We have been created for worship. Therefore, we will ultimately worship something, even if it’s something less than God. Peter Kreeft, in Christianity for Modern Pagans, aptly points out, “The alternative to theism is not atheism but idolatry.” Even as Christians, the temptation to worship something in God’s creation—or of our own “creation,” for that matter—remains, and we can often fall victim to it without even realizing.
If we’re willing to look closer, what we worship—read: what we place above us—is the person or thing we believe will give us the most pleasure or benefit. We may subjugate ourselves to it, but ultimately it’s still about us. So let’s frame the question this way: What do you let serve you, other than God? That’s your idol, or at least your potential idol.
Still having problems identifying your idols? Let me make it even easier, albeit in ascending order of emotional difficulty. By the time we’re done, this may feel more like a pile-on than simply moving from one category to the next, but only means we’ve uncovered a big idol. So let’s….
Follow the money. Well, where does it go? And for that matter, how much of your “essential” spending is essential? As you observe where your money goes, think about the feelings you have in relation to those “purchases.” What are you really trying to buy? Security, pleasure, reputation?
Follow your time. Same idea. Where’s your time going? And again, yes, some blocks of time are immovable or at least difficult to change. But where does your “down time” go? And for that matter, do you need to spend that much time at work, or is it a choice? Either way, what’s motivating those choices?
Follow your tongue. Now it gets harder—first of all, because you actually have to listen to what comes out of your mouth. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34, KJV). So, what does your abundance look like? Or to put it bluntly: What are you full of? And why?
Follow your fear. What causes you anxiety? What makes you defensive? What do you find yourself unnaturally worried about? Don’t stop and justify it with, “Well, I have to, because….” Just answer the question. Then answer this one: What’s that fear telling you about what you truly value? What idol is lurking behind that fear, pulling the strings?
Follow this sentence to its ultimate conclusion: “My life is wasted unless I…” As you do this, take special note of that last little word. Because ultimately, all of this idol talk is about the I. We turn to our I-dols because we don’t believe that what God has for I is good enough. And yet, our own efforts ultimately leave us feeling even emptier—as if our lives have been wasted.
Here’s the thing: God doesn’t feel your life is a waste. Ever. You don’t have to fix it. And anything in your life that does need fixing is God’s responsibility. But we have to let Him handle it.
What’s more—and we’ll delve more into this in future weeks: Your life is a small speck in the face of eternity. Any “waste” that’s happened, or is happening now, is not only redeemable but nothing in the face of God’s glory. And as you lay down the idols you’ve identified, God will take that “waste” and transform it into something that reflects that glory.
As we close this section on laying down your past, there’s probably no better way to do so than with Romans 8:1-2: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (NIV). The past is as done as you want it to be. God will use it as He sees fit—not to condemn you, but to transform you back into His image. So lay down the things we worship aside from God, and let’s move into the present.
Lay It Down Today
So, where did all that “following” lead you today? Now’s the time to lay those things down—literally, if possible.
For every idol you identified, try to find a physical item that represents it. Is it a home or car? Get out your keys. Money? Get out your wallet or purse. Reputation? Find an award or some other item.
Then, get on your knees before God. No, seriously, do it. Then lay down each of these items before Him. Confess how, and why, they’ve become idols in your life. Then ask God to help you to trust Him, and to use these items for His glory instead of yours. Then thank God that He is the one who’s truly worthy of your worship, and begin living more in that reality.