Share This Episode
Summit Life J.D. Greear Logo

Pursuing Dust

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 17, 2023 9:00 am

Pursuing Dust

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1279 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 17, 2023 9:00 am

In this message, Pastor J.D. helps you understand what competes with God for first place in your life so that you can get rid of your idols, put God first, and surrender to and serve him. The only way to overcome idolatry is to lean in to God’s presence and faithfulness!


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. An idol is almost never a bad thing in and of itself. Usually an idol is a good thing that you have given God-like weight that then turns into a bad thing for you.

Or here's how you would say that. An idol is a good thing that you've turned into a God thing that then becomes a bad thing. Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor and Author, J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You know, much of what we seek in life, success, romance, family, it's actually a good thing. But when we make these good things into essential things, we find ourselves eaten up with anxiety, strife, and suffering and sin. Only one identity is strong enough to be our foundation, and that is as a servant of God. Today, Pastor J.D. echoes the warnings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, showing us the dangers of and the deliverance from the evil of idolatry. Also, don't forget to stick around until the end of our program. We have a great new resource for busy people who want to know the Bible better. But right now, let's join Pastor J.D. for today's message that he titled Pursuing Dust.

1 Corinthians 10. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan recounts the story of his grandmother-in-law, Grandma Alice, as he liked to call her. Grandma Alice, who had this huge boulder-like stone, he said, sitting right in the middle of her backyard garden. It had been there forever, as long as anybody could remember, and it was way, way, way too big for her to actually move. But it was kind of pretty, and it was round and smooth, and it had these glittery, you know, mineral chunks scattered throughout it. And so she figured if she couldn't move it, she might as well polish it up and make it an attractive centerpiece in her garden. Well, as she got her sandpaper out and as she began to sand this gigantic boulder, she said she noticed a thin sifting of gold beginning to gather on the stone. She moistened her fingertip and put it into this dust, and sure enough, y'all, it was gold. She said her heart started racing, she started to sand faster, now leaning her whole body into it, and more gold dust appeared. Now she was scrubbing that rock, she said, like it was a bloodstain. Gold dust began to accumulate rapidly, and in a split second, she had caught the infamous gold fever.

Gold fever, that same fever that made grown men in the 1800s squander their homes and families and go out in the west in search of treasure. She could feel it. She was going to be rich. She stopped for a moment to wipe her brow, and that's when she noticed that something was wrong with her wedding ring.

The top side was normal, but the underside, the part that nestles in the crease of her finger, that was wire thin. And that's when she realized that all the gold dust that she'd seen come from, on the rock, had come from the sandpaper filing down her ring. In just a moment, her greatest treasure, a family heirloom, had been reduced to dust in pursuit of a treasure that had never really been there to begin with. Mark Buchanan, the author, said he laughed the first time his wife told him that story, but only the first time, he said. After that, after that, he said, it made me sad.

It made me sad. An aging woman, giddy as a schoolgirl, heady with a sense of windfall, dreaming of great riches, and the next moment crestfallen, stinging with shame over her, coveting a naivete. But it's also sad, he said, because much of my own life I have repeated, again and again, Grandma Alice's mistake. I have squandered treasures in pursuit of dust. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is going to explain how Grandma Alice's mistake is one every follower of God since the beginning of time has been tempted to make. It is called idolatry, and it is the source of all of our sin, and it is also the source of a lot of the anxiety, strife, and bad choices that the Corinthian believers are making.

1 Corinthians 10, let me give you the context for this discussion. If you remember, Paul has been trying to help the Corinthians navigate a controversy in the early church about whether or not it was okay for a Christian to eat meat that had previously been offered to an idol. Many of the new Christians, particularly the Jewish ones, felt like eating meat that had been blessed by an idol meant A, you were condoning the idol worship, and B, that you were eating meat that had a lingering demonic curse on it. But other Christians were like, no, no, no, that's ridiculous.

