Anything or anyone is a potential idol the moment it diverts our affection from God. And, deep down, none of us desires to suffer bondage and intentionally act against the will of our Lord.
To avert the danger of something or someone becoming an idol, and to slay any idol that besets us, we must resist that object of our obsession and put it in its rightful place. There are ways with which we can redeem the good while rejecting the temptations the Enemy places in our path.
It is comforting that Paul states in Romans 7:18b–20, 24: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Here is this champion of God who admits that although he delights in the laws of God, his inner being is constantly at war for or against sin. In our human condition, our broken, sinful state will be with us until we move from this world into the eternal kingdom and into the presence of the Lord. “Then what’s the point of resisting?” we may ask; it is in this: we can relate to Paul when he cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But Paul does not end there; then comes his jubilant shout: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” And this is our ultimate consolation: that faced with this tension, through Christ we can overcome, because He has overcome death and the power of sin. No longer do we have to bow to sin.
When an idol is named, it is no longer hidden. It takes courage to name one’s idol(s). The first step is to acknowledge an idol so that it can be dealt with, and the road to recovery and forgiveness can be taken. None of us likes to hear that our hearts might be captive to one or more idols. When an idol is identified, our instinct is to deny its existence. When those close to us identify an idol that has taken hold of us, we owe it to Christ and our fellow believers to heed the warning and take the admonitions seriously. We may not feel that others have the right to question what they perceive as an idol that has taken hold of us. However, that’s not entirely true; God has that right, and God’s kingdom is too important to let hindrances prevent us from fully proclaiming it. Moreover, taking to heart the warnings helps us to stay on the right course and accountable to fellow believers and God.
There is no easy road, and it will be hard work; it will be a long, arduous road. To deal with those idols that have stolen the affection owed to God will be a struggle, but it needs to be fought, and fought to the end. The good news is that the idol slayer par excellence is our Lord Jesus Christ, who overcame idols and, if allowed, will work through us to defeat ours. In Hebrews 12:4 (NIV), Paul admonishes us: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” He encourages us not to grow weary or fainthearted. Why should we be involved in this fight? For one, it is a testimony to non believers. Although as Christians we are no longer part of this world, we are still very much in it and should influence it in a way that brings God’s shalom.
Images courtesy of Thomas Lehtinen, debspoons and Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net