SOURCE: Leslie Vernick
In the Old Testament, Israel not only struggled with unbelief, but also with idolatry.
Their hearts were drawn away from loving the one true God, and they began worshipping other things like a golden calf or a wooden pole. When we read these stories, we say to ourselves, “How stupid could they have been?” Yet, today we do the same things. Our idol isn’t a golden calf, but it is gold or money. It may not be a wooden pole but it might be the ladder of success or popularity.
One way I look for my idolatry is to be mindful of the things I love. Loving things other than God is not wrong, but God says that we are to love him first and most.
Often my other loves aren’t bad things; they’re good things that I love too much. Richard Baxter, a Puritan preacher and biblical counselor in the 1600s wrote, “Were nothing over loved, it would have no power to torment us.” One way we know whether we love something too much is to see how much power we give it to wreak havoc on our mental and emotional life when we think we might not get it.
Some people love approval and acceptance from others. Who doesn’t love it when everyone thinks we’re wonderful, but are we distraught when we don’t receive it? Do we get anxious and teary at the slightest hint of disapproval or rejection? Most of us love control and desire to have some measure of control over our lives and the people and things around us. But what happens to you and in you when you don’t have control? Do you become angry, fearful, or despondent? These emotions can be good warning lights to remind us that we have allowed our heart to be captured by other loves and we’re trusting in our idol instead of in God.
God says he is a jealous God and will show us our other loves (see Jeremiah 3), but he hates being second or third in our lives (Psalm 78:58). When we continue to love other things more than we love him, we forfeit our intimacy with him (Isaiah 42:17; Jonah 2:8). God won’t be relegated to the position of a cosmic errand boy that we call upon when we think we need him or want something. He wants to be our lover, our best friend, our King and our Lord.
Having idols distracts you and keeps you from intimacy and a deeper relationship with God. Anger, depression and discouragement may result when our idols disappoint us as they always will. We have lost our first love, and we are undone. This suffering will either draw our heart back towards God or make us bitter towards God.
God knows that we can only hold on to him with all of our heart when we have let go of everything else.