So, who’s your God? You might say, “It’s Jesus.” The people of Israel would have said, “It’s Yahweh.” Same God. But there could be a difference between the God you confess and the god that you actually worship. These false gods are our “functional savior.”
The Israelites would have said, “We worship Yahweh,” while they were committing adultery, stealing, and lying. You and I are prone to the same error, and here’s the way it works: We have some concept of a hell, we have some concept of a heaven, and then we run to some god to save us from our hell and put us in heaven.
For example, imagine you are a single lady who has the following view of hell: forever single, no boyfriend, no potential husband, no children, just cats. Your view of heaven: boyfriend, fiancé, husband, fertility. You want to get out of your hell and into your heave, so you run to a functional god called “Boyfriend.” You throw your arms around him and cry, “Save me! Never leave me! Never forsake me! Bless me! Be the center of my life! Make my life worth living!”
Many people in relationships are trapped in this type of hope in a false god. No spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend can meet the deepest needs of the other person. A person who is worshiped as a god within a relationship might as well throw their hands up and say, “You want me to be God? I’m going to fail you. This relationship is doomed. You’ve thrown your arms around the wrong person. Only Jesus has that résumé.”
Any one of us can say, “Jesus is my God,” but our functional god can be somebody or something else, including a spouse, kids, status, a job, or our health. We turn all of these into gods that are not God and saviors that don’t save.
Who or what do you live for? Marriage, children, promotions, houses, beauty, sex, pleasure, comfort, leisure, sports, peace? None of those things are inherently bad. But when good things become god things, they’re bad things.
Who or what can you not live without? “I have to have them. I have to have it. Do not take them. Do not take it!” Do you every find yourself thinking or saying those words?
Who or what do you run to in times of need? Maybe this scenario describes you: “It’s been a horrible day. I just need to get to my chair, pour a drink, turn on the TV, and be in heaven for a while.”
What causes your highest joy? Is it a functional god or the actual God? What causes your lowest grief? Who or what is at the center of your life? What does your schedule orbit around? What does your budget orbit around? What does your emotional life orbit around? Whatever it is, if it’s not God, it’s a functional god.
God loves to set us free, and then we have to live free. We see this in Exodus. He set his people free, but they had to walk with him. That’s the living free. God does all the setting free. Through the Holy Spirit and the new hearts he gives us, God leads and helps us in the living free. But we have to walk with him in the freedom that he has set before us.
I love being a pastor. However, it is emotionally devastating when the children of God, who have been set free, do not live free. I don’t want any of my children to live as slaves. I don’t want any of God’s children to live as slaves. But my observation over the years is that some do, and some do for a season. It breaks my heart to see people of God living in slavery. And, it breaks God’s heart. We must always remember that sin is not just breaking our Father’s rules, but also breaking our Father’s heart.