IDENTIFYING IDOLS

It has been noted that the difference between the first and the second of the Ten Commandments is that the first instructs us to worship God alone while the second instructs us how to worship God alone. Another way of stating this is that the first command instructs us to keep God first while the second instructs us to keep him separate. We must not treat God the way idolaters treat their gods. We must not treat him the way we treat our gods.

We do well to recognise that we are all tempted to idolatry. Calvin wrote that the human heart is a perpetual forge of idols. He did not mean that we are unendingly tempted to produce statues of Zeus, Ra, or Ganesh. He meant that we are prone to treat God as nothing special. We are prone to relegate him in our affections to the same place as—or even lower than—our other affections.

Paul Tillich has defined faith as “the state of being ultimately concerned.” We worship, in other words, that which ultimately concerns us. Your god is whatever is of ultimate concern to you. Since we all have something of ultimate concern, we are all worshippers. The question is, what holds that place of ultimate concern in your life?

It comes down to a question of value. We far too often fail to grasp God’s inestimable worth. Our sinful hearts place inordinate value on things like money, success, family, and education, and the unbelieving culture elevates the worth of these things. The result is that we underestimate God’s worth in our lives and therefore fail to accord him the place of ultimate concern that belongs to him alone.

In this series of devotions, we will consider some of the idols that we are prone to in Western-influenced Christianity and explore some ways in which we can overcome this idolatry.

Unburdened (Isaiah 46:1–13)

Unburdened (Isaiah 46:1–13)

The prophet Isaiah frequently contrasted the true God with the false gods of the nations. As Israel experienced punishment for its sin, God time and again reminded his people that he is the true God while the idols that they worshipped, and the idols of the foreign...

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