Since God (Jesus Christ) is the Creator and sovereign of the universe, all mankind is accountable to Him (John 1:1-3, Isa 45:22, 23). In the end “…every knee will bow…and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (Php 2:10-11). Unfortunately, most people, even whole cultures, have chosen to reject their Creator and instead they follow their man-made idols. As a result, lust, hatred, wars, terrorism, and injustice (James 4:1, 2 Tim 3:1-5) seem to be waxing worse and worse in these “last days.”
In the first commandment, God said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me…” (Exo 20:3-5). God judged the nation of Israel when they incorporated the gods of their surrounding neighbors and ended up worshiping idols. It was spiritual adultery. God doesn’t want us to FEAR, LOVE, SERVE, or TRUST anything or anyone but Him (Deut 10:12, Prov 3:5). He is a jealous God. He warns of glorying in wisdom, might or riches over a relationship with Him (Jer 9:23, 24). Even sincere Christians need to be wary of idolatry. They can place something that is good, such as their relationship with a family member, above their relationship with God (Matt 10:37).
There are some cultures around the world that are still steeped in superstition and spiritism. Individuals bow down to statues or carry fetishes for good luck or protection from evil spirits. But man’s idols today are not normally the statues and icons of wood, stone, silver, and gold. They are the idols of, self, money, intellectualism, and power. Idolatry begins in the heart, the thoughts, and plays out in one’s actions (Prov 23:7a).
The IDOL of “Self”
The most pernicious idol we have is ourselves. The “self” is our greatest enemy and Satan knows it. It is manifested in different ways: selfishness, self-gratification, the lust of the flesh, pride, ego, etc. We LOVE or SERVE ourselves above God. We focus on serving self in fleshly, hedonistic, or self-centered activities. We ignore the scriptural admonition to love God and then love and esteem others better than ourselves (Php 2:3, Mark 12:30, 31).
God warned that in the end times people would be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:4). There may be pleasure in sin for “a season” (Heb 11:25b), but it is often self-destructive. Many individuals are obsessed with sex. The perversion of the God-given gift of sex between a husband and wife is widespread. This is as true in our day as it was in the Apostle Paul’s (1 Cor 6:18). Some sexual sin (fornication and adultery) leads to abortion, which is extremely self-centered. Every person is made in God’s image and when we snuff out the life of an unborn child, we snuff out God’s image (Gen 9:6).
God designed sex for a man and a woman who are married (Gen 2:24, repeated by Jesus in Matt 19:5). Same-sex attraction, like any other temptation, can be overcome. No legitimate studies have ever shown that it is genetically caused – that homosexuals “can’t help themselves.” In any case, we are all born with a sin nature and tend toward one type of besetting sin or another (Heb 12:1). For some it may be lying, for others it may be alcohol, and yet for others it may be sexual sin. It often is related to our upbringing (Deut 5:7-10); but we are not judged for our parents’ sins. Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. The soul that sinneth, it shall die… (Eze 18:20). Acting upon any sexual temptation such as same-sex attraction is sin. As other sexual sins such as adultery, it is condemned in the scripture (Exo 20:14, Lev 18:22, Rom 1:18-27, 1 Cor 6:9). Celebrating it as an alternative lifestyle is clearly wrong.
The self-gratifying sins of drug and alcohol abuse have large segments of many societies in bondage (Prov 23:21, 29-35). The legal drug of alcohol in particular destroys untold numbers of families and wastes billions of dollars. Turning to drugs and alcohol is often simply a way to escape life’s problems or seek an “enhanced” state of mind. Jesus Christ and His Word are our source of peace, contentment, and an enhanced mind. Our body is God’s temple. We should take care of it and not abuse it (1 Cor 6:19, 20).
Some people must be wary of an extreme desire to gratify their longing for “fun and entertainment” with sports or various media. This can be a form of idolatry. More often people are consumed with their personal appearance (physique, clothes, etc.). They trust in a good outward appearance or fear a poor one. As stated above, we should take care of our bodies and portray a clean and neat appearance as much as possible, but God is most interested in our heart and our character (1 Sam 16:7). God makes no mistakes. He created the physical attributes of each of us just the way He wanted, especially our gender (Psalm 139:13-18, Exo 4:11).
