Mark Driscoll, during the 2007 Creative Church Conference in Dallas, preached a message called “Examining Two Enemies of the Gospel.” During the sermon he recalled an occasion when he was in Visakhapatnam, India, speaking with one of the natives beside an alter where chickens were sacrificed. Driscoll says that while he was there he asked the native women, “do you think you will ever come to the United States and visit my country?” to which the women replied, “I did once, and I will never come again.” After questioning why, the woman answered, “I cannot stomach the idolatry!” She went on to say, ‘Your god is your stomach, and you have restaurants everywhere. Your god is your sports teams, and you build multi-million dollar stadiums to house them. Your god is your television, and all of the chairs in you home are lined up so that your family can gather around the alter and worship that god.’
Clearly Idolatry is not something limited to wood, stone, and gold statues, but manifests itself in everyday life. Rather than set up more mock situations of modern-day idolatry, let’s look at the deeper issue of the heart.
What is idolatry?
We were created to worship. God put us on this earth to glorify Himself — to make God look great (Isa 43:6-7)! Not as if we are making Him beautiful, but revealing what is already there. We glorify God by worshiping Him; by being utterly satisfied in Him and displaying Him to the world!
Idolatry is worshiping anything other than God. Jesus said that the most important commandment was to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The fact is that all humans worship something; we all find (or look for) our satisfaction in something. It could be money, fame, music, a significant-other, sports, or hopefully God. Worship is a heart issue, not just something you do with music. However, true satisfaction will not be bottled up inside us, but will reveal itself in our actions. This is why worship, even though it is a heart issue, will always have outward manifestations. Worship of God will manifest itself in service of God, worship of sports may manifest itself in skipping Bible study for a sports event, worship of money could manifest itself in taking a job which would cause one to miss church every week; the list could go on. The question is: are we worshiping God, or are we idolaters? Tim Keller writes,
“The Ten Commandments’ first two and most basic laws (one-fifth of all God’s law to humankind) are against idolatry. Exodus does not envision any third option between true faith and idolatry. We will either worship the uncreated God or we will worship some created thing (an idol). There is no possibility of our worshipping nothing.” (Tim Keller, “Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age”)
What are you worshiping? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves regularly. You were created for God’s glory — created to savor Him and magnify His glory throughout the world! This is worship, and anything less is idolatry. Only God warrants our worship, and only the worship of God will satisfy the void in our heart; the void that is there simply because magnifying His glory is what we we’re created for!
A true worshiper
For me, the person who comes to mind when thinking of worship is David. David treasured God supremely, and made that obvious! When I read David’s songs I can’t help but be drawn to God, and His amazing glory. Listen to David’s words in th 63rd Psalm:
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,” (Psalm 63:1-5 ESV)
For David, God was the satisfaction of his soul, and His love was better than life! What an amazing example of true worship!
Check out D. A. Carson’s video on idolatry: