Is Idolatry More Than Bowing to Graven Images?!

The Bible often refers to images made by humans when speaking against idols, which God Himself describes in Habakkuk 2:18 (New International Version).

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
    Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
    he makes idols that cannot speak.”

In the previous two lessons in this series, we have discussed the importance of setting our “hearts and minds on things above” as the Apostle Paul teaches us in Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV). Here’s what he says next in verses 3-5

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Emphasis is mine.)

We commit idolatry when we put anything or anyone before God.

So must an idol be an actual crafted image or other object? Clearly the answer is, “No.”

When we are loyal to anyone or anything more than we are loyal to God, we are committing idolatry, whether we are ultimately seeking fame, money, beauty, or any kind of success. While these things are not wrong within themselves, if we pursue any one of these things — or anything else — greater than we pursue God, we are bowing down before an idol.

The Old Testament is full of testimonies about God’s people Israel turning away from Him and turning to idols. When He would punish them, they would come back to Him. He would take them back, stave off their enemies and they would follow Him . . . for a while. Often they turned back to idolatry after a few years. The book of Judges repeats this theme.

So how do we turn away from idols?

We must be honest with ourselves. Am I putting ANYTHING OR ANYONE before God? Am I so focused on anything or anyone that I am allowing myself to disobey God in order to pursue it or them? Am I compromising what I believe to be truth in God’s Word in order to be accepted by someone . . . or to keep a job or to reach a goal? What is my greatest motivation? Is it to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself OR something else?

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any idolatry that may have a stronghold in your heart.

If there is such a sin in your life, turn away from the idol and turn back to God. Hate the sin with the same passion with which you would hate a physical idol! Be honest before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. If you realize that you are putting anything before God and are willing to turn back to Him, He is waiting for you to come because He loves you! Ask Him to help you worship Him alone.

If you have never given your life to God, read this lesson.

You have made the decision to pursue God, to obey God, to love God above all else. When the thought comes to your mind to turn to anything that stands between God and you (because our enemy the devil seeks to destroy us and will not stop tempting us), take the thought captive and obey the Lord’s command —

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV) (Emphasis is mine.)

It’s a hard lesson. To consider that we may be as guilty as those who literally bow down before idols and worship them is a humbling reality. Our God is faithful and willing to forgive His children.

Confess this to a trusted Christian. (We encourage women to talk it over with another woman and for men to speak to another man about the matter.)

If you find yourself being tempted to put anything or anyone before God, run back to God’s open arms.

His love is greater than anything that we think may satisfy us. His promises are true. Jesus is our Savior and mediator. Eternal life awaits you when your work on this earth is complete. Let us serve Him with our whole hearts!

-Jo Umberger, Vice President, NewLife Behavior International

To be a Christian means to follow Christ’s teachings.

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