Gods at war ...

Idolatry Is the Issue

Kyle Idleman        

Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.

Idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible, and that should raise caution signals for us.  Idolatry comes into every book.  More than fifty of the laws in the first five books are aimed at this issue.  In all of Judaism, it was one of only four sins to which the death penalty was attached.

While we may not see many "graven images" in our world today, there are still countless gods passionately at war for the throne of our heart.  If we put the wrong god on the throne, our lives will be thrown into chaos, and all our efforts at sin management will be futile.  Only by recognizing our misplaced worship and by enthroning Jesus can we experience freedom and life.

Seeing my faith and life through the lens of idolatry has rebuilt my relationship with God from the ground up.  As we've talked more about it, many in our church would say the same.  Understanding the significance of this issue was a game changer.

As we look at life through this lens, it becomes clear that there's a war going on.  The gods are at war, and their strength is not to be underestimated.  These gods clash for the throne of your heart, and much is at stake.  Everything about me, everything I do, every relationship I have, everything I hope or dream or wish to become, depends upon what god wins that war.

Idolatry isn't just one of many sins; rather it's the one great sin that all others come from.  So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you're dealing with, eventually you'll find that underneath it is a false god.  Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory.

Idolatry isn't an issue; it is the issue.  All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods.  Deal with life on the glossy outer layers, and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you begin to see that it's always there, under some other coat of paint.  There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

Idol Makeover

One of our problems in identifying the gods is that their identities not only lack the usual trappings of religion; they are also things that often aren't even wrong.  Is God against pleasure?  Sex?  Money?  Power?

These things are not immoral but amoral; they are morally neutral until they are not.  You could be serving something that is, in itself, very commendable.  It could be family or career.  It could be a worthy cause.  You could even be feeding the hungry and healing the sick.  All of those are good things.

Gods At War

The problem is that the instant something takes the place of God, the moment it becomes an end in itself rather than something to lay at God's throne, it becomes an idol.  When someone or something replaces the Lord God in the position of glory in our lives, then that person or thing by definition has become our god.

So to identify some gods, look at what you pursue.  Another way to identify the gods at war in your life is to look at what you create.

Remember your commandments.

First:  no other gods.
Second:  no making other gods to worship.

The profound wisdom of that second commandment is that anything in the world can be hammered into an idol, and therefore can be a false god, if misplaced at the top spot of our affections.  It's DIY idolatry:  choose from our handy assortment of gods, mix and match, create your own.

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the people waiting below whined because it was taking so long.  Here is a reflection on what these people did:  "The people made a calf at Mount Sinai; they bowed before an image made of gold.  They traded their glorious God for a statute of a grass-eating bull" (Ps. 106:19-20 NLT).

That's not a good trade.  They traded the Creator God for a god of their own creation.

Are we really any different?  We replace God with statues of our own creation.

A house that we constantly upgrade.
A promotion that comes with a corner office.
Acceptance into the fraternity or sorority.
A team that wins the championship.
A body that is toned and fit.

We work hard at molding and creating our golden calves.

I already hear what you're thinking.  "You could say that about anything.  You could take any issue, anything someone devoted anything to, and make it out to be idolatry."


Anything at all can become an idol once it becomes a substitute for God in our lives.

To describe the concept more clearly, anything that becomes the purpose or driving force of your life probably points back to idolatry of some kind.  Think about what you have pursued and created, and ask yourself, Why?

A Spiritual Arteriogram

It's difficult to see ourselves as idol worshipers.  Whatever our symptoms might be, we struggle to connect them to the throne of the heart and what occupies it.  But that is where the battle is being fought.  So I want to ask you to do a spiritual arteriogram to discover your heart health.  I'm going to ask you a series of questions that only you can answer.

What disappoints you?
What do you complain about the most?
Where do you make financial sacrifices?
What worries you?
Where is your sanctuary?
What infuriates you?
What are your dreams?

Is your motivation to give God glory or is your motivation your own glory, fame, and fortune?


Excerpt from Gods at War by Kyle Idleman (2013) published by Zondervan


More Good Stuff:

Beware of Covetousness — No covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.

Not a Fan - Prologue — It wasn't the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.

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