In fundamentally every case, this seems to hold true. If somebody worships power, they become a bully. If somebody worships money, they view the world and their relationships as transactional (I invest an amount of time in a friendship so I will get my due rewards from it). If somebody worships health, they become consumed by vitamins, health insurance, or early morning runs as if these are an intrinsic, non-negotiable part of their soul.
Even if you don't fall prey to worshipping these three examples, we all, without exception, are consumed by worshipping one thing – ourselves. This self-worship manifests in countless different ways, and our own expression may lie firmly in our blind-spot. It often takes a friend willing to rebuke us for our own good to see where we have made ourselves into our own god.
We would not be the first generations to fashion so many things, ideas, and people into our central desires. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, we see this exact condition of the heart festering amongst Israel, God's people. The culture of those days seems so distant from our modern lives, and yet the corrupt hearts of the Israelites were no different to our own.
I encourage you to read the first few chapters of Jeremiah to see the utter horror God shows at the turning of the Israelites from worshipping Him to worshipping themselves and other foreign Gods. The language of this book is certainly sombre, with God naming Israel a prostitute, a whore, an adulteress.
"If a man divorces his wife
and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many loversâ€"
would you now return to me?"
declares the LORD.
"Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
Have you not just called to me:
'My Father, my friend from my youth,
will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue forever?'
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can."
Jeremiah 3 verses 1-5
God does not take lightly to us wandering from our affections towards him, sitting at the roadside seeking other lovers who can never deliver what we really need. Lovers like money, power, sex, or self-sufficiency. We so easily settle for temporal gratifications that seem immensely satisfying at the time. But people do not ask for sight until they know they are blind, nor would they plead for life until they knew their own death sentence.
Worshipping pleasures of the world will never give us true joy which ultimately manifests itself in having a relationship with the God who created the entire universe.
So we must turn our worship to the only one worthy of bowing before – God. And as a perfect Father who has loved his people with an eternal love, He promises to transform spiritual prostitutes, like us and the nation of Israel, to become virgins (Jeremiah 31 verse 4).
If you find yourself "playing the whore" as the bible puts it, take heart. God can transform you with the power of his gospel and renew in you a heart of right worship "because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2 verse 12).
Not only that, but in this loving worship of God we actually become more like him. "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8 verses 28-29)
So take the time to consider whether you desire to be more like Jesus. God promises that if you worship Jesus, you will be conformed to his image (become more like him). And on those days, weeks, and years when you feel like your transformation is not happening on-schedule, remember that we will never become perfect like Jesus in this life.
But when we meet him face to face, we can worship him in all his radiance with no roadside lovers ever seductively whispering our names again.
Harriet Campbell has almost finished her Commerce and Arts degrees, and works for the New Zealand government. She is excited about getting married next year, and has recently discovered a love of mushrooms.
Harriet Campbell's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/harriet-campbell.html