrayed as a hero to children, but really the Bible portrays him as someone we should not be like.
And one of the major reasons is he has a serious relationship idolatry.
He let his first wife trick him into giving away a secret riddle to the enemy all because she lured him into it by crying
And then, in Judges chapter 16 he falls in love with a woman of the enemy people (the Philistines) named Delilah
And even though God had given special strength to Samson because of Samson’s dedication to keep a special vow to God, he let’s Delilah trick him into telling him what the secret is so her and the enemy Philistines can ruin God’s power
It’s a classic relationship idol.
He lets his relationship with another person influence his decisions more than his love for God
And let me tell you, as a single person, perhaps the most dangerous idol you can encounter is a relationship.
See, you’ve heard the expression, “People do crazy things for love.”
They also do “stupid things for love.”
Samson is a good example of that.
And I’ve watched way too many times for my liking as a pastor, a person who’s on fire for God begin dating a person who’s not interested in God….
And then slowly watched as the on-fire person went from on-fire, to luke-warm, to not interested in God.
Relationships are captivating, but unless God is first, they are one of the single most dangerous idols out there.
Who are you living for?
Being in a relationship with a great person is never worth jeopardizing not only your relationship with God, but also the future spiritual development of your children and the legacy of your family.
Listen, I said this last week. Perspective is the great idolatry killer. You want to get rid of idolatry in your life? Embrace God’s wisdom and a healthy dose of long-term perspective
It might be an exhilarating relationship now, but what’s the point if in 15 years from now, you’re married, and your spouse is a) bothered that you spend time at church b) won’t talk to you about God and c) doesn’t think your children should go to church
Again, this is how you walk away from idols. Remove yourselves from the emotion of them…and embrace Godly wisdom and perspective.
If we’re gonna embrace Godly wisdom and perspective, let’s look to a key teaching of Jesus in the Bible that offers us both. (Mt 7)
(Matthew 7:24-27) – NIV
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
So Jesus tells us, that the wise person builds their house on the foundation of putting his words into practice
That is: building your life on Him. Putting Him first.
This is anti-idolatry. God comes first.
Let me show you how this works out in relationships
(SHOW RELATIONSHIPS PYRAMID #1)
This is how a good dating relationship should work.
Your relationship w/ God is the foundation of the pyramid. It must come first.
And then, built upon that is your dating relationship or your marriage.
But the vast majority of people switch it around. They think the relationship is the answer. And if we sprinkle in a little God here and there, that’ll work.
But it doesn’t work.
Flip that pyramid upside down, and ti’s gonna fall over.
Jesus blatantly tells us that God is first. Just as He is the foundation, we seek Him first.
(Matthew 6:33) – NIV
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
But sometimes people in a dating relationship mistakenly think that the answer is not to put God as the foundation, but just to build a more solid relationship (marriage)
But a relationship can never be a good foundation. It never will be. A relationship is just simply not meant to be a foundation piece
(SHOW RELATIONSHIP PYRAMID #2)
You might expand the relationship, but a relationship can never be a good foundation. It never will be.
And when you try and flip this pyramid around, it’ll still topple
But this is a place where a lot of dating couples get caught in idolatry.
They think, the answer to our relationship is NOT to build it more on Christ, it’s to…. GET MARRIED!!
If I can, let me speak to the young Christians in the room for a moment. Those of you that are 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.
Now, I don’t know your situation…pray this out with God…but I can say, as a general principle, I believe marriage is becoming quite idolatrous in Christian circles.
I got married when I was 22 years old. I didn’t go to a Christian college, and when a lot of classmates found out I was getting married after graduation, they thought I was nuts.
Even though we had been dating for over 5 years.
The average age a woman gets married in the US is now 26 and for a man it’s 28.
In some countries in Europe it’s hit the low 30’s.
Is that possibly a little extreme and have its own negative ramifications? Sure.
But in Christian circles, our young people worship marriage. That’s right, I said, worship marriage.
My friends at my secular school couldn’t believe I was getting married at 22, but at our Christian colleges, it’s “Ring by Spring!”
