It’s not likely that we modern-day Christians in the western world would be tempted to worship an idol of wood or stone the way they did back in Old Testament days, or still do in certain societies. We like to assure ourselves we are not that primitive. Even so, idolatry is a serious problem among many Christians.
Here from the New Testament are two verses revealing areas of idolatry that are very common.
“Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (1 Cor. 10.7).
In other words, when we view life as something that is our own to enjoy unto ourselves, this is idolatry—the idolatry of self. It is perhaps the greatest form of idolatry in the world. People who would not be caught dead worshipping a wooden idol bow down with ready abandon to the worship of themselves. It is they themselves who sit on the throne of their lives ordering all things. They believe their lives are their own to do with as they see fit. If they are sitting down they are eating and drinking. When they rise up it is to play. The idol temples of eating and drinking and play are filled day and night—particularly in our secular western world.
Here is another one.
“…Covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3.5).
“…No covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5.5).
How is covetousness idolatry? Covetousness is idolatry because the heart is filled with a lust for something other than God. It is a heart issue—the idols of the heart. Do we not trust God to give us whatever is necessary to glorify Him in our lives—whether material or spiritual? (Yes, it’s also idolatry to covet our brother’s spiritual blessing for ourselves.)
These two areas of idolatry are rampant out there in “the world.” But because we Christians live in the world we are vulnerable. Perhaps we are not abandoning Christ wholesale and turning to the idols of the world, although that does happen, I know. The more serious problem is that we want Christ and our idols. We want Christ and what the world has to offer as well—its pursuits and joys and toys. So we have this phenomenon so common in our day. I am fixated on prosperity—so I make a Christian doctrine out of it. If I was a biker, now I become a Christian biker. If I was into the rock scene, now I become a Christian rocker. If I am into football in a serious way, now I become a Christian football player. I love the glory of entertaining. Now I will give Christian concerts. I will be a Christian movie star. We want to pursue the best the world has to offer, and be a Christian too, so we don’t miss out on God. Of course we want God—but just to bless us in the pursuit of our own endeavours.
Jesus’ words still stand. On one occasion when He saw the multitudes following Him He turned and said to them, “…And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14.25-27). (How’s that for an evangelistic technique, by the way—telling the multitudes to go home unless they are prepared to take up their cross?)
We Christians are to walk a holy walk—in the world yet not of the world. Nevertheless, it is not a stiff legalistic holiness that will draw the idolaters of the world into the worship of the true God. It’s seeing the holiness of love—the love of the holy Jesus burning in the heart—that turns the idolaters to Him. Jesus, who though He was “separate from sinners,” loved them deeply. And they knew it.
Here’s a poem I’ve loved for a long time. I’ve seen it quoted in part, but I found it in full one day. It’s based on a passage in Hosea who back in his day decried with broken heart this chronic problem of God’s people wanting their idols along with their God. It’s such a beautiful book—Hosea. You touch over and over God’s love for His people—it’s He who is broken hearted—even as He pronounces judgments upon them for their waywardness. And in the final analysis what is it that turns them back to Him? (I confess I am far short of this myself—but am pursuing.)
“Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols? I have heard Him, and (beheld) Him…” (Hos. 14.8). That’s what does it! Hearing Him! Seeing the unmatchable Jesus!
Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand, own Him?
Joyful choose the better part?
Idols, once they won thee, charmed thee,
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded, thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed, lest thou turn thee thence.
What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth.
Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter pain and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.
Who extinguishes their taper
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer has begun?
‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw,
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw:
Draw and win and fill completely
Till the cup o’erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?
Miss Ora Rowan
You silly old fool
Hi Mr. Simpson. I don’t know if this is spam or not but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Thanks for the compliment. You know the saying, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” And there’s no doubt I am an old fool– but thanks be to Jesus, a chosen one. Are you familiar with the Bible at all? I’m referring to something the apostle Paul said:
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1.27-29).
…If I may offer you some advice (coming from personal experience)… become a fool– a fool for Christ– that you might become a wise man.
