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Pursuing Dust, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 20, 2023 9:00 am

Pursuing Dust, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 20, 2023 9:00 am

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.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We make sacrifices to idols every day. It's when you compromise your integrity because you need to be married that you make a sacrifice to an idol. It's when you stay late and overworked at the expense of your family that you make a sacrifice to an idol.

Satan is the spirit at work in all false worship and sacrifices are the portals by which he gains control over your life. Welcome back for another week of teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer of the Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich.

Let me ask you a question. What is it that you worship? Today, Pastor J.D. helps us understand what competes with God for first place in our lives so that we can get rid of our idols, put God first, and ultimately serve Him. The only way to overcome idolatry is to put first things first. So let's embrace God's presence and faithfulness right now. If you missed any of the previous messages in this series, you can always catch up at

But for now, let's rejoin the message that we started last week that Pastor J.D. titled Pursuing Dust. 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. Here's another way to think about it. One of the Hebrew words for worship is the word chabod.

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.

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. So the question for you is this. 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? 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. 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. For other people, it's money. Tim Keller says it this way. An idol is whatever you envision enabling you to live a life of power and joy without God.

What is the one central thing for you? 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? We'll 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. Martin Luther said this about 500 years ago.

I love this. Martin Luther said, when you read the 10 commandments, you should notice that God bookended the 10 commandments with two commandments about idolatry. Now the first one is explicitly about idolatry.

You should have no other gods but God, which means he should be the one essential for happiness. But the 10th commandment says not to covet, which literally means to yearn for something. Literally in the Greek, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it uses the word epithymia. Thou shalt not epithymia. You shall not yearn deep in your soul for something that you felt like you could not be happy without. When you're coveting, you're like, I don't have this thing, but my neighbor has that thing, and my life is miserable because I don't have that thing, so I want that thing. Thou shalt not epithymia. And what Martin Luther said is, the reason God bookended the 10 commandments with those two commandments is because if you kept those two, then you would keep all the other eight naturally as if they were a cakewalk.

Right? I mean, think about it. It's because you idolize sex and romance that you break your marriage vows and commit adultery. It's not that you're just an inherently bad person.

It's that you epithymia a certain kind of love and romance, and that's not being found in your marriage right now. It's because you idolize money that you steal. You're not naturally a dishonest person.

It's just that you've learned that this little fudge here or this little cut corner there, that can get you that cherished extra money. It's because you idolize money that you break God's commandments to be generous and to tithe. It's not that you're a stingy person. It's just that you could not give away money because you depend on money for happiness and security.

So you can't obey God there because you epithymia this financial freedom. It's because you idolize the opinions of others that you lie. You realize as an adult, look at yourself, the times that you lie are usually to protect your image. Because you still idolize what people think.

You bend the truth to make them think well of you. Idolatry drives our sinful choices. It corrupts our hearts which in turn corrupts our behavior. Ironically one of the best places I've ever heard that expressed was by a guy named David Foster Wallace who is not a Christian.

He's the acclaimed postmodern novelist in a famous commencement address that he gave at Kenyon College. David Foster Wallace said this, he said then I quote, in the day-to-day trenches of adult life there is no such thing as not worshiping. He's not a religious man talking to other religious people.

He's just talking to everybody. Everybody worships. Everybody worships.

The only choice we get is what to worship. If you worship money and material possessions, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough. You'll always find yourself no matter what you get to needing just a little bit more. You can never be content.

Watch this. Worship your own body and beauty or sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing you will die a million deaths before they finally bury you. Worship power. Worship power and you will end up feeling weak and afraid. And you will need ever more power over others to keep that fear at bay. Worship your intellect. Worship being seen as smart and you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud.

Always feeling like you're on the verge of being found out. Some of you look around right now in your life at a destroyed part of your life. Maybe your family is in tatters and what you'll do if you're honest is you'll acknowledge that was sacrificed to some idol. You brought destruction into your life because you had to have some idol and you were driven by it. Peel back the layers of your sin and you will find an altar to an idol there.

