How to Recognize an Idol

In last Sunday morning’s message we learned from Hosea 4 that idolatry hinders our pursuit of knowing God.  Just as the people of Israel in Hosea’s day became attached to idols (Hosea 4:17), so can we today.  Even Christians are warned about idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:21).

Almost anything or anyone can be an idol.  What makes it an idol is what’s in your heart.  Idolatry is wanting and pursuing something other than God or more than God. An idol can be anything that hinders your relationship with God. 

You can have religious idols, such as a statue on a shelf in your house or the dashboard of your car.  Worshiping a dead saint or the virgin Mary is idolatry.

Idols can be material things or what those things represent in your life, such as a new car, an old car, a fast car, a smart phone, the latest technology in TV, golf clubs, a fishing rod, a lake house, Xbox, camping trailer, or knitting bag.

Your work can be an idol, as can the sport you like to play or watch, the health you want to preserve, or the level of fitness to which you aspire.

Your spouse, your marriage, or your friends can be idols.  A certain church culture that you prefer can be an idol.  You can idolize America, how it used to be or how you think it should be.  You can idolize your concept of what God should be like.  News, sports, Netflix, video games, smartphone apps, and social media can all distract you from your relationship with God. 

These things are not evil in themselves.  Neither was the golden calf that the people of Israel worshiped.  Calves are cute, and can even be tasty!  So how can something that is good, and not even a religious icon, become an idol?  How do you know if it is an idol?

Here is a list of questions that I gave in the message.  These are intended to help us evaluate if we are allowing something to become an idol in our lives. 

  • How often and how much do I look to this for guidance, comfort, pleasure, or fulfillment?
  • Do I give up time I should spend in the Word, prayer, and in worship and fellowship with God’s people in order to pursue this?
  • If this were taken away from me, how would I react?
  • Do I do something God forbids in order to have this? Would I sin in order to get, keep, or not lose this thing or person?
  • Do I neglect people or duties in order to have or do this?
  • What do I think would make me happy if I could have it? What can I not be happy without?  What are the “if onlys” in my life?
  • What do I desire, crave, or treasure that my mind goes to when not forced to think about something else?

Ultimately, if we ask God to show us idols in our lives, He will.  He wants our whole heart, and will make sure we know if there’s anything in competition with His rightful place in our lives.  When you identify an idol, do not despair.  Do not ignore it either.  God is showing it to you so that you can acknowledge it, turn from it, and return to pursuing knowing Him with your whole heart. 

1 thought on “How to Recognize an Idol”

  1. Great post! Thank the Lord that His pursuit of making us more like Him never ends. He understands our weaknesses and desires to see us give up our idols to find happiness and fulfillment in the only thing that matters. Knowing and loving God.

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