I figured more adversity for the clear word about the worship of sport and their athletes in your previous post. But now to direct it clearly where it is, the heart, the worship of self. I can see our flesh wants to rise and fight. I don’t write to try and put balance to the comments. I write to say you have shed light on a dull sense I had. Keep on in the truth
Good to see you, it’s been quite a while! If I’ve “shed light” on this issue for you, I thank the Lord. That’s what I’ve hoped to do.
Thanks for the encouragement, Tim. I appreciate that.
It would be good to see you “face to face” again one of these days.
When you decided to write this Blog c/w a ‘Comments’ function you made yourself open and vulnerable to different reactions and points of view. I commend you for posting all. Of course if the comments get into the realm of uncleanness and personal attacks then I don’t think any of us would want to read those.
Other than the fact that Mr. Ken W. Simpson’s comment is clearly a ‘personal attack’ and if Christ didn’t dwell in your heart and you weren’t rooted & grounded in love’ it could be hurtful. Other than that I appreciated the comment from him for a couple of reasons. One…Jesus said “I would thou wert cold or hot. His comment was so cold that I nearly got frost bite when I read it, but I wasn’t left scratching my head wondering what he was really wanting to say. Two… He stood behind his comment with his name. I’m not left wondering who this person is.
I’ve actually had Mr. Simpson on my heart since he posted his comment. If he meant to hurt me, he failed. I’ll be praying for him.
A very wise man taught me “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” “However, if you do have a difference of opinion, present your thoughts in a respectful and intelligent manner.”
You’re still a great role model, dad!
🙂 I love you, Naomi.
Naomi sounds like a well brought up young lady.
And I agree with much of what has been said. I fear also that judgement lies at the door of the church. Have we not the celbrities in the church? I think so. Have men in the church not failed in taking the lead by feeling more comfortable expressing passion for their worthless sports than for our Lord Jesus. I think the real ones to look to are not on the platforms but those writing blogs like these. Those that have walked the walk. See the bigger picture. Know the narrower path. The ones that take us back to Jesus. The one who said “Follow me”. Knowing intimacy with Him. The way of the “church” grieves me at times. We are not to be a generation of “fans” of Christianity blowing here and there. We are to be anchored to the Rock that is higher. O, to know His ways and to hear His voice. This is what the heart yearns for. I walked along an estuary yesterday in Loughor, South Wales. This is where Evan Roberts came from who was the instrument for the Weslh Revival. He was not a leader but a yielded vessel. There are lessons to be learned. I know that God does something new in each day but as I walked I thought of this man. I thought of the unfashionable words in post-modern Christianity today; consecration, sacrifice, holiness, commitment, suffering. Taking up our cross and following Him. This is deeper than I have even begun to know. As I walked along the estuary bank, the tide was in and lapping againts the shore. I thought of real and actual men who were out fishing. They had real lives and real struggles far from the emotionalism of the church and the conference scene. And He came to them and then the words came to my spirit and broke me to tears. Into this world He came and He said “Follow me”. There is only one idol that is worthy: Jesus. The name above all names. Cleanse o Lord that we have sinned againts you by following false gods that will never satisfy. Let us be your Daniels in our day. We will resolve Lord not to defile ourselves in your holy midst by allowing these worthless idols into the sacred place of our hearts.
Thanks, Martin, for another comment that challenges us to a deeper and more committed walk. We’re just “ordinary” people– but so were Evan Roberts and the others God used back in that revival. It wasn’t popularity they were seeking. They had no desire to be known of men. As you said, they were “yielded men.” They took up their cross. They presented themselves “a living sacrifice” on the altar of God. The fire fell.
Your words: “And He came to them and then the words came to my spirit and broke me to tears. Into this world He came and He said “Follow me”. There is only one idol that is worthy: Jesus. The name above all names. Cleanse o Lord that we have sinned againts you by following false gods that will never satisfy. Let us be your Daniels in our day. We will resolve Lord not to defile ourselves in your holy midst by allowing these worthless idols into the sacred place of our hearts.”
Amen, Martin. Amen.