I guarantee you. In fact, I've told you this before. St. Augustine 1500 years ago said that in many ways our sinful actions and our sinful emotions, he said they're like smoke from a fire. Like smoke, a trail of smoke from a fire. And he said when you see a trail of smoke you can follow that trail of smoke back down to the fire from which it originates.

He said look at the smoke of your sinful behavior and sinful emotions and trace it back down and you'll find the altar of the idol that you're worshiping at. In some ways, friends, the worst possible thing for you to do if there's smoke in your house is just to try to get rid of the smoke. Honey, there is smoke billowing everywhere in here because you go open a window. No, if you see smoke in your house you need to figure out where that fire is coming from and put out that fire. When you see the smoke of bad behaviors or complicated emotions in your heart don't just wave away the smoke.

Figure out what idol that smoke is coming from. It's like Paul Tripp always says, if you worship your way into sin, then you're going to have to worship your way out. It's not behavior change that you need.

It's not New Year's resolutions you need. It is a change of what you worship. That's the source of everything. I remember one of the first times I was teaching on this. I was trying to illustrate it for all of you. I was trying to be humble. I'm trying to show you how my own sins were driven by idolatry. So I asked my wife Veronica to help me come up with a list of sins that I struggled with that I could share with you. To see if we could determine in my top five list of sins if there was a pattern of idolatry behind them.

For the record, that was a huge mistake. I feel like my wife must have had a little list over on the bedside that she kept ready for just this moment. She started rattling them off like something she'd memorized for years. Next time I thought I'm doing this all by myself, okay? But as we talked, it did begin to seem like every fault I had was connected to image management. My worries, my worries in life are driven by fear of not being successful and other people concluding that I'm a failure. I've already told you that any tendencies I have to lie are almost always to protect my image and guard my reputation. I exaggerate my accomplishments.

I'll kind of hide a certain failure because it's image management. A lot of my anger gets driven by somebody disrespecting me or making me look foolish in the eyes of others. Sinful anger in my heart comes from this idol of worshiping other people's opinions that I've struggled with all my life. And you're like, man, you really got problems.

Are you sure you should be a pastor? No? But see, here's the thing. I'm the same as you. I just got the courage to stand up here and be honest about my failures.

Of course, maybe the reason I'm doing this is so you will admire me for my transparency and my honesty and my humility. I don't know. I'm just telling you, my heart is so messed up in all this. I can't tell where up and down is sometimes. My heart is so messed up where up and down is sometimes.

But the point is, I know that my own sin is driven by idolatry and so is yours. I know that I can't just brush away the smoke. I need to be looking to my heart and finding out where that fire is coming from. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. To learn more about this ministry, visit You've joined us in the middle of our teaching series called Cutting Through the Noise.

And if you're enjoying these messages, you won't want to miss this month's featured resource. It's a short study titled Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. This set of quick on-the-go devotionals is designed to help you apply the teachings of 1 Corinthians to your daily life. It's perfect for personal growth or for use in a small group setting. Don't make time and excuse to not study God's Word.

This resource has you covered. So even if you're on the run, you can deepen your understanding of this important book of the Bible by getting your copy of Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. To give a gift today, simply call 866-335-5220 or visit Now let's return for the conclusion of our teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Number three, does idolatry really bring us into contact with demons? See verse 18. Do you know how those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Like, don't you actually participate in the worship of it? Verse 20, what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. Meaning, when you make a sacrifice to an idol, you are in communion with the power of that idol and for idols in the world, there are demons behind them. You say, well, come on, come on, come on.

I mean, craving marriage too much, being too driven by success, being too into your kids, caring too much about the opinions of others. Sure, maybe those things aren't good, but surely Paul is going too far and say that in idolizing those things, we are communing with demons. No, he is not. You see, Satan has power over everything in this world that has not been submitted to God.

How do I know that? Because Jesus calls Satan the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air. Think about that imagery, by the way. Air is everywhere. There's nowhere you can go on earth and not encounter air.

You just breathe it in. Satan's power and influence are everywhere all around you. You cannot escape it and every sacrifice made in pursuit of an idol opens you up to his influence. If it hasn't been submitted to God, it is still charged with the power of the ruler of this world.

