“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…” Exodus 20:2-5a
From the fall of man in the Garden of Eden to the fallen world we live in today, idolatry has taken root in the hearts of all mankind. It’s the desire, the longing, the prioritizing of anything above God Himself, and this sin is just as prevalent today in you and I as it was in Exodus 20 thousands of years ago. There seems to be this misguided mentality that says modern-day America doesn’t fall prey to idolatry, that it is prevalent in 2nd and 3rd world cultures primarily, but not here. We don’t bow down to images cast of gold. We’re not that primitive. I can’t even tell you how many conversations I have had with other believers within the church that perpetuates this way of thinking. “I don’t think I have a problem with idolatry. That’s not a stronghold that I struggle with.” Perhaps, the church today needs to be reminded of what exactly idolatry is.
Idolatry is simply the object of our chief focus. It consumes our thoughts. The worship of an idol is manifested in our priorities, the management of our finances and resources, and most noticeably in the outpouring of our behavior. You and I were created to worship. We were designed to worship our creator. When we don’t worship God, we default to the worship of a lesser god. We see it lived out all around us. We worship money and the pursuit of more of it. We worship success, and most often it comes at the high cost of our dearest relationships. We worship sex. Perhaps more prevalent that most idols, sex has made a drastic leap to the top of the list of idols in our culture. From pornography to human trafficking to promiscuity to fornication…we worship this created thing above the Creator Himself. We worship our children. This is most apparent in the households where the children and their activities are the central focus and the top priorities. Schedules and other obligations all bow down to the children and all the things that they are signed up for. The devastation of this comes much later when the children are grown and leave the home, leaving behind two parents that have forgotten what it means to love each other because their primary focus for the past 18 years has been the children. We worship prestige and power. We want to make a name for ourselves, and we’re willing to go to great lengths to do it.
What happened to making God’s name great in and through our lives? What happened to our chief focus being the fame of His name in our lives, in our homes, in our communities, in our churches? Sadly and sinfully, we have replaced our first love with far lesser things. We’ve given in to the immediate gratifications that surround us and have failed to be satisfied first and foremost in the one true God. Idolatry, simply put, is sickness of the heart. The longer we allow it to fester and grow, the further we distance ourselves from the Lord and the deeper our dissatisfaction will become.
Idolatry, in every form, robs us of our joy and ruins our effectiveness for God’s Kingdom here on this earth. How can we be agents of change in this dark world when we have submerged ourselves in the darkness idolatry, the worship of lesser gods? Anything that steals much of our focus from Christ shouts idolatry. Author Ed Stetzer said it well: “When we are driven by physical and emotional appetites rather than being led by the Spirit, we are worshipping the idol of ourselves.” The Bible says that God is a jealous God because He refuses to share His glory with another. He demands all of us, and will not be satisfied with less. Because He is God, He has every right to make this demand. Can you imagine all that we would be released to accomplish for God’s Kingdom if we would refuse every lesser god and choose to be satisfied with nothing less than the praise and the worship of the one true God? This world would not be the same. Idolatry hinders our effectiveness and keeps us bound rather than free. Much of worship is focus. Is the worship of Jesus Christ the central matter in your life? It should be.