By the time you receive this, most of our Life Together Groups would’ve commenced their “Gods At War” study which our sermon series will also be following over the next six weeks. It is an in-depth look into idols that battle for the throne of our hearts.
The word, ‘idol’ isn’t a word used in Australia, if at all. When we think of the word, we’re probably thinking of a singing competition that made its debut in July 2003. Perhaps our minds cast to TV documentaries showcasing people in cultures in India, Taiwan or other parts of Asia, bowing down before statues and carved images. We might even go as far as citing the many accounts in the Bible where idols are worshipped, like the golden calf in Exodus 32.
You might think since we don’t do this in Brisbane unlike these primitive, superstitious cultures, the subject of idolatry is irrelevant to us. That would be a fatal conclusion to make as John Collins, an Old Testament scholar, writes, “…the critique of idolatry…applies not only to carved or molten statues, but to the human tendency to absolutize things that are merely part of the created order”. It means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing. Here are some helpful definitions:
· “Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used or using anything that ought to be worshipped (Augustine).
· “Idolatry is placing our longings for what only God can provide in the hands of a creature instead of a Creator” (Dan Allender).
· An idol is ‘anything that becomes the purpose or driving force of your life’ (Kyle Idleman).
· “If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol” (Timothy Keller).
This means an idol can be anything and anyone. When we replace God on the throne of our hearts with an idol, we’re no different from God’s people in Exodus 32 who ‘traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass eating bull’ (Psalm 106:19 NLT) within three months after God delivers them from slavery in Egypt.
Even more tragic than this is some 75 years later, Joshua the successor to Moses, makes this appeal to his people, “…Now then…throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23). We cannot afford to be complacent with idolatry.
Over the coming weeks, I implore us to act upon Joshua’s words as God’s Spirit reveal to us the identity of ‘foreign gods’ on the throne of our hearts. We are to worship God and no other, not because he is a bully or insecure but because he loves us too much to watch us crash and burn by creating God substitutes in our lives.