American Idol

American Idol

Imagine a man who has been coughing constantly. This cough keeps him up half of the night, and it interrupts any conversation he has that’s more than a minute or two long. The cough is so unrelenting that he goes to the doctor. The doctor runs his tests: lung cancer.

Now imagine the doctor knows how tough the news will be for the man to handle. So he doesn’t tell his patient about the cancer. Instead, he writes a prescription for some strong cough medicine and tells him that he should be feeling better soon. The man is delighted with this prognosis. And sure enough, he sleeps much better that night. The cough syrup seems to have solved his problem.

Meanwhile, very quietly, the cancer is eating away at his body. Cancer is the real problem; coughing is only a symptom.

Every week people come to church with symptoms. They are struggling, hurting, stressing, cheating, lusting, spending, worrying, quitting, medicating, avoiding, and searching. They come and share their struggles. They unload their frustrations. They express their discouragement. They display their wounds. They confess their sins. They point to what they believe is the central problem, and they ask for prayer.

That is good. They should do these things, but they can’t stop coughing. Why? They diagnosed their symptoms rather than the true illness, which is always idolatry.

Exodus 20:3-6 You shall have no other gods before me." You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Those commands were for Israel, but not for us. Right? Wrong.

I admit, idolatry seems irrelevant. But, what if idolatry is not just about statues? What if every sin we are struggling with, every discouragement we are dealing with—even the lack of purpose we are living with are the symptoms of idolatry? If that is the case, then we don’t need “cough medicine”; that is, we don’t need psychology or a “pep talk” to treat our symptoms. We need to dig deep into our soul and get rid of the cancerous idolatry so we can be free of our symptoms.

Every human has the capacity—no, the need—to worship. The objects of our worship are the things or persons we love, which have taken the preeminent position of importance in our heart, soul, and mind. Whatever the idols may be, they cast their looming shadow over all the aspects of our life. It is this position in our heart, soul, and mind that God demands to occupy.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

This love for the Lord our God is the greatest commandment of Christianity. However, our fleshly tendency is to give that affection to something else. People love all kinds of things more than God: careers, homes, personal attractiveness, other people, food, TV, internet, pleasure, entertainment, recreation, sports, drugs, sex, etc. Truthfully, most people have several idols. Even churchgoers can relegate God into a secondary or nonexistent position in their lives while they secretly love an idol more than God.

Part of the second commandment is to prevent us from identifying the true God with any created thing or icon. We are not to worship the Creation instead of the Creator.

Another part is to keep us from recreating God from our own imagination. No image of God is to be created, not even a mental image in our mind. An image is a limitation and God has no limits. If we predetermine what God is like, we have created Him in our image or created Him out of the limits of our mind. We can never adequately represent nor comprehend the Almighty God. God is love; God is spirit; therefore, He is intangible.

Jesus said in John 4:23-24Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Dreaming up our own ideas about God is a form of idolatry. Some people refer to God as "the man upstairs." That is demeaning, and it comes from an inaccurate concept of God.

Others form a view of God that comes from their own personal preferences. For example, I have heard people say, "I don’t like to think of God as Judge. I prefer to think of Him as a loving Father.” This pick-and-choose method creates an image or idol in the mind - an idea of God that is incomplete and does not fully represent Him.

So how do we know if we have any idols? Consider your answers to the following questions: What is God’s competition in your life? What vies for your attention and affection? What is your primary focus? What do you turn to for comfort and pleasure?

An idol doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it can be a good thing. Some people park their idol in their garage. Some people worship their idol at work. Some people put their idol in bank accounts. Some people idolize pleasure and themselves. Anything that takes our motivation away from God can be an idol. Anything we love more than Jesus is an idol.

Sometimes we set up idols in our heart because we enjoy them. This makes them particularly difficult to destroy. For example, some people spend hours focused on a television, or a phone, or on the internet and never think of God.

An idol is anything that has a hold on us. It is like an addiction. When we allow anything or any person apart from God to dominate us, compel us, or control us, we have an idol. Idols are such a danger to us that God not only warns us, He died on the Cross to set us free from idols. Always be on guard against anything that pulls you away from the LORD.

Ezekiel 14:6-8 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! "'When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the LORD will answer him myself. I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

The consequences of worshiping and serving idols are horrendous. For example, if we worship and serve something other than God, our children will suffer. It is well documented that in homes where drunkenness, drugs, selfishness, pride, or other forms of idolatry and immoral behavior occur, the wounded children suffer the consequences of their parent’s idolatry and sin. These consequences continue to affect succeeding generations of those who do not repent and still walk in the sins and idolatry of their parents.

Here are just a few consequences of idolatry.

