Idolatry. Sometimes when we hear this word we immediately think of those mentioned in the Old Testament. The ones who were worshiping a golden calf when Moses came down from the mountain or the ones who believed in a pantheon filled with gods like the Egyptians. We forget, though, that idolatry did not die with those who did these things. Idolatry carried on throughout the years, only–like a chameleon–it changed its colors.
Idolatry is a noun that is defined in two ways: “1. the worship of a physical object as a god” and “2. immoderate attachment or devotion to something” (Merriam-Webster). Honestly, I prefer Google’s definition: “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone”. It is a reminder that idolatry is to love something more than God and I hope I am never known for this. If I can spend the rest of my days being labeled a Jesus Freak or a Bible Thumper, it means those around me knew who I loved the most and that’s all that matters. That will be my legacy.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and will all your strength.”Mark 12:30
Going back to the topic, idolatry may seem like an old idea but it still has a modern hold in our world. As I mentioned earlier, it changed its colors to adapt to the changing of the times. We may not recognize it, or even realize it’s there, because it’s camouflaged so well. One of the biggest factors that come to my mind is video gaming. I’ll be the first to admit I loved video gaming when I had consoles. Now and again I still itch to play one, but thankfully I know longer own any. They were huge time wasters in my life and they had to go. However, I still keep up with some of what goes on in the video gaming world.
Virtual reality (VR) gaming experiences was the astounding new thing two years ago. Only one company had released a VR set and many stood in lines for two hours at conventions just to test it out once for twenty minutes. (By the way, to a gamer, twenty minutes is like having a piece of sliced bread for dinner when you were hoping for a three piece meal.) While I was one of the astounded that year, I’ve grown to be disgusted with the concept in recent months. The latest ad for the newest VR set tries to convince it’s audience that reality isn’t good enough because it won’t let us stop time or use a lightsaber. It encourages the audience to live two lives and defy reality by living in one they created.
This is such a sad concept. I think back to Moses’s days and the story of the golden calf. Here we have Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt where they were enslaved. He took care of them and reminded them of how great God is, yet after he left them for forty days and forty nights they turned from God, asking Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship. Just a little over a month of being gone and Moses returns to find them disobeying the One who saved them. The Israelites tried to create their own sense of reality.
“We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one.’ For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”1 Corinthians 8:4-6
Unfortunately, there are many things that are tempting for us to turn into idols in our lives. Vanity, sex, drugs, TV shows, famous people, just to name a few. People can become obsessed with just about anything nowadays and the advertising industry doesn’t help. If anything, it fuels our addictions and has us craving that new gadget or vanity cream coming out soon. However, if we want to strive for what God wants in our lives we have to lay down our addictions and be aware of things that interest us.
I’m not saying we should be hermits and shun everything the world throws at us. Video games, TV shows, and the like can help a person relax by taking their minds off the things that are stressing them out. What I’m saying is we shouldn’t be giving the majority of our time throughout the week to things of this world. God is calling us on an adventure to become the person He created us to be and if we don’t dedicate most of our time to what He wants us to focus on, we’re going to miss it. We’re going to miss Him. He won’t leave us, but focusing all of our attention and love on something that will leave us disappointed in the end isn’t going to help us get to know Him and His love for us any better.
As the good, good Father that He is, God disciplines us to help us grow. At the same time, He askes us to practice self-discipline, too. He’ll give us trials to face in order to overcome the sinful characteristics that we have, yet He will also encourage us to lay down our own bad habits. It’s a team effort to build us up. Imagine God askes you to build a ship with Him. He knows how to do it, He’ll even handle the difficult stuff, He’ll even provide the tools, but He still wants you, His child, to help Him so you two can bond closer together. Somewhere along the way, you discover that ship is you and God knew all along what you would become with some work and some elbow grease.
I encourage you to bond with our Father. Lay down the things He is asking you to lay down. Give up the bad habits that are keeping you from focusing on Him. Toss aside anything that may seem like an idol in your life. With a loving Father holding a toolbox, what do you have to lose?
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Colossians 3:5-14