The Sin of God-Plus Religion: How Whole Is Your Heart?
Tale of a Divided Heart
Solomon’s story is a warning shot. According to 1 Kings 11:1-11, this man who started very well, ended abysmally. He began as a good guy (1 Kings 3:3-10), but then finished spiritually disqualified.
Solomon’s demise happened when he divided his heart. Though he never utterly rejected Yahweh; he gave some of his devotion to others. That he was not wholly true (1 Kings 11:4) means that he was at least partially true. He maintained a profession of faith. He “went to temple” and observed the rites and external appearances of God’s law. If asked his religious affiliation, he would have checked, “Follower of Yahweh”. Like many today, he “believed in God”. But he saw no harm in diversifying his spiritual heart investments; just to be sure.
Solomon tried to go in two directions at once, by blending them into a third option. His sin was not the subtraction of God from his life so much as the addition of gods to his life. He did not renounce God by abandoning Yahweh altogether. Instead, he reduced God by welcoming others into his affections (1 Kings 11:4-8). He thought that he could have God plus other gods; that he could serve two and more masters; that he could be devoted both to Yahweh, and to Chemosh, Molech and Ashtoreth. He bought the syncretistic God-Plus lie. But in adding in other gods, he turned away from the true God (1 Kings 11:9). You cannot go right and left at the same time.
The Singularity and Absoluteness of God
This warning is serious, and needed again in our time. God will not be reduced by such additions. God and God alone must receive our whole-hearted devotion. This is not “god-as-I-imagine-him”, but God, as he is revealed in Nature, Scripture, and Manger. Through his mighty creation of all that is (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:19-20), his verbal inspiration of Sacred Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), and his personal incarnation in his Son (Heb. 1:1-3; John 1:14-18) he has declared that he is and who he is.
And it is he—and he alone—that we must worship. We must serve the True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with single and whole-hearted devotion (Luke 4:8). He must be believed in and served as the only Source, Sustainer, Sovereign, Savior, and Sentencer of all people everywhere.
Many today find the language of God’s absolute singularity, sovereignty, and exclusivity disturbing. You may be among them. Terminology like true God vs. false religion and absolute truth vs. my truth and your truth falls uncomfortably on many hearts (including a significant percentage of supposed Christians). But the trueness of God in Christ (1 Thess. 1:9; John 14:6; 17:3; 1 John 5:20-21)) assumes and asserts the falseness of every other god, and faith.
People prefer syncretism over exclusivism; embracing a comfortable personalized blend of preferred ideas, ideologies, and spiritualities that serves their interests, more than a Single Sovereign Creator God, whose interests they must serve. They are okay with God as they like to think of him, in the abstract, on the fringe, and in the crisis; but not as he is, in the Real, at the center, and on the throne.
If we join these numbers, turning away from the absolute and exclusive; the eternal, immovable, and singular Gibraltar that God is, the one who tolerates no rivals, then we have forsaken biblical faith. In the end, God-plus equals God-less.
So What Is Your Chemosh and Molech?
This kind of spiritual two-timing doesn’t just happen on the false-religion front. Spiritual infidelity happens whenever we profess love for God, but then allow the world to rival him in our hearts (James 4:3-4; 1 John 2:15-17). It happens whenever we allow any object, person, cause, movement, desire, pleasure or possession to become a heart-dividing distraction (Matt. 6:24; Eph. 5:5; 1 Cor. 6:14-20; 7:29-31, 35; 10:21-22).
The simple point is this: You cannot serve God and. When it comes to heart devotion and passion, God-plus must not happen.
But it does happen. Money-love distracts us. Sexual pleasures outside of a biblically defined and committed marriage relationship consume us. Political loyalties vie for our commitment. Either “Conservatism” or “progressivism” rule us. MAGA captures our allegiance, or CRT usurps our agenda. Wokeness or anti-wokeness become our prevailing concern. An obsession to get as many Likes as possible replaces a commitment to Truth. Preserving religious freedom or getting social justice displaces God from the center, and drives him to the periphery.
While the Chemosh, Molech, and Ashterorth trio is long gone; their replacements and descendants have multiplied and filled the earth—so that spiritual casualties are mounting. People may not abandon the true God entirely; although there are a number of well known, and many lesser known people who have. But millions clearly think that they can be married to God, while having a mistress or two or ten off to the side.
Single-Hearted Devotion to the Singular God
So what do we do if the world has become our mistress (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:3-4)? We must repent with great sorrow, and draw near to God all over again (James 4:6-10). What do we do if we know we have idols in our heart? We must turn from them to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9), in the confidence that he will forgive and receive us through the sin and idolatry-atoning blood of Christ (1 John 1:7-9).
With such a humbled spirit, we must then face the challenge of our time; which is to choose rightly, whole-heartedly, and courageously. God must be our center and our all; the One who is our only one. But we should know from the start that the more spiritually single-minded we are, the more despised, alienated and marginalized we will become. Even if we are the kindest, the most loving, and the very best person there is; it won’t go well for us in the world. Jesus was all of that, and Golgotha is how that turned out.
The cross is where undistracted loyalty to Christ always leads. If we are most loyal to, and consumed by Christ and his holy Word and Will, everybody in the world (including those who cheer whatever agenda we may happen to share right now) will soon turn on us. Inevitably, we will have to decide. Faithfulness or friends? God or gods? Truth or popular opinion? Christ or conservatism? Moral Law or progressivism? Shared allegiances or single-minded love? A prophetic voice heralding the Word, or a politically correct voice, parroting the world?
When given a choice between God and all the gods and distracting pleasures, pursuits, and causes of this life, may we all say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14-15).
And may we make sure to add, as Jesus made sure to command: that we will not only serve him; we will be sure to serve him only (Josh. 24:14-15; Luke 4:8). This and this alone is what it means to be wholly true.