effects of idolatry

2 Effects of Idolatry You May Not Have Considered

Neitzsche who once wrote, “God is dead,” also wrote, “If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”  That is a core issue in our idolatrous hearts. We would kill God so that we can be God. It is not that we deny God; we just replace Him with ourselves. Recently some fans of a rap artist named Kanye wrote a book called “The Book of Yeezus” where they take the Bible and replace God with the rappers name. The rapper even has a song called, “I am God.” This is the reality of an idolatrous heart. Therefore, we always have a desire to be our own authority, our own god.  Even to deny God, is to fill that gap with ourselves as the determiner of what is true or not. Denying God is in itself an act of making oneself God.

Ancient idols were nothing more than symbols used to get what we selfishly desired. In our modern materialistic society our deities are no longer objects that need to be appeased or placated, but rather things that appease or placate us. That is the ultimate goal in idol worship.  John Snyder states of idolatry “that it is to embrace an inadequate view of God or to make God seem more like us.”  The outcome of this idolatrous attitude is to do things for our namesake (Genesis 11:4), not the Lord’s. This idolatry of self-desire is rampant. In the following, I will deal with just two areas concerning idolatry: how it shows itself in our attitude towards church and our understanding of salvation.

1. Our Attitdue Towards The Church

Living with this idolatrous heart creates a consumer driven church mentality.  When it comes to church, often the question is how does this service suit me? How does the worship make me feel or how does it appease my senses? Did I find the sermon appealing to my felt needs?  Was the message something I felt I wanted to hear?  In our sinful hearts we have not gotten rid of our idols, we have only Christianized them.  John Calvin said that the heart is an idol factory and this truth shows up in the church.

If Satan can’t keep you from worshipping the true God, then he will do his best to pervert that worship.  One of the greatest perversions of worship is to make it about us.  This includes those serving in church and those receiving the message.  When we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see that we are to do all things for the glory of God.  It is to lift up God that we worship and serve.  When we look at Ephesians 2:10, it shows we were made to do good works not just receive.

Philippians 2:3 states clearly, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  This is clearly seen in Jesus taking on flesh and humbling Himself to the point of death, for the sake of all mankind.  Jesus demonstrated this so well when, like a slave He washed the feet of the disciples, in John 13.  In this same chapter, the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, yet Jesus took the role of a servant.  Even on the Cross our Savior prayed for those that persecuted Him (Luke 23:34) and ministered (Luke 23:43; John 19:26-27).  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45).  The point is, our idolatry makes church about service to us. It makes worship about what appeases us. True worship is about what we give to God because He alone is worthy, never about what we can get.  We are called in love to serve the church, not seek to be served.

2. Our Understanding of Salvation

Having this idolatrous heart wrongfully makes salvation about us and about our ability to save.  When I studied world religions, the theme of man earning his own way to God came up time and again.  Every religion in the world is about man earning his salvation, but in Christianity, we have God earning the way of salvation for man. In other religions, the followers must come to their God to some how appease and earn favor and therefore still serve themselves because the ultimate recipient is the person doing the appeasing.

Systems like these work well to alleviate guilt over sin.  We all know we are guilty. I do not have to prove to you that you have done wrong. I do not have to prove to anyone that they have sin. I only have to present the evidence from their own life that condemns them.  We live in a world full of people falling into religious systems or humanistic self-pleasure to alleviate or numb the feelings of guilt.  When salvation is idolatrous it looks to put the power to achieve salvation in man’s hands rather than God’s.  It will make mankind the end goal, or the highest benefactor of that salvation.

Against this is the reality that God saves us.  In the OT when God saved His people, it says in Ezekiel 36:21-23 that He did it for His holy Name’s sake.  In the NT in Acts 15:14, it states that God saved people from among the Gentiles “for His name.” Throughout Scripture, God desires to save, but the ultimate reason is for His own glory. God saves us based upon His own purpose and desire.  In response, we who are saved return to Him a sacrifice of praise. As His children, we thank Him in worship for all He is and all He has done for us. Even though we receive the benefits of salvation, the ultimate purpose is to magnify the great name of God.


How then do we gain a proper understanding of church and salvation?  We need to look at the work of Christ in His death and resurrection. Whenever we are tempted to make church and salvation about us, we need to look to the Cross.  At the Cross, the righteous wrath of God was satisfied. At the Cross, redemption was made. At the Cross, we have been reconciled.  At the Cross, Jesus substituted Himself for us and propitiated the wrath of God.

In His resurrection, we have the reality that all these things are true. At His resurrection we have the sure foundation for hope in our future. At His resurrection, we know our savior lives, and all God’s promises have or will come true.  When we see what we have gained in the sacrifice of the only Son of God, we are humbled. When kneeling before the reality of our God becoming flesh and dying our death and overcoming in resurrected life, there is no room for self.

Pride and selfish ambition melt away before the greatness of our God who suffered and died and rose again. We see that the star of the show, the hero to be praised is Jesus Christ. When we see this grand demonstration of God, we can do nothing less than make all we are about, be about Him and His glory.  Let us humbly come before God and His word to get the full picture of who He is.

The Glory of God changes everything


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