“My children, be on the watch against false gods.” 1 John 5:21. (N.E.B.)
Idolatry is alive and flourishing. In our enlightened and highly sophisticated twentieth century, there are still heathen people who are worshipping idols made of stone, metal, wood, and other materials. Wherever one travels in pagan Asian countries, he will notice temples and shrines where the worshippers bow down and give homage to inanimate objects. Others, overlooking the Creator, attach special sacredness to the creatures that He has made.
It is an undisputed reality of life that man has an inner need which he tries to fulfill, and that is the need to worship. Unfortunately, millions of people are venerating deities that are not able to give them salvation.
Idolatry is not something new. It has been around for a very long time, even before the creation of man. The first idolater was the angel Lucifer. His aspirations and ruthless ambitions to be like God Himself caused his downfall. The gods that he worshipped were power, praise, position and self-love. Do you remember reading this in the Bible: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also
upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Isaiah 14:13, 14.
Lucifer became the first “I” specialist. These gods of his own making were cast down to this earth after the terrible war that ensued in heaven. His animosity was now directed toward the earth’s first couple. Through his success in deceiving them he became their god and they became idol worshipers. Instead of serving the true Creator they served the Devil.
Things have not changed since the expulsion of Lucifer from heaven. Man is still serving deities but they have perhaps taken on a different form or come under a new name. Satan has ingeniously clothed his gods in new and attractive garments to make them more appealing to his subjects. Basically, he has hidden their god-like identity in order to deceive the people.
Before we continue in our article we need to know what the word idolatry means. Here are some good definitions: “Whatever divides the affections, and takes away from the soul supreme love to God, assumes the form of an idol.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 289. “Anything that men love and trust in instead of loving the Lord and trusting wholly in Him becomes an idol.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 250. “Anything which tends to abate our love for God, or to interfere with the service due Him, becomes thereby an idol.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, pp. 1011, 1012.
Since we now have some good definitions of the word idolatry, we would like to bring out some outstanding idols of our modern times.
The god of Pleasure
“…Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:4. It is one of the prevailing sins of the last days that man will worship pleasure above God. The sin of selfish pleasure is a particular idol for whom nominal Christians in affluent nations spend more time and money than for giving to God what is due to Him. The American people contribute about $8.5 billion to churches, but $150 billion to their gods of selfish pleasure. What a significant difference that is! $14.5 billion is spent on alcohol and $5 billion on radio and television. It is where the neon lights flash, the music blares, the nightclubs and amusement centers operate, that the masses congregate and selfishly squander their money. When the offering plate is passed around in the church, however, a meager sum is put in. How tragic that America has more interest in the god of pleasure than in worshipping the true God!
Americans are becoming hypnotized and desensitized with all the brutality that is found at the sport stadiums. People are eagerly seeking for new thrills that do not ultimately satisfy the human heart.
The theaters are frequently jam-packed by fans who want to see the latest action or science fiction films. Could it be that the outer-space movies are slowly conditioning the people for the great deception to come–the impersonation of Christ by the Devil himself?
Besides the cinema-god, there is also the TV goddess. She has captured the audience of both young and old. She has interfered with the allegiance due God. This goddess can rob someone of sleep, prayer, missionary work. But it is not only the time factor that is significant, but also the content of what is being watched. Is this message addressed to you–a person addicted to watching violent, immoral, foolish or silly programs that numb the senses to the voice of God? Isn’t it high time to consider soberly what this goddess is doing to your life and family?
Many years ago, Ellen White wrote the following: “The true Christian will not desire to enter any place of amusement or engage in any diversion upon which he cannot ask the blessing of God.” —Messages to Young People, p. 398.
The god of Materialism
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24.
Wealth or riches are not evil of themselves. Material wealth may be used for good or evil purposes. The worshippers of material possessions have a grasping spirit, show indifference to human misery, and have a false sense of values and mixed-up priorities.
God sees selfishness and greed as basic to man’s nature and the root cause of his troubles. “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim. 6:10.
Instead of serving materialism, we should use our means to serve the best interest of humanity. Let us never forget that the talent of riches is given in order to glorify God and help our fellow man.
The god of Appetite
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Phil. 3:18-19.
This god may be found at many social functions, banquets, in the home and even in the church kitchen. Millions of people are foolishly living to eat rather than eating to live. There is a vast difference between these two principles. To eat and drink as a means of health and strength is sensible and wise. But over-eating and drinking is dangerous and is considered as the sin of gluttony and idolatry. Having an uncontrolled appetite for even good foods weakens the body and shortens the life.
