Modern Idolatry

Dan Lenington on January 14, 2015

When you hear the word idolatry, what comes to mind? Commonly, our mind goes to statues of gold, silver, wood, or stone that men have made to represent the gods which they worship. We may think this practice is an archaic one until we observe religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, and Catholicism. While we may disdain these practices in light of the second commandment, the truth is that we creat idols of our mind even more readily. I would like to expose the modern idolatry in our churches and hearts to challenge you to identify and demote the idols you may have raised up in place of God.

First, we must ask where idolatry in our modern age is located. Primarily, our idolatry is of the mind. In 1 John 2:15 commands us not to love the worldly mindset and amusements of our society. The reason is that we cannot love God and the world at the same time. God must be our one true treasure in life, and He will not tolerate spiritual adultery in us (James 4:4-5). John continues reminding us that the world has partnered with our fleshly nature and Satan's temptations to corrupt our God given faculties. Each of us has received a body (flesh), eyes, and a life from God. However, each of these become sources of idolatry and temptation when we seek to satisfy our physical needs, emotional needs and mental needs through a source other than God. John also reminds us that the world and the temptations and idols it offers are merely a passing amusement which will be dissolved (2 Pet. 3:10-11). By contrast, the will of God for our life (being conformed to the image of Christ) is a permanent asset which brings eternal value, and lasting joy (Rom. 8:28-29; 12:2). We must expose these three sources of idolatry as frauds.

The lust of the flesh is easily illustrated in the golden calf of Israel's wilderness journey in Ex. 32:1-10. Israel had depended on their masters in Egypt for their food, protection, and water. Now, they were in a wasteland forced to depend on a God they could not see. When Moses fails to return from the mountain in a timely manner, they panic. They demand that Aaron make a god of gold for them to follow and depend on for their physical needs. These were legitimate needs but they began to seek for them in a physical source outside of God. Aaron, in an attempt to ease his conscience declares the planned feast to be a feast unto Jehovah regardless of the fact that God had forbade any graven images in worship. The feast includes religious ceremony, eating, entertainment, and physical intimacy. All of these are gifts of God for which we can praise God and which were intended to bring us joy. When they are taken out of God's protective boundary, they become destructive and detrimental to our relationship with God. Like Israel, we must not allow food, intimacy, religion, entertainment, rest, security or any other physical need to become a source of idolatry. We must not seek our supply outside of God and His boundaries.

The second source of modern idolatry lies in the lust of the eyes. Lot is a perfect illustration of how our eyes intensify our internal lust of the flesh (Gen. 13:5-18). When Abraham and Lot notice their herdsmen fighting over the available land, Abraham graciously gives Lot first choice of land. Abraham proves that he has no idols since he is not depending on the quality of his land to provide for his family. Lot, however gazes on the well watered plain of Jorden adjacent to the wicked city of Sodom. He believes this location will provide best for his family. Upon moving to this plain, Lot pitches his tent toward Sodom and is tempted through the lust of the eyes each day as he contemplates a life of ease in the city. Soon we find Lot living in Sodom and captured by foreign kings (Gen. 14:12). Next, we find him as a prominent citizen of Sodom who loses his credibility with his sons-in-law (Gen. 19:1, 14). Finally, Lot, as a homeless, penniless man, loses his wife to the lust of eyes (Gen. 19:26), and his daughters to the lust of the flesh (30-32). Abraham by contrast receives great promises and blessings by looking to God alone for his satisfaction.

Finally, notice how Nebuchadnezzar epitomizes the pride of life in Daniel 4. He explains to his realm that he will inform them of the High God's dealings with him. The account is laid out how he has a dream of a great tree that nourishes all the world with its fruit, and shade. But a voice from heaven commands the tree to be cut down but the stump preserved until the men of earth recognize that God alone is king of heaven and earth, and He gives authority to rule to whomever He wills. Nebuchadnezzar is fearful and confused by the dream but Daniel is able to inform him of the impending judgment of God for his pride. However, he fails to listen, and one year later Nebuchadnezzar is boasting on his balcony of his great accomplishments when a voice from heaven declares his doom. He loses his mind, and is reduced to eating grass like a beast for nearly seven years. Finally, his looks up to heaven, his understanding returns, and he gives glory to God. The pride of life is an idol of the mind as we seek to find our identity and value apart from God. You are valuable not for what you do but for who you are, a unique individual created in the image of God. You must find your security in God alone.

Because idolatry is alive and well in our culture today, we must know how to fight against its seductive and natural temptation. The best strategy for rejecting idols is to first comprehend God's majesty. Isaiah 40:12-17 highlights the awesome wisdom and worth of God. Second, we must contrast God's majesty with the worthless idols and weak individuals of this world according to Isaiah 40:18-24. Lastly, we should commend His majesty by appreciating His glory, goodness and gifts as displayed in Isaiah 40:25-31. May you find your supply, your satisfaction, and your security in God alone!