Smash That Idol
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You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.—Exodus 20:4–51
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.—1 John 5:212
When we hear the word “idol” we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, we have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive to reach the top of the corporate ladder or with a myriad of other passionate pursuits. And, sadly, those who aggressively pursue goals and dreams, altogether excluding God, are often admired for their individualism and drive. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or to what or whom we bow down, the result is the same—separation from the one true God.
Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more than God does, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Many of these things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God,”3 and that we are to serve God only.4 Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.
… The joys of this world for which we too often seek will never satisfy the human heart. As Solomon beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image5 and designed to worship and glorify Him, as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed “eternity in man’s heart,”6 and a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life.—S. Michael Houdmann7
How many have found it easy to have your idols smashed? If you have, you’re unusual! For most people, it’s pretty hard to take. We are tempted to say, “Now listen, Lord, can’t we just keep this little idol here? I worshipped this idol for many years and it was very dear to me and I thought it was great. Now that I’ve found out it isn’t great, can’t I just keep it in one little back corner of the house someplace? After all, I spent a lot of money on it and it took a lot of my time. If it’s not good for much else, if it’s not useful and I can’t worship it anymore, can’t I at least just keep it around someplace?”
Don’t you find this true with a lot of things? Don’t you find this true in your own heart? “Lord, why do I have to give this up? It’s not so bad—and it used to be pretty good. I used to think it was great. It may not be useful, but at least maybe it’s harmless! Can’t I just at least keep it back in the corner someplace?”
Then, wham! Just like that, God comes along and smashes that idol. “I will have no other gods before me.”8 Nothing short of right is right. And when you find out that it isn’t just right and that idol gets smashed, it hurts. It’s not easy to take.
You can read in the Bible about how they went around smashing idols. And the kings who said: “Yes, we’ll have a revival and we’ll go back to the worship of Jehovah,” but they destroyed not the idols, and they cast not down the altars, and they left the groves... “Therefore this thing displeased the Lord.” Though they had a real revival and they got back to the true worship, they didn’t get down to business and smash the idols. They didn’t burn their bridges behind them. They didn’t take off the plow and sacrifice the oxen upon it.
It’s like that story about the eagle that had been chained so long to a stake in the middle of the ground, he’d worn a rut in the ground going round and round and round. Finally the eagle was getting old, and his master felt sorry for him and thought, “I’m going to set him free.” So he took the metal ring off his foot and he took the eagle in his hand, and he tossed it into the air. And what do you suppose happened? The eagle could barely fly at all. He flip-flopped right back down to the ground and he walked back over to the old rut and started walking round the rut. No chain, no bird band—just the habit.
Smash the habit. Smash the opportunity to get back to the habit. Smash the idol! Abolish it from your life and get rid of it.—David Brandt Berg
It helps us to carry out the first and greatest command, love God, by having no idols. What do you love more than God? What do you look to for security more than you look to God? Where do you draw your sense of identity from, more than you draw it from God? These are things you must lay on the altar. Here is where your most earnest repentance lies. These things may not in and of themselves be bad, but if we make … [them] more to us than God is, we have made an idol of them, and here we must repent.
Whatever you look to for security or comfort or assurance or validation, whatever you look to to make yourself feel better or to bring you pleasure over and above or quite apart from God is idolatry. … When you say, “I love God,” but what you care about more is what others think about you, you’ve got an issue. When you say, “I know God is my provider,” but all your hope and confidence is in your career, that’s idolatry. It happens anytime we look to anything over God as the source of life.
When it comes to God, we simply begin to practice loving Him. We make him the treasure of our heart, every day. Simply begin the day by saying, Jesus, you are my treasure. You are my heart’s desire. I love you. Help me to love you today. And then we shepherd our hearts, with his help. We notice where our hearts go looking for love or approval, for comfort or affirmation, and in those very moments we repent. O Jesus, forgive me for this idol. Cleanse me here, give me your holiness here. I renounce this idol. I choose God. In those moments, we give our hearts over to God in fresh and deeper ways.—John Eldredge9
What kind of idols do people worship today? “Who worship the works of their own hands.”10 What are people crazy about today? What do they go in debt for today? All kinds of luxuries, electronic equipment, beautiful luxurious homes, gorgeous million-dollar buildings. Things, things, things! What do many people today live for? What do they spend most of their time and money on? What are they working for? “The works of their own hands,” which they give most of their time, their devotion, and their strength.
“My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”11 The message given through Jeremiah was to a people who had forgotten their God and turned to other idols.
As God’s Word says, “The people seek a new thing.”12 But they find nothing that ever satisfies, no love that ever lasts, no happiness that is forever theirs. They are miserable, brokenhearted, wounded, bound, captives of their own passions and prisoners of their own shattered hopes, desires, and limited human frailties.
For although the body is of this earth and is satisfied with the things of this earth, the human spirit—that intangible personality of the real you that dwells in that body—can never be completely satisfied with anything but utter union with the great and loving Spirit that created it. He’s the power and life of the universe that the Bible itself calls love, for “God is love,”13 the very spirit of love itself—true love, everlasting love, real love, genuine love that never ends from a lover who never leaves, the lover of all lovers, God Himself.—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor January 2015. Read by Jon Marc.
3 1 Corinthians 10:31.
4 Deuteronomy 6:13.
5 Genesis 1:27.
6 Ecclesiastes 3:11.
8 Exodus 20:3.
9 The Utter Relief of Holiness (FaithWords, 2013).
10 Jeremiah 1:16.
11 Jeremiah 2:11,13.
12 Acts 17:21.
13 1 John 4:8.