Posts Tagged ‘Idolatry


American Idols

Under the old covenant, the children of Israel were told not to worship idols of precious metal, wood and stone. In the New Testament, John closes out his first letter with a similar admonition. He writes:

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:21 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul said that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). We may not have American idols of gold, stone and wood, but we definitely have idols that we worship. We have idols of green paper that we worship. We have idols of celebrity, entertainment and sports that we worship. We worship idols of pleasure and leisure. We worship our families and our children. We worship our jobs. We worship our country and our planet. Anything or anyone that you put before Jesus is an idol. As followers of Jesus, we believe that God is God and everything else is a potential idol. Every day we must fight the battle against idolatry in our lives. Every idol will disappoint you because you were made for a relationship with your Creator, not His creation.

Prone To Wander

The latest message from Griffith 1st Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana.  This sermon is based on Exodus 32:1-14 where the Israelites worshiped the golden calf.



1 John 5:21 (NIV)
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
John abruptly ends his letter with a six word exhortation to keep yourselves from idols.  We tend to think of idolatry as an ancient problem.  We don’t bow down and worship statues made of precious metals or stone, do we?  Maybe not, but we do have idols in our lives.  An idol is anything that takes your worship away from God.  So what kinds of idols do we have in the 21st century?
  • Success is an idol
  • Money is an idol
  • Fame is an idol
  • Entertainment is an idol
  • Our children can be our idols
  • Sports is an idol
  • Church is sometimes an idol
  • Busyness is an idol

Whatever comes between you and God is your idol.  Whatever takes the place of God in your life is an idol.  I’m not talking about things that keep you from going to church on a Sunday morning.  I am talking about the things that take God off of the throne of your heart.  What do you spend your time doing?  Take a look at your calendar.  On what do you spend your money?  Take a look at your bank statement.  Do you spend time with God?  Do you use your resources for God?

Don’t let the idols of this life preoccupy your time and money.  Don’t let the idols of this life keep you from truly worshiping the one true God.  Don’t let the idols of this life keep you from growing in your faith and going deeper with God in devotion and surrender to Him.  Keep yourself from idols.
PRAYER: Father, I want YOU to sit on the throne of my heart today.  Be my King.  Rid my life of the idols that want to take Your rightful place.  Help me to love You more today than the things of this world that vie for my attention and affection.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray, amen.

The Lies Of Idols

1 Kings 18:40-46 (NIV)

 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”

45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

I can just imagine what the headlines would have read if there were newspapers in Elijah’s day.
The Living God is victorious!  
The Lord is God!
Down Goes Baal!
God demonstrated His power when Elijah’s sacrifice was consumed by fire from Heaven.  Then, God gave His people victory while Baal let his prophets die in the Kishon Valley.  They were slaughtered for their idolatry.  
Throughout Elijah’s story, we read of God’s tender care and His mighty power at the same time.  
  • God demonstrated His power over nature and brought drought upon the land for over 3 years because of one man’s prayer.
  • God cares for His people and He fed Elijah through ravens.
  • God cares for widows and He sustained the widow and her son.
  • God is near to those with broken hearts and He raised the widow’s son back to life after he had died.
  • God protected His prophets through Obadiah, though Ahab wanted them killed.
  • God proved His power and sovereignty as the one true God when the sacrifice Elijah offered was completely consumed.
  • ​God’s victory over the 450 prophets of Baal was complete when the rains fell.  ​
​For the first time in over three years, the storm clouds formed at God’s command and the rains fell upon the land of Israel.  God’s power was on display once again.  
The idols in our lives have no real power to satisfy our deepest needs.  They may give us moments of gratification, but they cannot sustain us.  Only God can do that.  He blesses us abundantly, while idols try to distract us.  He wants to be close to us, while idols try to pull us away from Him.  He loves us perfectly, while idols try to divide our hearts.  ​Don’t fall prey to the lies of idols.  The gods of silver and gold are no match for the one true living God whose heart beats with tender compassion for you.  His love can satisfy and sustain you if you will let it.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You.  The idols and distractions of this world seek my attention and my devotion.  Help me to be fully devoted to Jesus.  I don’t want my heart to be divided.  I want to be sold-out to You.  Give me the strength I need to reject the idols that vie for my love and loyalty.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

God Or Baal?

1 Kings 18:16-21 (NIV)

 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.


What is your Baal?  Who or what are you worshiping in your life that is not the one true God?  Do you see what I’m saying?  The Jews were worshiping false gods.  They were engaged in idolatrous practices.  Their love for the one true God had gone cold and they no longer served or worshiped Him.

So Elijah summoned the king of Israel, Ahab, and the 850 false prophets of the false gods Baal and Asherah.  He also summoned the people of Israel to meet him on Mount Carmel.  Nearly everyone around Elijah had turned their backs on the Lord God in order to worship these false, pagan gods.  Elijah laid down the gauntlet.  He drew a line in the sand.  He issued the challenge.  He asked the question – who is God?  Is it Baal or is it the one true God of Israel?  Some of the saddest words of Elijah’s story are found in verse 21 (1 Kings 18:21, NIV) – “But the people said nothing.”

