When we read about idols in the Old Testament, we tend to think of ancient people bowing down to carved wooden statues. How silly. How foolish. But most of us are just sophisticated idolaters. And it's no less silly or foolish. I'm convinced that idolatry is our root spiritual problem. Maybe that's why it's the first commandment of ten?
In the beginning, God created us in His image. We've been creating Him in our image ever since. Instead of worshiping the Creator, we settle for something less. We find a substitute god, small g. And here's the tricky thing. Most idols are good things, but those good things become bad things because they take the place of God. Instead of being the Ultimate End, God become a means to an end. We want something more than we want God. And we try to use God to get it.
So how do you identify an idol? Here are four idol identifiers:
1) What consumes your thoughts? Your daydreams are idol clues. If it's something you think about more than God then it may be an idol.
2) What bad habits do you struggle with? Your addictions are idol clues. An idol is something you cannot control. It controls you.
3) What do you spend too much money on? Your spending habits are idol clues. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!
4) What produces your strongest emotions? Your intense emotions are idol clues. If you want to identify an idol, all you have to do is identify your emotional attachments.
Identifying an idol takes a tremendous amount of soul searching. And you have to be brutally honest. But you cannot tear it down until you name it. If you're serious, I highly recommend Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods.