Heart to Heart Series Part Two: The Devastation of Idolatry
Last time we discussed our heart’s desires. Whether good or bad we all have both. This time we’ll dive into what happens when our desires become misplaced.
What do you think of when you imagine an idol? Is it a golden statue? What about a carved wooden image? The heart is an idol factory. Our hearts desperately long for satisfaction. However, true satisfaction can only be found in God. The well-known theologian, John Piper, says it best, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We run into trouble when our hearts begin to wander from finding our complete satisfaction in Him.
What is Idolatry?
The conversation of idolatry begins with God. He created each of us to love and worship Him with our whole hearts. However, due to our sinful nature, we have a tendency to worship the good things God has created instead of Him. When we look at the good things that He has created for meaning and purpose instead of Him, we are guilty of idolatry.
Why Does God Hate Idolatry?
The simple answer to this is that He is jealous for you. His love is all we need to fulfill us. When we don’t look to Him for fulfillment, we are not allowing God’s love to fill us.
Did you catch that? Idolatry is forsaking God. It is significant that God called forsaking Him evil because all that He calls evil is a sin.
What Have I Forsaken God For?
Did you find any carved wooden figures sitting on your nightstand? Probably not. The gods we make for ourselves are subtle, sneaky even. They don’t show up until they have already begun to own you. They give no warning and have an innocent disguise. However, once they have mastered you it is starkly apparent. You may not bow down to these gods but if you aren’t careful, you can honor them before God in your heart.
Much like our desires, modern-day idols typically start out as good things. By choosing to fix our eyes on any of these things we are telling God that He is not enough. Idols can be tangible things like houses, money, and cars. They can also be intangible things like ambition, power, and success. These types of idols are sometimes obvious, but there are also more subtle things we turn into idols like marriage, family, kids, ministry, or even a sports team. Those are just a few of many things that can become an idol. Again all of these are examples of good things God created for us to enjoy. It is only when we place our hope in them that they become a problem.
Indicators of Idolatry
How do you know when something has become more important to you than God? Here are a few indicators to determine if someone or something could be an idol.
- It causes me to disobey God.
- It is what I most enjoy spending time and money on.
- It is what I most enjoy reading, talking, and daydreaming about.
- It rejuvenates my heart and gives me the most excitement about the future.
- It is what I fear losing the most.
- It gives me greater joy than Jesus Christ.
If there is anything that came to mind while going through this list I encourage you to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians. 10:14). Confess this to God and by His power, He is faithful to help you endure the temptation to put anything before Him!
Freedom from Idolatry
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
Matthew 22: 36-38
At the core of this command is love. Love shows what we desire most. It shows where our loyalties are. It shows our deepest devotions. Our actions, as the indicator list reveals, show more about what and who we truly love without us even saying a word. Perhaps the reason why Jesus commanded us to love God with our all is that He knew there would be other things competing for our affections. What we love uncovers our heart’s desires.
Loving God with all our hearts and treasuring Christ above all things is the cure for idolatry. Idols will hinder us from experiencing God’s steadfast love.
What Will You Choose?
The world is full of distractions. There are so many things vying for our attention. When addressing believers, John says in 1 John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” In order to do that we must continually practice giving thanks to God for all His mercies. Take some time to ponder on how an Eternal God, who needs nothing from you, is presently lavishing you with mercy. As you list out His mercies my hope is that you begin to see how devastating it is to put something before a graciously merciful God. His promise is that if you choose to love Him and give Him your all, He will supply every need according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.