My heart was pounding in my chest. I didn’t want to go in. The counselor was waiting for me. I gave him updates on the struggles I was having. Then he asked how my worship life was. I was embarrassed to tell him that it had become almost nonexistent. I did not have time to worship, with the busyness of the ministry and everything else I was doing—writing books, recording albums, traveling, preaching, and being a husband and father.
My counselor carefully shared that the symptoms I displayed suggested I was involved in idolatry.
“They worshiped their idols, which led to their downfall..." Ps 106:36
“Really?” I said. “I love God with all of my heart.”
“Your service and sacrifice is not in question. The question is: does He come first? You have put your ministry to God above God!”
I was completely unaware I had not given God first place in my life.
“By not having time to worship and spend time with Him, you communicate that other things are more important!” He said. “When you don’t have much time for your family, it tells me that you value your ministry over them.”
“You have made your ministry your god. It is an idol that you bow to instead of God.”
My heart sank. I fought back the tears. I was shocked! It had never occurred to me that my actions and attitudes of putting ministry first were so blasphemous to God. I felt horrible. In the deep recesses of my heart, ministry had taken the place of God. I was an idolater! In that moment I repented and asked for His forgiveness.
Have you noticed, as you read the Bible, how serious God takes idolatry? I am amazed at how the Israelites were constantly putting other entities before God. Their affection turned from Yahweh to something they created. The Bible says, “They worshiped their idols, which led to their downfall... their love of idols was adultery in the Lord’s sight." (Ps 106:36-39) Idolatry is about is about unfaithfulness to the One we made covenant with.
Three things pop out to me.
First, in our culture we bow our hearts to ways of thinking that exalt themselves above God. We may not bow our hearts and heads to statues of plastic or stone, but we do bow our hearts to ideologies, greed for power, or wealth. These can be an idol. Israel gave their love and affection to something other than God and He called them unfaithful.
The second is, demons are involved in idolatry. This is what God says about idolatry, “They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. “(Lev 17:7)
Paul said, "Am I suggesting, then, that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons." (1 Cor 10:19-29)
When I was in India, I discovered their idols are called demon gods. It is so obvious demons are connected to idol worship that they call them such. Perhaps we consider ourselves less superstitious and primitive but don’t we have idols - American idols?
Thirdly, have we created idols? It is an opportunity to ask ourselves, have we turned our affections from God who delivered us from the slavery of sin and brought us to our promised land? To answer that we have to ask ourselves what is an idol? The answer is anything you idolize. An idol is anything that you value, esteem, or adore most.
"Idolatry is the human choice of substituting a thing, image, person, or idea for our Creator. Idolatry is an act of treason against the God who gave us life and deliverance from sin. Yet, when we sin by putting other things above God, we declare that God is not good enough, not great enough, not glorious enough, not complete enough, and not all that He claims to be. It says that something else is more worthy to be loved and worshipped.”
“Idols can be material objects such as houses, cars, and prized possessions. Idols can also be people, whether pop culture icons or your loved ones. Intangible things like fame, reputation, pride, and accomplishments can be objects of worship. Even your ministry or service for God can be an idol. The very gift that He blesses you with, and you give in service to Him, can be an idol and come between you and God” I know because I made the ministry God gave me an idol by putting it above God and my family.
“Idols can be metal or mental, carved by the hand or the mind. Judson Cornwall, in his book Things We Adore, said, “An idol is anything or anyone that is given credit for the abilities that only God possesses.” Idolatry mocks God. The worshipper thinks that he or his idol has more wisdom, more power than God. The idol worshipper says that the idol gives him more pleasure than God. He is more satisfied by the idol than by God. In our heart we really know that is not true. Christians know better, yet we are prone to turn to something other than God, even though we know that God is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Present.” - Excerpt from Authentic (page 26)
The Bible indicates that in the last days, humanity will destroy itself morally and judgement will come. "But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk!” Rev 9:20
Do we as a culture even know we are worshiping demons when we bow to our idols? We already read "They worshiped their idols, which led to their downfall. When we worship idols God says we are worshiping demons.
Lord give us spiritual eyes to see what is really going on in your culture and in our lives. Reveal to us what we have placed as idols in our lives, even if unknowing. Forgive us for putting anything above you in value, effort or time. We want to be faithful to you as you are to us.