And that's a huge thing to say, but it is true. Idolizing your family, idolizing marriage, idolizing money, idolizing the opinions of others, opens yourself up to demonic control in your life. You say, wait a minute, isn't Paul here talking about actual pagan temple rituals? Yes, but as we have seen, it's not just in a temple that you make a sacrifice to an idol. We make sacrifices to idols every day. It's when you compromise your integrity because you need to be married that you make a sacrifice to an idol. It's when you stay late and overwork at the expense of your family that you make a sacrifice to an idol. It's when you tell a lie or brag or boast so that you can maintain your image before others that you make a sacrifice to an idol. It's when you cut corners to get ahead that you are making sacrifice to an idol.

Satan is the spirit at work in all false worship, and sacrifices are the portals by which he gains control over your life. Remember a few weeks ago, I pointed out how when Jesus spoke about the power of money in our lives, Matthew 6, he used a proper noun for money, mammon. You cannot serve God in mammon, and when gospel writers wrote down Jesus' statement, they left the word mammon untranslated because they recognized that Jesus was speaking about money, not as a thing, but as a personal, supernatural force. And so they left in the word for money as a proper noun.

In English, we would capitalize it because they were trying to communicate, this is not a thing, it's a person. There is a spirit at work behind money, and when you trust in money rather than God, you are allowing that spirit, a demonic spirit, to take over your life. You may never know that you're communing with demons.

You're not going to grow little horns or speak in parcel tongue or whatever, but you are. Friend, verse 14, so then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. Run from it like your life depends on it. Run away from it because this is, this is the battle for your soul. There's two incredible Jewish scholars, Moshe, Halbertal, and Avishai Markelet, and they say this, the central principle of the whole Bible is the rejection of idolatry. I actually disagree, I think the central premise is Jesus.

But for two Jewish scholars reading the Old Testament, that's significant for them to pick up because it is true that the dominant theme that runs from cover to cover in your Bible is who's going to win the battle for your heart. Is it going to be God or is it going to be some lesser thing? What are you going to worship? Are you going to give yourself to the worship of the living God or are you going to give yourself to some lesser thing, some dead idol, some created some created thing?

Paul says in Romans 1 that this is the battleground of the human soul. Are you going to worship God or worship an idol? So heed what Paul says to these Corinthians, flee idolatry like your life depends on it.

So let's close with this. How do we escape idolatry? How are you going to escape idolatry? You've got to believe your way into it. Watch this, verse 13.

Paul puts the key right in the middle of the chapter. There's no temptation that is taking you, overtaking you, but such as is common to man. But God is faithful. There's your phrase right there.

Three words. The idolatry killer. God is faithful. If you've got a Bible out, I want you to highlight that, star it, underline it, take a tube of lipstick, smear it, prick your finger, dab it in blood, whatever it takes. God is faithful and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that you might be able to bear it. God is faithful.

The way to overcome idolatry is to lean into the presence and the faithfulness of God because when you believe that God is present and that God is real and that he is filled with unconditional and unrelenting love towards you, that he is ready to help you, then your captivity to idols will be broken. Again, if you worship your way into sin, you're going to have to worship your way out. Look how the writer of Hebrews explains it. Y'all, this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Hebrews 13 five. Keep your life free from covetousness.

Remember, that's another word for idolatry. Keep your life free from epithymia. Don't let it control your behavior and be content with what you have.

Why can you be content with what you have? Well, because he has said, I'll never leave you or forsake you. And because of that, you can confidently say, the Lord is my helper. I will not fear.

What could man do to me? Freedom from the fear and the craving that leads to idolatry is found in confidence in the presence and the love of God. Y'all, over break, I spent a lot of time in Psalm 23. Such an amazing, amazing passage.

I've had it memorized since I was a kid. And I feel like it's like, it's like going out into the ocean and you suddenly have a wave goes over your head and you feel like you're in deep. And you're like, man, this feels so deep. And then you realize that like, you know, a couple miles out there, it's a couple miles deep. And this is what that Psalm is to me.

I'm going to come back and do a whole series on it, I think. But the promises of that Psalm are almost too good to be true, are they not? It's not supposed to be poetry.

It's theology. The Lord is my shepherd. Therefore, I have no needs. Can you say that?

Can you say this one? I have no needs. When I read that, I'm like, well, David had needs.

