Territorial Gods

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How a Compartmentalized Heart Invites Idolatry

In my early teen years, I remember standing on very slippery ground, spiritually. I loved the Lord, but I also wanted control of certain areas of my life. And when I began to feel like the Lord just didn’t understand or didn’t do things the way I wanted them done, I began to set up myself as lord of my life in those areas. I decided God was God while I was in church, but I was god the rest of the time. I would worship Him when the songs in church or on my cassette tape moved me, but when it came to finding love, controlling my tongue or being honest, I was moved by my feelings and my fears more than by God.

I never would have vocalized this and, perhaps, it wasn’t a conscious choice, but it was clearly the heart behind my actions. I had compartmentalized my life. I had made my life like a segmented plate, nothing touched, nothing spread from the God side into the “secret” areas of my life.

As a young teen, I would worship God when the songs in church moved me, but when it came to finding love, controlling my tongue or being honest, I was moved by my feelings and my fears more than by God. How much of my life is still this way? #ChristianBlog #FaithBlog

As a young teen, I would worship God when the songs in church moved me, but when it came to finding love, controlling my tongue or being honest, I was moved by my feelings and my fears more than by God. How much of my life is still this way? #ChristianBlog #FaithBlog

Let me broaden our scope for a minute…. In spite of what many of us were taught, civilizations didn’t begin with a multitude of gods and move toward monotheism. Increasingly, archeology is showing that the contrary is true. As the Bible makes clear, humanity began with an understanding that there was one God: Yahweh. It was as they moved away from knowing Him that they invented more and more gods to fill in perceived gaps.

They invented gods for different life situations: love, birth, marriage, death. They invented gods for different seasons, different weather conditions, different traits like wisdom, anger, musicality or joviality. They invented different gods for different terrain: seas, forests, open land, hills, mountain…. On and on the list could go until some religions, like Hinduism had as many as 330 million gods. The further you get from the truth of one God over all, the more gods you must invent.

Most of us do not ascribe to these types of beliefs. We would never say that God is the God over our church-life, over our spirituality, but not the God over our work-life, our family-life, over our married-life. But I wonder how often we inadvertently behave in such a way that communicates exactly this mentality.

Do we come to church and behave in one way, while the rest of our life doesn’t exhibit any evidence of a life submitted to God? Do we behave differently at work, at our recreational activities? Do we say that we believe in God’s wisdom, while rejecting it when it comes to what He says about raising kids, relationships, character issues or doing business?

Has a territorial god sneaked its way into our thinking?

And by a territorial god, I don’t necessarily mean an idol fashioned of wood or metal. Much more likely, it’s an idol of setting up our desires, worldly wisdom or what we term “practicality” or “experience” beside or above God’s will, God’s wisdom, God’s commands.

Can we examine our hearts? Can we ask ourselves, “Is there a place in my life where I am trying to keep God at arm’s length? Where have I deceived myself into thinking that God doesn’t care about all of my life?” With those questions answered, let’s commit to booting out anything in our hearts that has attempted to stand alongside God.

"Am I a God at hand, declares Yahweh, and not a God far away?” Jeremiah 23:23