Our Idolatry…

We could basically be the stars of any western, we have individualism, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency in our bones. The truth is, I know some pretty capable people. But with that capability can come idolatry. Self-idolatry. We, moderns in the west, don’t form gods out of gold, we are the gods. We have feet, mouths, and hands. We can deliver ourselves. At least, that’s what we think. 

Our idolatry is often self-idolatry, we trust ourselves over against God. The New City Catechism says, “Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.” Often, we trust in ourselves. That, however, is not our only form of idolatry. 

Our idols can be anything we…

  • trust and look to more than God 
  • make more important than God
  • give our attention to more than God
  • expect to give us something that only God can give 
  • make so central and essential to life that if we lose it, life will no longer feel worth living

When something in our life is an absolute requirement for our happiness and self-worth, it is an idol. When that thing is threatened, whatever it is, we will act out. we will become anxious or angry when that thing is in possible danger.[1]

Imagine with me that preaching well is my idol, it’s what I find significance in. What happens if my ability to preach well is threatened? Hypothetically, what if I’m preaching in front of a couple hundred people and accidentally say “booger” when I mean to say “burger”?—Not that that’s happened to me… 😉 But if that did happen to me and preaching was my idol, where I find significance, then I would be crushed, absolutely crushed.

There are a few things we can glean from this example. Number one, preaching is a good thing and a very important thing. I should want to do a good job. You also have very important things in your life that you value. However, if those things hold a place of priority that they shouldn’t hold then when something goes wrong, as it inevitably will, you will be crushed.

So, number two, idolatry is difficult… That is, it’s a constant struggle. Simone Weil once wrote: “One has only the choice between God and idolatry.” Good things, important things, can hold a place that they shouldn’t in our lives and become idols. 

Sex, exercise, and food are good things when they hold the position that God has ordained for them. However, when they are inordinate desires practiced in the wrong ways, they are damning. Only the LORD God brings true hope, happiness, significance, and security.

No idol will ultimately deliver. They won’t bless. Idols, whatever your idols are, won’t fulfill. The Bible says trying to find fulfillment in idols is like drinking water from a polluted water puddle (cf. Jer. 2:13). Your thirst may be quenched for a time but in the end, it’s not going to be good. It’s probably going to kill you and it certainly won’t satisfy.

Idols mislead their worshipers in all sorts of ways but they also debase them. Whereas worshiping the One true God through the Lord Jesus Christ transforms us into the image of the Son of God. False gods pull humans downward to eventually be less than beasts. Jeremiah 2:5 says it this way: they “went after worthlessness, and became worthless.”

Idols—whether objects or riches or worldly pleasures or success—have no eye to pity, nor ear to hear, no tongue to counsel, no hand to help. They are created and have no power. Yet, God is the Creator. He sees all, hears us when we cry to Him, He speaks to us, and helps with His mighty outstretched arm.

Many mock what they don’t see and trust what they can see. Christians, on the other hand, trust what we can’t see… We know the LORD is in heaven. He’s not visible but He does whatever He pleases. The world that is seen, and seems so powerful, cannot hold Him back or bind Him! No human thing can bear the burden of godhood. No created thing can carry us or provide what we need. Only God can! He’s not carried like the world’s gods… No. He as the Creator carries us (Is. 46:1-4).

So, some people get their “blessings”—hope, happiness, significance, and security—from human approval, self-disciple, control, and wealth, or whatever… The problem with those things is that they are destined to fail. They are created and thus they won’t finally deliver. They can’t hold the weight we place on them.

It is only when seeking ultimate blessing from God can we face anything. As it says in Romans 8, If God is for us, who can be against us?! He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

Idols are inept but God is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness. Whereas idols are inept God is involved. In fact, so involved that He came to this broken earth in the form of Jesus Christ. Idols are silver and gold but God came in flesh. Jesus has a mouth and with it, He speaks words of life. Jesus has eyes, and He saw this broken world and wept. Jesus has ears, and He heard the world’s bitter cries. Jesus has a nose, and He smelled the putrid smell of death. Jesus has human hands, and they were pierced. Jesus has feet, and they carried a cross and were pinned to a cross. Jesus has a throat, and with it, He cried out: “my God, my God, why have Thou forsaken Me?!”

Jesus was bruised so that we could receive an eternal blessing. Jesus–not some idol–gives us eternal hope, eternal happiness, eternal significance, and eternal security. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing. God will bring us all the way home. He will deliver. Idols not so much… So, “Dear friends, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14)!

Brothers and sisters, let’s trust Jesus. Let’s worship Jesus! He is no idol! He is all-powerful and He cares about us.  

_________________

 

[1] See Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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