The Danger of Idolatry
Text: Acts 19:8—20:1 | Listen to Message
An idol is anything you look to other than God for your ultimate sense of significance, security, or identity. So an idol is not just that statue in a faraway temple you’ll never visit, it’s also that thing you’re convinced you need in order to be happy. It’s money. It’s sex. It’s affirmation. It’s leisure. It’s family. It’s your reputation. It’s your work. It’s love. It’s sport. It’s anything you live for to prove to yourself and to others that your life has value.
We’re drawn to idols because they promise to let us be in control. This is their siren song: “Come, serve me, and I’ll give you whatever you want!”
But it’s not true, is it? Take affirmation, for instance. Affirmation is a good thing. It’s a valuable thing. It’s an encouraging thing. But what happens when you make it an ultimate thing? If you must have the affirmation and approval of others in order to feel a sense of self-worth, does that make you more free or less free? Does it make you happier or sadder? More content or less content? More confident or more fundamentally insecure?
You know the answers to these questions. As soon as you have to have affirmation (or anything else, for that matter), you have made it an idol and you’ve made yourself a slave. You’ve believed the lie that it will give you control, and now you’re the one who is controlled.
This is the paradox of idols: simultaneously they have no power and yet they have great power. They have no inherent power because they have no real, independent existence. If you didn’t “need” them, they’d be nothing. So why do they seem so powerful? Two reasons: 1) because you’ve endowed them with that power to rule over you, and 2) because they’re tools of Satan to deceive and destroy. And make no mistake: after your idols have overpowered and mastered you, they’ll ruin you.
So if you can see what your idols are, stop giving them your allegiance and your love. But you can’t just stop, can you? You’ve probably tried. You must replace these affections and loyalties with affections and loyalties for someone greater. And that someone is Jesus – the God who is independently great and awesome whether you acknowledge him or not. And he’s the only God who will fight for you and defend you, rather than the other way around.