God's power is stronger than any idol's curse, and Jesus' death, for that matter, has cleansed all things for us. In chapter 8, Paul weighed in on that controversy, and he actually is pretty clear the meat eaters are correct. Jesus' death has indeed cleansed all things for us, and so he says it's okay to eat meat that has been offered to idols. But then he goes on to say, if you remember in chapter 9, that if exercising that right to eat meat had made it hard for somebody else to hear the gospel, well, that is a right that he would gladly forego for the sake of reaching people, right? That's what brings us to chapter 10.

Okay, chapter 10. In making the point that it was okay to eat meat offered to idols, Paul then thinks, I need to make it clear that I am not trying to imply that idol worship is no big deal. No, he's like, idolatry is a huge deal.

Idolatry is the heart of all sin, going from Adam and Eve to the children of Israel down to Grandma Alice. He wants to show you that in saying that it's okay to eat meat that has been offered to an idol, he's not trying to say any form of worshiping an idol is okay. Verse 1, now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all led by the cloud, all past of the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food. He's talking here, of course, about the exodus, the deliverance to the Red Sea.

The spiritual food is the manna that they ate every day. Verse 5, nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them since they were struck down in the wilderness. In fact, he was not pleased with any of them except for two of them, Joshua and Caleb.

Now watch this. These things took place as examples for us so that we would not desire evil things as they did. Verse 7, don't become idolaters as some of them were. As it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink and got up to partay. Verse 8, let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did.

And in a single day, 23,000 people died. Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes. And do not grumble as some of them did and were killed by the death angel. These things, again, he says, these things happened to them as examples.

They were written for our instruction. Verse 14, so then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I want you to notice that Paul summarizes all of Israel's problems in the wilderness wandering. He summarizes them all under that one heading, idolatry. All those different things, he said, they're all idolatry.

Idolatries and all of it, flee from idolatry. Verse 18, consider the people of Israel, do not those who eat sacrifices participate in the altar? In other words, when you worship an idol, you are opening up a portal for the power of that idol to infect your life.

Verse 19, what am I saying then? That food sacrificed to an idol is anything? I'm not going back on what I said previously, that you can eat meat offered to an idol. I'm not going back on that, but I do say that what they sacrifice, they're sacrificing to demons and not to God.

So do not be any part of the actual worship ceremony. It is true, idol statues may be inanimate pieces of wood, but demons are actually behind those idols. And when you worship an idol, you are inviting the power of that demon into your life. So while eating food that has previously been offered to an idol, while that's not a problem, any kind of worship of an idol is going to open you up to the demonic and that's a huge problem.

So we're going to use those 20 verses to answer three questions. Number one, what is idolatry and how is this even relevant to you at all? Number two, how does idolatry corrupt our behavior? And then number three, does idolatry really put us into contact with demons?

All right, number one. Number one, what is idolatry? What is idolatry? In verse six, you're going to see the word desire. You see it?

They desired evil things. The word there in Greek is epithumia. Epithumia, you want to learn a Greek word? Epithumia, say it with me.

I'll say it, you say it. Epithumia, epithumia. Here's the thing about the word epithumia. We do not have a great English word to translate it. Thumia, thumia just means desire.

Epi is like saying super. Epithumia is like saying a super desire that has become so large in your heart that it begins to control you. Think of it like a deep soul craving.

Something you become so driven to obtain in life because without that thing, you're not sure if life would even be worth living. That is idolatry. Many of us assume that idol worship means bowing down little gold statues and since you don't have any of those little gold statues in your basement and your family doesn't gather on a regular basis to go down to the basement and bow down to these statues, you, the moment I started to read, you thought this is not relevant to me. I'm not an idolater. I don't have a bunch of statues I bow down to and so I'm not an idolater.

But friend, don't be so naive. Biblically, an idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. That's why I pointed out in verse 14, Paul summarizes all of Israel's wilderness wanderings, all their sins as idolatry, not just the creation of the golden calf, but also the sexual immorality, the complaining, the disobedience, all of it. All of it was idolatry. Idolatry is when something becomes so central and essential to your life that you could not imagine life being happy without the presence of that thing.

