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21st Century Idolatry – Jim Nelson

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21st Century Idolatry

An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God.  When God created man and women, He crafted them with hearts to worship Him alone.  When we misdirect our worship toward anything other than God, it is called idolatry.  God is looking at the condition of the heart.  He is not only looking at the outward display of worship but the true inward devotion and affection as well.

The most prevalent form of idolatry in the Old Testament was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities.  From the beginning, God’s covenant with Israel was based on exclusive worship of Him alone (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).  The history of Israel is a sad chronicle of idol worship, punishment, restoration and forgiveness, followed by a return to idolatry.  The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles reveal this destructive pattern.  The “contest” between God and His prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is a dramatic example of the power of the true God and the impotence of false gods (1 Kings 18:19-40).  The testimony of Scripture is that God alone is worthy of worship.  Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate (Isaiah 42:8) “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols”.

Today we worship at the altar of materialism.  Most of our stuff has “planned obsolescence” built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space.  Then we rush out to buy the newest items or gadget and the whole process starts over.  Does this ring a bell? It does for me!   

We also worship at the altar of our pride and ego.  We spend too much time on social media, obsession with our careers and making more money, vacations, etc.  We can worship the environment, naturalism, and the power of science.  We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into thinking we can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared that this current age will have an end.  Of course, we want to be good stewards of the planet.  But, today many are worshipping creation and not God the creator.

Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self.  Self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, lust, food, entertainment, greed, envy, pride, politics, escapism, and many other forms become idols.  This will take us away from worshipping the one true God.  All idolatry of self has at its core the three lusts found in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Sadly, many churches are propagating it in the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel built on the idol of self-esteem.  God knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it is Satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him.

Our hearts and minds must be centered on God alone.  This is why when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthews 22:37).  When we love the Lord with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry.  Our greatest hope for turning from idolatry in its many forms is loving God more than anything else.

Charles Spurgeon has an appropriate quote “When Jesus is in the soul, the idols leave their thrones.  He loves us out of the pit of idolatry.”  As we look to God’s Word, we are reminded time and time again that God is the only one who can fulfill and satisfy our every longing.

Your brother in Christ, Jim Nelson

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