Q17: What is idolatry?

A: Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.  (Crossway 2017)

Scripture Reference 
Romans 1:21 and 25 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator...” (ESV)

The Vertical Truth in Faith – What does this truth mean in my relationship with God?

We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are to worship Him, serve Him, and find our hope in Him alone. Idolatry can easily creep into our lives every day. In our culture today, bowing in worship to a carved image or physical idol may not necessarily be a big issue, but the root of the issue of idolatry is deep within our hearts. There are indeed many things that we can be quick to worship every day. When we begin to put our trust and hope in created things, we fall into idolatry. When we attempt to find happiness and satisfaction in created things, we fall into idolatry. Simply put, when we love anything, even good things themselves, more than God, we fall into idolatry. God is a jealous God, perfectly holy and righteous, and He wants all of our love and deserves all the glory. We are broken and sinful people, quick to fall into idolatry, but because of God’s great love for us we are restored through Jesus. Rather than finding our identity in sinful idolatry, we can live in a freedom and hope of knowing and loving Jesus who is so much greater.

  • Exodus 20:3-5You shall have no other godsbefore me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water underneath the earth. You shallnot bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…”
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-6“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your Godwith all your heartand with all your souland with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
  • Psalm 96:4-6“For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”

The Horizontal Truth in Love – What does this truth mean in my relationship with humanity?

The world is broken and in need of restoration, searching for hope in many other things that are not the one true God. When we turn away from idolatry, and love God with all that we are, we are filled with hope, joy, satisfaction and life that no created thing or person can fully offer. In our daily encounters with others, let’s love people and point them to Jesus, where we find our true hope and happiness, significance and security.

  • Psalm 115:1-8“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; and so do all who trust in them.”
  • Matthew 22:37-40“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

Practical Truth in Action – How can I put this truth into action?

We should, therefore, look to God for hope and happiness, significance and security,

and be quick to flee from idolatry, putting it to death. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any idols or anything in your life that gets more time, resources, affection, and glory than God. It can be easy in daily activities to begin to love and trust in created things rather than the Creator of all things. We must daily live in the freedom offered in Christ, and not in worthless idols. Today, offer your life fully to God in worship, be transformed by the power of the gospel, and love the one true God alone.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry
  • Romans 12:1-2“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”