Idols of our Hearts
Updated: Sep 27, 2021
My prayer is that you, my readers, will open your hearts to hear what God is saying as I share the truth in love. I do understand there’s a chance this topic could offend some readers. That is not my intention. Some could find it offensive if they are not ready to face the truth about the idols in their lives. Always understand there is no condemnation; only revelation and correction from God.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
As we look at idols of the heart, we will look for answers to these four questions:
1. What is an idol? What is idolatry?
2. How do I recognize if I have made something an idol?
3. What can be an idol?
4. What do I do if I have them?
Question #1: What is idolatry?
The dictionary answers this question with these types of definitions:
a. Extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.
b. Adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage, shown toward a person or principle.
Worship is defined as:
a. The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.
b. Honor given to someone in recognition of their merit.
c. Show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.
d. The acts or rites that make up a formal expression of reverence for a deity; a religious ceremony or ceremonies.
When it comes to defining idolatry from a Biblical perspective, it is simple.
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
The word “before’ is noted in the footnotes as ‘Or besides.’
We were created to worship God. When our worship is ‘mis-placed’ or ‘mis-directed’ and given to something or someone other than God, that is idolatry. These idols become ‘false gods’ and distract us from The One True God! We are not to worship created things, we are to worship the Creator.
Again, God is saying we are to worship NOTHING but Him. We are to put Him on the throne of our hearts and our lives. When something or someone takes His place in that position, that is idolatry. Later we will look at some questions we can ask to determine if this has happened.
God’s position on idolatry is clear in Exodus 20:3; that is a commandment. He further expands His position as Exodus 20 goes on...
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”
(Underlining is mine and for emphasis only.)
"I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God."
God could not make it more clear that He is interested in being our ONLY God, not just our top God. To bring anything or anyone else into the position God is claiming, is to make it an idol, a false god. No created thing should take the position that is reserved for the Creator Himself.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen”
Question #2: How do I recognize if I have made something an idol?
What are some questions we can ask ourselves to start to identify the idols we have made?
When thinking about this, I immediately thought of Judges 10:14 where we are told to "go and cry out to the gods we have chosen and let them save us in the time of our distress." The sarcasm is not lost on me… obviously, any 'gods' we have chosen other than the ONE TRUE GOD are not going to be able to save us in the time of our distress. So, that’s the first question we should be asking ourselves, “Where am I running when trouble hits?” Who’s the first one / what’s the first thing I run to when trouble hits / when something goes wrong? Do I run to God in prayer and supplication or do I call someone else?
Where we give our time and attention is another good indicator of where we may have idols. Asking where I give the most time and attention could indicate what I am exalting as ‘most important’ in my life. Do I make time for God or does He fall to the bottom of the list?
Here’s another big question: Where do I find my identity? Is my identity found in being a Christian, a mom, a wife, a [you fill in the blank]? I need to be finding my identify in Christ… I am always a Christian first.
Am I finding disappointment in things, in people, etc.? Think about this… we expect whatever we’ve placed on the throne of our lives to be perfect. We expect it to FULFILL us. That is God’s job and He is the only one that can meet the expectation. If we have put something or someone else in that position, then we become disappointed or frustrated or hurt. Our expectations of perfection cannot be met by anyone but Jesus. He is supposed to be our source of security, joy, and satisfaction. He is supposed to be our provision and He is supposed to fulfill us.
So, to what am I looking for satisfaction and fulfillment? To what am I saying such things as:
“You are my life.”
“This makes life worth living.”
“I cannot live without this.”
“As soon as this happens, I will be happy, I will be fulfilled.”
If we look to anyone or anything, outside of God, to bring us satisfaction; we are at risk of offering ourselves to idols and being very disappointed.
Would I be angry with God if this was taken away from me? Would I turn from Him rather than turning to Him for comfort? Perhaps that 'something' is an idol. I surmise that if something is taking God's place in my heart, I might be angry with Him if it is removed without my consent.
Until we determine Jesus is truly enough and become fully satisfied in Him, we cannot fully enjoy all the good things He has created for us to enjoy. God’s creation is meant to be enjoyed; even loved. However, it was meant to be enjoyed WITH HIM; not apart from Him. It was meant to be enjoyed under His headship.
1 Timothy 6:17
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
(Underlining is mine and for emphasis only.)
Ask God to search your heart as David did. However, be prepared for what He may reveal. As long as you confess it and work to change it, you are on the right track.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I think we forget that we are all slaves to something, we all serve something.... what we’re giving ‘free reign’ in our lives is up to us, it is our choice. Something is always in control. Is it God? Is it our emotions? Is it other idols? Is it sin? Something is in control. The bad news is that sin and idols make false promises and then we are trapped and disappointed. However, the good news is: we get to choose!
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
(Underlining is mine and for emphasis only.)
Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
2 Peter 2:18-22
"For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
Question #3: What can be an idol?
The short answer is: ANYTHING.
As we try to identify idols, I think it is important to remember that God is not telling us that we cannot or should not love created things. He created them for us to enjoy. The problem is that He created them for us to enjoy in the context of a relationship WITH HIM.
Ephesians 1:3 tells us, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."
And James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
What can take over ‘god-ship’ in our lives? What can we put in God’s proper place? Remember that there is definitely a place for other things; and when we keep God in HIS proper place, then these things will stay in their proper place.
As we look at some potential idols, let's look at the questions we should be asking about each as related to the questions above.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (AMP)
“All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].”
Jeremiah 16:20 (ESV)
“Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!”
Question #4: What do I do if I have them?
If you've identified an idol, immediately take it to the LORD. You've got to get rid of the idol... and there are really only two options here:
Option #1: Remove it completely and Replace it with Jesus!
King Asa removed the false idols, the scriptures state he smashed them! Then he commanded Judah to replace them with the Lord!
2 Chronicles 14:3-4
"He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands."
Why is it so important to replace it?
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
Option #2: But what about the cases where we can’t just remove the idol completely from our lives? We can’t stop loving our family, for example, and we shouldn’t love them less. So what is the solution then?
The answer is to love God MORE!
You don’t demote your family – you elevate GOD!
We are to love God first, seeking first His kingdom, and then love people (1 John 4:7-8, Matthew 6:33.)
We must allow ourselves to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) so our love for God puts everything else in its proper place. When we fill our hearts and minds with His magnificence, His beauty, and His glory; everything else falls into place... AND it allows us to love others better because we are so filled up with HIM.
This is why we must ABIDE in HIM. How do we abide in Him? We spend time in prayer, Bible study, praise and worship, and in fellowship with other believers. All of the things that draw us closer to HIM --- and help us see HIS glory, HIS majesty….. and diminish our dependence on created things.
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights."
"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
"What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ"
Until we can honestly say that the Lord is truly all we need; that He is sufficient, and mean it in our very core, we are not free.
Let God be your ONLY GOD today, seek Him for your satisfaction. Embrace the salvation He offers and seek Him daily for your sanctification. You will not regret it and He will never disappoint you.
Thank you for joining me today and keeping an open heart as you seek God’s face in this and all questions.
— Robyn Alsip Arce, © 2021
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible (AMP), Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org