Who You Worship When No One Is Looking

photo (c) 2006, stu_spivack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8 ESV)

Double-mindedness is a problem of the heart. And it is a common problem, because we all like to put up a nice facade in front of other people, but when we’re by ourselves, in our own thoughts and our own desires, we seem to be a different person. We let our desires and greed and lustful thoughts run wild, and we harbor and feed our secret sins.

Bill Hybels once wrote a book called “Who You Are When No One Is Looking” which speaks to this issue. Unfortunately, he was mistaken, because he characterized this as a problem of our character, and that if we muster up enough courage and discipline and love, then we’ll be okay. The problem was that he was only looking at the symptoms and not the root of the problem — it is not about fixing who we are, but addressing who we worship. Double-mindedness might look like a character problem at the surface, but deep down, it is a worship problem.

A. W. Tozer said that “It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. … What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.” (“The Knowledge of The Holy” by A.W. Tozer)

We might worship a mighty and holy God when we’re with others. But what kind of God do you worship when no one is looking? Would you believe your “private God” to be less powerful and less omniscient? Less holy? Less able to satisfy your every need and desire? That you could rely on yourself to make all your decisions more than you need to consult that God of yours?

Miroslav Volf wrote that we can fall prey to a “new polytheism” in which “we follow the voice of one god at work, another at home, and maybe yet another at church. Each sphere resists the claims of the one God to shape all of life.” (“A Public Faith” by Miroslav Volf)

So when James 4:7-8 speaks to double-minded people, it not only talks about drawing near the true God, but also about resisting the devil, the one who feeds us lies. I myself have fallen prey to many of the devil’s lies in the past and I will need to heed the same advice.

Tim Chester wrote: “Sin happens when we believe lies about God instead of God’s Word and when we worship idols instead of worshiping God.” (“You Can Change” by Tim Chester)

Let’s worship God for who He really is. Instead of turning God into who we want him to be, let’s seek to draw near to Him and worship Him.

See Also:
Thoughts On The “Sinner’s Prayer”