The IDOL of Covetousness
The Bible tells us to reject covetousness, which is idolatry (Col 3:5) and that the love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Tim 6:10). It also warns of trusting in riches (1 Tim 6:17). Second only perhaps to the idol of self, we LOVE and TRUST money, and can become consumed with materialism. We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like. God warned Israel that when His blessings came, they would become self-sufficient and stop depending on Him (Deut 8:11-14). We tend to do the same. Many attribute their prosperity only to their own efforts, ignoring God’s blessing of health and abilities (Deut 8:17-18).
The IDOL of Intellectualism
If people TRUST in naturalistic knowledge apart from God, it is an idol. They trust science falsely so-called (1 Tim 6:20) above God’s Word. This is pride and arrogance of the highest order. God made us and gave us the intellect we have. Our brains are not simply a conglomeration of electro-chemical impulses. It is utter nonsense to say that the our ability to use language, think and reason came about by some long evolutionary process of time and chance.
God clearly states that He holds the standard for knowledge and wisdom. And these begin with the fear (reverential awe) of the Lord (Prov 1:7, 9:10). Humanistic man believes he has all the answers while leaving God totally out of the picture. Yet God’s wisdom is far above man’s (1 Cor 1:20, 25). There are dire consequences when nations forget God (Psa 9:17).
Man’s “crowning” rebellion against the knowledge of God as his Creator is the fallacious belief in evolution. Of course pagan and pantheistic (nature worship) evolutionary notions have been around since the dawn of history. But modern evolutionary thinking has been advanced in the last century and a half with the accent of Darwinism and its variants.
Unbelievers arrogantly suppress the truth in unrighteousness. God has shown to them … His invisible attributes (that are) clearly seen as evidence of a complex, information-rich universe which could only have come from His omniscience and omnipotence. Professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…(and) exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. The results have been devastating as God gives them over to reprobate minds which only serve to increase their destructive behavior (Rom 1:18-28).
The IDOL of POWER
Many FEAR, SERVE, and TRUST political or military power and the men behind it. God says, The fear of man bringeth a snare (Prov 29:25). Even in difficult circumstance, we need to trust God and not fear what man can do unto (us) (Psalm 118:6). Peter said, We must fear God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Some people are better at controlling and leading others. But unless they are personally controlled by a Higher Power, God himself, then inevitably this leads to raw oppression – one group of people proudly considering themselves superior and extending their control over another group of people. Governments are notorious for this. God hates oppression of the strong over the weak. He says, “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 25:17).
Today people are afraid of speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15) for fear of being arrested or being labeled a bigot with some phobia. They are pressured to be “politically correct” and freedom of speech suffers. Yet if the truth, especially the Truth of the Gospel, is allowed to flourish, it sets us free (John 8:32) and peace and justice prevail.
It is right and proper for a nation to be able to defend itself from its enemies. But no amount of military strength will keep safe a nation that rejects God and is in the cross-hairs of His judgment. Israel fell into the trap of TRUSTing in military power over the course of history. When threatened by a foreign nation, they would seek out a military alliance or protection from another pagan (Egypt, Assyria, etc.) government rather than relying on God’s protection. God is sovereign and in control – raising up and putting down nations (Dan 4:17b). He has used military conflict to accomplish His purposes. God will always determine the outcome of military conflict regardless of the odds. This is very obvious in modern times when Israel prevailed in three wars (1948, 1967, 1973) despite being woefully outnumbered. Nations would be wise to keep this in mind. When Jesus Christ returns to the earth, He will simply destroy His enemies with a Word and the “brightness of His coming.” (2 Thess 2:8).
(God) delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 147:10, 11).
Conclusion – the Solution
Idolatry, which is loving, trusting, serving or fearing something or someone more than God; is as prevalent today as it has ever been. We are all guilty of some form of idolatry. If we want to be blessed by God, we must give Him and His Word the pre-eminence They deserve. Blessed are those who keep His testimonies and that seek Him with a whole heart (Palm 119:2). The following verse says we need look no further than God’s people as the cause and solution of our problems:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14).
If we as Christians allow various idols such as those listed above to control us, then we fail to be the salt and light we are commanded to be in order to influence our society. If God is willing, revival can come to those who humble themselves, pray, seek Him and turn from their wicked ways. He will heal their land. May God help us as Christians to see the folly of our ways and put God first in all things.