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IDOLATRY: The Core Problem

IDOLATRY: The Core Problem

By Harald K. Haugan
Special to Virtueonline
July 6, 2021

There is a thread, a theme, a deep concern that traverses Scripture,---idolatry. It is the gravest of offenses. Idolatry is misplaced worship. Worship is to give worth to something. Idolatry is self-worship as opposed to worship of God. The first letter in idolatry is I. I have more worth than God. I consider my worth exceeds that of God. It starts with the assumption that I know and should be in control of what's best for me. That's a state of mind that shadows every choice and decision we make. Idolatry is sin in action. It is more about my personal, physical and emotional survival than my spiritual life, my relationship with God.

Idolatry is the self-gratifying, self-satisfying and self-indulging way we process our life. Whatever I believe in, the attitudes and opinions I choose from my cultural conditioning to fulfill me for both the present moment and the long run, is the way I think and that's my lifestyle. That is not only my religion, it's also my worship. Worship then is our choice of lifestyle and religion is what principles we believe in that can support that lifestyle. That's what makes idolatry the gravest sin. Subtle and not so subtle examples, 'Golf course religion' 'I got my crew' 'I finally made it to the right neighborhood' 'It cost me, but I got accepted in the club' 'I made up that story about him so I could get by' 'I got an extra five dollars in change but what the heck, it's a big company. They can afford it and I can use it.' 'I could have stopped and helped but I didn't have time so I passed by' 'Let someone else do it.' We can go on.

Idolatry knocks on the door when we look at external human needs. The three basic ones, food, clothing and shelter. Then comes the internal need for relational experience. Both are detailed internally by how we choose to design our comfort, pleasure and security. What is the best way to get both accomplished? It's being right in how we obtain them, retain them and maintain them. Being right may very well be our deepest need. Being right inside and out in the secular daily world depends on having the ability to observe how others around us do it and copy them so that we fit in culturally. If you let yourself think that way, idolatry flourishes and sin wins the day. Is this new?

Over 3000 years ago the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun (1:9)."

We can add to that what John the Apostle said, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1Jn.2:15-17)." (...because all that is in the world -- the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life -- is not of the Father, but of the world...(Young's Literal Transl.)

Now here is the bottom-line challenge to idolatry, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship (Rom.12:1)."

Sacrifice is not giving up chocolates for Lent or going on a diet or being a vegetarian or joining a social movement or putting 10 easy principles to be good on your fridge door. Check what Paul is saying, "God is merciful." The Lord knows we're sinners immersed in a sinful world. He is showering us with His patience and giving us a way to get our lives on track. He wants us to let the Holy Spirit make us aware of the attitudes and strategies we learned from our cultural conditioning and deny them, replace them with Spiritude, the singular attitude of Jesus. See every next relational encounter, event and occasion as an opportunity to practice keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal.5:16). That's being a living sacrifice. Sure, it's hard, but like getting in shape physically, spiritual shape is no different. This is what faith is from one moment to the next. It's getting into the Word, praying the Word and looking forward to seeing it work.

Worship? There it is.

Harald K. Haugan is pastor and founder of All Souls Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He is the author of several books on the Christian Life

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