Idolatry is probably something that you don’t think of on a daily basis. It is something that is very sneaky, and once it has taken root in a heart, it has already morphed into something that has overcome a believer in Jesus Christ. Its goal is simple: to distract you from worshiping God. Idolatry is a self-seeker. It wants you to give its object all the attention. Even though you might not bow to a statue, idolatry bides its time in your heart waiting to draw in your loyalty.
Idolatry is a very serious issue with God. Not only is it forbidden, but it is corrupt. It is the corruption, the tainting, the defilement of true worship. From the very beginning, man has set up his false gods, either with his hands or internally, within his heart. Sinful man finds himself wanting a god made in his own image, a god that he can control. He seeks a god that does what he wants it to and that ignores his sin; he wants it to satisfy his flesh.
In the Law given by God to man, the primary issue is that there is to be no god substituted for the true God. The Bible explicitly says there are no other gods but God. It crushes literally all idols, whether they are idols of stone, idols of wood, idols of metal, idols of the mind, idols of the heart, or idols of the emotions; whether they are tangible or intangible; whether they are external or internal. All idols are crushed in the commandment of God, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Over and over in Scripture there are reminders of this requirement to forsake idolatry and to trust the living God. Deuteronomy 7:25 says, “The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an ABOMINATION to the LORD your God” [emphasis mine]. Deuteronomy 16:22 says, “You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God HATES” [emphasis mine]. In 1 Peter 4, Peter calls idolatry an abomination. It is described as irrational in Romans, chapter 1. It defiles you, according to Ezekiel, chapter 20.
If you were to go through the pages of Scripture and pull out what idolatry consists of, you would have a huge list identifying it as:
- bowing down to images
- worshiping images
- sacrificing to images
- worshiping other gods
- swearing by other gods
- walking after other gods
- speaking in the name of other gods
- looking to other gods; serving other gods
- fearing other gods
- sacrificing to other gods
- worshiping angels
- worshiping devils
- worshiping dead men
- setting up in the heart objects of worship such as covetousness and sensuality
All these actions are blasphemous and offensive to the one true, holy God. Idolatry results in people doing the following:
- forgetting God
- going astray from God
- polluting the name of God
- defiling the sanctuary of God
- estranging themselves from God
- forsaking God
- hating God
- provoking God
The Bible says that idolatry will be punished with a dreadful judgment which ends in death, banishment, exclusion from heaven, and eternal torment in hell. Beloved, God doesn’t take idolatry lightly. He is serious, and He acts swiftly. An idol is anything you put before God. In our day, it can be your car, your hobby, your house, your wife, or money or success. It’s anything that we value above God. Beloved, we need to return to the truth of the first commandment based on who we are in Christ and stay there.
How do we combat idolatry? The Bible has the answer, as it always does. 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” We must keep watch, beloved, and be on the offensive, so as not to give ground to idols. 1 Corinthians 10:14 gives us great direction, telling us to “flee from idolatry.”
Run from it, putting distance between you and idolatry; don’t participate in it. Finally, 1 Corinthians 10:10–20 tells us that if we engage in idolatry it is like having supper with demons. What does the Bible say? Flee, avoid, stay away—they all basically mean the same thing: Idols have no place in the Christian life.
So, check your heart. Do you spend more time, energy, and resources on other things than God? Are sports, music, work, possessions, sleep, or anything or anyone else more important to you than God? If so, you are worshiping an idol. Once you recognize it in your life, simply go to God and repent. And then get off your knees and pursue God. The greatest commandment, Jesus said in Matthew 22:37, is to “. . . love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind.” There is no competition with God. He will not have it. So, Christian, sift and evaluate your life and get rid of idols; pursue Christ! He is all you need. Walk in His truth and worship Him.