Something so important to you that if you lost that thing, you would feel like life is hardly worth living. Write this down. Idolatry is not so much about what you bow your knees to, it's about what you lean your soul on. Let me say that again for the people in the back. Idolatry is not so much about what you bow your knees to. Idolatry is about what you lean your soul on.

Here's another way to think about it. One of the Hebrew words for worship is the word chabod. Now you did so amazing with the Greek word epiphymeia. Do you want to say the word chabod? It's got that little funny letter at the beginning of it, which sounds like you got a hawker when you say it to sound like a real Hebrew speaker, okay? Chabod. Say it.

If the person in front of you is not kind of wiping stuff off the back of their head, you didn't say it right. Chabod. Chabod, okay? Chabod literally means weight. To worship something in the Jewish mindset at least is to give it weight in your heart. An idol is whatever in your heart is so weighty that you could not imagine life without that thing being any good. Our English word worship actually captures this. Worship is of course a combination of two words, worthship. So you are worshiping something when you are assigning a lot of worth to it.

Here's the tricky part. An idol is almost never a bad thing in and of itself. Usually an idol is a good thing that you have given God-like weight that then turns into a bad thing for you.

Or here's how you would say that. An idol is a good thing that you've turned into a God thing that then becomes a bad thing. For Adam and Eve, that idol was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Remember God had given them free reign of the entire garden and told them to eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to, but told them this one tree, they should not touch that tree, but they wanted that tree. They needed that tree. They epithumia, they craved that tree. And they were willing to compromise their relationship with God to get a hold of that tree. For the children of Israel, their epithumia was a desire for safety and the delicacies of Egypt. They didn't like being exposed out there in the wilderness all by themselves with nothing but the promise of God to protect them. They didn't like having nothing to eat except for the manna that God provided for them each morning on the ground. And so they turned their back on God to pursue other things because those things had greater weight in their heart than their relationship with God did. This is Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Before we get back to our teaching, I wanted to take just a moment to tell you about our featured resource this month. It's a study guide called Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in First Corinthians. Are you looking to deepen your understanding of the book of First Corinthians? These 14 sessions are designed to help you do just that with short five-minute studies that fit easily into your busy schedule. This resource is a great way to grow deeper in your faith or it could be a great gift for a friend. Regardless of how it's used, the goal is to get us plugged into the Bible on a regular basis and see what God might have to teach us personally. To get your copy of this resource today, give us a call at 866-335-5220 or visit us online at Now let's return for the conclusion of today's teaching.

Once again, here's Pastor J.D. So the question for you is this. What do you epithemia? What carries the most weight in your heart? To what do you assign the most worth? What is it that you would say about that thing? This constitutes a happy and complete life and without the presence of that thing, life is not hardly worth living. What is that for you? Let me run through a little top 10 list.

Not exactly 10, but it's the spirit of a top 10. Marriage. Just give me a good marriage and I'll be happy. The key to a happy life is to find that special somebody and when you do that, everything else in your life is going to fall into place and if you find that person, life will be good. But if you don't find that person, you're always going to feel like you're missing something and you're always going to feel a little bit incomplete. Y'all, this might be our society's biggest idol as evidenced by how frequently this theme appears in our music and our movies.

I don't mean to pick on these too much because yes, I do read your emails, but is this not the theme of every Hallmark movie that was showed over Christmas or every Hallmark movie ever written? I was a highly paid corporate lawyer and realized on my trip back to my parents' house that my life was empty without love. So I gave up my career to get married to my high school sweetheart and now we run a cattle ranch together in Connecticut and a coffee shop with a crazy profitable Etsy business, hashtag trendy. Now romance is an idol for a lot of people or on the flip side, independence is an idol for a lot of other people. I know I saw a lot of singles who struggle, not like most of them, some of them, a number of them who struggle with commitment to somebody else because they couldn't imagine being happy in life without complete freedom to do whatever they want to do when they want to do it. And so that makes them scared to commit. It's just like, I don't want to commit because I couldn't imagine life being happy, being tied down in obligation to somebody else.

