Neither did the rich young ruler, who wanted to live forever. And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” (Mark 10:17-20).
Courteous. Respectful. Even bowing the knee. Though this first century millennial did not realize Who he was calling good (since only God is good) . . . all i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, making him a slam dunk. As Paul said of his own life before Christ – as to righteousness under the law, blameless (Phil 3:6) – in this young man’s eyes he was pure as the driven snow. Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth . . . which probably said we would have been hard pressed to find any gold, silver, or clay statuettes loitering around his estate. Mantel . . . yard . . . garden . . . None. Pure as the driven snow.
But the law addresses more than just externals (See Matt 5:21-48). Like a mirror it reveals our dirt, and the Lord showed this fine, upstanding Jewish gentleman, his soiled heart: And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:21-22). Pure as the driven snow . . . until the Lord began to dig.
When confronted with matters of the heart – what you got to have, what’s loved, what’s really, really coveted – for this young man the most important was his wealth and all that it could buy. The first commandment says, You shall have no other gods before me (Ex 20:3) . . . and the fact that he walked away said he did.
Call it idolatry. What Paul wrote the Colossians 2000 years ago, stands true today: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col 3:5).
God knew idol factories run 24/7. He knew those gold and silver phantoms have ways of making it to the mantel of a person’s heart. Covetousness always sets them in the prominent place. From money, things, status, youthfulness, to another person. . . . one’s god always has the best place in the house.
And once that idol is there, the idolater will do everything in their power to keep it there. Lie for it. Cheat for it. Hurt others for it, including loved ones. Minus repentance, the idolater, like the rich young ruler, walks away from the Lord and what’s dear to Him, to worship their god.
So . . . what’s on your mantel? Anything there that has no business being there?
A good way to find out is with Phil 1:21. After he was saved, Paul wrote For to me to live is Christ. That’s what made him tick: Jesus Christ and all that was important to Him. It’s what got Paul up every morning. It’s why he willingly faced tough times. It’s why he never quit. For to me to live is Christ.
And for you? What makes you tick? ‘For to me to live is _________ ?’
If you cannot put Jesus Christ in that blank, guess who needs to clean their mantel.
The first time flying into London Heathrow, I looked out the window and down below something wasn’t right. It was the cars. Morning rush hour, and all the drivers were traveling on the wrong side of the road . . . or least so to me, where in America you drive on the right, not the left. No big deal as a tourist flying in. But as a pedestrian ready to cross a street? I quickly found out: Do like that old American adage, ‘look first to the left, then to the right’ and you could end up in a local hospital, if not worse.
We live in a realm controlled by Satan where all the world’s values are traveling in the wrong direction. Things. Sex. Image. Wealth. Success. When any of that becomes a person’s god, somebody is going to get plowed.
Idolatry is serious, especially in the life of a believer. Something or someone has become a substitute for the living God.
Make sure your mantel is what it’s supposed to be . . . the Lord’s place. Make sure it’s Him that you love with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).
Blessings – Blaine