We all worship idols, even though we may try our best not to. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have in fact turned something into an idol. The thing that makes it most difficult is that we have become a society of idols. Everyone wants the latest and greatest thing or that big career jump that they think will turn them into what they perceive is a ‘somebody’ or give their life that ultimate purpose. For me I find that it is books and knowledge. I always seem to feel that if I read a particular book I will perhaps feel that I have a good knowledge of something, but of course no sense of enlightenment occurs once I have finished my reading, my knowledge has increased as it should and that should be all I expect from it, it is just a book after all. (Kind of reminds me of a definition of hell I once heard: ‘Hell is to execute an act of which nothing comes except to do it again’).
Here are a few things that we turn into idols:
- Objects (electronics, gadgets, cars)
- People (popular writers, actors, our spouses, friends)
Notice that there is a common thread running through all of the things in the list: they are all things that we have to strive for that we perceive will make US something to be glorified, someone that others might wish to imitate.
I have heard people say countless times that they wish they could be like someone else that they know that has one or more of the things in the above list that they do not. There is something fundamentally wrong with this way of thinking. Scripture teaches us who we are to emulate.
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
(Rom 8:28-29 NET)
We are to be image-bearers of Christ, not of some worldly person or thing.
However, there is a question that must be asked first before we can start digging deeper into this issue with someone: do you believe that God is real and that He sent His Son to die on the cross for us and then be raised again on the third day, defeating death, and ascending into heaven? The answer to this question will dictate how we can proceed with this worldly idolatry. If someone answers the aforementioned question in the negative then we have to start with evangelism and apologetics, but that’s another post!
What brought this to mind for me was a series of lectures by Tim Keller that I was listening to. In his lectures Keller makes two big points (amongst other great stuff!).
- We need to examine the sin beneath the sin.
- Only Jesus can be our functional Savior – anything else will destroy us.
What is the ‘sin beneath the sin’? For this we must look at the 10 Commandments, specifically at the first one.
“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 NET)
This is of course the commandment that Jesus refers to as the greatest of the commandments.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Mat 22:36-38 NET)
The ‘sin beneath the sin’ is essentially breaking the first commandment. In order to break any other commandment you have to break the first one…first. You have to turn away from godliness. It is at the point where you turn away from godliness that you start putting other things in God’s place; career, money, objects etc… and look to those things to bring you happiness or fulfillment. You look to those things as your savior, as being able to make you a ‘somebody’ or to give your life a purpose. As humans we need to have a purpose, something bigger than ourselves, otherwise this all becomes pointless.
We need God and His Son because none of these things that we idolize has the ability to save us in the end; they cannot be our functional savior, only Jesus can be that for us. Scripture teaches us this:
Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Joh 14:6 NET)
Jesus is the one and only Savior, it is only through Him that we can get to the Father. If we keep Jesus in His proper place as our Savior, and continue to choose godliness then we can break this endless cycle of idolatry and understand our purpose in life!!