Who or what is your Baal?  What has taken God’s rightful place in your heart?  Is it a person?  Do you love anyone more than you love Jesus?  Is it an addiction?  Are you addicted to drugs, food, alcohol or sex and one or more of these things have pulled your heart away from God?  Are you worshiping the culture?  Whether it is entertainment of various kinds (sports, music, movies, television, etc.) or your kids’ sports teams or the celebrities of our day, who or what do you worship?  Is it technology and stuff?  What do you spend your money on?  Are you hoarding wealth and things?  Do you worship technology?  What do you spend your time on?  How much time do you devote to Facebook and how much time do you devote to God?  Is it your family?  But family is a good thing!  Not if it pulls you away from God.  Only God is God.  Your spouse is not God and neither are your kids nor your grandkids.  Is it the church or religious activities?  Even church can become an idol.  If you love doing church-y things more than you love God or if you think that your church-y activities will get you into Heaven, you’re mistaken.

Elijah said, “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV).  Jesus summed up what it means to follow Him with two commands – love God and love people.  If you do not love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love people as yourself, then you’re doing it wrong.  God must be number one.  Period.  If He truly is God, then we must surrender to and follow Him.  All of the other stuff – both good and bad – must never be higher than second place.

PRAYER: Lord God, help me to make You the first priority in my life and to give You first place in my heart.  I don’t want to live a life with divided loyalties.  I don’t want to forfeit my soul because I love the things of this world too much.  Help me to love You with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength today.  Amen.


21st Century Idolatry

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:13-21 (NIV)

Verse 21 ends this book with an abrupt and simple command.  “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”  We tend to think of idol worship as an activity of primitive cultures.  We think of idols of metal or stone or wood.  The people of John’s day were required to worship the emperor of Rome and had little idols of him.  They were required to burn incense in homage to the emperor to prove their loyalty to the state.  We tend to think that we are so beyond idolatry, but I disagree.  We do have idols in the 21st century.  Think of the things that we worship in our day and age:
  • Money (we even call it the “almighty dollar!”)
  • Fame and celebrity
  • Entertainment (billions spent on movies)
  • Leisure
  • Food
  • Pleasure
  • Toys and gadgets (guilty!)
  • Work
  • Family
  • Sports (guilty again!)

The list could go on and on and on.  An idol is anything that gets in the way of your relationship with God.  I once heard that a great way to discover what you worship is to check two things: your calendar and your checkbook.  What do you spend your time doing and on what do you spend your money?  I’m not saying that work and family and food are bad.  It is when they take God’s place that they become idols.  We say that we’re too busy to pray or go to worship every week and that we can’t afford to tithe.  Our lives are filled with an incredible amount of clutter!  Our time is cluttered and so are our homes.  Take some time today to inventory your life.  Is it time to make some new priorities?  Is it time to de-clutter a little bit?  Can you clear out 15 minutes from your schedule to read your Bible and pray today?  Can you free up some of your resources to give a tithe or offering that expresses your thanksgiving and gratitude to God this weekend?  May we do away with the idolatry in our lives and give our true worship to Jesus.



The Golden Moo

Exodus 32 is the story of Israel fashioning a golden calf and worshiping it as God.  This was the ultimate slap in the face to the Lord.  I want you to notice something about verse :

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” – Exodus 2:5 (NIV)

Do you see how the word LORD uses all capital letters?  In the New International Version, the word LORD is all capitalized many times in the Old Testament.  They did that for a reason.  It was to let readers know that that was the Hebrew word for Yahweh, the personal name of God.  God was right there on the mountain with Moses and yet they said, “NOPE!  This calf is God!”  We, as Christians, cannot believe that they would do such a thing, right?  How could they be so foolish?  Are we that much better, though?
There are some principles that we need to learn about committing idolatry from the Israelites in Exodus 32:
  1. Idolatry takes place when we focus on the wrong things.  The Israelites were focused on Moses and not on God.  They were waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain and not waiting to hear from the Lord.
  2. An idol is something that is not God for which we are willing to make sacrifices.  The people gave up the gold which they plundered from Egypt in order to fashion this golden calf.  They didn’t just sacrifice burnt offerings to it, they sacrificed things to make it.
  3. An idol is something that takes the place of God.  Again, they took one of God’s greatest gifts to them, His personal name, and they called the calf by it.

When it comes to 21st century idolatry, we do some of these same things.  Think of the things that we worship in our society.

  • Fame – we love the idea of being famous.  Look at all of the reality shows!  People are famous just for being famous.
  • Money – The Apostle Paul says that greed is idolatry and it must be put to death (Colossians 3:5).
  • Entertainment – we are obsessed with entertainment in its various forms.  Television.  Movies.  Video games.  Sporting events.  The internet.
  • Possessions – we are materialistic consumers who have to have the newest and latest and greatest.  I am sooooo guilty of this one.  I have had way too many sessions of “retail therapy.”

We let these things take the place of God.  We may not call them God, but we treat them like they are gods.  We make sacrifices for these things.  “I can’t give my tithe this week because I had to go to ____________ (fill in expensive entertainment option here).  When we focus on these things, we are not sold-out and fully surrendered to Jesus.  We must change our priorities and figure out who (or what) we are truly worshiping.  Are we truly honoring God with our lives, possessions and time?  Or are we more devoted to the gods of our day?  Something to think about on a Tuesday…

Exodus 32

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

The Golden Calf

32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

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