“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33.
Idolatry is a deadly poison, a subtle killer. It’s a tragedy when He who made and loved us takes a back-burner in our beating hearts.
Scripture refers to Christ as the bridegroom, the one we’re waiting for, the true treasure. On that great day in heaven there shall be a wedding, and we will be united to the One who loves us, and He is our forever and ever, amen. But all too often we treat God not as the bridegroom but as a plus one, a guest, or someone who just came along for the ride with us. We forget that He’s the reason we are here, the one we are to spend eternity with.
We All Worship Something
I’ve drudged through days and weeks of idolatry, and let me tell you, it steals the very life from you. And when my heart is not fully His I make idols of everything, left and right. My goals for success become an idol, my need for control becomes an idol, my need to know who I am, what I’ll do, and who I’ll love becomes an idol.
Our hearts are made to hold someone or something up, because God created it so. He created it so for Him, so that He would be lifted up and loved in the most sacred place of our being.
John Calvin writes that human nature is “a perpetual factory of idols”. We perpetually produce objects of worship and obsession, it is our default mode, our inherent sinful nature.
Idolatry Kills Us From the Inside
I’d been making idols in my heart, and I wasn’t ready to stop. I knew it couldn’t go on forever, that soon I would learn my lesson, but I wasn’t ready to confess. The loneliness I felt because of idolatry felt like I had lost my best friend, because, in a sense, I had. Idolatry is setting the greatest relationship of your life aside for something else. It’s turning your eyes from the Great Healer, the True Friend, our Maker.
Outside observers might not be able to tell that anything has changed, but good behavior doesn’t mean a good heart. Idolatry kills us from the inside. We might look good on the outside, but inside we’re rotting away, selling our souls to our own ruin.
Remember how I said idolatry is like a poison? We fill our heart with other things in place of Him, and it slowly steals our life away. It’s like a poison that takes its time to get to the vital organs. It seeps in slowly: A compromise. A day without prayer. A choosing in your heart that something means more to you than Him. A subtle moment, a shifting in degrees away from His desires towards your own. An alignment with a value that is not His. A misunderstood idea about God that drives you away from Him. A fear that He will take away something you love. A seed of doubt planted in the folds of your mind.
For me, it was a fear that He would make me do what I did not want to do and I was not willing to put my own desires aside for His. Sometimes I tuck my fears and doubts away neatly in the back of my mind, letting them stay there, when instead I should be taking them out, tearing them apart, applying scripture and searching my heart.
Sin that’s overlooked instead of confessed only makes for a hard heart. A verse that should be meditated on but instead is avoided makes for a hard heart. A command that I’d rather not follow makes for a hard heart.
And I do this because I forget: I forget that God is a person, not just a rule maker. I forget that He is a lover, first and foremost. I forget that His eyes are turned to me, that He waits for me to come back to Him. I listen to other voices instead, voices that proclaim their own hurt over God’s heart, and declare that His words are all wrong. I forget that He wants to give me life.
I’d forgotten all of those things. I don’t know for how long. The thing with idolatry is it’s such a slow and gradual process that you don’t always notice it’s there until you find yourself gasping for breath. I only realized the idols in my heart after they’d been there for a while. But when I prayed, all life and love came flooding back to me. The life and love that I had so readily surrendered so that I could pursue my sin was gifted back to me in that moment, and my heart felt His again. Time was irrelevant. All the excuses I made before became irrelevant. I just saw a person, My Maker, and I knew it was time to surrender.
Crushing Your Idols
1. Get Alone With God. Usually, when I’m making idols in my life, I find that I’m scared to be alone. I’m an introvert (hello, I’m a writer), so a little time alone each day to pray, reflect, and worship is exactly what I need. However, when I’m making idols in my heart I become averse to reflection. I don’t want to think too hard about my heart. I certainly don’t want to face God and have His word cut me like a two-edged blade – because man, a heart split open hurts. So I avoid time alone, because when it’s just me and God I’ll have to start crushing idols, and He’ll start slicing my life faster than Gordon Ramsey slices an onion.
But time alone with God is when He speaks. If you’re serious about crushing those idols, get time alone with Him.
2. Limit distractions. I’m learning to be less afraid of emptiness and more afraid of a life so full that I forget about Him. What I mean is, would it not be better to be without but still have Him? To be hurt or needy, but have Him? To be painfully sliced open, but to be in His hands? I’d rather be broken by Him than allow my aches to be dulled by a million other things that will only kill me in the end.
So instead of avoiding God by turning to other distractions, learn to allow yourself to be empty before Him.
3. Remember who you love. Falling in love with God is the only way to truly crush idols. Idolatry is a sin of loving the wrong thing. If your love for God is small, it doesn’t take much for something to become an idol. When I picked up my cross to follow Christ, I laid down my rights to the earthly things I want in life. When I said He was Lord, I gave up my right to control. When I gave my heart to Him, I made the choice to love Him first, above all others. He demands the full gaze and attention of our hearts.
A couple weeks ago I put an album on and heard a sweet song that was another of God’s whispers to my heart. Some of the lyrics are below:
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song
Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
For me, I know what is true. I know what I want in life, and He is that. I don’t ever want to lose this – this intimate relationship with my Creator, this quiet whisper of love constantly in my heart. It’s priceless.