A. Idols will Deceive You. They always promise more than they can deliver.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

We think that: if we act like a certain person (we even call them idols or stars) that we will be popular like them; a new purchase will satisfy us; some person will fulfill our desires; or just a few more dollars will make us happy. None of these is true. Still, we shamefully pursue these idols instead of pursuing God with all our heart.

Anytime we put our expectation in something, other than God, we will be deceived and disappointed. Only God can fulfill the desires of our heart.

B. Idols will Dominate You. You will no longer be in control of your life.

1 Corinthians 12:2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.

Notice the words “influenced” and “led astray.” Another synonym is the word “addicted.” We can become influenced, led astray, or addicted to idols of work, sports, TV, internet, sex, food, money, power, drugs, etc., and lose control of our life.

Some men and women seek after a job promotion so much, they neglect their families. Some people feed a habit so much that it destroys their health. Some are so concerned for the approval of or disapproval of a person in their life that it influences everything they do. Such a person is not just co-dependent; they are involved in idolatry and no longer in control of their own life!

C. Idols will Deform You. They will change us and warp us.

Psalm 115:8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

We become like what we focus on, value most, and spend the most time with. That is why television and the media are so effective in changing our morals. We make idols to please ourselves and then they change us, warping our personality, rendering us weak and helpless. How different our society would be if people spent as much time reading the Bible as they do watching television or with any other idol they value more than God.

God’s goal is to conform us to the image of Christ. That is why we must focus on Jesus, value Him above all else, and spend our time loving, worshipping, and following Him. Then we will become like Him.

D. Idols will Destroy You. Idols will also destroy our fortunes, health, reputation, family, and soul. For those who do not have Jesus as their Savior, idols will cause them eternal destruction in Hell!

Hosea 8:4 They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction.

Choosing to worship an idol has dire consequences, not only for us but also for our posterity. If we walk away from Jesus Christ, we may discover that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will take that trip with us and follow in our sinful, selfish ways. Later, even if we repent and return to Jesus, they may not.

However, God does not destroy those who repent of their sin and turn to Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer. The repentant are those who turn away from family idols (They have names like: “that’s the way our family has always done”, “that is just my Irish temper”, or “I’m just like my mother”, etc.). To those who break the generational idols and curses through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God promises to show His love.

God’s commandments are for our blessing. That is why He gave them to us. In addition to the warning against idol worship, the second commandment also includes a promise to those who obey it, “but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

This blessing is for those who love God and keep His commandments. True worshippers of God sacrifice their lives and obey God by following His Word and the Holy Spirit.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

God will never fail to show mercy to all generations that love Him and honor their covenant relationship with Him. Our God is an awesome God who loves to show mercy and kindness. He gives forgiveness and grace to all who worship Him in spirit and truth.

Therefore, devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ has its consequences, too. Men and women who walk in faith have a strong influence on their children and their children’s children. Godly people not only bring blessings to their succeeding generations, they bring blessings to unknown thousands within their generation. The degree to which we obey God’s commandments affects the health of the family, community, and societies in which we live.

The great hope for the world is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. When any generation forsakes their idols and their parent’s idols (the ways they have been reared), and begins worshipping Jesus Christ with obedience, then God’s mercies and blessings will follow.

In summary, idols are not only formed from wood and stone, they can be formed in our minds, too! Whenever God is defined and worshiped according to the dictates of our own imagination, we are guilty of remaking God in our image and we have broken His commandment. We must worship Almighty God as He is, as He has revealed Himself to be, and not as we have made Him to be in our own minds.

Furthermore, money, work, prestige, people, and pleasure can become idols when we concentrate or depend too much on them for our identity, meaning, and security. No one intends making idols of these things, but as we devote more time and attention to them, they can become idols that ultimately form our thoughts, energies, and character.

Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Let us apply this Scripture to ourselves by rephrasing it to today’s situation, “If you don’t think worshipping and serving the LORD with your whole life is the most important thing, then choose this day whom you will worship and serve, whether it is the idol your family served, or the American idol everyone else in this land serves.”

There are consequences for whatever we choose. The LORD wants us to worship Him only. He is the only one who loves us and is worthy of our worship. Will you commit your life to Him today by acknowledging Jesus as LORD, repenting of your sin, and following Jesus in baptism to receive forgiveness and a new life born of the Holy Spirit?

Maybe you have been a believer for years, but the Holy Spirit is exposing some idols that were hidden in your heart. Jesus wants to deliver you and set you free from them. Confess and admit they are idols you have enjoyed. Renounce them, repent, and ask the Lord to forgive you and deliver you from their power, setting you free to worship Him alone. Then destroy whatever trace you have of your idol in your home and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. When you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the idolatrous desires of the flesh.