A Different Face of Idolatry
By Charonda Woods
If you think about it most of the day, can’t wait to see it, hear it, bask in it, please it or better yet gleefully obey it, then most likely it is or it is about to turn into a form of idolatrism. When studying some law books in the Old Testament, I found that God detested when the children of Israel worshipped other gods (Deuteronomy 6:14-15). The sins of Israel in Hosea were pagan idolatry, God even used the prophet Hosea by telling him to marry an idolater to illustrate how his children turned away from him. God detested Israel worshipping other gods. He is a jealous God and he did not want the children of Israel to worship anyone else but him (Exodus 34:14). Likewise the same holds true for Christians today—God is still very much a jealous God and He wants to be first in a believer’s life (Mark 12:30). Since we don’t live in an age or culture where we worship graven images and wood carvings of gods, then what does contemporary idolatry look like? When I ask believers this question, their response is typically the iconic worship of the likes or followers they receive from social media; their spouse or significant other, careers, children, money, sex, and power. For others this may include the iconic worship of celebrities. Pop culture selling the ideal of perfection then trapping you into celebrity envy. For some steady church goers this can translate into an idolization of their pastors, church leaders or favorite worship leaders. While it’s true that Christians are commanded in scripture to listen to and honor their church leaders, some parishioners have taken it too far and idolized them to the point of deification. Likewise for some pastors and church leaders idolatry can include finding validation in high church or ministry membership numbers; or their identity is found in the thousands (or lack of) thumbs up they receive from airing their YouTube messages. These things and people may indeed be idols but have you ever given thought to you making an idol out of the Triune God Himself?
Christians may love the Triune God but do they worship Him according to the whole reality of who He is or who they want Him to be? I know I personally suffered from this. I begged God to bless me according to my personal desires. That included my ideal of what a perfect romantic relationship based on my own preferences, or what I would qualify as a bad situation to turn around for my good. Anything that I believed would bring me satisfaction, I thought I was doing a great job as a Christian by continually submitting these things to God and believing that he will supply my petitions. I even used scripture to try and manipulate God to bless me according to his word. “God you said you would never leave me or forsake me so rescue me from this circumstance”. “God you are our healer, so heal my neighbor of this sickness, she is your child. “God you didn’t call humankind to be alone so send me the husband that I want”. But maybe what I wanted wasn’t what God willed for me. And better yet, my fleshly petitions and surface worship didn’t appear to get me far with the Lord (Mark 7:6-7). When I read scripture, I basked in the fact that God is holy and in his holiness God is good, forgiving, gracious, loving, merciful and so much more of what I would qualify as ‘favored’ characteristics of God. However, God’s holiness also encompasses his justice, wrath, him disciplining me – those things I didn’t find favorable (Hebrews 12:7-11). Most importantly in God’s holiness, I forgot that he desires to transform me into the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). God is not always concerned with what I outline as more convenient or comfortable for myself. Nor is he enthralled by the podium or glamour that I give worldly desires. He’s has bigger plans for me.
Since I did not take the time to understand the entire truth of who God really is then I gave him a new face and created an idol out of Him. I believed the lie that his identity was linked to ‘a God that only provides what I want and when I want him to provide for me. I also reflected on other ways that I gave God a different face. That included believing the lie from some preachers that if I gave extra financial gifts or offering at church that this would manipulate God in giving me what I wanted. I mourned the days when I didn’t take the time to understand who God was and painted a different picture of who he was in my evangelizing and teaching. (Will God pay all of my bills? Will he deliver me out of all of my troubles while I continue to make the same careless mistakes?)
Conceivably I was initially blinded to this different face of idolatry. And I needed to know how to escape it. It wasn’t fair to the primary person in my life – Jesus Christ. With the help of the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit I went to Psalm 139. In this Psalm, the psalmist demonstrated to me that I can ask God to search my heart and expose things in me that may offend Him. I have to implore this method frequently because I am constantly battling my flesh by seeking what pleases me versus what really pleases the Lord. Therefore I examined my heart and asked the Lord to show me anything that did not reflect Him. The Spirit of God always answers me when I desire to please him. In some cases I received what the Holy Spirt said and corrected or turned from this different face of idolatry. But then again in some regard today, I’m still learning how to not give the Lord this different face. By the grace of God, I will strive to embrace what he brings to surface, so that I can reflect the heart of Christ. That’s my life goal as a believer. Additionally by me studying more scripture I’ve better understood who the Triune God really is. I am now less prone to living in the false identity of who I only want God to be. Because as hard as it may seem, I am instructed through scripture to worship God in spirit and in the whole truth – and nothing but the truth of who he really is (John 4:24).