Yesterday we had a discussion of idols. Today, we will look at examples of what we discussed previously.
Some examples of personal idols: a) Workaholism. Work becomes the thing you live for–to be productive and useful, or to feel successful and powerful. b) “Codependence.” Because you “need to feel needed” you stay in unhealthy relationships with perennially needy individuals. c) Beauty and image. This can have various forms, including 1) eating disorders and excessive time, effort, and concern about appearance, and 2) pornography. d) Romance. This is not the same as pure sexual gratification. You live for crushes or for someone to love you. e) Family as idolatry has many variations: 1) your children’s prospects and happiness become the most important thing, or 2) meeting your parents’ expectations become the most important thing, or 3) getting married or having a ‘perfect’ marriage becomes the most important thing. f) Money as idolatry has many variations: 1) having (and saving) lots of money may be your ‘security’, the main way you feel safe in the world, 2) having (and spending) lots of money may be the main way of feeling significant and important. g) Perfectionism in general. You live to keep complete control of your life.
Some examples of social/cultural idols: a) Fascism-makes an idol of one’s race or nationality. “I am acceptable because I am a(n) ______” rather than getting identity as a child of God. Leads of course to racism. b) Communism-makes an idol of the state. Government will solve all problems rather than God. Marx said everything is political, and all problems are political/economic ones, rather than spiritual ones. c) Populism-makes an idol out of public opinion or majority rule, rather than what God says is right. d) Capitalism-makes an idol out of the free market. Like communism, seeing all our problems as economic ones. Seeing all issues in cost-benefit terms. Sees all things, even people, as ‘commodities.’ e) Multi-culturalism—makes one’s ethnic group or culture an absolute value. There are no absolute standards by which to judge. f) Enlightenment “humanism”–makes an idol of reason and scientific investigation. Science has an answer for everything and reason will open all doors. g) Individualism–makes an idol out of individual freedom. Nothing must curb the individual’s freedom to choose whatever he or she wants to be happy. h) Traditionalism–makes the family and tradition an idol. Traditional cultures see the rights of individuals as unimportant compared to the name and interests of the family and tribe.
Quotations for Thought: “The Greek word for ‘Lust’, epithumiai [inordinate desires], used in Galatians 5:16ff; Ephesians 2:3, 4:22; 1 Peter 2:11, 4:2; 1 John 2:16; James 1:14ff, is the catch-all for what is wrong with us. The New Testament merges the concept of idolatry and the concept of inordinate, life-ruling desires…for lust (i.e. demandingness, craving and yearning) is specifically referred to as ‘idolatry’ (Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5)…Here is the most basic question which God poses to each human heart: “Has something or someone besides Jesus taken the title to your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight? Questions…bring some of people’s idol systems to the surface. ‘To who or what do you look for life-sustaining stability, security and acceptance?…What do you really want and expect [out of life]? What would [really] make you happy? What would make you an acceptable person? Where do you look for power and success?’ These questions or similar ones tease out whether we serve God or idols, whether we look for salvation from Christ or from false saviors. [This directly relates to] the immediate motivation of my behavior, thoughts, and feelings. In the Bible’s conceptualization, the motivation question is the lordship question: who or what ‘rules my behavior, the Lord or an idol?’” —David Powlison
“When a finite value has been elevated to centrality and imagined as a final source of meaning, then one has chosen…a god….One has a “god” when a finite value is…viewed as that without which one cannot receive life joyfully. Anxiety becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values…”
Instead of striving to Love someone, look to the Gospel, see how completely unloving you are and how unlovely you are and that God in Christ still loved you, you can love others as yourself.
Instead of striving to be joyful, look to the Gospel, see how truly joyless you truly are and how joyless your life is and that God in Christ was joyfully serving and obeying the Father for you and in your place – and THIS joy is yours as you believe the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus and His finished work upon the cross FOR you and IN your place.
Instead of striving for peace, look to the Gospel, see how un-peacefully you have treated God, yet God in Christ pursued peace FOR you and IN your place and by faith in the Gospel (in Jesus and His finished work on the cross), you have peace with God.
In other words, the idolatry of your heart is a law that only brings condemnation and increases the trespass (Romans 5:20), but in Christ, as we look to the Gospel, we are continually conformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,t are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
But if we strive to love others, or seek peace, or choose to be joyful, we inherently look to our efforts to do these things, and we have even (very possibly) made love or peace or joy (and our efforts) into idols. BUT the Spirit of God Who dwells within us does His Gospel-Apply work to our hearts and ALL that Christ has done for us and in our place is OURS and becomes fruit (Galatians 5:22ff).
This is Good News to all who believe because the Gospel is the power unto salvation even from our good works that we idolize.