We know that God tests us. He tests our faith. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3). He tests our obedience as He tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1-2, James 2:21-24).
Does God test us in regards to idols? How does He test us to see if we are serving idols more than Him? And how do we demonstrate to God that we are not worshiping idols?
Does God test us to see if we use physical idols, images of Christ for example, in our worship? And if so, how do we pass the test? How do we show that we are not using idols that way?
For some of us who used to be Catholic, God may test us by putting us in an environment where such images are present or available. We pass the test, show God that we will not serve idols that way, by avoiding such images as best we can and not using them and not thinking about them, putting them out of our minds, in prayer and worship.
Does God test us to see if we will make an idol out of physical pleasures or physical possessions? Does He test us to see if we will make an idol out of money, our houses and cars, food, sex, or alcohol? Yes, He may test us on those points. How can we pass the test? How do we demonstrate to God that we will not make an idol out of any of those things? We demonstrate this to God by putting God first in all our decisions, doing God's will more than our own even when this requires giving up money, houses, cars, or anything that may get between us and our relationship with God. That is how we pass the test.
Does God test us to see if we will make an idol out of our opinions? And if so, how do we demonstrate to God that we will put Him first before our opinions? I think many of us are tested on this point. If our opinions differ from God's word, the Bible, we can demonstrate to God that we will not make an idol of our opinions, by choosing to believe the Bible more than our opinions and by then acting on that belief.
Does God test us in regards to temptation to put family and friends first before Him?
God often tests Church of God members in this regard, especially since the scattering of the Church after the death of Mr. Armstrong, but before that also in various ways. New people coming into the Church from the TV program often face resistance from close family members who are not being called. Husbands have had to choose God's will more than what their wives wanted, wives have had to choose God's will more than what their husbands wanted, young men and women have had to choose God's way over the desires of their parents, etc. In my case, I was raised Catholic, and I was eighteen years old living in my parents' house when God began to call me through the Plain Truth magazine. I faced a lot of resistance from my Catholic family, and I had to hide my Church of God literature in a bank safe deposit box (a big one) so my mother would not throw it out.
Since the scattering of the Church from about 1989 through about 1995, many members have faced choices of where to attend and which group to support with tithes and offerings, and sometimes a member has had to choose between what God wants and what other members of his family want. Some husbands and fathers, for example, have realized that they have a responsibility to support a Church of God fellowship that is faithful to God's word and law in matters of doctrine and government and also preaches the gospel to the world, yet some of them have compromised to please their wives and children who want to attend a fellowship where their friends attend or which offers greater social opportunities, yet compromises with the Bible and does little to preach the gospel effectively.
But if God is first in our lives, we will seek to please Him more than our families. We must love God and Christ more than our mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, and friends. "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. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26-27).
Does God test the members to see if they make idols out of their Church of God leaders and ministers? Does God test the ministry to see if they set themselves up as idols in competition with God for the loyalty and faith of the members?
Yes, I think God can allow us to be tested on that in a variety of ways.
How can we pass that test? How can we demonstrate to God that we are more loyal to Him than to our ministers? How can ministers demonstrate to God that they will always direct the faith and loyalty of the members to God and not to themselves? How can they show God that they will teach and warn the members against the danger of making an idol out of their pastor or the leader of their fellowship?
Members can show God they will put Him first by proving what they believe in the Bible, and if they see in some point of doctrine that the Bible says something different from what the ministry teaches, they can put God first by believing the Bible more than their ministers. They can do that at the same time as they respect the office of minister by not contradicting the ministry and the leader of the fellowship they attend in conversation with other members.
Ministers can show God that they will not compete with God for the faith and loyalty of the members by teaching the members the importance of believing the Bible more than their leaders and ministers, and by saying as Mr. Armstrong said, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible", and mean it!
God will not accept second place in our loyalty, our faith, and our trust. He will test us, and we must show God that He occupies first place over everything and everyone else in our loyalty, faith, trust, and obedience.
Doing our part to put God first over everything and everyone else is a way we put sin out of our lives and the righteousness of God into our lives.
Here are links to posts in this blog related to this subject:
"Does Your Pastor Warn Against Making an Idol out of Him?", dated December 31, 2013, link:
"Does the Ministry Stand between Us and God?", dated March 8, 2014, link:
"The Right Way to Trust Ministers", dated December 3, 2014, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6
Faith, Chapter 6
Can We Make an Idol out of a Man or Church?, Chapter 6
Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry, Chapter 8 (CONTAINS ORGANIZATION CHARTS)