Identifying Your Idols

The idols in our modern world are subtle.

We’re too sophisticated and civilized to offer sacrifices to small statues or the gods they represent. Sure, we struggle with lust, anger, fear, despair. But we don’t get tripped up by the easy stuff that wreaked havoc in ancient Israel. Right?

Actually, idolatry is thriving in our modern age. You don’t have to visit a temple prostitute or a brothel—you can visit a website on your smartphone and worship the god of lust. We don’t offer sacrifices to the god of the harvest—instead we sacrifice to the god of work, trusting in our jobs to give us prosperity or protect us from poverty. Modern idolatry is more convenient and easier to hide, from our friends and family, and even from ourselves.

Idolatry removes God from his rightful place and puts something else there. Nature abhors a vacuum, and our human natures abhor a God-vacuum. If we turn away from loving, trusting, and obeying God, we will unavoidably end up loving, trusting, and obeying something or someone else. If we start loving something the way we are called to love God alone, we will find our hearts slow to love God.
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” ~ Jesus, in Luke 16:13

We must look to something as god. And at the same time, whatever we look to as god will naturally push out the competition. Whether you recognize it or not, you serve a master. Whether you admit it or not, you put your trust in something—even if it is just your own cleverness and skill.

One of the most common masters today is self. The famous poem says, “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.” A person who says this has seized the throne for themselves. They will love and prioritize themselves. They will trust in their own strength and wisdom for salvation. And they will not submit to anything outside themselves.

I’ve found these three categories a very helpful way to think about and identify idolatry. Each of them describes a way we are to relate uniquely to God. Not that we delight in or trust in God alone; rather, God should have the place of utmost affection and devotion in our hearts, and God should be the ultimate source of our confidence.

Delight—what do you value; what do you prioritize?
Trust—where do you place your hope; what do you look to as savior? 
Obey—what governs you; what do you sacrifice to?

Over the next three weeks we will dig deeper into each of these aspects of idolatry. We will learn how to identify these types of idols, and we will also learn more about how we should relate to God in these ways instead.

Ben Whiting




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