“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”. Exodus 20:3-5a
Idols…what are they…what does one look like?? If you were asked to describe an idol, what would you say?? My sixth graders today told me that idols were carved images and with quizzical looks around, they were all in seeming agreement. Then, one of them commented (with little assurance) that idols were anything we placed above God. Seemingly, it appeared to them that idols were statues that other religions worshipped…something out of the Old Testament or in a distant, foreign land. An idol was nothing to be worried about here amongst us…it’s just a carved image. But, my one little guy who spoke up later was more in line to what an idol actually is. Tim Keller puts it like this in his book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters,
“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give what only God can give.” (xvii)
My definition falls in line with Keller and with most of the pastors that I have listened to on this topic. An idol is any-thing that you put before God…any-thing that you serve more than God. Look above at God’s words in verse 5; we are not to “bow down to them or serve them”. Few if any of us actually bow down or prostrate ourselves before any-thing (another topic for another day) so that really doesn’t register to us BUT we all know what it looks like to serve something. Idols are close and are amongst us today. They are all around.
Our church, Community Bible Church of Savannah, is currently working through the book of Colossians. This morning our pastor, Bill Fowler, was preaching through the middle section of Chapter One and pointing out who Jesus is!! As fully man and fully God, Jesus is: God, Supreme, Creator, Authoritative, and Reconciler. With the picture that Paul paints for us in Colossians, our response should be that of Love. And Bill remarked, “Why not love Jesus…Why love your idols so much when they let you down…”. He asked how Tennessee fans felt; the Vols had let their fans down by losing to a smaller school. Ouch…that one hit home. I was there a few years ago until God started changing my outlook. If UGA football lost or didn’t play well, Sunday and Monday’s were a beast or at least I was a beast. All because some 19 & 20 year olds didn’t do something I thought they should. God showed me how silly that was. Now, I still root and cheer for my Dawgs but my mood and life are not centered around what happens on Saturday afternoon’s in the Fall. Bill’s point was why love your idols so much…they will and do let you down. He stressed that our love should be for Jesus and Him alone. Love for the one who redeemed us despite us being enemies. “Why not love Jesus…Why love your idols so much…”
John Calvin is quoted as saying that the human heart is an idol factory. I believe him. We can make an idol out of anything. I would argue that our own selves are our first and most readily available idol. Think about it, we will serve and pour ourselves into so many things; the obvious ones like money, power, and sex but also things like work, entertainment, sports on tv, kid’s sports, theological arguments, knowledge, social media, service, exercise, food, animals, hunting, fishing, etc. Things all created by God, but is the created thing worth more than the Creator?? Stuff where one can share the Gospel and love others with the love of Jesus. Yet, stuff that can easily take hold of our hearts. Over the course of the last few years, God has been clearing idols out of our home. Things that aren’t necessarily bad and in themselves are a-moral; however, things that held onto our hearts and kept our focus off of God. Distractions!! He cleared out those things that distracted us from serving Him whole heartedly…things that kept us from seeking Him first. As stuff got stripped away, we put our eyes solely on Him and his calling. We have and continue to see that He is worth it. He is worth the loss of x, y, and z. It has not been a painless process, but it has grown us. He is always there for us and hasn’t let us down. We will love Jesus above all and refuse to pour ourselves into those things that will let us down. Jesus is that treasure that sustains us and moves us to our calling.
So, I ask you…what is your idol?? What keeps you from serving God with your all?? He is worth so much more than your left overs!!