The human heart is an idol factory. Tim Keller, in his excellent book Counterfeit Gods, writes:
"When most people think of “idols” they have in mind literal statues—or the next pop star anointed by Simon Cowell. Yet while traditional idol worship still occurs in many places of the world, internal idol worship, within the heart, is universal. In Ezekiel 14:3, God says about the elders of Israel, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts.” Like us, the elders must have responded to this charge, “Idols? What idols? I don’t see any idols.” God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them."
The question is not “Will we worship?” It is “What will we worship?” We were created to worship, and we are always worshipping something. That means, within your heart a battle is being fought this very minute—the stakes are tremendous. Whoever wins gets control of you; the winner becomes the center of your life. And there are many different idols that are vying for your worship. Keller continues:
"The biblical concept of idolatry is an extremely sophisticated idea, integrating intellectual, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual categories. There are personal idols, such as romantic love and family; or money, power and achievement; or access to particular social circles; or the emotional dependence of others on you; or health, fitness and physical beauty. Many look to these things for hope, meaning, and fulfillment that only God can provide. There are cultural idols, such as military power, technological progress, and economic prosperity. The idols of traditional societies include family, hard work, duty, and moral virtue, while those of Western cultures are individual freedom, self-discovery, personal affluence, and fulfillment. All these good things can and do take on disproportionate size and power within a society. They promise us safety, peace, and happiness if only we base our lives on them."
Maybe you’ve never thought about your spiritual life in these terms before. Maybe you’ve considered idol worship a relic of the ancient past, but I urge you to consider your heart. Who are you worshipping? What are you looking to for hope, meaning and fulfillment? What do you think has the power to give you significance, security and safety? Who are you willing to bow down before and swear allegiance to?
Idol worship ultimately fails because the one being worshipped ultimately fails. What we need is to find someone who will never fail…someone who is able to receive the tribute we bring…someone who is worthy of our worship.
“Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.” (Psalm 29:1-2 ESV)
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