What do you run to? What should you run from?
1 Corinthians 10:15 "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."
It’s humbling to admit this (and actually it’s tempting to consider it embarrassing and even humiliating.) For many years my go-to idol has been ~ food. Sin is always humbling, isn’t it? And it can be embarrassing and even humiliating, except that The Gospel takes care of that kind of self-focus and self-condemnation.
I’ll take the humbling, because that is what keeps me from turning back to idolatry. I’ll keep purposing to reject the embarrassment and humiliation, because I know that my sins are forgiven. To try to pretend that I am not the worst of sinners is just silly because it’s written all over me. And you.
Let’s remember this: we have a Savior.
Idolatry today comes wrapped in a lot of different packages. Food, alcohol, drugs, prescription meds, sex, materialism, shopping, anger, status, playing the victim, seeking approval and attention, relationships, celebrities, pride of all kinds, and so many more. There is no end, really, to what we allow to become idols in our hearts. Whatever we put before God, wherever our treasure is, whatever we worship, those are our idols.
There is a reason these idols are called “false gods.” They are counterfeits - they ultimately fail us. We actually “become like them” and that is, to put it bluntly, disgusting.
Psalm 135:15-18 "The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!"
This disgust gripped me a few months ago when I got a serious medical diagnosis that is worsened by my idolatry. I realized I had “eyes, but did not see, ears, but did not hear, and there was no breath in my mouth.” I won’t say my idol is entirely gone now, but I am seeing consistent victories along the way. Praise God, it is His work in me, not my own. I am too weak apart from His strength. I have a long ways to go, but I am daily choosing to go towards Christ rather than my towards my false god.
Where are you going?
One of the beautiful things about Jesus’s Gospel is that we do not need to strive for victory. Yes, there is a part we must engage by obedience, but when (not if) we fail at times, we can praise God because He does not see what we see. Even if my hand gets caught in the cookie jar, I am forgiven. That does not excuse my behavior nor does it give me the green light to worship my idols. It does offer me grace to get back up again and press on in obedience because of the indwelling Spirit in me. I need to know that God's love for me does not change (nor does my eternal security) when I fail at times, and I do fail. But by God’s grace we can experience more victories and fewer setbacks as long as we are not relying on our own strength.
How does God deal with our idolatry? How are we to be rid of it? We see in Scripture that His dealings with His people were consistent and blatant. We see the same kind of dealings with our current culture (just view the news or your Facebook feed and you will see it.)
The commands are clear: we are to have no other gods before Him. God is a jealous God.
Exodus 20:3-6 "“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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."
In our personal lives, if we have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus, God deals with us and our sin of idolatry very individually and specifically. (For example, my conviction came as a result of that scary medical diagnosis that requires a change of habits if I want to be healthy and live to know my grandkids, Lord willing.)
We fashion our idols and enjoy them for awhile, until God reveals to us the thoughts, beliefs and desires that lie at the core of our hearts. Those are the things that mold and transform in to our idols. Out of that core of our hearts flow the things we worship, and we must remember that those things are not going to satisfy ultimately because:
Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
God’s Word is clear - when God reveals our idols to us, we are then responsible to flee them. Ephesians 4 instructs us to put off the old man, and put on the new. Through the conviction, empowering and enabling of the Holy Spirit, we can do this. We can say no. Titus 2:12 reminds us that grace actually teaches us to say no.
Grace. The Gospel. Spirit indwelling. SAY NO. Flee!