Friday, June 14, 2013

Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?



I understand how life is getting more and more difficult for young Christians. We are demonized in the media, called “outdated” by society, and often caught in the crossfire of politics. In this environment it is so tempting to just shut our beliefs behind a door and keep it all to ourselves, but that is not what God has commanded us to do. Like it says in Luke 8, our faith was not meant to be kept secret, but to be held high proudly so that the world may see it. We have a family in Christ, one we should never deny.

"I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest! I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high." (Leviticus 26:1-13)

As human beings, we have a tendency to want to understand. We are created with minds, and we are taught to think, ask questions, and find answers. So letting go of our natural inclination to understand everything that God says and does, or to comprehend the meaning behind the events in our lives, is very hard to do. We want to know and understand. Understanding gives us clarity, a sense of security and control.

The people of the Old Testament were warned over and over against worshiping idols. We wonder how they could deceive themselves with these objects of wood and stone. Yet God could well give us the same warning, for we too tend to put idols above him. Idolatry is making anything more important than God, and our lives are full of that temptation. Money, appearances, success, reputation, security, and more can all become idols in our lives. As you look at these false gods that promise everything you want but nothing you need, does idolatry seem so far removed from your experience?

Not only do idols take God's place in our lives; they also enslave us. God took the children of Israel out of bitter slavery and gave them freedom and dignity. We too are set free when we accept Christ's payment that redeems us from sin's slavery. We no longer need to be bogged down in shame over our past sins or by trusting in idols; we can walk with dignity because God has forgiven us and leads us to freedom. But just as the Israelites were still in danger of returning to a slave mentality, we need to beware of the temptation to return to our former idols and sinful patterns.

It's not tricky to God, of course. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart." The Lord sees and the Lord knows not only what I do but why I do it. He is not the least bit confused. The proverb is true, of course, but as with all proverbs it is not universally applicable. At times the way of this man is not right in his own eyes and at times the way is opaque. There are so many times that I just don't know why I do what I do. Is it for me or is it for God? How much is for me and how much is for God?

When we hear the word “idol” we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, we have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive to reach the top of the corporate ladder or with a myriad of other passionate pursuits. And, sadly, those who aggressively pursue goals and dreams, altogether excluding God, are often admired for their individualism and drive. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or to what or whom we bow down, the result is the same—separation from the one true God.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god like this, however, is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles, drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture. 

Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more that God does, such as: possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc. Many of these things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13). Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits, leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord. (1)

What are the idols and sins that continue to tempt you? Thank God every day that he has freed you from slavery to sin. And use your freedom to live for him.


References:

1. gotquestions.org, CEO, S. Michael Houdmann, Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju





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