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North Side Notes

What's your idol?

Posted by Kyle Edwards on

In my own spiritual journey, I've been helped immensely by pastors and writers on the subject of idolatry. Sin by definition is breaking God's law, but according to Scripture it's also the ways we worship and serve that which isn't God - an idol. 

New Testament scholar G. K. Beale summarizes the Bible's teaching on idolatry: "What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration." In other words, what you revere is your idol. If you revere power, then power is your idol. If you revere comfort, then comfort is your idol, and so on. 

And whatever you revere, you resemble. We're meant to resemble God. He created us in his image (Genesis 1:26-27). Followers of Christ are to be renewed and conformed in his image (Colossians 3:10). But if we worship something else, then we inevitably start to resemble and be conformed to that idolatrous image.

So what idol are you most tempted to bow down and serve? No need to think about crude statues in a smoky temple somewhere. Our idols are less concrete but no less present and dangerous. Theologian Kevin Vanhoozer says,  

Idols in today's world are no longer made of gold, at least not in North America. No, in our contemporary context the preferred materials for manufacturing idols are images and ideas: ideologies. Ideologies are 'isms' like 'materialism,' 'hedonism,' 'capitalism,' 'communism,' 'racism,' etc. - systems of meaning in the service of power.

Advertisements, for example, have been called 'the most powerful art form on earth.' According to Marshall McLuhan, advertisements act as a mirror that reflects our values, hopes, dreams, and fears: ads are 'the richest and most faithful daily reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.'

So maybe a helpful starting point is to think about what advertisements you find most desirable and attractive. That might be your idol. And if you can recognize your idol - or, more likely, idols - then you can begin to free yourself from its service. 

Any idol, whether a smiling, porky Buddha or your own career, can demand everything and give you nothing in return. As the prophet Isaiah said mockingly, "All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?" (Is. 44:9-10). 

The carpenter takes a block a wood, and

Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand? (vv. 16-20). 

So whatever it is you revere, if it isn't the Real Deal, is just a deaf, dumb, and blind block of wood. And the more you revere it the more you start to resemble it - a deaf, dumb, and blind block of wood.

So what's your idol? We were made for so much more!