When Paul toured Ephesus, he noted that the Ephesians were very religious (Acts 17:22). They had shrines to everything; even one dedicated to The Unknown God. But Paul explained that they were missing the point. He might say the same thing if he toured our churches today.
Idolatry does not necessarily confine itself to shrines outside the
church. Due to an alarming rate of biblical illiteracy, as well as growing
Western egocentrism, Christianity has done what the Ephesians did.
It has added Jesus to a plethora of other gods, many of which are
heavily glossed with spirituality and encased in selected Bible verses.
But they are gods, nonetheless.
The most subtle and attractive of these gods can walk arm-in-arm with
even those who would most loudly decry their presence. Yet, these
impostors waltz right into the church services and out again every Sunday
without challenge, often receiving a heaping dose of praise from the
very pulpits that spawned them.
Personal well-being and self-worth are attractive gods that have wormed
their way into American hearts without apology. We can easily embrace a God who promises health, safety, and comfort. But is
it truly Yahweh we worship or is it our own satisfaction? Whose name is really on the gold-plated shrine: God's or ours? Do we really worship the
Lord Himself or is it His comforting promises? Romans 1 describes in unflattering terms those who "worship the creature rather
than the Creator."
Health and prosperity are twin gods as false as Romulus and Remus, yet
they are worshiped to some extent by most evangelicals as though the blessings were Jehovah Himself. They are "claimed," "believed for", and
enthusiastically defended, but when adversity or persecution hits with fury, we
recoil in disbelief, feeling as though our god has betrayed us. And so it has.
Family is also a god that marches boldly alongside the Real One. We
proudly champion this god as though surely the Lord would make an
exception to the First Commandment in this case. The homeschooling
movement danced perilously close to this shrine without realizing the
danger. As attractive as it seems to make a spouse or precious children
our whole world, we can easily slide those relationships into first
place. We justify the substitution with scarcely a nod at Matthew 10:37 in
which Jesus clearly says that if we love anything more than Him we are
not worthy of Him.
Idolatry is not always foreign to the church. Its most tantalizing
shrines are to those ideals that sound spiritual but are well-disguised substitutes for God Himself. Self loves to cloak itself in religious finery, and if we are not on guard, will replace the Triune Person who alone claims the right
to be God.
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