Idol Detection

idol I John 5:21 “Dear children, keep yourself from idols.”

I recently heard Pastor Tim Keller make an interesting comparison taken from the movie, Rocky Balboa. Being almost 60 years old, Rocky is asked why he wants to fight again. He responds, “If I know I can go the distance, I’ll know I’m not a bum.” I doubt many would put it in those words, but I suspect some of us share Rocky’s sentiments. We look at life and think if I just had that, I wouldn’t be a bum….

  • If someone really loved me….
  •  If everyone thought well of me….
  • If my children were successful…
  • If I didn’t have to worry about money…
  • If I escaped this addiction…

None of these desires are bad in and of themselves. In fact, they are worthy aspirations.  But if our drive for meaning causes us to seek them more than God for our sense of significance….they can turn into idols. Tim Keller writes in his book, Counterfeit Gods, that an idol is basically anything that becomes more important to us than God.  It’s when we take some “incomplete joy of this world” —a successful career, love, family, material goods—and build our life on it.  Most of our idols are simply good things gone bad. They, rather than God, become the source of our identity, the means to keep us from feeling like a bum.

These idols don’t replace God—at least not in the beginning. They simply co-exist with him. That’s what makes them so difficult to recognize. But if we hope to find the security we crave, recognize them we must…and repent. Scripture is clear that we are to have “no other gods,” whether those “gods” are exalted above the Lord, slink alongside him, or are hidden in our hearts. We must ask the Holy Spirit to expose them and root them out. We have to— in the words of songwriter Ross King—

Clear the stage and make room for the One who deserves it….

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