Elisabeth Elliot once wrote “The Christian life is a process of God breaking our idols one by one.” I believe she is right.
Throughout Scripture we are warned against the danger of idols. In the Ten Commandments we are commanded not to have any idols, nor to make an idol. In the story of Aaron and the Golden Calf we are shown the danger of idols. Through the prophets we are warned about the spiritual degeneration caused by idols. Seeking to encourage the church, the apostle John wrote, “Little children, keep yourself from idols. Amen” (1 John 5:21).
Amen, indeed! Idols are to the soul what cancer is to the liver – fatal. Simply put, an idol is anything that has command over our affections. It is the thing (or things) that we desire most.
Idols lead to spiritual destitution because we were created to worship and desire God above all things. At the core of our beings, we all worship something. We were created to worship. There is no getting away from it. Either we worship our God and creator, or we worship something else. Idols steal the worship that rightfully belongs to God. In the process, they choke off the spiritual life we receive through proper worship of God.
Proper worship is essential for spiritual health. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is described as offering all people the waters of life (Rev 21:6). In John 4:14, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “But whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” When we worship the true, living God through Jesus Christ, we are fed the spiritual water that gives life and sustenance to our souls. Without the “waters of life” we die.
The problem with idols is that they promise temporary relief and satisfaction. We all long for spiritual satisfaction; and only God can fill that need. But most people substitute that desire with something else – an idol. In the big picture of spiritual life and death, the satisfaction that an idol brings is similar to the relief that a strong pain killer can bring to a patient suffering terminal cancer. As the pain killer brings relief for a brief time, so does the idol. When the satisfaction of the idol begins to wear off, most people simply substitute the idol for a new one, believing the new idol will bring more satisfaction. This process, unfortunately, is continued until the spiritual cancer destroys the person.
Jesus is the only cure for all spiritual disease. When we replace our idols with the worship of the true, living God through Christ, we discover that the waters of life Jesus freely gives both eliminates the spiritual disease, and brings profound satisfaction to the soul that never ceases.
“Little children, keep yourself from idols. Amen.” Amen indeed!