Identifying Idolatry of the Heart

Process Chapter 4.indd

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

God considers worship of anything other than Himself idolatry! Look at the following verse:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature (your heart), your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group. Galatians 5:19-20 (NLT, author’s emphasis)

Each of us struggles with the horrendous sin of idolatry on a daily basis. As Galatians 5 tells us, idolatry is a desire of our sinful nature. It is reflected in our choices, our words, our use of time, and how we spend our money. In our culture we tend to think of idolatry as an eastern religious system such as Buddhism or Hinduism, or as pagan worship of the trees and animals. But the truth is, idolatry is not only bowing down to statues, it is anything that means more to you than God does. It is manifested when getting what you want has becomes more important than what God desires for you. Simply put, anything that you are loving, desiring, or serving more than God is an idol of the heart.

We are constantly being tempted to sin in this manner. While many technological advances exist in the world, including new things to idolize and worship, Satan uses the same tricks and methods to bait the trap that he has employed since the Garden of Eden.

Our idolatry takes many forms. Some people idolize money and possessions.

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV)

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15 (NIV)

Others idolize people such as celebrities, sports figures, and musicians. Look at the popularity of the program AMERICAN IDOL and the millions of people who watch each week and vote for their “idol.”

Criminal rap artists are held in high esteem by the younger generation; the actions of high-priced athletes (who once were lauded for their abilities on the playing field but now are notorious for their antics off the field) are being emulated by high school players.

I have known mothers who idolize their children by building a child-centered home. These children grow up believing they are the center of the world and expect others to cater to their every need and whim--to be idolized by someone else once mom and dad are gone.

The bottom line is simple—we were born to worship. We have been created to worship God, but our sinful lusts have driven us to worship and idolize the things of the world.

Are you beginning to see how perhaps some of the things we struggle with are from an idolatrous and self-centered heart?

Along the way of our life we came to believe that we needed certain things or people to “make us happy”: for some of us it is success or security, for others it is acceptance, and still for others it is being motivated by fear. It’s a type of fear of not succeeding or being accepted or secure.

These motivations spurred on by the desires of the heart have born exactly the kind of fruit you would expect– awful. If this were not so, people would not be seeking counseling!

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