Published Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pastor's Corner: What is idolatry?


First Baptist Church, Moreland

Idolatry is the worship of a physical object, anything that comes before God.

Anything that steals from His glory. Anything that takes away from our devotion to Him.

I Corinthians 10:14 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” Idolatry is such a serious sin, it’s the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6).

When some of us hear the word “idolatry,” we picture primitive tribesmen bowing down to statues of wood, metal, or stone. Or we think of countries like India where Hindu temples dot the landscape.

Idol worship is a daily ritual in America, too. Only it’s more subtle and therefore more dangerous.

Idols are all around us – they come in different forms. Material comforts. Financial security. Sensual pleasures. Things like reputation, power and control.

Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most – God or something else. Whenever we love and serve anything in place of God, we’re engaging in idolatry. We love our idols because we think they’ll provide the joy that comes from God alone.

God hates it when we pursue, serve or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us and put us to shame (Isaiah 45:16; Psalm 106:36).

We fear the Lord externally, doing all the right things on Sunday mornings – singing, listening to a sermon, praying – yet actively serve false gods throughout the week. We profess to love the true God but actually love false idols.

If you don’t think of yourself as a very great sinner, you don’t need a very great Savior. The moment we veer from what is true about God, we’re engaging in idolatry.

A few Sundays ago I preached a good sermon. I knew the text would be loved by the people of First Baptist Moreland. I had humorous and touching illustrations that morning.

Afterwards, as I was speaking to person after person – they told me how great I preached. I went home proud, and asked Sherri to, “rate my message, one to 19,” knowing it would be high. She said a 9.5 (I normally get a 6 or 7).

That Sunday someone was worshipped, but it wasn’t God. I had stolen God’s glory. I was a lover of myself rather than a lover of God (II Timothy 3:2). I was striving to gain the approval of those whose approval was of no eternal significance. I’d failed to see that the only approval that matters – God’s – is impossible to earn, but is offered as a gift through the Gospel.

The idol of me-centeredness will always be a temptation.

How would someone know if they’re practicing idolatry? We must look at the state of our hearts. On Saturdays does Georgia football completely dominate and take-over our thinking? If you have a desire or joy for something more than God, you’re an idolater.

Knowledge about Christ and salvation doesn’t equal being saved. In Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus told two parables about the Kingdom of God – what it means to discover Christ over anything else in the world. If you find a treasure in a field, you go and rebury the treasure – sell everything you own and buy the field.

If you’re looking for fine pearls, and you found one that was priceless – you sell everything you have and purchase it. The beauty of salvation in Jesus Christ is the treasure buried in a field or the priceless pearl. If Christ is your treasure, why would you sell Him for a worthless idol?

You might be a born-again believer for many years – yet you have deep-rooted sin patterns that haven’t died easily. Idolatry could be one of those sins. Examine your heart, ask God to reveal and remove anything that could be stealing His glory. Don’t be like the people in II Kings 17:41, “These nations feared the Lord but also served their idols.”

How frightening is the possibility of fearing God and serving idols. Idolatry is the only commandment God punishes or blesses future offenders or abstainers (Exodus 20:5-6).

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