Idolatry. Wait.. like statues? You mean like those golden calves that the Israelites worshipped? Nope, that’s not me. I don’t have idols. Wait… but I do, I have idols. You have idols. And I don’t just have one idol, but so many. In fact, our hearts are idol factories.
But, what is an idol exactly? It is anything that captures my thoughts, emotions, affections more than God does. It steals from the full glory of God and the worship He deserves. Examples of idols can range from academics, food, friends, family, careers, approval of others, anxiety, or sports. In fact, many of these were originally created to be good things for us to enjoy, but as sinners we are capable of distorting anything so that it replaces God in our hearts.
In the beginning, God designed us as creatures of worship, to worship Him alone, but in our sinfulness and fallen nature, we turned away from Him. In our foolishness we “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). When something in our lives starts to take the place of God and becomes our desire, we place our identity and security in these idols instead of God. In our faithlessness, we set these idols before us which blind us and causes us to stumble and leads us into sin (Ezekiel 14:3). In our selfish tunnel vision pursuit of these idols, it leads us into sin against God and others (James 4:1-2). Think. How often have we gotten angry or sinned against another person because we did not get what we want?
Eventually, we begin to see that these idols do not satisfy us nor do they bring us eternal joy (Psalm 16:4). We begin to see how the devil has used these idols to deceive us, just as he did in the garden of Eden when he told Adam and Eve that God wasn’t enough (Genesis 3:1-7)
I was reminded when listening to a song “O Lord my Rock and My Redeemer” and in one line the lyrics said
“My sword to fight the cruel deceiver.
My shield against his hateful darts.”
It reminded me the times when I seek my idols to satisfy me, that my need to serve these idols are lies put in my head by the devil. The devil has a single lie that he has told from the beginning and tries to tells us, that God is not enough for us.
So, how do we fight idolatry? First identify it. But, how do I even know I have an idol? Some questions from a book called Gospel Treason that helped:
- Do you sin in order to get it?
- Do you sin if you think you’re going to lose it?
Do we run to it for refuge instead of God?
- Does it give you significance and importance?
But how do we fight these idols once we’ve identified them? So often, the idols feel so powerful and I feel so powerless against the devil’s schemes.
First, I am reminded to repent. There is forgiveness for those who repent (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). In my repentance and the process of letting go of my idols, it will really hurt and bring me low, but ultimately, it will bring me closer to Him. And most likely, it will be a long fight to let go of the idols and to surrender to God and there will be times when I want to run back to my idols. But in my struggle, I must discipline myself to look to Him, not to anyone, anything, or even myself. I look to the one who loves me and has died for me so that I may be free from these idols (Galatians 5:24). As I begin to grow in my love for God, naturally my affections for idols will lessen. I begin to see how serious a sin of idolatry is and that it is my sin and idolatry that put Christ to the cross. When I begin to lay these idols aside though is that I will begin to see Jesus more clearly.
Like Joshua was told, we must choose who we will serve, for who we serve will control our actions (Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 4:23). No matter how long we live, our battle with different forms of idolatry will reappear and will be a lifelong battle. However, we must remember that the only thing that will satisfy our souls and truly bring us joy for eternity is Him and acknowledging and worshipping the glory of God. Our identity should not be rooted in these idols, but in our roles as worshippers of Christ. As the lyrics of “O Lord My Rock and Redeemer” go:
“O Lord my Rock and Redeemer
Greatest treasure of my longing soul
My God, like you there is no other
True delight is found in you alone.”