Independence has become an idol. For other people, it's money. If I got enough money in the bank, things are going to be fine. I read an economic book. It was called the psychology of money. It was actually pretty good.

I would recommend it to you. It's not a Christian book, but the guy basically said that in the book, he was working off the premise that happiness is having enough money in the bank that you can do what you want to do when you want to do it. Now, just for the record, I agree. I agree that that is a great thing to be in a place where you can do what you want to do when you want to do it.

But here's the question. Is that the most weighty thing in your heart? Is that the one thing that you feel like you really need to have in order for life to be good, in order to be happy, to feel free, to feel secure? If so, then financial freedom will drive all the rest of your choices. The path to financial security will be the one voice that you will obey above all others.

I don't care how much you come to church. Because that thing, that is the obedience, like that's the good life. Maybe you're driven by a sense of accomplishment. Feeling like if you could ever get the respect that just comes from being the best in your field, then life would be good. And that just drives you.

It's driven you for years. Several years ago, I read an interview of Madonna. Now, if you were younger than 30 years old, you probably do not know who that is. Think of her as the Lady Gaga of my generation, but weirder. I'll tell you, Gen Z's got nothing on us when it comes to producing weird artists, right?

In the 80s, we took that to a whole new level. Madonna was forever doing something weird to try to set herself apart, more outrageous than the thing before it. She said in an interview in Vogue magazine, which I read religiously for your benefits, so I can share stuff like this. She said, my drive in life, listen to this, comes from a fear of being mediocre. That's always pushing me. I'll do something, accomplish something that makes me feel special. And that lasts for a while, but then the feeling goes away. And I feel uninteresting unless I do something else. Even though everybody tells me I've become somebody, I still feel like I have to prove that I am somebody.

My struggle has never ended, and I'm guess it never will. Some of you, you don't do outrageous things like Madonna, but you probably resonate with that a little bit. It's just always been this drive to set yourself apart. Some of you are driven by the opinions of others. That's the weightiest thing in your life. Some of you are still trying to earn the approval of your father.

Or maybe some unnamed group of people. I was that way in high school. Yo, I spent my entire high school career trying to impress a bunch of people I didn't really even like. I was that way in high school.

I spent my entire high school. I wore what they thought I should wear every day. I taught the way they thought I should talk. Their approval, their opinion was the weightiest thing in my heart, weightier even than God's approval.

I gave it kabod. You say, well, JD, listen, I'm old enough to know. I'm not even like, I'm even older than you. And I'm, you know, forget Gen Z and millennials.

They're crazy. You know, I'm Gen X. I'm a boomer. I'm old enough to know that chasing other people's opinions or career or money, that's going to get you nowhere. Now, in my old wise age, I realized that life is about having a strong family and good friends.

And listen, I agree that those things are way better than money, but you understand those things can become idols also. I watched a great movie over the weekend with my son called American Underdog. The true story of Kurt Warner, who literally went from bagging groceries as a football dropout to Super Bowl champ for the St. Louis Rams and NFL MVP. It is a great movie, right? I would encourage you to watch it, but at one of the crisis points in the movie, it does what a lot of Christian-themed movies do. I'm not sure how accurate this is to the story.

I'm sure they're just trying to make it, you know, more palatable for a wider audience. But basically, after Kurt Warner realizes that building his identity on being good at football has gotten him nowhere and led him only to brokenness, he decides in one of this climatic point in the moment that he's going to build his identity, not on that anymore, but on being a good husband and dad. Now again, y'all, I think that's way better than football, but family can become an idol also. God and God alone was to be the source of our identity. God was supposed to be the one relationship that we lean the weight of our souls upon. And when family becomes an idol, that messes everything else up also. An idol is not usually a bad thing. It's a good thing that takes on God-like weight.

