Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Avoiding Idolatry

How do we tell when something in our life becomes idolatry? Now I am not talking about obviously bad things. I am not even primarily talking about the blatantly addicting things, such as alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling, and pornography. (It is not part of my purpose here to ask if any of these are acceptable in moderation. But their dangers as potential addictive agents are well known.) But anything can be an idol if we let it take first place in our lives. And these things can be subtle, even insidious, so we have to ask, how do we protect ourselves from something taking the place of God in our lives?

Now God has given us good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 4:3-5; Titus 1:15; James 1:17). But we also need to realize that anything that we put above God is an idol (Colossians 3:5; 1:18; Exodus 20:3). It is well known that money and possessions can fall into this category. But so can other good things, like entertainment, recreation, family, friends, country, and church family. All these things are good in the right perspective, but wrong if made central. Now the solution is not to hide in a cave and not enjoy any of the good things God has given. But we do need to be aware of the potential danger involved. 

For those who have put their faith in Christ, we need to remember our sins are forgiven (Romans 8:33,34; 3:21-26; Ephesians 1:7). But we need to see this, not as an excuse to live as we wish, but a motivation to live for God (Galatians 5:13,14; Titus 2:11-14; Romans 12:1,2). We need to avoid both complacency and discouragement. This is particularly necessary because growth in Christ is a process that leads us forward one step at a time (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:12-14). Now God is at work in us to change us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3), but we need to intentionally respond to these things by choosing to follow Christ (Galatians 5:18; Ephesians 5:18; Romans 6:12-14). And we need to trust God to show us what things in us need to change (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Isaiah 40:31).
However, we also need to recognize we are weak and have the real potential of falling (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; 1 Peter 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 11:1-5).  There may even be some cases where we need to take drastic action (Matthew 5:29,30; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). But we must remember that the dangers are very individual. And what can be a problem for one person may not be a problem for another. But we need to trust God to show us what we need to do, and also be open to His direction as to what we need to change (Psalms 139:23,24; 19:12-14; Proverbs 28:13). We must do this, realizing that God loves us and forgives us and is at work in our lives to lead us in the right way.

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