And marriage is put on a pedestal in our Christian circles: Yng ppl think: “Marriage it’s amazing! It’s Godly! It’s incredible! You can be together all the time! And live together! And have SEX together!! J WOW Marriage!!
Like I said, we’ve taught our young people to worship marriage.
But let me tell you something about marriage. It’s hard. It’s hard work son. Some days its great, some days it’ll make you want rip your hair out. Why do you think so many men are bald?
And if you go into this thing with marriage as your foundation, if you go into this thing and you haven’t taken the time to really build a relationship, it’ll eat you up and spit you out.
It’s great! It really is. But it simply won’t work unless you can learn to put God first and make him the foundation.
And if you can’t do that yet in a relationship, don’t get married.
Otherwise, marriage will be an idol. Cuz it will be #1
And that won’t work. Your pyramid will tip over.
Let me speak to those of you that are married right now.
Listen, I know this can sound like a crazy topic. Your spouse being your idol. Kind of weird.
But when you think about it, it’s actually one of the easiest idols to see.
If we talk about happiness being an idol, it’s a little bit more abstract.
But when I talk about a spouse or person you’re dating being an idol, it’s actually quite easy to see it.
We literally are letting them replace God.
They ARE idols. They are like mini-Gods.
Because people can act more like God than just mere things
People can love you, help you w/ things, meet your needs…serve as an idol
And we let them do it…
“I’m feeling really down….I guess I’ll turn to…”
“I need help figuring this out…I’ll turn to….”
People have easy way of getting us to forget about God
When we feel like we’re getting our needs met, life is going good, we often push God to the side, and only come back to Him when we’re sad or hurting
Think about that…it’s a replacement
But your spouse can not function as a replacement for God…NOR do they want to… hopefully.
This is why Jesus gives us these challenging words in Matthew
(Matthew 10:37-38) – NIV
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
See, it’s the pyramid we showed earlier.
He says it himself. Not only is He the foundation, but he must come first. We must love Him more.
And this makes sense on multiple levels.
For one, your marriage can’t ultimately deliver like He can. Your spouse isn’t God. And sometimes we expect them to be. But they can’t be. They’re broken people. Messed up. Kind of like you.
And when we forget that, we’re often already caught in idolatry.
And we do it ALL…THE…TIME
I’ve been there.
I love my wife a lot. She’s an incredible wife. And when life gets really hard, and I’m down, I can find myself turning to her…to have her figure it out…to have her be my source of healing.
Now granted, she’s naturally gonna be a part of it…and sure if something happens I might even talk to her first (I’m not always gonna say, “WAIT, HOLD ON, let me pray for 10 min before we talk”
But the real question is: Who’s your foundation? Who are you ultimately expecting to sustain you and bring you comfort and life?
Your spouse or God?
Imagine with me. If your spouse is on this side and God is on the other, and you’re getting weak and start to follow over, who are you trusting to catch you?
SO, firstly, it doesn’t work for marriage to become before God because your spouse can’t deliver like God, but there’s another key reason as well.
Let me explain.
Psychologists say that we get our self-image or our identity based on what we think the most important person in our life thinks about us.
Now, that may sound like some new psychological mumbo jumbo, but think about it, that’s basic psychology, right?
Children are a by-product of their family systems, and who do they think of as most important? Their parents!
Now, they’re not 100% a by-product, there are other factors (personality, certain events, etc.), but for the most part, our identity, our self-image is shaped by what we think the most important people in our life think of us. Our parents.
We know that. Our culture is aware of that. Your family history and your upbringing vastly shapes your life.
And your relationship you had with your parents, or didn’t have, shapes your ability to relate to people today.
Now, let’s blow this paradigm up a little, and step outside the psychological box and into the spiritual one.
Who should be the most important person in your life? (shout it out)
Yes, God. And here’s the beauty of it. When you let God become the most important person in your life. You value his words in your heart more than any other, you believe his truths more than any other, your ability to relate to others will vastly improve. Your marriage, your friendships, you name it.
Because, just like we already understand in modern psychology, when the most important person in your life is shaping your identity in a positive way, it allows you to better relate to others.
And knowing that HE unconditionally loves you allows you to begin to truly unconditionally love others.
