One of Satan’s greatest deceptions which is embraced by many Christians, including leaders, is that they can cruise through the end-times and into an inheritance in the Kingdom of God with divided loyalties, serving two masters. They set out to follow Christ, but they secretly also serve another master, their idol. Serving their idol-master along with Christ causes them to dismiss or water down those commands of God which conflict with the demands of their idol-master. These idols are the things of this world which they value more than the eternal things. Being slaves to such idol-masters will eventually bring the Christian to a fork in the road where they must permanently choose one and completely reject the other. When this occurs, if they choose poorly, they will forfeit their inheritance in the Kingdom of God and the reward of immortality. At some point every Christian will be put to the test in which they will have to either abandon their idol-master and choose Christ alone, or abandon Christ and choose to serve their idol-master instead.
These idol-masters are the pursuits of the things of this world or the pleasures and lusts of the flesh. For some it is the craving for admiration, social status, being seen as smart or successful, or the need for affirmation and approval. It might be a craving for money, materialism, or a certain living standard. For others it might be patronizing and catering to family members who are rebellious against God’s commands. Yes even wives or husbands can be an idol-master. So-called “patriotism,” which is often just seeking to preserve a comfortable living standard and environment, is an idol-master of many Christians, dividing their loyalties. The book of Acts, along with 1 Peter, show that Christians thrive in adversity, but grow spiritually obese in the kind of comfort we have enjoyed in this nation. Those devoted more to preserving the temporal (under the pious title of “patriotism”) rather than pursuing the eternal (2 Cor. 4:18) reveal their divided loyalties. For others, their idol-master is satisfying cravings, lusts, and appetites of the flesh. Those who are truly disciples of Jesus Christ, who hope to be overcomers in the end-time trial, cannot serve two masters. They must choose Him alone as their master even if it costs them their family, their financial security, their self-image or reputation, their personal comfort, their other dreams and pursuits, or their life, or even (God forbid) all their Facebook “friends.” Christians must crucify the flesh and grind their idols to powder as Moses did with the golden calf in order to sustain their endurance in the impending trial and assure their inheritance in the “first resurrection,” the “resurrection of the just” (Rom. 6:1-23). Note Paul’s singlemindedness as an example we should follow:
Phil. 3:7-14 (NKJV) 7 But whatever was gain to me, these things I have considered forfeiture because of the Anointed. 8 But indeed, I surely also consider everything to be forfeiture because of the superiority of the knowledge of Jesus Anointed my Master, because of whom I forfeited everything and consider it to be rubbish so that I may gain the Anointed, 9 and may be found in Him, not having my [own] justice – that which comes from the Law, but that which is through the faith of the Anointed – justice from God upon the faith, 10 to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if somehow I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead. 12 [It is] not that I have already attained or have already been perfected. But, I am pursuing if I may also seize upon that for which I was seized by Anointed Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have seized. Yet, this [one] thing [I do], forgetting what is behind, and reaching out for what is ahead. 14 I am pursuing, according to the goal, the prize of the call of God [from] above in Anointed Jesus.
Jesus had a lot to say on the topic of divided loyalties, and why such people will fail under pressure and not successfully inherit the Kingdom of God.
Matt. 6:22-23 (KJV) 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
I chose the KJV in this case because it best translates the Greek word ἁπλοῦς “single.” While this passage specifically addresses the idol-master of money, the same principle applies to all idol-masters.
The “single” eye refers to having our eyes and mind fixed firmly on one thing alone, our Master Jesus Christ and His own inheritance (Psalm 2:6-9) which He has promised to share with those who overcome (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21) by following in His footsteps (Heb. 12:1-3). Those whose eye is not singly fixed on pleasing Jesus Christ alone are filled with “darkness.” This “blindness” and “darkness” refers to the utter lack of spiritual discernment and godly wisdom which comes from communion with God through the holy Breath as God speaks to us through the Scriptures inspired by that same Breath. When we ignore and resist “what the Breath is saying to the assemblies,” God becomes “jealous” over us and ceases to guide us, resisting us like a jealous husband does an unfaithful wife. “Or do you suppose the Scripture says for nothing [that] for envy He desires the Breath which He stationed among us? Yet He provides more grace! Consequently he says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:5-6 LGV). God becomes very jealous over those who are secretly or openly serving their idol-master along with Christ. Professing to be walking in the light, they are really wandering in total darkness and deceiving themselves. Jesus said, “how great is that darkness,” because God withdraws His light from them to allow them to stumble in their willful ignorance (darkness) and reap what they sow.
