An idol isn’t something we think about much in the modern world these days. We usually think that is part of a primitive culture with a stone or wooden god that is worshiped and has nothing to do with us. But according to Colossians 3:5, covetousness is idolatry so it’s more than a statue. Some friends and I were talking about how we can make an idol out of many things. One friend said the way our kids behave or dress, as it reflects on us, can be a form of idolatry. We can idolize the kids and/or our reputation in that way. Another said we can even make an idol out of getting out of debt. I think I’ve offended God in all these ways and more besides.
What? Offended God? Why, isn’t He kind and loving and forgiving? Yes, but we do need to recognize our sin at some point and even continually. Sin? That’s something that some preachers won’t talk about. We have probably all heard about the one who told Larry King it wasn’t for him to say if Jesus is the only way to heaven. And guess what? Not talking about the existence of sin and the need for forgiveness is one thing that leaves us wide open to idolatry.
Today I listened to White Horse Inn’s May 31, 2009, broadcast titled “Smooth Talk and Flattery”. They said that even Time Magazine has noticed that Jesus is talked about in our churches but not in the context of His glory, His holiness or His atonement. Sermons are about how to live life and full of pragmatism and moralistic teaching but not about the cross. There is a new definition of the gospel that we need to be careful of. It is about God making our life better. About making us feel better about ourselves. The old definition, the authentic one, has to do with “the depth of our sin and the greatness of Christ’s blood” as was said on the broadcast. God doesn’t exist to meet our needs. We exist to serve Him. Seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added.
If idolatry is going after something else or, elevating something else too highly in our thinking rather than God, how does thinking on sin make us less open to it? Because this leads us to the cross. We are reminded of His holiness as it contrasts with our un-holiness. We think of His atonement for us and our inability to live through the experience of the wrath of God that only He could bear for us. That leads us to worship Him regardless of what our circumstances are or, what we own or, what others think of us or anything else, really. It leads to the joy of the Lord that gives strength.
When was the last time you heard a good sermon on the cross? Easter? Unless Easter was last week, it’s been too long. Many churches believe in the cross but it’s not mentioned because it may offend a visitor. Is every sermon supposed to only be evangelistic? No, but it should have that element in it and also meat for the believer. The cross is meaty and if we are bored with it, we are in danger of looking for an idol. If our evangelism consists of ‘what Jesus did for me’ and ‘how He made me happy’ and not what the person needs most – repentance, forgiveness and good doctrine to help them grow, we’re off track.
I know it’s not fun digging around in this stuff. Somehow, this reminds me of when I was first a Christian and people would tell me not to pray for patience because I would be put in situations that were difficult and would require patience. So, was I supposed to put my comfort ahead of the need for sanctification? This world has always been and always will be an uncertain place. Fads come and go in the church but the real gospel is the thing that never changes. The God who made us and has rights to us is where we find rest but, only as we seek Him and not idols.