Idolatry: Do you struggle with this?

“The truth is, our world breeds a culture of idolatry. We are steeped in it, and most of us fall prey to it without even realizing it.”

Idolatry is something most of us probably don’t think about on a daily basis. It’s something that’s easy to view as irrelevant in our era, a remnant of days long past, when worshipping carvings and statues was more commonplace. It’s easy– on the surface– to justify ourselves by thinking, “I’m not singing or praying to that, so I’m not worshipping it.” We say that God is the only one we worship, then continue living our lives without sparing another thought for the matter.

The truth is, our world breeds a culture of idolatry. We are steeped in it, and most of us fall prey to it without even realizing it. Advertisements and tabloids put products and people on a pedestal they don’t deserve, and the rest of the world chases them hungrily. There are television shows we just have to watch, toys and tools we must have, celebrity gossip we absolutely need to hear. Modern consumerism is based on humanity’s penchant for idolizing anything and everything, and it works because, well, we do. The first problem is that we don’t call it what it is.

When we look at the Word, we can see that idolatry is no small issue. In fact, it’s one of the most important. The prophets throughout the Old Testament spent a great deal of time foretelling God’s judgement on His people for letting their hearts be led astray. Punishment was allotted to them primarily because they had turned away from God and worshipped idols instead. And when you take into consideration the fact that idolatry was the subject of the very first two commands God etched in stone for His people, it becomes clear how important the subject is to God. Idolatry is kind of a big deal.

For over a year now I’ve had to deal with a very strong case of unrequited love. It has torn me apart, ravaged my heart, and shaken me to the depths of my being.

I have kept God at the forefront, and I never failed to at least try to trust Him every day. I’ve let myself be open to whatever God wanted to teach me through it, but being completely honest, it’s been difficult not to have a victim mentality. God got me into it in the first place, then put me through the trial, and, despite my perseverence, has appeared to withhold the reward. I tried so hard to do everything the right way that I would get instantly dismissive if someone accused me of wrongdoing. One of the warnings I had been given was that I might be making an idol out of a person.

I didn’t see how that could be true. If you’d asked me to define idolatry two months ago, I would have described it as “putting something before God”, and then I would have denied any trace of it in my life. I still put God first, and He’s the only One I knowingly worship. However, recent experiences and wise words from some of my friends helped me realize I was wrong. Idolatry isn’t about bowing down in front of a statue. It’s much deeper, simpler, and– frankly– scarier than that. In Colossians 3:5, Paul lists several fruits of the sinful nature we must put to death, ending the list with “covetousness, which is idolatry.” I checked the dictionary for the word “covetous”, and the primary definition was “inordinately or wrongly desirous…” Even more interesting was the second definition: “eagerly desirous“. That’s a far cry from burning incense at a shrine. The Word says that any time we feel eagerly desirous of something that is not God, we are in danger of idol worship. Idolatry occurs whenever something displaces our desire and affection, moving it from God to something less. It’s that simple.

It broke my heart when I realized how foolish I had been. Even when my desires were not inherently sinful, they became so when I let them take over my heart. God is the only One who deserves such a large portion of my heart, and when I withhold it from Him by giving it so completely to something else, I have made an idol.

The more I read the Bible, the more I realize that God’s single greatest desire for us is to have our hearts be fixed on Him. Sin, He can forgive, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No matter how many times we fall, He lifts us up and welcomes us back into his arms. No matter how many mistakes we make, He is willing to forget them and call us His sons and daughters. His heart is set on us, and all He wants is our hearts in return.

Idolatry steals our hearts away from Him, causing us, at best, to be unfaithful to Him, and at worst, to outright reject Him.

We should examine ourselves daily, praying that God illuminate our misplaced desires and affections. We need to ask ourselves the tough questions.

  • Is there anything I want so badly that it hurts?
  • Is there something on which I want to spend more of my time than seeking God?
  • Is there anything I can’t bear the thought of giving up?

We need to be brutally honest with ourselves, and let God convict us. Will you join me in being more diligent in rooting out the idols?

-Tyler Huggins

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