Romans 1:23-25, “They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in His hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’ It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them - the God we bless, the God who blesses us.”
It made me look at my own life and think about the idols that I might be worshiping. I don’t think there is anything that makes God more angry than us trying to replace Him with someone or something else. We know that He is a jealous God and He is not impressed with us trying to fill our needs by searching for worldly, short term things that really mean nothing in the big picture of eternity.
It is easy for me to spot others who worship idols, but much harder to detect those idols that I give a special place to. The very nature of an idol is to be an imitation, a look-alike, so it is easy for us to be deceived and think that it is not really replacing God when it is. I looked up some definitions of false gods, and idols and came across some interesting words and descriptions:
“Something arising from mistaken ideas;” “Not real or genuine;” Useless copies of something valuable;” Resembling, but not accurate;” Imitation of something valuable;” “Visible but without substance;” Something adored blindly or excessively;” “Object that is NOT solid or practical in character, quality, or importance.”
What is it that we chase after as the object of our affection and something that fulfills our desires and longings? Be honest with yourself. It is easy to spot the idols of pleasure that are often wrong and sometimes evil. But, that is not what worries me about those of us who are Christians. What worries me is that we can be lulled to sleep with idolatry with good things. It is good for us to work hard, to have a wife, to go to church, to be industrious, to save money, to give to others and lots more good things. But when we are so into our business that we have grown, it can easily become an idol. So can our dedication to our wife or marriage. I have seen Christians that brag about their good works -- that is their idol. Pastors and Christian leaders can worship their positions and even their power and influence.
Anything that gives us security, satisfaction, meaning, substance -- beyond the love of Christ and our relationship with Him -- has the potential to be an idol. In my business, I see it on a regular basis. People who are hard working and are good stewards of their money can fall in love with different aspects of it more than they realize. My client didn’t start out caring more for money than his wife or Christian principles; it just gradually happened. Some people are attached to their savings account or the money they have set aside for retirement. Some have their paid-off house or other possessions as their sense of security and safety. Yet others will put their trust in literal gold or silver. Some think land or stock certificates or a business is their meaning and their safety. The church that they have helped build or the missions that they have worked on might be their accomplishment, their sense of identity. It is easy to look at what I have created and give more credence to that than my Creator. I know that I am not the only one that struggles with this issue. I have dealt with many folks over the years that fight this battle along with me.
I think the danger is when we see it in others and deny it in our own lives. I pray and hope this man that I talked about at the beginning of this article will discover that he is a sinful idol worshipper. I don’t know if he will; I think it has gone on so long that he will argue with me and whoever else that would tell him he is willing to sacrifice his relationships and the lives of others in order for him to keep what is most important to him. He would never agree that his business and land is more important to him than God. Yet it is clearly true to anyone that would talk to him for an hour or two.
And that is the warning in this article. If you are involved with alcohol, or drugs, or sexual sins, you know it is wrong. You know it is a destructive idol and you know you have to do something about it. But if you simply have good works, a comfortable nest egg, a paid off home, a beautiful wife, a great husband, smart kids, a nice yard and garden, a profitable business -- that is what you have to watch out for. The good things that have a larger-than-God spot in your heart is downright scary, because you don’t even realize that they are changing the way you think, the way you interact with others, the decisions you make. When I look back on my life, I know that there were times when I thought that I was putting God first and I was really worshipping some good idols. Most people around me didn’t see it and I certainly didn’t because I thought I was doing good -- and I was. BUT, I was getting my fulfillment out of what I did and who I was as compared to what my relationship was with Christ. My prayer and advice to you is to take a close look at what might be an idol for you. The best way to do that in my opinion is to start taking things away in your mind.
What if you didn’t have your career or business? What if you lost your family? What if your retirement account was zero tomorrow morning? What if your church was no longer there? What about your best talent? Your arms, your legs, your health? When it is all stripped away, how healthy is your relationship with Jesus Christ? These thoughts scared me and made me think about my priorities and where God fits in. I hope it will with you also.
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