Jesus sent the rich young ruler away empty-handed because He knew that he was secretly serving the idol-master of money and possessions (Mark 10:17-23). It is not that someone serving such an idol-master cannot come to Jesus, or become a Christian, that is, to enter the narrow gate onto the difficult path that leads to Life. Rather it is that such a person will not finish the race but will quit when he/she is forced to choose between money and Christ. Judas Iscariot proved that. When Jesus publicly exposed Judas’ idol-master (money), Judas chose to betray Jesus for money (Mark 14:3-10; John 12:4-8). Jesus warned the twelve disciples in the parable of the Unjust Steward that they could fail on this very account and forfeit their inheritance. He even told them the best strategy to follow for cushioning their fall from grace (Luke 16:1-12).
When someone is considering following Jesus, it is far better to point out the hard truth that you cannot serve two masters than for them to begin to follow Jesus in ignorance and then fail under testing with a miserable outcome, not only in the age to come but also in this life. Judas Iscariot would have been far better off if he had never followed Jesus. Peter’s analogy of a dog returning to its vomit and a pig to its slop was meant to illustrate this point, that those serving two masters will eventually turn back. It would have been far better for them not to have begun, than to begin and then turn back (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
Jesus was famous for raising the bar very high for entrance into the Kingdom, requiring a price much too high for most people to accept. It is not that He did not want many to enter the path. But He knew the “seeker friendly” and “easy believism” approach does far more harm than good. People are far better off going their way and enjoying life with no thought about death, punishment, or immortality than entering a contest and uphill climb with a piano strapped to their backs – their idol-master. Get rid of the piano on your back and you can easily and successfully navigate the difficult path that leads to Life because His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30). But that is only true when we shed the other burdens and yokes and carry His alone. The same principle applies to all of the idol-masters which divide people’s loyalties.
Luke 14:25-35 (NKJV) 25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – 29 “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish?’ 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. 34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Not only did Jesus have a way of thinning out the crowds by raising the bar too high for them, He also had a way of thinning out His own disciples who were already following Him (John 6:66). Money is not the only obstacle or idol-master, the piano on your back. Even seemingly good intentions to keep the peace in one’s own family can be an idol-master. If someone loves “his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters” more than Christ, he has the potential to fall short of the Kingdom of God. You cannot serve two masters. Love for family more than love for Jesus Christ causes some to trivialize, undermine, and contradict the commands of the Master Jesus Christ and the important truths of God’s Word in order to placate and patronize family members. I have seen desperate and passionate attempts to overthrow the Scriptures in order to hold on to rebellious family more than hold on to Christ. Those who do this are not winning their families, but losing any hope of winning them by losing their respect and illustrating a very poor example of what it means to follow Christ.
Pride, an inflated ego, is perhaps the most cruel idol-master of them all, causing its slaves to portray themselves as something they are not in reality. Slaves to this idol-master are easily identified because they become highly insulted and offended if others do not walk on egg-shells around them, bowing down to the self-image they work so hard to project. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the Temple to pray (Luke 18:10-14) illustrates plainly the concept that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:34 LXX; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). The proud may serve God outwardly, but inwardly they have placed their idol, their self-image, in God’s sanctuary. This was the problem with most of the Pharisees. Jesus highlighted their hypocritical devotion to God and exposed their true idol-master simply by poking them in their sensitive spot, showing what offended them – any criticism of their self-image and pretended piousness. Their slavery to the idol-master of self-image was publicly exposed by their reaction, plotting Jesus’ destruction because He exposed them. They had to defend their real “master” at all costs. Christians who serve the idol-master of self-image and ego may defend God’s Word when it does not expose them. But they will defend their real “god,” their self-mage, when exposed by doing exactly what the Sanhedrin did to Jesus, tearing down and seeking to destroy anyone who refuses to bow down to the self-image that they have set up in the Temple of God.
It is much easier to give up the sins of the flesh than the love of self and perceived and craved admiration from others. When such dual loyalties are exposed, and such Christians are forced to choose one master over the other, they usually choose their idol-master. When they do this, following Jesus’ commandments becomes a bitter taste in their mouths. They will eventually spit Him out. But if they humble themselves and follow James’ advice and his very explicit solution, there is hope for recovery and freedom from slavery to this most cruel idol-master (James 3:1 – 4:12).
I know that I have painted a very bleak picture in this blog post. But it is no bleaker than the picture that Jesus Himself consistently painted throughout the Gospels. He was well aware of how those who serve two masters will turn out in the end. It is better for them to just stay on the broad road that leads to destruction, to have the mentality of “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32), than to put one’s hand to the plow and then turn back (Luke 9:62), trying to carry their piano on their backs up the difficult path that leads to life. We do no favors to anyone by widening the “narrow gate” or smoothing out “the difficult path.” This is especially true as we are facing the impending time of great tribulation. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.