by Joe Thorn
Every one of us is made by God and for God. As Christians, we confess that our “chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Despite the divine design of our lives, we are all prone to wander from the one true God and worship false gods of our own making.
Idolatry has taken different forms throughout the ages. Some idols were carved out of wood and overlaid with precious metals. Some were well-known pagan deities to which whole temples were built. Today, our idols seem a bit more sophisticated. Money, power, reputation, sex, appearance, and knowledge are common idols. Even good things can be idols, such as a local church or a ministry, because an idol is simply that which we elevate in our lives above the Lord. Idolatry is what comes first, what has captured our hearts, and where we find our identity.
Idolatry tends to work itself in one of two ways: we deify creation while defying the Creator, or we exalt ourselves while excluding our God. The former is when we trust in what has been made to somehow define and deliver us, while the latter is when we take the posture of the devil, who wanted to be God Himself.
Despite the glaring deficiencies in our man-made idols and ourselves when compared to the glory of our triune God, we still bow down to things created rather than the Creator. Why? One reason we worship false gods is because idolatry is easier than faith. When we deify creation, we are worshiping that which we can see, taste, touch, measure, and in most cases have some sort of control over. But God cannot be seen or measured. He cannot be touched and He certainly cannot be controlled. Our longing for immediate gratification and the investment we have in this present life makes idolatry not just tempting but easy.
Another reason we are prone to idolatry is because we want to be autonomous, not accountable. To admit that we are the creation of God is to confess that we belong to Him, that He has authority over us. It not only means that He alone should be worshiped, but that we must answer to Him for what we do and who we have become. Idolatry is tempting because, at least in our minds, it frees us from the God who owns us.
Idolatry is not just delusional, it is dangerous. Such false gods will not only fail to serve us and save us, but they will lead us to our condemnation. It is only when we see idols for what they are, in contrast to who the Lord is, that the glitter of idols is overcome by the glory of God.
This is the core reason why we worship idols—because we are not gripped with the glory of God, glory that is seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who Himself is the “radiance” of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3), whose death brought about our redemption, and whose resurrection secured our life. The beginning of the end of the idolatry in our hearts is found in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.