When you let God be first, THE FOUNDATION, He will shape you and thus allow your marriage, and all of your relationships to better thrive
And most importantly, like we said, this isn’t just logic (although it is quite logical), it’s the words of Christ:
(Mark 3:31-35) – NIV
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
AGAIN, Jesus is painting this pyramid of loving and following Him BEFORE any sort of earthly relationship
It simply comes first.
And listen, this is a tough topic. Family and relationships are already broken in our culture.
Kinds don’t talk to parents. Spouses don’t talk to each other. Spouses don’t stay spouses. You name it.
But if we’re gonna fix it, we have to fix the foundation first.
Not just give tips on how to better talk to each other.
And God has to be the foundation…for the whole family.
Even if you can begin to put God as the foundation instead of your spouse, don’t get caught in the next idol, which is your children.
And again, it’s like, “Seriously, now you’re going to tell me that CHILDREN can be idols? Wow!”
But they can. And I wish I had a whole message dedicated to this subject.
People are finally just starting to write on this, but one of the biggest dangers to the modern family is the worship of our children.
We worship them.
“What do you want? Oh you want to be in 15 activities, so be it. Oh you want 30 things for Christmas, so be it. Oh you want a cell phone at age 7, so be it!
We live for our children, and let me show you it’s going to topple the modern family
(SHOW RELATIONSHIPS PYRAMID #3)
This is how most American families try and manage life.
Kids first. Marriage second. Sprinkle in some Jesus.
But it wasn’t meant to be like that.
It was meant to look like this
(SHOW RELATIONSHIPS PYRAMID #4)
I hesitate to use these as an example, but this concept is fairly well documented by reality TV, right?
You can look at families like John & Kate plus 8, and when you put all the effort into the children first, it never works.
Again, I beg you to detach from emotion and see perspective
Too often, we do EVERYTHING for our kids at the sake of neglecting our marriage, and when you neglect something, it’ll die.
And if your marriage dies (which it does for 50% of americans), how will that affect our children?
Many of you in this room have already been through it
It’s hard. And you probably don’t wish it on anyone. And it’s hard for kids. We know it.
But too often, we’re merely reaping long term pain because we’re distracted by the short-term CHAOS of raising kids.
But trust me, get the pyramid right.
If you’re a single parent, the best thing you can do for your kids, is Love God first. Put Him first.
Again, look at the crazy words of Jesus
(Luke 14:25-27) – NIV
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
He’s exaggerating to say, He has to come first. Even before your kids.
If you’re married and you have kids…and you desire to raise loving, Godly kids. Here’s the best thing you can do.
1) Put God first in your life. Before your spouse. Fall in love with Jesus.
You want Godly kids? Let them watch a parent who’s in love with God. Don’t just teach them Christian stuff. Love Jesus!
2) Put your spouse second.
3) And then, love your kids.
The pyramid crumbles otherwise. It topples.
So my question for you this week is: How are you going to get the pyramid right-side up? What are you going to do?
How are you going to get right w/ God again? Put him first again?
Take a Bible…take a Bible pyramid.
Join a House Group…even if it means less time w/ your kids. They need a Godly parent more than anything.
We don’t think of it this way enough, but the best thing you can do for them is to grow spiritually yourself!
If you need childcare, two of our house groups have childcare houses
For those of you that are married w/ kids, how are you going to be God and your spouse first and second again?
I want to challenge you this month to spend some extra time with your spouse.
Get away together…whatever you can afford.
Maybe it’s a vacation, maybe it’s lunch at Culver’s.
Do something that’s EXTRA/MORE for you guys. And talk about God together. Build the foundation right.
Have someone else watch your kids!
Don’t have anyone to watch ‘em? Welll the, join a House Group and meet people just so you can find more people to watch your kids. J
The point is….make an effort. Make an effort to start re-righting your pyramid.
It’s never too late with the God we serve.
Never too late.
Let me close this morning with the words of Isaiah the prophet as he speaks to people who have started clinging to idols…
Close your eyes as I read
(Isaiah 44:20-22) – DON”T PUT ON SCREEN
“Is not this thing (this idol) in my right hand a lie?”
21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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