Modern Day Idolatry: Putting Anything Before God
While reading through the book Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey, a section caught my eye and convicted me at my core – which made me think that some of my fellow believers may need to hear the message as well. It's a topic which we, as 21st century Christians, sometimes tend to gloss over: idolatry.
If we are honest with ourselves, "idolatry" is a topic which many modern Christians see as antiquated and outdated. When we hear the word "idol" today, many of us automatically picture a golden statue of a bull or calf. We tend to skim over passages that include references to idolatry, because we see it as something that only Old Testament believers struggled with. But that is largely not the case. In Paul's writings to the New Testament churches, he addresses the issue of idolatry:
"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. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!" (Romans 1:22-25, ESV)
The reason that many of us aren't acknowledging the idols in our lives is due primarily to the fact that we have an incorrect definition and image of what idolatry truly is. In her book, Nancy Pearcey said this:
"Scripture treats the topic of idolatry far more subtly. An idol is anything we want more than God, anything we rely on more that God, anything we look to for greater fulfillment than God. Idolatry is thus the hidden sin driving all other sins."
A friend of mine often reminds me that the major sin areas in our lives evidence a deeper issue than just the symptoms (sins) which externally manifest themselves; they often point to something which we do not believe about God at our core. Unbelief in a promise of God can lead us to put our trust, hope, or even our value in something other than Him to fill that void. The sobering fact is that we actually believe the lie that whatever our sinful selves lust after is better than Christ. Pearcey explains this well:
"For example, why do we lie? Because we fear the disapproval of people more than we want the approval of God. Or because we value our reputation more than we value our relationship with God. Or we are trying to manipulate someone into giving us something we think we need more than we need God. The more visible sin (lying) is driven by an invisible turn of our hearts toward something other than God as the ultimate source of security and happiness."
That said, you and I must be aware that our idols today can rear their heads in various forms. While we generally see them as disgraceful, evil passions, it is important to recognize that idols can also be "good" things that we've made "ultimate" things. A few examples which we often put our value and confidence in may include our children, spouse, physical attractiveness, money, job, or even our friendships. We may look to money or comforts to fill a space which they cannot fill. All of these things are not inherently evil, but they become a problem when we begin to believe that they satisfy us more than God.
Your goal as a believer is to know God better and to make Him known. Today, if you have made even the smallest gain in those areas, then you have fulfilled your purpose. There is nothing more important than knowing, loving, and seeking to glorify your Creator. This news should free you to know that your status—relational, social, vocational, or financial—does not matter. Your sole goal is to glorify God and to be obedient to Him; so if you've done that … then you can rest in the fact that you've accomplished your purpose for the day.
"Obedience" is a word that rubs me the wrong way—I have definitely struggled with it in my own life. If my mom is reading this, she probably just said, "Amen." My parents used to say things like, "Don't touch the iron." As soon as they turned around, what did I do? Touch the iron … then look to my mom for comfort when I got burned.
Often times, obedience is for our own good. It's like me and that shiny iron I just had to touch. Whatever the sin is might seem small at the moment, but we will always end up getting hurt. Especially in America, we like to be independent - the rulers over our own lives. I get that you might be hesitant to uproot your idols, because honestly sin can often appear comfortable. However, your mind will begin to change when you learn about the quality and character of God and understand how fully and deeply loved you are. You will slowly start choosing obedience out of mutual, reciprocal love. When you love someone, you will do anything to please them and never hope to hurt them. The same goes for our relationship with God, and one issue that genuinely upsets Him is the fact that we constantly choose other "lovers" (idols) over Him.
I encourage believers, myself included, to pray and ask God to reveal the idols which may have crept into our lives – even the innately good things which we've elevated to a higher place than they ought to hold. Let's uproot the lies we may believe at our core and make certain that we are never worshiping created things over our Creator.