Scholars say that David probably wrote this when he was on the run from Saul, living in caves. Sounds to me like he's got needs. He's like, I got no needs.

Why? Because the Lord is my shepherd. He makes me lie down in green pastures. What does sheep do in green pastures? They eat. David's like, look, I'm so full with the presence of God that even when I'm a green pasture, I don't have to eat because I'm already filled up. He leads me beside still water. What does sheep do besides still waters? They drink. David's like, I don't need to drink because I'm not thirsty anymore. My cup runs over. I don't know.

There's nothing. Like it literally is running over. I got enough for me and enough for you.

And it's just running over. And then you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Yo, when I'm in the presence of my enemies, I want to either fight or hide. You know what David says? That the presence of Jesus causes me to rest even in the midst of my enemies because you're standing there with me and therefore I have no needs. And that means even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I'm not going to be afraid. Why?

Why? Because thou art with me. When I feel the assurance of his presence, I can be content even when I'm surrounded by many enemies, dangerous toils and snares, because surely goodness and mercy are going to follow me all the days of my life.

I could not get away from them if I tried because God is my shepherd and he is always present, always there. And therefore, whatever situation I'm in, it's not dangerous to me and I don't have needs in it. Here's the question. Do you believe that? Do you actually believe it? That you this morning, whatever your situation is, however enemies there are, whatever dangers and toils and snares are around you, that you don't have any needs because he's with you. Some of you say, Pastor, I want to believe that. I want to believe that. I just don't feel it.

I don't see it. It doesn't seem like goodness and mercy are following me. Listen, I understand that. In fact, my question is, if the Lord is my shepherd, why am I on the run for my enemies anyway? Why am I in my enemy's presence?

Why do I have these difficulties? Yet what I see from Psalm 23 by the testimony of David is, even in the midst of difficulty and disappointment and unanswered prayer, I can still be assured the Lord is my shepherd. I may not understand all that he's doing. I may not understand why my Lord is my shepherd. I may not understand why I'm on the run from Saul. I may not understand why he hadn't answered this prayer yet.

I may not understand why this difficulty, this pain, this disease, if that's what it is, why it doesn't go away. And I've learned that the arc of God's goodness in my life, his surely goodness and mercy, is often longer than mine. I want it to go like that.

His goes like this. And I'm like, God, it doesn't feel like goodness and mercy is following me. But even now, in the midst of whatever valley of the shadow of death I'm in, in the presence of these green pastures, I can cling to you. And my cup runs over with you. And I'm not even hungry in the presence of these green pastures.

I'm not thirsty anymore because I trust you. And I see you. I see you in your goodness and your love. I see that in the cross. Friend, you may not understand how God is going to turn these things in your life for good. I don't with a lot of urgency as what he revealed about himself at the cross. Just see that.

Just see it and rest. And then like the writer of Hebrews says, you'll find that your cravings and your fears just evaporate. Epithemia just begins to dissipate. Dallas Willard says it this way, the freedom from frantic desire to have is grounded in God's promise to never leave us. The freedom from the frantic desire caused by fear. The freedom from the frantic desire caused by coveting that is grounded in God's promise to never leave us and to always be our helper.

What is first place in your life? What a great reminder for us all. If you missed any part of today's message or want to share it with a friend, you can listen to this and any other Summit Life broadcast free of charge at And if you haven't already, be sure to get a hold of our latest premium resource, Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. This is a resource that will help you dive deeper into the teachings of 1 Corinthians and apply them to your daily life. In just five minutes a day, these 14 sessions will guide you through the book of 1 Corinthians and help you understand its message more clearly. This study guide is available right now as a token of our thanks for your generous gift to the ministry.

Don't miss out on this chance to enhance your spiritual journey and maybe even walk alongside a friend or a loved one as you do it. Visit today to get your copy of Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or give your gift at our website, If you'd rather mail your donation, our address is JD Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 27709. Before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts, and we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series. It's quick and easy to sign up at I'm Molly Vidovitch, reminding you to tune in again Tuesday as Pastor JD explores more solid biblical wisdom here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-20 10:12:09 / 2023-03-20 10:22:46 / 11

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