“Wherefore my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” – I Corinthians 10:14
Let’s be frank—When we think of idolatry, we don’t usually think of ourselves, do we? We think, “Idols are those things that pagans and sinners worship!” Or we think of the absolute worst sins such as adultery, murder, abuse, drug addictions, etc… But sin is just the product of an idolatrous heart. Idolatry can even be found in the hearts of God’s children.
An idol is ANYTHING that takes the place of which Christ alone is worthy. It is not just a graven image or statue; it can be a good thing that strips you of God’s best. Hebrews 12:1 says, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” (emphasis mine). There is a difference between a weight and a sin. A sin is a transgression of God’s law, but a weight is something amoral; it can be used for good or evil. Do you know what that tells us as believers? It tells us that idolatry can sneak its way into a Christian’s life, unannounced and unaware. It means that when we take something good and give it the preeminence in our lives, it becomes an idol. When this happens, we are living for the blessing and not the Blesser; the gift and not the Giver.
This is why Paul was urging the church at Corinth to flee because idols were close behind! My friend, if the sly Serpent can slip something good into your life to keep you from God’s best, he’ll do it! He will even help you to spiritualize it to justify a carnal motive. This is why Paul says in verse 31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” He was saying that when we take something that is even essential for life and do it for our own pleasure, we have robbed God of His rightful glory!
So how do you know what your idols are? Ask yourself these questions and let the Holy Spirit tell you.
- In the time of trial and temptation, whom or what do I run to? Go back to a previous hardship in your life. How did you respond to that? Was it a quick retirement to your knees before God, or was it a fleshly response to your own understanding? Did you turn to a substance rather than the Sustainer? Remember the words of our Lord, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). All we need is found in Him and Him alone.
- What thoughts most consume my mind? Imagine you’re at work. (Sorry to use such a dirty word). What do you find twirling around in your mind as you go about your day? We ought to wake up every day with Christ as our first thought and lay our heads down at night with Christ as our final thought. I once heard a preacher say, “If you work on making God happy, He’ll make sure you’re happy too.” I think many times we are so busy thinking of our own happiness, that we fail to see what makes our Lord happy. Self thought is the worst thought because it can only lead to separation from God. When a Christian man dwells on temporal things, he cannot expect a righteous return from such a carnal investment.
- Where do I find my “happy place”? (Say with Bob Ross suave and a big smile.) Where is the one place you would rather be more than any other place in the world? Did you know that when we long more for an earthly place than a heavenly Person, we are settling for the “husk” instead of the “Father’s table”? But maybe it’s not a literal place that has our affection, maybe it is a state of being…Like financial stability or a comfortable environment where we live the life we want and still get to do the whole “Jesus thing.” Men love the idea of building their own lives, but I promise you that if you first build an altar, God we will build your life. He will place you right where you need to be.
At this moment the Holy Spirit may be placing His finger on something in your life that is, or can become, an idol. I hope your prayer will be that of David’s, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13).