Are There Idols in Your Camp?

The ads for presidential candidates are already being run in our country. Men and women are doing all they can to show themselves worthy of the office of President of the United States. While these individuals are running for office, a position of authority, we must always be reminded that God is not “running” for God. God has always been, and He always will be (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 90:1-2). Men need to acknowledge the Lordship and Sovereignty of God, not for His sake, but for their own. Idolatry is the practice of worshipping someone or something besides the true God of heaven. Idolatry often takes something seemingly innocent, and exalts it to a place above God.

Many years ago, God’s people found themselves in captivity in Egypt (Ex. 1:8-14). After many signs done by God and the stubbornness of Pharaoh was removed, the children of Israel were released so that they might go to the land that God had appointed for them. As the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness on their way to Canaan, Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the law from God and the people had Aaron make for them a god as they grew impatient waiting for Moses to return (Ex. 32:1-6). The Israelites had come out of Egypt, but it is evident that Egypt had not come out of them.

Though idols are removed from someone’s presence, they may not be removed from their practice. The Israelites fashioned gods like those they probably had seen in Egypt and attributed their deliverance to those false gods. The sin of idolatry is one that everyone has to defeat in order to be pleasing to God. There will always be something competing for the place in our heart that should be reserved specifically for God. After Moses punishes those in their company who had been guilty of this idolatry, one would think Israel learned their lesson; but this is not the case (Ex. 32:25-29).

In the days of the prophet Elijah, the people had fallen into idolatry and had a divided allegiance to Baal. Elijah tells them they must make a decision whether to follow God or Baal (1 Kgs. 18:21). The strangers that inhabited Samaria after the Assyrian captivity of Israel would not let go of their idols though they claimed to fear the Lord (2 Kgs. 17:41). During this same time, Isaiah prophesied to Judah and often rebuked them because of their idolatrous ways. Isaiah goes to great measures to show that Jehovah is the one and only true God, and to serve any other so-called god is pure folly (Isa. 41:4; 42:8; 43:11; 44:6-19; 45:5).

For their idolatrous behavior, Israel would go into Assyrian captivity and Judah would go into Babylonian captivity (2 Kgs. 17:18-24; 25:2; Jer. 52). Idolatry did not die in the Old Testament. Just because men may not bow down to wood or stone (though some still do), does not mean that idolatry is dead. What are some of the idols we need to get rid of today?

The master of money

The idol of money and possessions is one that still blinds many today. Jesus said that it is impossible to serve both God and mammon (wealth, material riches). He did not say that it is a bad idea to serve both, but that it is an impossibility (Mt. 6:24). Money makes a miserable master and cannot be relied upon. Paul warned Timothy to not let riches ensnare him or rule him, and to learn to be content (1 Tim. 6:8-10, 17-19). When people worship their finances instead of God, they will have a miserable life and will always view the God of the Bible improperly. Money can be used for good, but when it’s viewed as a god, it is abused and its purpose is thwarted. Covetousness is still idolatry (Col. 3:5).

The way to rid oneself of the worship of money is to learn to be content with what God has already blessed you with (Phil. 4:10-13). If I am not content, I will never be satisfied, no matter what God blesses me with. Also, laying up treasures in heaven will help one to get rid of the god of money (Mt. 6:19-21). The more one gives, the more one will see that earthly possessions are temporary and that money isn’t the ultimate in life (Acts 20:35). There are many who will miss worship to make an extra dollar, neglect their children to put more money into savings, remain Biblically ignorant because the  love of  money has squeezed out anytime for Bible study, and short change God in giving and benevolence for fear of the well running dry. Money can buy some things, but money cannot buy salvation, forgiveness of sins, or favor with God.

The god of nationalism

While America is a great country and we enjoy many blessings here, America is not god. There are some who love their country more than they love God and His kingdom. The Christian must understand that the nation in which he or she lives is a temporary dwelling place. The Christian’s home is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-4). The Christian must constantly remind himself that his citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). While these verses are familiar and we often quote them, do we really live them out? Are we more passionate about our political party than we are about the furthering of the gospel? Do I let my political persuasion keep me from sharing the gospel with those who differ with me on political issues? We need to be careful to not let our country be our god, because idols always disappoint. If we put our faith and hope in our country we will be let down, because as great as America is, she is not without blemish.

Nations can have godly values, and we should applaud and appreciate such nations (cf. Prov. 14:34), but the only “Christian Nation” is the body of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). Christians are the people of God and they are His nation. When we divide our allegiance, we will not be all we can be in the kingdom of God because we are giving ourselves away to the kingdoms of men. Remember the nationalism exhibited by the angry mob of Jews that killed Jesus. They loved the country of Israel more than they loved the Christ of Israel (Jn. 19:14-16). This is not taken to mean we should not obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1-6), or be all we can be in our country as good citizens, or pray for the rulers of our country (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Likewise, we do need to be against sin in our government, or those who would legalize, moralize, and normalize sin. We need to do our best to let our light shine and respect the authority God has ordained to be in place (Mt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:11-17). Nationalism is an idol that will deceive. I need to ask myself, am I a Christian first and a citizen of this country second? Do the affairs of this temporary earthly kingdom concern me more than those of the eternal heavenly kingdom (2 Cor. 11:28-29)?

The god of entertainment

We live in a pleasure-driven society. Everything in our society tells us to entertain ourselves, and if it doesn’t entertain you, then don’t do it. This thought of “entertain me” is often transferred into Christianity. The god of entertainment can be dangerous because it is subtle and most people don’t know that they are worshiping it. Some know all the facts of their favorite football teams, and the life story of their favorite athlete; but can’t tell you if Jude is in the Old or New Testament. The fact is that we don’t need to allow entertainment to be the chief concern of our life. God has put things in our life to make it enjoyable, but don’t allow those things to take the place of God (1 Tim. 6:17). Parents give gifts to kids for birthdays and holidays, but this is because they love their kids and want them to enjoy some things. However, parents would not want the gifts that they give their children to take their place as parents. God likewise does not want the things that He has given us to take the place that is rightfully His in our lives.

There is unwholesome and sinful entertainment that we definitely should not engage in (1 Thess. 5:21-22). However, there is also entertainment that is not inherently sinful, but we need to balance our time with it. We only have twenty-four hours in a day, and we should not put them all into Facebook, ESPN, and Sears; and then give God the scraps of our day. The Christian life is one that is designed to glorify God (Mk.12:29-30; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). When our children see us more enthusiastic about the Saturday night football game than we are about the gospel meeting, they may draw a flawed conclusion of which one is more important. We make time for what is most important to us. The god of entertainment cannot clean one blot of sin off of our soul nor can it save one in the Day of Judgment. Bowing to this god is like striving after wind.

The sin of idolatry will always be an issue, but it can be overcome. The more love we have for God and the more we seek heavenly treasures, the less we will be drawn to the idols that surround us. Idols promise to bring bliss and happiness, but instead they bring burdens and heartache. Only God can bring true, lasting happiness in our lives. The idols of the heathen are still vain and empty (Ps. 115:4; 135:15; Isa. 2:8), but those who truly trust in God will never be disappointed. Get rid of idols, search your heart and see who you really depend on, and put your trust in God (Prov. 3:5-6).

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Hiram Kemp

Servant of Christ. Husband. Father.