“Idol” Promises

Have you melted down precious metals or jewelry recently to make a golden calf? Me neither. Consequently, I’ve always sort of breezed by the biblical command about not bowing to idols, assuming it didn’t apply to me. I mean, clearly I’m not anything like those Old Testament fools who worshiped false gods! Right?

But when I read a description of modern idolatry a few years ago, I realized I’m just as much of a buffoon as those wandering Israelites.

Pastor John Piper stated it plainly: “Idolatry is the thing or person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God.”

I asked myself a tough question—do I push God aside to pursue other things?

God designed us to be satisfied in Him alone, so if our hearts are wholly His, we shouldn’t need to seek contentment elsewhere.Christa Cottam

God designed us to be satisfied in Him alone, so if our hearts are wholly His, we shouldn’t need to seek contentment elsewhere. But, if our attention is drawn from God, we look to ourselves and the distractions and enticements of this world to supply our security, fulfillment, love, happiness, peace, identity, and worth. That is where idolatry brews.

In Romans 12:2 Paul urges us not to conform to the pattern of this world, knowing that we can never be truly fulfilled by anything except God. But I’ve got to be honest—it’s a constant struggle not to be lured in when everything around me constantly clamors for my attention and affection, making empty promises to satiate all my hopes and dreams if I’m more organized, make more money, lose weight, maintain a throng of friends, take the perfect vacation, volunteer at church, or focus more on my family. Despite my best intentions, I sometimes fall victim to these lies.

Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Most of the things we turn into idols aren’t harmful or unhealthy—as long as we remain firmly rooted in God and remember who we are in Christ. Exercise and health, being a good wife or mother, a devoted friend, a competent employee, a solid provider for your family, keeping a tidy home, and receiving affirmation can all be positive things—unless we lose perspective and believe they can satisfy us more than God.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25 WEB).

The problem is that the things we place on a pedestal, that we give our hearts to, can never love us like God—no, not even those dearest to us. They will all eventually disappoint or fail us. But the One who can meet all our needs doesn’t ask us to climb a ladder or earn the right to be near Him. In fact, God removed Himself from a pedestal through Christ’s death to be in relationship with us. With God fixed as our foundation, we aren’t defeated when our family disappoints us or devastated when we’re stripped of our health or financial security.

I’ve come to accept that as long as I live in this broken world with my sin-laden tendencies, I’ll face the temptation of idolatry. I ask God to pique my awareness—to be so in tune with my heart-health, my tendencies, weaknesses, and triggers—that I recognize when I’m beginning to peer down the rabbit hole of idolatry. I surround myself with Scripture—reminders that my worth is in Him and not in my weight, job title, or bank account. And I regularly speak with trusted individuals about my struggles, knowing that the prayer and support of others is powerful.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with idols? In what areas are you most susceptible to idolatry? What are some ways you stay grounded in Christ? How might focusing on His love for you help?

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