Now think about it. Have you ever seen a parent? I know you don't think this is true about you, so think about somebody else, okay? Have you ever seen a parent who wraps up their identity, their self-worth, and how well their kids do? You get the same Christmas cards I do over Christmas, where you got some parent talking about their kids, and you can tell it's really about them. They're always comparing their kids to others. They're feeling jealous about what others are going on in other people's families. Then they start to put a lot of pressure on their kids to do well, because how well their kids do is a reflection of them.

And they start to feel personally betrayed when their kids don't do well, and they start to say really destructive things to their kids like, how could you do this to me after all that I've done for you? So yeah, it's better to pour yourself into your family than it is your career, but family can become an idol also. My identity as a Christian is not supposed to be football star.

It's not supposed to be successful pastor, model husband, or good dad. My identity as a Christian is servant of God and child of His that has been redeemed by His blood. Tim Keller says it this way, an idol is whatever you envision enabling you to live a life of power and joy without God. When you look into the future and you think that's a life of power and joy, unless the central thing in that, the one essential is God and God alone, then that other thing has become an idol for you, whether that's marriage, family, grandkids, career success, or the size of a church.

What is the one central thing for you? The one thing that has the most kabod in your heart, the one thing that you attach the most worth to, the one or two things that drive your life, that's idolatry. So question number two, how does idolatry then corrupt our behavior? I showed you in chapter 10, Paul ties idolatry to all forms of their corrupted behavior. Verse six, because of their idolatry the children of Israel, verse eight, gave themselves to sexual immorality. Then they started complaining and grumbling against God. Paul tells us to learn from their example and avoid that trap. So let's just consider, okay, how is your idolatry corrupting your behavior? Well, see, whatever you feel like you have to have for life to be complete, you'll be willing to do whatever it takes to obtain, right?

I mean, think about it. It's because you idolize sex and romance that you break your marriage vows and commit adultery. You just couldn't imagine life being happy and fulfilled without that kind of relationship and your marriage isn't giving it to you. So you step out on your marriage.

It's not that you're just an inherently bad person, it's that you epithemia a certain kind of love and romance and that's not being found in your marriage right now. Are you pursuing dust today? Tune in next time for the conclusion of this teaching and remember that you can always head to to find this broadcast and our entire library of messages free of charge. Our current resource is titled Cutting Through the Noise. And J.D., I know you have a specific aim in mind, so what do you hope that listeners will take away from this study when it's all completed?

Yeah, thanks, Molly. You know, we really wanted to find a way to help everybody study the Bible no matter what kind of time they have. You see, in 1 Corinthians, Paul follows a pattern. He defines a problem for the people of Corinth and then he leads us to see that problem through the lens of the gospel. It's like he's giving them an instinct so that problems he doesn't cover, they'll have the right instinct to know how to apply the gospel to their situation. We're going to follow that same pattern in this resource to give you that instinct.

So we'll answer questions like, how should I think about a difficult marriage or singleness? And each of these little five-minute devotions will give you a question to answer, some scripture, a point to ponder, and then a way to pray and apply what you've learned. It's written in 14 parts, so it would take you, what, 14 days, two weeks, three weeks, and you can go at whatever pace works for you. We've designed them so they really will only take about five minutes each, for real, because we know that for some of you, that's how long it needs to be for you to really make this work.

And so the goal is growing consistently daily. I'd love for you to take a look at I do think you'll find it helpful.

To get your copy of Cutting Through the Noise, 14 five-minute studies in 1 Corinthians, give a gift of $35 or more to this ministry today. You can do that by visiting us at or by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. I'm Molly Vitovich. Remember, Summit Life is not a substitute for your local church, so we pray that you have a wonderful weekend of worship with your church family. And then join us again Monday right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-17 10:35:20 / 2023-03-17 10:46:16 / 11

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime