We’re all about destroying things this week. Particularly, we’re talking about following in the footsteps of Judah and tearing down, crushing, breaking, destroying, and getting rid of all of the idols in our modern life. The goal for us is the same as it was for them in Judah thousands of years ago, get rid of things that are causing us to sin and taking the place of God in our lives.
But modern day idols aren’t always easily recognizable. There aren’t people on the corner bowing down before a big wooden carving of a lady, and there aren’t a bunch of people gathering in the local park each weekend to sacrifice bulls in the name of some false god. So how do we recognize a modern day idol?
As I pondered that question, I really believe that God nudged me towards an answer. If you watch the behavior of people in the Bible when it comes to idols, the way they worshiped an idol is by sacrificing something of value to them. One extreme is the false god that caused people in the Old Testament to burn their own children to death as they sacrificed the kids to this idol. Then there’s another story where people cut themselves and spilled their own blood as a way to worship their false god. Then there are the sacrifices of material goods, things like bulls that carried value to those who owned them.
So I think using Biblical examples you can say that a sign of idol worship is when we are sacrificing things of value to other things. Here’s a Godly example of modern day sacrifice. If I give up my Friday night to go help run a kids event at church, I have sacrificed my time to the church. Is that a good sacrifice or a bad one? That’s good, obviously. Serving at church isn’t a situation that causes me to sin, so that’s one check mark in the “non idol” category. This was work for God, it was a labor of love, I was serving others, God’s signature is all over that situation.
You see, people love to talk about money and make money and spend money, but money isn’t our most valuable commodity, not by a long shot. The main thing of value that we have in our lives is time. Time is a precious currency, one that we have a limited amount of. Where you willingly sacrifice your time tells a lot about who you are as a person. And if we’re sacrificing that time in ungodly places and on ungodly things, well, I think we’ve identified our idols, haven’t we? Let’s look at a few common ones.
Television can be a modern day idol. The degree to which we sacrifice our time to it says a lot about whether or not it’s an idol in our lives. What we watch tells us too, because remember, an idol is a thing that causes you to sin, that gets between you and God. The late night programming on Cinemax isn’t exactly conducive to a holy and pure state of being. And five hours watching TV on a day when no hours were spent praying, reading the Bible, or spreading the love of Jesus might say more about us and our current status as an idol worshiper than we want to admit. I absolutely have to own up to that one, as for years I watched a ton of TV while doing nothing for God and spending no time with Him.
The internet is a huge modern day idol. Not only do we sacrifice our time to it, we’re addicted to it. A lot of people can’t be disconnected from the internet for more than an hour or two before they’ll start having withdrawals. And man, this is a place that causes us to sin, isn’t it? Jealousy and covetousness over people’s seemingly perfect lives on Facebook, gossiping and judging others on social media. And we all know the main problem, right? Pornography makes up a huge chunk of the internet. A study in 2013 showed that pornography websites get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. We sacrifice our time, our purity, and our focus to the internet. Our cell phones fall into the same category as the internet, pretty much. How much focus and attention does our cell phone get over the course of the day versus how much focus and attention we’re putting towards God?
I have to say that the biggest modern day idol is us, however. We sacrifice just about anything to worship and glorify ourselves. Instead of focusing on God, instead of focusing on helping others and showing God’s love to them, our focus is right in the mirror. What will make me happy today? What will make me look good in this situation? What do I want to buy myself? I can just feel someone out there having a bad reaction to what I’m saying here, but really think about it. There’s a huge difference between taking care of ourselves and even occasionally treating ourselves and the way that we live. I want that second gaming console while the family down the street wants food to eat for the first time this week. I want a new custom paint job on my car and a turbo charged engine while the guy across the street doesn’t have a ride to work. We’re treating ourselves like royalty who needs to have their every whim taken care of while people struggle and scratch and claw to get by all around us.
And we’ll do anything to maintain the fact that we’re awesome, won’t we? Lie to our boss to avoid looking bad at work, lie to our friends to avoid looking dumb or immature, lie to ourselves to avoid facing the truth. Our love of self and our devotion to keeping up appearances is the definition of idol worship. Our roads to self glorification are almost always paved with sin.
Let me say this right now. A TV in the house isn’t an idol, just like an internet connection and a smartphone in hand isn’t an idol. A good job and a good car and a good house aren’t idols, buying yourself a new hat isn’t an idol. Modern day idols are trickier than Old Testament ones because their status as an idol hinges on the place they hold in our heart. In the Old Testament, if you saw an idol in my house you’d know right away I was up to no good, but it’s not that easy now. You can see my TV and have no idea if that thing is a stumbling block in my walk with Jesus. You can see me driving in my nice car and have no idea if that car is a symptom of my rampant love of self or just the four wheels that get me around town.
And really, that’s the problem right? Identifying modern day idols is dependent on our ability to accurately and genuinely diagnose our own lives. It’s a skill we’re not too good at. But if we’re going to carry out that 2 Chronicles chapter 31 style cleansing of idols in our lives then we’re going to have to man up, look in the mirror, and admit some faults and shortcomings. Guys, if the late night programming on HBO and Cinemax and Showtime proves too much of a temptation for you to ignore, then maybe it’s time to cancel the extended cable/satellite package. If we can’t seem to stop wasting four hours a day looking at funny pictures on the internet, maybe it’s time to make some internet decisions. There is software that limits the amount of time you can spend on the internet. Or maybe move your computer to a common area of the house where you’ll be less likely to sit on it for hours at a time. Maybe it’s time to block certain websites and only keep access to useful ones.
It’s time to start taking a hard look at our lives. It’s time to get honest about what we love, because what we love is where we sacrifice our time. Does your TV get more of your time than the things of God? Does the internet get more of your time than the things of God? A return to God is sustained when we remove the things that are stopping us from sustaining it. When we tear down the idols in our lives and make more room for the things of our Lord and Savior.
And the idol of self? That one gets a blog of its own, so we’ll cover that on Thursday.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I ask that you open our eyes. Your word tells me that you see past my appearance, that your view reaches into my actual heart. You know everything I think and feel. If anyone knows about my modern day idols, it’s you. So I ask you to help us today. I ask that you will illuminate for us the things that we’ve set up as idols, the things that have become commonplace and everyday that we didn’t even realize had become idols in our lives. Sometimes we’re just not capable of being honest enough with ourselves to see an idol for what it really is, so I’m asking you to help us do it. Make it clear to us, Father, make it crystal clear. Send revelation roaring within us, let there be no mistake. We want all the help we can get because we want to clear the way for revival. Jesus, we want to see you wash across our country like never before. And so I ask that you please help us pave the way. Help our households and our families and our churches and our communities. Help us restore you to where you need to be, the number one focus and priority of our lives. Give us some honesty, Lord, because we’re so self deceived. Give us the strength of character to admit that we don’t have you where we’re supposed to on our list of priorities, and give us that spirit of the people of Judah to smash and destroy any idols that we’ve placed above you, any idols that have caused us to sin or to stumble. Thank you for your love, Lord, and thank you for the way you lead us and instruct us. Thank you for the battle cry you’ve put into my life to destroy idols, and I ask that you please put it in the hearts of your entire church. It’s time for us to return to you, Lord. I can’t even imagine the incredible things that are going to happen when we do. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
I love you guys. I know it’s not a fun subject, but I really feel God telling me that it’s time to get ourselves prepared. It’s time to clean up our lives and re-organize our priorities and focus. When you keep your eyes on Jesus, all you ever see is beauty and goodness.