“And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing” (1 Samuel 12:21).

COUNTERFEIT FULFILLMENTS CAN NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF GOD, OUR TRUE NEED. Even so, the devil’s deception has always been that our deepest needs can be filled outside the limits of God’s will. He defrauds us of the joy we were designed for by suggesting that our greater needs can be filled by lesser satisfactions and that even our need for God Himself can be gratified by other pleasures. This ancient lie is the source of all idolatry.

The deepest longings God has given us are longings that must be fulfilled. They will not be denied satisfaction of some kind. If we’re not richly nourished by the Bread of Life, we’ll be driven to pick up whatever crumbs we can from the world. But filling our hunger with other food doesn’t mean we need God any less; it just means we’ll be less likely to feel that need. However inferior worldly substitutes may be, they can still make it seem as if our needs have been met, for the time being. Just as candy spoils the appetite of a child for real nourishment, we spoil our appetite for God and foolishly suppose we are no longer hungry.

But we are “shaped and fashioned by what we love” (Goethe). Eventually, we come to bear the likeness of our chosen desires. Hence a most serious danger of substitutes is that our fascination with their fulfillment may come to be a part of our character. If we devote ourselves to other things with the kind of devotion that should be given to God alone, the time will come when we share the likeness of those things more than we share God’s likeness. Such a possibility ought to frighten us.

Ultimately, of course, substitute satisfactions don’t work. If we fill God-created needs with anything less than God-designed fulfillments, the result is bound to be unsatisfying in the short run, and destructive to our character in the long run. Even when we get what we want, it will not be what we want. “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Temporal solutions only appear to fix eternal problems. Created things can never do for us what the Creator Himself desires to do.

“God may well be taken as a substitute for everything; but nothing can be taken as a substitute for God” (Anonymous).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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