A Factory of Idols

“Man’s nature…is a perpetual factory of idols.” John Calvin

Hearing the word “idol,” it’s easy to picture chanting, bowing, dancing, and waving incense around a giant golden statue. If we aren’t doing that, we don’t have a problem worshiping idols, right? Well, not so fast.

Idol worship is often camouflaged; it’s not often of the stereotypical golden calf variety. Given the opportunity, however, we will replace God with something: a calling, object, person, ideal, dream, etc. It’s what our nature, according to John Calvin, drives us to do. Trust me, each of us struggles with idolatry, of placing something—or someone—in God’s rightful position in our lives.

Our “idol factories” even insidiously allow us to worship fundamentally good things—close relationships, influential occupations, exciting activities, delicious food—and elevate them to an inappropriate position in our lives. Idolatry is an issue of the heart, and it runs deeper than we wish to acknowledge.

Consider these 8 signs that a thing may have become an idol in your life:

  1. Fear or anxiety takes over when the thing is absent.
  2. The thing offers more comfort and enjoyment than Christ.
  3. You think about the thing more than you think about Christ.
  4. The thing captures your emotions, passions, and heart more than Christ does.
  5. The thing controls your wallet more than the Kingdom does.
  6. The thing gives permission to minimize and overlook sin.
  7. The thing is what I talk to others about more than anything else.
  8. I wake up with the thing on my mind, and it controls my last thoughts before sleeping.

So what can be done about this problem of our idolatrous natures? The first, and most obvious, solution is simple but profoundly challenging: Don’t do it. Don’t turn to idols in place of God (Leviticus 19:4). When we do idolize something, however, we must recognize this as sin, and confess it. God will forgive us (1 John 1:9)! We must then, like David, ask God to create in us a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). When we ask, He will do it!

When you surrender your whole heart to Jesus, he will purge it of everything else. This is the only way to be set free from the things—even the good things—that have become idols in your life.

Illustration: The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin

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