Jul 27, 2015
Recently a friend and I were discussing how we can tell when something in our lives has become an idol.
It’s not easy. For example, last week I went Stand-Up Paddling for the first time, and loved it.
But since then I have wanted to —
- check out YouTube videos on Stand-Up Paddling,
- find out how much used Stand-Up Paddle Boards cost,
- research the best places to do Stand-Up Paddling in Abu Dhabi,
- tell other people about how much fun it was.
So has Stand-Up Paddling become an idol?
I am not bowing down before Stand-Up Paddling, or burning incense to Stand-Up Paddling.
But idolatry is a matter of the heart.
So how can I tell if Stand-up Paddling has become an idol?
The Crucial Question
The question is: what am I seeking as my highest, all-satisfying good?
That’s the crucial question, because whatever I trust to satisfy me the most is what I worship as my God.
I see that in Psalm 16:2 —
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
So whatever I seek my good in is my Lord. And to seek my good in something means seeking my joy and satisfaction in it.
So if I am seeking my joy in anything more than Christ, then it has become my God; it is an idol.
Not that I can’t feel joy in anything besides Christ. After all, Paul says that “God provides us with every good thing to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
But the reason God provides the half-ounce joys of sun and ocean and stand-up paddling is to point me to the thousand-ton joy he gives me in Christ, so I will trust him alone as my all-satisfying treasure.
But when I seek my satisfaction in these half-ounce joys, or when my pleasure in these joys does not point my heart to Christ as my greatest joy, then they have become idols.
So how can we tell when this is happening?
Something is an idol when —
- It causes me to disobey God.
- It gives me greater joy than Christ.
- It gives me the most excitement about the future.
- It is what I daydream about the most.
- It is what I most enjoy talking about.
- I is what I fear losing the most.
- It is what I most enjoy reading about.
- It is what I most love spending money on.
- It is what I look to for heart-rejuvenation.
- It is what I most enjoy spending time on.
So has Stand-Up Paddling become an idol? To my shame, at times, this past week, it has.
But Paul calls me to “flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). And John says “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
So what can I do?
I am turning to Jesus for help.
I do not have the power to change my own heart. But “what is impossible with people is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
So I am turning to Jesus and asking him for help.
I am praying “create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)
I am confessing my idolatry as sin.
It is sobering to admit that at times this past week I have turned from God and bowed down to an idol.
But there is good news. Because of Jesus’ death for sin, when we confess our sins God will forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
So, with no excuses or rationalizations, I am confessing my idolatry as sin.
And as I do that I am assured of complete forgiveness, and that I am clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness, by faith alone.
I am praying over relevant Scriptures.
Jesus promised that as we meditate on his word we will be set free the power of sin (John 8:31-32).
So I am pondering Scriptures like these –
- Psalm 40:1-3, which promises that as I wait on the Lord he will meet me.
- Psalm 4:6-7, which promises that my greatest joy is found in God alone.
- Romans 6:6, which teaches that my sin of idolatry has been put to death with Christ.
- Jeremiah 2:12-13, which teaches that God alone is living water; everything else will leave me thirsty.
- Colossians 3:5-6, which warns that God’s wrath will punish idolatry.
- Matthew 5:8, which promises that the pure in heart will see God.
As I do this, I can feel my heart changing. I am once again tasting the superior pleasures of Christ, and desire him more than anything.
I will still go Stand-Up Paddling. In fact, I went again yesterday, and enjoyed its half-ounce joys.
But by God’s grace, I let those half-ounce joys point me to the thousand-ton joy of Christ.
My idol had been chopped down.
So how about you? Do you have idols that need to be chopped down?
God promises that as we pray and meditate on God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will so satisfy us in Christ that our idols are destroyed.
Picture a massive chainsaw. As we pray, the power of the Spirit is like gasoline firing up the engine of faith and causing the chain of the Word to tear into the wood of the idol.
So keep praying, and meditating on God’s word. Your idols will soon be falling.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- A Ringside Seat for My Battle against an Idol
- Six Reasons Heart-Satisfaction Is Crucial
- What’s the Root Cause of My Sin
- Why Willpower Alone Can’t Produce Obedience
(Picture from compfight.com by Newcastle Outrigger Canoe Club.)