Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…"
I wanted to write a post on the subject of Idolatry. Idolatry in its simplest terms is, “Something or someone you look to for redemption.” In other words it’s a false, functional savior. Our whole culture is built around the worshipping of idols. We worship money, sex, power, fame, food, houses, boats, cars, careers, ministry, relationships, children, medication and on it goes. Anything we look to give us value, worth, purpose, meaning and direction, outside of our creator, is classified as an idol.
Let’s take a look why we worship. It starts with our creator and how He designed us. The Triune God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit are self sustaining eternal persons who constantly outpour love, affection, value, dignity to one another. The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:26 that he made us out pourers of worship just like God. In other words, we we’re made “worshipping”. The moment we come out of the womb we are worshipping something. If we don’t worship God we will worship something else. That’s where Adam and Eve screwed it up for us. Satan deceived our first parents to buy into the lie that they can become their own god (Gen 3:5). That’s what happens with us. We believe we can control our own lives and worship ourselves, bring glory to our name, pleasure our own desires. It’s a turn inward to self and the result is we become vacuums. Idolatry causes our hearts to take, steal and suck the life from other people or things. Why does this happen? The heart was made for God and if the heart is not filled with the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the heart will look for something else to worship instead of God. Apart from God we have no life and if we worship ourselves we must find life in other things when life doesn’t exist in other things. Only God is the true source of life. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. - John 1:4
What is the result? Death, disappointment, depression, failure, emptiness, void of worth and dignity. The Bible says Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The things we look to ultimately don’t satisfy because they were never meant to. We weren’t designed for idols to fulfill us. We were designed by God to have a relationship with Him where by He pours His life into us and we in turn act as conduits naturally pouring God’s life into others.
Let me say that idols can be good things. Marriage is a good thing and blessed by God. The problem is when we idolize marriage as in “I need a husband/wife to save me and bring me fulfillment” it becomes an idol. As Mark Driscoll likes to say, “Good things, turned into God things, become bad things.”
What are some common idols? Let’s take a look at a few.
Sports: People dress up in their colors and jerseys and dawn the temple known as a stadium to worship their team. There’s nothing wrong with sports in general. In fact anyone who knows me knows I’m a baseball fan. But when you live or die based on what your team does or doesn’t do, and you’re depressed for weeks because your running back couldn’t punch it in the end zone with two seconds left on the clock, chances are it’s an idol.
Food: Our society is number one in the world in obesity. America has invented “All You Can Eat.” We have the most overweight people in the world which is not something to be proud of. The Bible says Php 3:19 their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. When our god is our belly we tend to eat things to comfort us, to save us in the moment we feel down or depressed. We turn to the fridge for comfort food only to find our waist is getting bigger but our soul wastes away each time we worship our food idol. We’re substituting Häagen-Dazs as our consoler rather than “The Comforter” The Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
Sex: We want to pleasure ourselves when in reality we’re worshipping our own bodies as idols. The human body was the apex of God’s creation so we turn it inward and gratify its desires. Hollywood portrays promiscuity as something to be celebrated when the results are disastrous such as Aids, Herpes, and other venereal diseases along with the emotional damage that it can cause. Sex was designed for marriage between one man and one woman the same way cars are designed to run on gasoline. You can try and fill your tank on sugar or soy sauce but your car just won’t run. God desires that His highest creation, mankind, to experience this wonderful gift in a committed marital relationship where it’s safe and pleasurable. A fire in a fire place is warm and inviting but if it gets outside the fireplace it causes damage. The same holds true with sex outside of marriage. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous -Heb 13:4. So we see the marriage bed is undefiled. Anything outside of that is idolatry.
Relationships: I had a conversation with a girl who desperately desired a husband. Being married is a noble thing but when you look to someone to complete you, other than Jesus, it is an idol. As a result she’s been in a string of bad relationships which has caused pain, depression and discouragement all because her idol failed to live up to her expectations. Her bed became a literal alter as she offered herself up as a sexual sacrifice to her idol. If you worship relationships you will become co-dependant and will leave you empty and void. Worshipping Jesus makes you a brand new person fulfilling the very depths of your soul. Jesus said The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. -John 10:10
Career: Many people lay themselves on alter of career. People work seventy to eighty hours a week slaving away at their idol in hopes of making it to the top. They find their value and purpose in the next promotion. There’s nothing wrong with working hard and the Bible exhorts us to work hard. Problem is if that’s what defines you you’ll be disappointed when the promotion does or doesn’t come. The song Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin is one of the most theologically correct songs regarding the career idol. The lyrics are as follows:
I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
Of course the father tragically looks back and realizes he missed out on a relationship with his son. As a result his son ended up becoming like his father’s idol.
Entertainment: Our American Culture is steeped in this one. We’re obsessed with movie stars whose lives are a train wreck as the tabloid TV Shows and internet sites are filled with the latest gossip tantalizing our proverbial taste buds in seeing the famous fall. We’re captivated by what Lindsay Lohan did this week rather than what’s taking place in the Middle East; which actually has bearing on our lives. We set up these idols in hopes we can watch them fall giving us a sense of superiority. Our attitude is simply, “At least I’m not as dysfunctional as they are.” We compare ourselves to fallible man when we should look at a Holy God. When Michael Jackson died people filled the streets to pay homage to their fallen god. People cried and wept aloud for the king of Pop as if their savior was crucified. It’s madness to think that the world is willing to follow anyone or anything that remotely has a decent answer. Yet there’s a God in heaven that is perfect, the author of life, willing to rewrite our life’s script to love, joy and peace.
So what’s the nature of an idol? Idolatry has its nature in creation. Idolatry is the worship of a created thing and by created thing it can be material or immaterial. When the creator is not worshipped in His proper context, through the power of the Gospel, the lines between creation and creator become blurred to which the downward spiral of created things is worshipped. That’s what the first chapter of Romans is all about. Rom 1:22-23 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Genesis 1:1 declares a distinction between creator and creation. When we somehow fail to understand the Good News of Jesus Christ, that He entered into His creation, even though nobody recognized Him (See John1:10), that He lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death on the cross, that is He died in our place for the breaking of God’s Law and became the very idol that we worship which is sin, was buried and rose again three days later to forever beat death and set us free. When we fail to understand this incredible truth we have no choice but to turn to idols and functional saviors to redeem us from our hell.
Think about it. 2Corinthians 5:21 says For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This means that when Jesus was being judged for our sin on that cross at that moment He became a pedophile, Homosexual, glutton, drug addict, alcoholic, self righteous, jealous, a liar, a thief, an adulterer and on it goes. He became my idol! Why? Because He loves you and me that much to free us from the bondage our idols cause.
What’s the remedy? Turn from your idol and acknowledge to God that its sin then change directions and move toward Jesus. This is called repentance. Then believe that His finished work on the cross brings you full acceptance, assurance, and love to set you free and you’ll be free indeed. Instead of getting high on drugs you’ll be high on Jesus. Instead of feeding on the all you can eat buffets you’ll be feeding on the bread of life nourishing your soul. Instead of tipping back another cold one you’ll drink freely of the water of life in Jesus satisfying your spiritual thirst. Instead of gratifying your sexual desires you’ll experience intimacy in the love of God fulfilling your relational hunger. Instead of constantly dealing with the hurt and pain that others have caused you’ll experience peace that Jesus gives and anger will be replaced by love.
He loves you so much. The Cross was His doing for you willingly so you could turn from worthless idols and turn to Him. Idols give happiness for a moment but He gives Joy for eternity.