Jesus Calls Us

ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

Gifts can come in all shapes and sizes. There are square ones, round ones, and ones with truly odd shapes--tricky to wrap! There are tiny presents, and bigger ones, and really big ones too large to get into the house.

One Christmas, we wanted to give our son a present he had been requesting for a long time. It was actually quite small, but we decided to disguise it. So it would be a total surprise, we wrapped it in layer upon layer of paper, and put it in a large box. It worked. He was astonished and delighted when he got to the last layer and discovered his treasure.

Yes, gifts come in many shapes and sizes. So do idols. We have all seen pictures of the false gods of other lands or other times. A bird, or a cow, or other animal. Or some fantastic creature with an animal's head and a man's body, a nightmarish beast that was the product of superstitious imagination. There is an endless variety.

We usually think of an idol as being an object of wood or stone. But they can include intangible things as well. An "idol" is something that becomes the object and focus of special devotion. It takes the priority, and has a major and controlling influence on the decisions and behaviour of the devotee.

In this broader sense, there can be invisible idols too, things such as my plans, or my opinions, or my desires, or my habits. If they begin to dominate my schedule and mold my conduct, they could be thought of as idols. If we understand their true nature, it takes little thought to realize it is not only ancient or primitive tribes who have idols. Modern secularists can be idolaters too. So can Christians (cf. Col. 3:5).

There can be things in our lives that tend to crowd God out, competing with our whole-hearted allegiance to Him. Jesus said the "first and great commandment" is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37-38). Anything that hinders that allegiance could be classified as an idol. No wonder John's urgent and departing word to the readers of his first epistle is "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (I Jn. 5:21). Such things can prevent us from wholeheartedly obeying God's will.

As Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) pondered that truth one day, she thought about Peter and Andrew, called away from the fishing trade to follow Christ (Matt. 4:18-20). They responded promptly, but it might have been otherwise. What if they had refused? Those nets could have ensnared more than fish! Their habitual routine could have been their idol, causing them to say "No" to Jesus.

With that in mind, Mrs. Alexander wrote the hymn, Jesus Calls Us" in 1852, stressing the priority of the Master's call. It begins, "Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult of our life's wild, restless sea, / Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, ‘Christian, follow Me.'"

A later stanza adds, "Jesus calls us from the worship / Of the vain world's golden store, / From each idol that would keep us, / Saying, ‘Christian, love Me more'." We're called away from a hollow and unworthy devotion to anything that would ensnare and keep us bound, each worthless idol that would rob us of our freedom to live for Christ.

To crave anything more than we desire Him is idolatry. To put anything ahead of loving Christ, and serving Christ, is to allow a false god to crowd Him out of His rightful place. God the Father's design is "that in all things He [Christ] may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). If that is not so in our lives, there could well be some idol in the way. May the Lord deliver us from each idol that would keep us from Him.