«

»

Feb 13

Idolatry

Everyone worships something. The only choice you get is what to worship. – Tim Keller

We’ve heard the warnings about idolatry in the Bible and in church so many times that it seems to roll off our backs whenever we hear about it. We read the sermon titles and we already know what the preacher is going to talk about. “Idolatry isn’t just bowing down to a statue. In these modern times, it looks like greed of money or desire for beauty.” We politely listen and intellectually agree but more often than not we walk away from the sermon unchanged and our life continues on as it did before we heard that message. One of the most tragic dilemmas in the church is people that profess to have experienced conversion or accepted Christ into their lives but do not live any differently to the culture they live in (except maybe attending church services if you’re the “good type of Christian”).

The apostle Paul had a way of adapting his preaching to target his audience. He presented the Gospel in a life-changing way that was relevant to specific people and their specific idols. Many examples in the Bible show that God meets people where they are but He doesn’t leave them there; meaning you can’t accept the Gospel and be left unchanged. In Acts 19:23-41, Paul addresses the people of Ephesus, where silver shrines of Artemis (an ancient Greek deity) were made and sold. Paul discerned, exposed and challenged the idols of that time and culture. To understand the Gospel message, you have to identify and confront your idols because that’s what the Gospel addresses. Yes, God heals past hurts. Yes, God offers unconditional love. Yes, God can give us a spot in heaven. But that’s not the whole Gospel because the point of salvation does not end with us and what we get out of it.

The point of the Gospel is to give God the praise and glory that He deserves. This means that nothing else can take His place. For the individual, this means seeing God as number One in our lives. Unfortunately, sin blurs our vision and we don’t see God for who He really is. We see God as smaller than what He is and created things as bigger than what they are. We look to things or people to find our value and worth. We want to lift up these things to save us from feeling lonely, ugly or worthless. Essentially, we put our hope and trust in these IDOLS. Anything can be an idol: your family, friends, romantic relationship, career, studies, skills, and reputation, even your religiosity and ministries in church! If you imagine losing the most important thing or person in your life, and you’re not just sad but you lose all hope and meaning in your life, then you have identified an idol.

Once you’ve identified an idol, you can also identify a fear. Someone that wants to be cool more than anything fears rejection. A person that would do anything for romance, fears being alone and unloved. People that hunger for money and things, fear failure and worthlessness. Christ not only sets us free from worshipping idols, He also sets us free from fears that cripple us and control us. Even doctrine, holiness and ministry can be turned into idols, especially for those that find it easier to be saved by their “Christianness” than Christ.

We Christians are not supposed to read the Bible just to know more than younger Christians or to be able to argue with non-believers. The Gospel is for the world as it is for the Church. It is possible to accept Christ and still struggle with idolatry of the heart. A husband that lies in bed next to his wife but thinks of another woman may indeed love his wife, but he longs for another woman more. A Christian that attends church may love God but longs for other things in the heart. He/she still needs to have the Gospel to be preached to them, still needs to pray for God to change them, and still needs to repent and turn from their unfaithfulness to God. When you realise (over and over again) that you are in need of a Saviour that can take on the punishment that you deserve for idolatry and reconcile you with God, your true love; your life will not remain unchanged.

-Frances Dong

 

Disclaimer: Most of the content of this article is adapted from Tim Keller’s sermon ‘The Gospel and Idolatry’. You can watch it on this link: