This post is entirely inspired by the sermon we heard this weekend at The Austin Stone. It’s the third part of a series, and while I haven’t heard the first two parts quite yet, you can listen to part one and part two through the Austin Stone sermons page.
First things first…what is idolatry? On a basic level, idolatry happens when we try to satisfy our eternal desires with non-eternal things. What do you think is the most important thing—all that you think about and all that you care about? Identify that, and you have your idol right there. You see, eternity (and eternal things and values) have been placed on our hearts since the very start:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)
We are discontent with so many things in our lives: our jobs or classes, our salaries, our boyfriends or husbands, our bodies. We obsess over those areas of discontentment, but we fail to see that created things cannot heal eternal needs for love, joy and value. We act like the people described in the book of Romans:
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25 NIV)
Through his series, Matt (pastor at Austin Stone) identified four idols that are at the root of all of our non-God obsessions: power, control, comfort, and approval.
Personally, I really identify with the idols of control and approval. When I look back at the obsessions of my past, I see that they have always been linked to my need for control over my environment and surroundings, or they have ties to my deep desire to be loved and praised by others.
The good news (which also is difficult news) is that through our relationship with God, we will be set free from our idolatry. It’s something we’re promised, and something we can be certain of. God is always perfecting the good work that he began in us from the moment he knit us together in our mother’s womb. Every single day of our lives, God is at work making us look more and more like Jesus—the one and only true image of perfection. It’s both liberating and frustrating to come to terms with this, because while we want to experience satisfaction in God alone, we are all reluctant to let go of our obsessions.
God’s desire is to set us free. While we have all let go of God a million times throughout our lives—turning away from Him to pursue something that won’t satisfy—God has never let go of us. Idols are counterfeit, and they never satisfy our heart’s real desires. But God’s love is real, deep, and true. We are His, and He wants us to be free forever.
Which root idol(s) do you most relate to?