“Gods at War,” the title says it all. The author of the book, Kyle Idleman, states, “What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with is because of idolatry.” He is absolutely correct...idolatry is a consistent distraction for God’s people. God is crystal clear on this issue, “You shall not bow down to them (idols) or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Idols are false gods that promise the world but who only deliver death and destruction: “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Martin Luther said, “You can’t violate the other nine commandments without breaking this one first (idolatry).”
We were created to worship. Idolatry is simply worshipping the wrong thing or things. Sadly, many confuse false worship with genuine worship. False worship is when an entity, person, or object is worshipped instead of God—our passion for “something” outweighs our passion for Him; it draws us away. Most of us don’t have idols on our shelves...they are parked in the garage or consumed on a daily basis. We don’t pay homage to a statue in the living room, but we are mesmerized by a 50” box affectionately known as “the entertainment center.” We don’t sacrifice things on the altar, but we do sacrifice our time (and time with of our children) on the altar of misguided priorities. What about the sacrificing of the unborn on the altars of pleasure and convenience?
Cars, televisions, and the Internet are not evil, they are neutral; but it is our love for them that tilts the scale away from God. We find hours a day for entertainment, but have little time to worship. Do we honestly believe that this misapplication of priorities doesn’t affect our spirituality? Think again.
False worship also includes inappropriate and improper acts supposedly directed toward God. Many simply go through the motions at church. They attend as if they are doing God a favor. The heart is not engaged and the soul is not lifted up...they are bored. The Old Testament writer, Hosea, warns that we can become an abomination like the things we love. Although many idols contend for the throne, some are more prominent:
1. Sex. Romans 1:24-25 says this about people who reject truth, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” The idol of sex is destroying our families, our nation, and our culture. “If it feels good do it” is an elusive idol...it promises fun but brings disappointments; promises life, but brings death. Ariel Castro, who kidnapped three women and held them for ten years, admitted that a deep addiction to pornography influenced his actions. His idol promised pleasure but brought destruction.
2. Money. “Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (Prov. 1:19). The Associated Press reported: “A former Buffalo, N.Y., parking meter mechanic has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for stealing thousands of dollars in quarters while on the job. Prosecutors say it was James Bagarozzo's idea to rig meters to get at the coins. He stole $210,000 over more than eight years, grabbing fistfuls of coins, storing them in a bag and then and cashing them in at banks. Bagarozzo apologized during a brief statement. He blamed a gambling addiction and an illness he believed would kill him.” His idol promised financial freedom but brought financial disaster and disgrace. The only way to crush this idol is to giveaway its power. Those who are generous givers keep financial idolatry at a distance. Do you hold on to this idol tightly? “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).
3. Power, success, and recognition. This is the “it’s all about me” idol. This idol is not as much about self-love as it is about self-loathing. Those with a deep sense of emptiness and feelings of inadequacy often look to others to build them up. Facebook is a prime example of this. Many who struggle with this idol post pictures to gain approval. They want their self-worth to be re-enforced (tell me again, and again how beautiful and successful I am). They paint a picture of who they want to be: always on vacation, always having fun, always doing this or that. Needing the applause of others becomes an all-consuming idol. It promises fame but delivers depression.
In celebration of Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson spent time with M.J. Thompson gives the sense that Jordan isn't happy. "I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball," Jordan laments. When asked how he copes with the devastating fact that he will never be who he was, Jordan states, "You don't. You learn to live with it." The man has left the court, but the addictions won't leave the man.
We don’t need a longer article with many points of application to dethrone our idols; we need to seek God with all of our heart and restore Him to the highest position in our lives. God will not pardon a rebel who has not given up his rebellion, and He cannot help a man or woman who has dethroned Him in their heart. Take time now and give God His rightful place in your heart. Any other “gods,” in time, will rob you of life.
Shane Idleman, is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, Ca. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and kids. More can be found at www.wcfav.org