But lately my eyes have been opened. The eyes of my heart, that is. I'm seeing for the first time what idolatry in the 21st century really is. Not the worshipping of gods made of wood and stone, gods that cannot even stand up by themselves, as God so often points out through His Old Testament prophets. This is a far sneakier god, a cleverer god than one made of wood or stone. Our modern idols.
If you asked me in Sunday School, even just a few weeks ago, what kinds of idols people put before God now, I could've given you an answer. My self-righteous finger could've pointed to fame and fortune, celebrities and money. Jobs. Careers. Kids. Spouses. All those things. Of course, we all know that when you point at someone else there are three fingers pointing right back at you. Three fingers pointing to the three idols in my own heart. Three idols that have snuck in cleverly disguised, like wolves in sheeps' clothing. Three idols escaping my notice, or being well-defended by my ready excuses. Three idols that were stripped bare last night by the one true God.
1. The idol of emotions.
2. The idol of comfort.
3. The idol of my dreams.
None of these things in and of themselves are sinful, it is only when they bully and push Jesus out of the reigning place of my heart. How cleverly they push and shove, inch and move until they've taken His place and gobbled up all the joy and peace He's given. My heart is left with nothing but the chicken bones after my idols have devoured all the goodness Jesus had brought into my life.
I'm learning that anything which comes before Jesus, anything which controls me instead of the Spirit, anything that I value before God is, in fact, an idol. I'm worshipping my comfort when I tell God that I won't do what He's asked, or when I won't sacrifice a bit of sleep to meet with Him. I'm worshipping my dreams when I insist that my plans are my only option and I refuse to give them to Him. I'm worshipping my emotions when I allow them to rule unchecked, reeking havoc with my relationships and my personal peace.
Like the sun slowly dawning I finally could see my idols in plain view. God lifted the veil of my own denial to reveal that which my heart truly values. In a moment of humility and honesty I admitted that I do have other gods before Him. Not gods made of wood or stone, but gods constructed of my own self-serving desires. I love my hopes and dreams more than His plans for my life. I want to let my feelings run my life, rather than learning to take each feeling captive so I can be a woman of self-restraint, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. I long for comfort, security, and safety more than following Jesus so closely that I'll be covered in the dust of the Rabbi. It turns out that I'm an idolater, after all. Commandments number one and two may be my greatest struggle, and I never even realized it.
The beautiful promise, however, is that by surrendering my idols to the one true God, He can change them from something sinful to something purposeful. Because having emotions, having dreams, and desiring comfort are all natural things. Each one is part of the human experience and part of the way God designed us. But it is only when I've refused to allow them to have greater importance in my life than Jesus that I can experience them as they were intended.
With God at the helm my emotions will no longer control me. He will teach me how to feel deeply and fully, but not be consumed by unhealthy feelings. How I feel won't dictate how much faith I have or how much I can love someone. My feelings can be taken captive, questioned and tried, and then dealt with accordingly. But only if God is in control. With God on the throne my definition of comfort will change. The coziness of a warm bed won't compare to the coziness of His arms as I learn to give up my creature comforts for time with Him. With God in charge my dreams will change. Some will be given up in place of new ones, better ones. Some will alter in how or why I want to see them fulfilled. Some will expand to include God-given plans. Some will no doubt come to fruition with God doing the growing. The reality is my dreams' only hope of survival is to let God take over.
The only way to annihilate an idol is to tear it down, break it up, and grind it into dust as Moses did at the base of Mount Sinai. Obliterate it so it cannot control me. Wage war on these sneaky, clever idols through prayer and reading God's word.
Humble prayer, the pouring out of my brokenness will give God the opportunity to exercise His power in my life. I have to remain in this place of honesty, and I must not rely on myself to do this change in me. I have to stay grounded in the Word, digging deep and soaking up its' truth in order to recognize and take down false idols in my life. It is hard work, this heart-cleaning and idol destruction. I believe God is the only one who can really do the demolition, but I have to do the work of stay committed to the project.
But I now know there is idol worship in the 21st century. Idol worship in my own heart here in this modern era. I thought I was on track, I truly believed I had no other gods before the Lord my God. But I was wrong. Essentially, I put self before Him. By allowing my feelings, my plans, and my comfort to have dominance in my heart, I allowed God to be crowded out. So now for the hard work of casting out my idols, of abolishing my desire for the creature comforts of this world in place of His security and peace.
To get started in the obliteration of my idolatry I've looked up some verses about idols, and some of my specific struggles. And my prayer is the God is able to make me aware of me ever-aware of my value system so that He is always in the utmost place in my life.
Verses To Break the Bondage of Idols
Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.~ 1 Samuel 12:21I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD~ Psalm 31:6
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. ~ 1 John 5:21
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols~ Ezekiel 36:25
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.~ Jonah 2:8
Verses Concerning the Making of Plans and the Plans of the Creator
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. ~ Psalm 33:11
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. ~ Proverbs 16:3
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails~ Proverbs 19:21
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.~ Jeremiah 29:11
Verses Concerning Self-Control and A Godly Spirit
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.~ 1 Peter 3:3-5
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. ~ Proverbs 16:32
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control~ Proverbs 25:28
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. ~ Titus 1:8
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.~ Galatians 5:22-23