Sep13WedSeptember 13, 2017
A couple of years ago, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by staying in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. The city itself is beautiful and filled with locally-owned restaurants and shops. There is also a plethora of spiritually-inspired stores. In Asheville, you can easily purchase statues of Buddha, a variety of Hindu gods and goddesses or anything mystical or ‘new age’. As a Christian pastor, it was odd to see such things for sale because I know that “they are the work of human hands which have mouths, but do not speak; have eyes but do not see; have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths” (Psalm 135:15-17). I remember looking at man-made statues and wondering, ‘Who would bow down and worship such a thing?’ This kind of idolatry seems so foolish. Perhaps you think the same way. However, that does not mean that you and I are immune from blatant, foolish idolatry. We live in a culture full of idols. They are not just always lying around in plain sight like in Asheville.
Idolatry, in a basic sense, is anything which we turn to for life and identity above the Living God which rob our affection for Him. Consider your life. What tends to rob your affection for Him? When put that way, perhaps a number of ‘idols’ pop into your mind.
The sermon series which we just concluded from Revelation 1-3 re-introduced us to idols that Christians can easily overlook – because they are not man-made but spiritual realities.
The believers in Ephesus seemed to make hard-working ministry their idol – for they did good work while abandoning their love for the Lord.
The believers in Smyrna were tempted to bow to the idol of hopelessness in the face of tribulation and poverty.
The believers in Pergamum were tempted to turn physical perfection and pain-free living (due to the temple to Asclepius) into an idol worth pursuing at all costs.
The believers in Thyatria had given into the allure of sexual immorality and were beginning to teach others to compromise the gospel for a new movement ‘of the spirit.’
The believers in Sardis had given into purposelessness or self-reliance.
The believers in Laodicea were bowing down to the idol of material wealth.
Only one church, out of the seven, the church in Philadelphia, had not given into idolatry – although they were growing weary of standing firm in a spiritually challenging culture.
According to these ‘letters’ from Jesus, various groups of people (like churches, or sub-cultures, ethnic groups, or cities) may stumble in idolatry in ways which, for the people down the road, has no bearing or temptation at all. Looking upon this list of idols – hard working ministry, hopelessness, physical perfection, sexual immorality, self-reliance, material wealth – which one tends to rob your affection for the Lord? More than likely, your idols are slightly different from mine. But we are on a similar journey of fleeing from darkness and learning to walk in the light and life of Jesus Christ.
Let’s continue to be zealous for the Lord and repentant, especially when we learn to recognize our ‘invisible’ idols. Jesus always stands at the door of your heart, knocking and waiting for you to invite Him in (Revelation 3:20). He knows what to do with our idols. Do you?