The god of Appetite does not embrace excessive eating only; it also includes the use of tobacco and liquor. These two little gods have controlled the world. Man is not free from these enslaving and degrading gods. It has cost him a fortune to serve them, and the results of worshipping at their poisonous shrines are ruin and devastation. Incidentally, there are also sugar gods, salt and pepper gods, artificial flavor, and, of course, the common junk-food god. The Bible gives us good counsel in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
The god of Self Worship
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not
as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in
the week, I give tithes of all that possess.” Luke 18:11, 12.
The Pharisee worshipped himself and didn’t see that he was a sinner in need of repentance. He said, in effect, “I’m so good, I’m so righteous and holy, and so much better than my neighbor!” He thought he was a follower of the Lord, but he was deceiving himself, for he was actually idolizing himself. There was a lack of true godliness and its void was filled by self-righteousness. The fact that he was fasting and paying tithe testified that he was acquainted with the scriptures, and outward acts were meant to convey his personal piety to others. He was doing his “good deeds” for others to see and praise him. The motive of love, the only one that counts, was missing.
Today, the modern-day Pharisee is still craving popularity and attention and comparing himself with others.
The god of self-worship may also include pride in one’s talents, education, title, and possibly even taking credit for having won souls to the truth.
People as gods (Idols)
“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
“Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves.” — The Great Controversy, p. 595.
It is God’s desire for man to look to Him for guidance and never to make any human being a god. This is especially applicable in a religious sense. The Bible plainly cautions us to beware of anyone who claims to be God on earth. The anti-Christian system appropriates the very titles of Jesus Christ to itself. In this way the attention is focused on sinful man.
There are some who attend church only when their preacher-idol occupies the pulpit. The story is told about Thomas K. Beecher who substituted for his brother Henry Ward Beecher at Plymouth Church. Many came to hear the latter out of curiosity. When Thomas appeared in the pulpit many of the visitors started for the door. At that moment, Thomas raised his hand for attention and then said, “All those who came here this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church.
All who came to worship God may remain.”
We can learn a valuable lesson from this story. We should be careful not to idolize a person because of his talents and eloquence but truly strive to know God better.
A preacher should not be praised for the message he brings to the flock. No matter who speaks, always humbly accept the message as from the Lord, even if the messenger has problems speaking.
Besides the idolizing of religious leaders in the world, the world has an obsession for its rock entertainers, movie stars, baseball and football heroes and other celebrities.
It is sad that people are honored to such an extent that it makes them very arrogant and self-centered.
Churches as Idols
This may sound strange to the ears, that a church could become an idol. It happens when someone trusts in the church organization for salvation, rather than in Jesus. Don’t misunderstand, please, organization with all its ministrative functions has its place and serves the church so it can operate efficiently. It can’t be dispensed with. But merely coming to church and trusting in the law will not guarantee one’s entrance into God’s kingdom.
Mistakenly, some place more emphasis on the outward observances and rules of behavior than upon the inward change of character. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that
saves. Remember this text in John 3:5: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
“There are many who seem to imagine that outside observances are sufficient for salvation, but formalism, rigorous attendance of religious exercises, will fail to bring the peace of God which passeth understanding. It is Jesus alone who can give us peace.” —
The Review and Herald, November 18, 1890.
“To subscribe the name to a church creed is not of the least value to anyone if the heart is not truly changed. … Men may be church members, and may apparently work earnestly, performing a round of duties from year to year, and yet be unconverted.” The Review and Herald, February 14, 1899.
A reverence for the forms, ceremonies and ordinances of religion may lead to idolatry. The man who trusts in baptism as a means of salvation rather than as an outward sign of an inward cleansing has made this sacred ordinance an idol. Also he who looks to the wine and bread of the communion service as a means of salvation, rather than its memorial is an idolater. We could go on mentioning outward acts of worship in which men trust rather than look to Jesus who is the center of these. Think for a moment of the Jews who prided themselves on the beautiful temple. They placed such undue importance on this structure, that they excluded Jesus and His love. In all their rituals and ceremonies pertaining to the law, they lost sight of the Lamb of God. Could this happen to us?
It is time we awake and worship Jesus Christ. He is the true God among the thousands of false gods. The fact that He has given His life for the human race proves He LOVES US. Calvary was not in vain.
Won’t we serve Him, worship and praise Jesus for the wonderful gift of salvation? This mighty God is infinitely superior to all the modern gods. He is the living God who has mercy and pardon to offer.