I had a reader ask about how to stop idolatry – and that is a REALLY CRITICAL topic that deserves a good bit of attention! If we don’t get to the root of our sin and rebellion against God and completely tear out our idols – we can’t fix the real problems and we won’t have the power of God’s Spirit. So this is an unbelievably important concept and it’s really the place to start at the beginning of our journey to respect and submit to our husbands and be in right relationship with God, in my view.
I believe that practically all sin against God is rooted in idolatry and pride.
Most of the marriage books I read did NOT deal with idolatry. This is a HUGE, HUGE piece of the puzzle here. We cannot skip this stuff! If we are not willing to do this VERY PAINFUL and difficult step – we will not see real change and we will not experience God’s power in our lives or our marriages!
Idolatry is probably THE BIGGEST problem with our relationships with God and our marriages.
WHAT IS IDOLATRY?
It is so easy to think – in our Western culture – that we don’t have a problem with idolatry. I mean, I never carved a statue and bowed down to it. I never went to a pagan shrine and bowed down and prayed to an idol made of wood/silver/gold/stone. I never gave money to a statue. I never sacrificed my children to a carved image. So – I’m not an idolator, right?
The first two commandments are about idolatry (Exodus 20):
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments.
HOW SERIOUS IS IDOLATRY?
Our God counts idolatry as the worst of sins. It is the same to Him as adultery would be in marriage. We are in a COVENANT relationship with Christ Jesus – His blood is the blood of our covenant with Him. We are not to break our covenant relationship. A covenant is to be in effect for life – and if someone breaks a covenant, the penalty is supposed to be death.
God HATES idolatry. He punishes idolatry severely – especially when He has warned His people to repent over and over, sometimes for decades, and they refuse to repent and return to Him with all their hearts. Read through the Old Testament sometime. It was always idolatry that provoked God to wrath.
GOD ALONE DESERVES OUR WORSHIP AND PRAISE
God expects us to worship and praise Him alone. He alone is worthy of our reverence, awe, total respect and fear. When we REALLY understand how HUGE, how POWERFUL, how AWESOME, mighty, omnipotent, omniscient and sovereign our God is – the only response we can have is awe, fear, trembling, reverence and praise. And we MUST put Him first and everything and everyone else in our life has to come a distant second to our love for God and willingness to obey Him in everything.
WE ARE SO BLIND
We don’t tend to worship statues. Our idols are much more subtle. And this is where it is terrifying to me. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT WE ARE IDOLATORS!
We have NO idea the scope of our sin. We don’t see our mountains of arrogant pride – I sure didn’t! We don’t see our disrespect towards God or our husbands. We don’t see our idolatry – and we keep going 100 mph to our destruction. We don’t realize the debt we owe to Jesus. We think we just sin “a little” and we don’t have to be forgiven of much. THAT WAS ME!
COMMON IDOLS IN OUR CULTURE:
- self – I put myself in God’s place in my life. I think I am sovereign and powerful and HUGE and God is small, wimpy and impotent – if I even acknowledge His existence at all. I think life is all about ME, what I want, MY way.
- control – I think I have to MAKE things happen “right” or everything will be a mess. I think I am responsible for the outcome of circumstances and events and for controlling other people’s behavior. I think I am responsible for things that I actually have no control over. I can’t see where my boundaries of responsibility end and other people’s or God’s begin
- our husbands – I put him in the place of God in my soul and expect him to be Christ to me (not just to represent Christ) but to BE Christ – to be perfect, to meet all my emotional and spiritual needs and to be completely responsible for my happiness every second of every day. If I am not happy – it is my husband’s fault!
- our children – we live for them, sacrifice everything for them, live vicariously through them, make their happiness our biggest goals in life
- expensive things (clothes/houses/cars/jewelry)
- certain friends
- people’s approval
- a presidential candidate
- salvation of a loved one
- healing from a disease
- a singer
- an actress/actor
- a crush on someone
- being thin
- looking young
- being “religious”
- following rules
- being “good”
- people being happy with us (not letting anyone ever be mad at us)
- a loved one not dying
- our husbands’ visual purity/sinlessness
- our children’s behavior
- feeling “in love”
- feeling loved in our marriage
- feeling respected
- changing someone else (especially our husband)
- getting married/being married
- having children
- being busy
- taking pictures
- saving money
- addictions of any kind
- rescuing people
- being overly responsible for other people
As Wes Church, one of our ministers, said – “The human heart is an idol factory.” We can make ANYTHING into an idol! And we don’t even realize it!
Some of these things are not bad. Some are good things that are blessings from God. The problem is when we try to use these things to fill the God-shaped hole in our soul that only Christ can fill. We must keep these things in proper perspective and in their proper place of priority. And we have to be willing to hold all these things loosely in our hands to allow God to take away and give according to His will and His wisdom and what He knows is best for us and those we love.
THE “WAGES” OF IDOLATRY
The wages of sin is death.
When we are rebelling against God and full of sin – and there is no worse sin than idolatry – we cannot have God’s Spirit in control. Idolatry CANNOT give us contentment, peace, joy, love, hope, patience...
My dear friend and I were talking about this. The fruit of God’s Spirit grows in us and turns us into a lush, lavish, fruitful tree by streams of water and all that fruit is just bursting from our lives. But when we have idolatry, pride and sin instead of God’s Spirit – our lives become a dried up, diseased, rotting tree that will eventually decay and die. The “fruit” of idolatry, pride and sin is:
- FEAR – BIG TIME FEAR
- lost connection and intimacy with God
- constant anxiety and worry
- insatiable appetite for more
- we give up all that matters most to us as we pursue our idol – even if that means we have to sacrifice our health, our families, our marriage, our children, our money, our time – we will give up ANYTHING if we think it will get us the idol we want so desperately.
- death and destruction – what we idolize often ultimately destroys us.
WHAT ARE SIGNS THAT I MIGHT BE COMMITTING IDOLATRY?
- I MUST have THIS PARTICULAR THING/PERSON/EVENT to be happy. I will NOT be ok unless I have X.
- I am spending an inordinate amount of money on that thing.
- I am constantly worried about my idol and trying to figure out how I will MAKE things work out right so I can have what I want the way I want it.
- I cannot stop myself, I am a slave to serving my idol. I am addicted.
- I spend most of my time trying to acquire my idol or serve my idol.
- I don’t care what the cost is to my family, my relationships, my health – I WILL have what I want!
- I have EXTREME FEAR of losing my idol
- I have no joy of God in my heart.
- I am focused on negativity, complaining, arguing, rebelling against God-given authority.
- I am cherishing sin in my heart.
- I have no peace.
- I have no contentment.
- If someone asks me to give up my idol – I get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY upset, angry, defensive, combative and will do anything to keep from having to give up my idol.