In Christianity, the goal of life is to draw close to Christ and be conformed to His likeness. This is what the word Christian means – “little Christ” or “like Christ.” When someone first starts out on this path into Christ-likeness, known as “getting saved,” they will immediately begin to see how certain things in their lives which they thought they controlled, actually have control of them. These addictions from our old lives carry over into our new Christian life, they don’t just disappear.
For example, someone may drink a lot of alcohol, do ‘recreational drugs’ or look at online pornography regularly. Most of us who have dealt with these former addictions know that it is not an overnight fix just because you come to faith in Christ. There are usually big battles that go along with it. And even some who have been Christians for years are still battling to overcome these former temptations and desires.
What happens in Christian churches, then, is that it becomes very easy to set up a list of do’s and don’ts that will define healthy spirituality for it’s members. By these standards, the believer is then able to judge how far along he has come, and by default, compare himself with the others around him who still struggle.
Now, defeating sin is always a great accomplishment and should be celebrated by the fellowship of believers, but we cannot declare ourselves victorious over sin completely just because we have managed to keep a man-made list. We all still sin regularly, even if it is not publicly noticeable or culturally taboo.
As I have studied the Bible what I find is that there is one sin that seems to be the root of all the others. This is the sin of idolatry. It is when we put something else in the place of God.
The Bible teaches very clearly that as God created everything; He is central to everything. He is the ultimate authority. He is the definition of good and right. He is the one who decided that truth is truth. But, when man was put in the garden surrounded God’s authority and truth, he bought into a lie and claimed God’s authority as his own (see Genesis 1-3).
Since that time, at the very core of man’s being, is the desire to worship himself, or any other created thing, rather than the God of the universe (see Romans 1). Now, this plays out in an infinite number of ways, because no two people are the same. My idolatry leads me to sin in ways that your idolatry would lead you to thing is stupid. But, nevertheless, the idolatry we hold in our hearts continually tells us that God is a liar, He is not infinitely good, and even if He says something is true, we can still question it.
This is what gives me the assumed right to do what I want, when I want, despite what anyone thinks, and if morality is called into question, I can reply, “well, that may be true for you, but not for me…” What I find, though, is that there are three major things wrong with idolatry that we cannot excuse our way out of..
The first problem with our idolatry is that it robs God of the worship due to Him from us.
The central theme of the Bible is that God created us to give Him glory through our worship of Him. According to the Westminster Catechism and Dr. John Piper, we are to glorify Him in our enjoyment of Him. To be honest, though, to a Christ-following sinner this sounds a lot easier than it is to actually do because our desire to worship God is constantly at war with our inherent sin which keeps us from it (see Romans 7:18-20).
The major problem is that even though our natural inclination is toward idolatry, it doesn’t excuse us from our biblical, God-given obligation to live our lives in the outpouring of worship to Him. Now this doesn’t mean we spend all day in a pew singing hymns and praying, but it means that when we are hanging out with friends, eating, working, attending class, or whatever our “hand finds to do,” we are doing it with the intention of glorifying God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
The purpose behind our being created was to worship and honor God, and so when we fall to the sin of idolatry, we are not living in the purpose for our existence.
The second problem with our idolatry is that it robs God of the glory due to Him from the idol.
See, the problem with our idolatry is that we automatically default back on the sin of pride and we simply assume that others are not affected by it.
In reality, though, the person or the thing that becomes an idol to us should be counted as a blessing and a gift from God. By receiving the blessing our hearts should give thanks to God for it, which gives God the glory not only for our worship, but because the glory of that thing is properly pointed to God as well, rather than becoming and idol. He is not only exalted by us, but by this object also.
In our culture there are many things that can easily make their way into the idol category – cars, sports teams, clothes, money, fame, etc., etc. When that occurs though, God not only loses our worship, but the glory He should also receive from those things as well.
The third problem with our idolatry is that it robs God of the testimony received by onlookers.
Whether we like it or not, the truth is that when we say we are Christians, people begin watching our lives to see if it matches our words. When we give that worship due to God to idols instead, people will learn from our lives that God is not who He (or we) say He is.
In my office, over my desk, I have a passage from 1 Corinthians 6, from the Message Bible. It says, “Our work as God’s servants gets validated – or not – in the details. People are watching us…” When we don’t worship God as God, they will not come to know who He is.
So the question is, what are your idols?
We must be honest enough to identify and deal with the things that are disrupting our worship of God, offering their glory in the wrong direction, and sending the wrong message to non-believers. We must confess and repent. And God will forgive. And God will heal. And God will get the glory He deserves.
So, as usual, feel free to discuss by clicking the comment link below…