Idol Worship?

What comes to mind when you see or hear the word “idol”?

The popular TV show “American Idol”?

A physical statue that is bowed down to and worshipped?

The popular 80’s icon Billy Idol? …Ok I just aged myself!

A teen heartthrob or Disney character that you were obsessed and infatuated with as a child?

A person of influence in society who you greatly admire and love… ie. a sports figure…an actor…a political or religious figure?

The dictionary defines idol as “a material object, like a carved image, that is worshipped as a god; a false god; a person who is revered, admired, or highly loved; excessive adoration or devotion.”

This is very commonly the way we understand and comprehend the meaning of the word idol in our society.

As Christians… one of the most obvious references to this term idol in the Bible is as the second commandment listed in the Ten Commandments when God instructs…

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3NIV

And we can see…as we read further…that our God is a jealous God and He sure isn’t messing around when He commands us not to worship any other god but Him!

3 You must not have any other god but me. 4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 NLT

Ok a bit harsh? You think?

Funny how in our society this term idol doesn’t seem so bad…I mean what’s wrong with watching and voting for our next American Idol…or having a teenage crush on Kirk Cameron or Ricky Schroder? Ok…did I just age myself AGAIN?!

Well, there may be nothing wrong…but let’s examine further and go deeper into this idea of idolatry.

Many of the Old Testament commands against idolatry refer specifically to physical idols…idols that the pagan nations surrounding the Israelites worshipped.

Because idol worship was such a threat to the Israelites’ purity, God even instructed His people to destroy the pagan nations they conquered and to refrain from intermarrying (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). In addition, they were to destroy the places that these pagan nations built to worship false gods.

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not always follow God’s commands…and as a result…they fell into the trap of worshipping physical idols…even creating one of their own! (Exodus 32).

These man-made physical idols were constructed of wood or stone (Deuteronomy 4:28) and oftentimes were described as not having the ability to see or hear. These gods were impotent.

Some religions still use physical idols or icons…perhaps as an image of a god they believe to be elsewhere.

However, biblically, we know that those other gods do not exist. There is only One God! (1Timothy 2:5).

Even though we don’t necessarily bow down to physical images of false gods…idolatry…aka idol worship… among Christians…is still present today.

How is this so?

Idolatry…or idol worship…is worship of anything other than God. It is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.

What exactly does this mean?

Check out what these pastors have to say about idolatry!

Idolatry is anything which causes us to think less of God. (paraphrased) John MacArthur (pastor/author)

Whatever you love most, serve most, seek out most, give to the most, worship the most, and care about the most is your god. Your “god” can be your career, your bank account, the way you look, a particular position or degree, influence, power, or physical pleasure. It can even be something that is considered intrinsically good, yet you allow it to dominate your life more than God. Your “god” is whatever you allow to control you, to be the ultimate guide to decision making, the place of your supreme loyalty, and the source of your self-worth. James Emory White (pastor/author)

Could it be that desire for a good thing has become a bad thing because that desire has become a ruling thing? Paul Tripp (preacher/ author)

So what exactly can be an idol…or considered idol worship…in our lives?

An idol can be such things as pride…money…popularity…body image…even hobbies.

An idol can be our home…our vehicle…our job…material possessions…a relationship…even our family.

An idol can be a computer…what we look at on our computers…even social media.

An idol can be power…influence…tradition…religion…status…position…control…even success.

An idol can be our own goals…own ideas…own purposes…own accomplishments…even self.

An idol can be alcohol…drugs…sex…or any sin.

An idol can even be all the work you do for the Lord that consumes all your time and energy.

Some of these things may in themselves not be bad. We need money in order to live (Matthew 6:31-33)…caring for our bodies is appropriate (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)…God is a giver of good gifts and so we can take delight in the hobbies He has given us (James 1:17; Psalm 37:4).

However, when we begin to value something above God…when we love something more than we love God…when we expect that thing to fulfill us and provide us with ultimate satisfaction…we have begun making it into an idol.

God alone is sufficient for all our needs! (Philippians 4:19) The other things are gifts…not gods.

Do you have any idols in your life? Think about it…

What do you treasure and value and desire most? …God wants to be our treasure, since He treasures us most. (Matthew 6:21)

What do you seek after or pursue most?  …God wants us to pursue and seek Him first. (Proverbs 21:21, Matthew 6:33)

What takes most of your time & focus & energy? …God wants us to set our heart and mind on Him and His kingdom. (Colossians 3:1-5)

What do you put your trust in?  …God wants us to trust in Him with all our heart. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What do you think will satisfy and fulfill you? …God wants to give us abundant life & fully fill and satisfy our heart and soul. (Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 63:1-5; Psalm 81; John 10:10)

What are some things you are not willing to let go of?  We need to be willing to love and follow Jesus, whatever the cost! (Philippians 3:7-9)

Why do you do the things you do?  …Our motives should be love for God and love for others. (I Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 22:37-40; 2 Corinthians 5:9)

So what if we have a few idols in our lives? Check this out…Idols can and will…

1. Disappoint You   

Idols always promise more than they can deliver.

Those who make idols are disillusioned because the gods they made are false and lifeless. Jeremiah 10:14 GNB

 Anytime you put an expectation in something or someone other than God…you will disappointed.

2. Dominate You 

Idols can dominate you and control you.

Before you knew Christ you were controlled by dead idols, who always led you astray. 1Corinthians 12:2 GN

Keys words…controlled and always led astray.

When we focus and are concerned with people and things so much, it will consume us and we actually become controlled by it. As a result…we are led astray…away from God.

3. Deform You

Idols can deform you…change you. 

Those who make idols become like them and so will those who trust in them. Psalm 115:8 GN

We shape an idol and then it shapes us. We become what we value most.

Self-examine your life today and determine if you have any idols or if there is something that has the potential to become an idol in your life. Pray and repent and ask God to help you bring that person, idea, or thing down as an idol. Pray for the Lord to strengthen you in your faith and trust in Him.

Jesus wants to be your first love…since you are His first love! He wants to be the center of your life and fully satisfy you! …Nothing else! He alone is sufficient to meet all your needs! Every single one of them!

Trust Him today and give Him back His rightful place in your life…First Place!

Reflection Points:

  1. What comes to mind when you see or hear the word “idol”?
  2. What can be an idol…or considered idol worship…in our lives?
  3. What does God say about having idols in our lives?
  4. Do you have any idols in your life?
  5. What negative consequences can result from having idols in your life?         

Action Points:

  1. Even though we may have the perception from the Bible that idols are physical images and statues that pagan nations used to worship…which certainly is true…we do need to go deeper to understand that idolatry…or idol worship…is worship of anything other than God. It is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.
  2. Self-examine your life today and determine if you have any idols or if there is something that has the potential to become an idol in your life.
  3. Ask yourself if it has been placed in higher value than God or even taken the place of God in your life.
  4. Determine if this person or thing has disappointed you…dominated you…or deformed you.
  5. Pray and repent and ask God to help you bring that person, idea, or thing down as an idol and to free you from it controlling you. Pray for the Lord to strengthen you in your faith and trust in Him.
  6. Take steps to make Christ the center of your life. Pray and read God’s word daily to keep your focus and Him in the right place.
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