Idolatry ~ By Roger Taylor
When I think of idolatry my first thought is the story in I Samuel 5 when the Philistines had captured the Ark of God and they took it into their temple and put it beside their idol, Dagon. If you remember the story, the next morning when they entered their temple, Dagon was on the floor on his face. They put Dagon back in his place. The next morning Dagon was again on the floor but this time he was broken in pieces! I love it! Obviously, our God has a problem with man’s idols!
Now if we relegate idolatry to Old Testament days and to physical idols made by the hand of man, we can put ourselves in a dangerous position of not being able to recognize idolatry in our own lives. There are religions today that worship physical idols similar to Dagon. There are also religions today that worship gods other than the One true God. They do not have a physical representation of their god to bow down to but their worship of that god is none-the-less idolatry.
In Webster’s Dictionary the first definition of idolatry is as follows:
“the worship of a physical object as a god.”
That definition certainly fits Dagon. However, the second offering from Webster says:
“an immoderate attachment or devotion to something.”
I do not consider Webster my final authority for anything although the dictionary can be helpful in our attempts to learn and understand something. If we will take Webster’s definitions as a basic understanding of something and then allow the Holy Spirit to expand and deepen that understanding by His revelation, we will be truly blessed. He has a wonderful way of busting our boxes to set us free and many times we don’t even realize that we are boxed in!
Through the years I have come to see idolatry as much more inclusive than what is mentioned above. I see more clearly because Father has opened my eyes to my own sin. These gifts of His love to me have dramatically changed my life, my priorities and especially my relationship with Father God. He began to show me things in my life that were more of a priority to me than He was! These were things I could not see on my own. These gifts of love from my Father revealed things such as the following:
- Church attendance: Before Father called me to the ministry, I thought my commitment to my church and its programs fulfilled my obligation as a Christian. Since I was self centered and didn’t know how to do personal, intimate relationships, doing for the church or for God was an easy substitute for the relationship I really needed with Him! Idolatry!
- Bible study: I believed that because of the enormous amount of time I spent studying the Word of God, I was getting to know Him. It took revelation from Him to help me see that in my study of the Bible I was learning about Him but I was not developing relationship with Him. I was satisfied with my focus. He wasn’t. He loved me enough to reveal my idolatry and the substitute I’d made and help me refocus.
- Reputation: My reputation was so important to me that whenever I obeyed Father’s instruction and things didn’t go well or like I thought they should, I would get angry with Him for making me look bad! I didn’t realize that I didn’t need any help in making myself look bad! In fact, I was pretty good at it all by myself! My reputation was a stumbling block. Idolatry of self!
- Provision: Since 1982 when Father told me to quit my job and go, He became our provider. When His provision was inadequate in my opinion, again I would get angry with him; sometimes very angry. I would say things to Him like, “The world treated me better than this!” In other words, I was saying “I deserve better than this. You’re not meeting my expectations! Where is MY comfort?” Again, idolatry of self!
I was reading an article recently and the author quoted Ps. 115:4-8 which reads as follows:
“Their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see. Those who make them will become like them and so will all who trust in them.”
I was familiar with this scripture but it jumped off the page at me and I began to see something new.
As I mentioned above, I believe we can make anyone or anything an idol. What I began to see in this passage is that when we enter the sin of idolatry our five senses can begin to fail us and we can increasingly become numb or deaf, dumb and blind to warning signs. We can reach the place where we cannot see failure, compromise or sin in our idol. We also may not be able to hear failure, compromise or sin coming from our idol and we may be hard of hearing when someone else tries to warn us regarding our idol and/or our idolatry. We certainly may reach the point where we cannot speak anything but compliments regarding our idol. We may not feel the foreboding, the sense that something is wrong and we may not be able to taste that sin is near.
We may not make physical idols with our hands, but we certainly make idols with our hearts and minds. Our idolatry can become a trap. Thinking we are serving God we press on in our commitment to a life of service that only rewards the flesh and does little to bless the spirit of man, thus it doesn’t satisfy our hunger to know God. Idolatry will never satisfy the drive within man to know God.
Religious idolatry can only produce a life of misery. The repeated disappointments, frustration, fear, anger and confusion can be painful and destructive to faith and hope. Even worse yet is becoming comfortable and feeling safe in our idolatry, thinking we are certainly OK. That’s a dangerous place to be! Since life is found in love and since the unconditional love that empowers life is found in Father Himself, idolatry diminishes our life experience. Our destiny in God does not lie at the end of the road of idolatry.
We are all vulnerable to idolatry. Are we brave enough to ask Father to reveal any sin of idolatry present in our lives? Do we have the courage to hear His truth? Do we trust Him enough to reveal the truth we need to hear? If so, are we bold enough to repent and ask for His forgiveness, then ask for His help to destroy our idols? Do we have the wisdom to make knowing and loving God our first priority in life or is our love of self so powerful that we only love God when we need something from Him that we cannot do for ourselves? His forgiveness and freedom are available to those who choose righteously.
“God in a box is religion without God’s presence, without spirituality. It is people moving by works for God instead of God moving through His people. It is idolatry of the first order.” ~ Wayne Jacobsen.