It may be quite depressing to investigate the many idols the Enemy uses to entice Christians into distraction. But let’s take heart; there is hope and freedom from the bonds of idolatry. It takes a diagnosis of our spiritual health before we can deal with the disease and be healed.
If we don’t name our idols, they remain unseen and harmless, or so we think. The issue becomes vital for Christians who grapple with defining where secular culture ends and Christianity begins in a largely acculturated Western faith. It is a challenge for young people, in particular, to discern godly voices from the siren’s song. In The Grand Inquisitor Lives, Alonzo McDonald suggests, “False gods that are more devious and difficult to deal with are factors that are basically good most of the time. They become idols only when they are misused and pursued to excess.”[i]
Good things can become idols, indeed; have we been captivated unawares? As Christians we have the tendency to see our church community as pure, and other Christian denominations as being too secular. We are quick to assign guilt to Christian circles that do not adhere to the standards we hold. The same goes for idolatry. We seldom see this as a problem in our own circles but can define them quite easily for other religions, liberal churches, and the unchurched. We are inclined to forget that the Bible warns us of the deceitfulness of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that too readily buys into modern technology, rides along the wave of consumerism and partakes in contemporary hedonism.
Anyone who speaks out against the trends of the day is called intolerant, Luddite, backwards, and so on. When those rationalizations are threatened, defenses go up, and the instinct is to plug our ears and loudly object.
As Christians we are not immune to our own rationalizations when we try to justify being different while cloaking our worldliness in a Christian mantle.
Meeting with like-minded Christians, with our tribe, so to speak, we no longer feel the need to reach outside our Christian community, and this is not what we are called to do. Paul tells us that we are to live in the world and yet not be part of it, and Jesus asks of His Father: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the Evil One. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:15–16, NIV). We can count on God for daily protection from evil while we live in this world and pray that we not be tempted by its values, which would alienate us from God.
To find out if something is idolatrous, we must look at the things in our lives that consume us. It will be up to us individually to sift through our daily activities and replace with godly values, and with Christ’s help, anything that has become, or is on its way to becoming, idolatrous.
[i] No God But God. Breaking with the Idols of our Age. Os Guinness, John D. Seel Jr. Editors, Richard Keyes, et al. (Moody Press, Chicago, Ill: 1992), 13.
Image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net