On idolatry – Part 2

You are a slave to something.

That was the point of my last post, and this post will make a lot more sense, if you go read that one first. In sum, we are created to serve something. Everyone has a master, and they serve it with their life. Last week, I stated that even skeptics, those people who claim to serve nothing and no one, are really just deceiving themselves. Simply calling your “god” something else, does not mean you do not worship it.

However, this week, my sights are aimed at those of us who actually claim to serve a god. In specific, those of us who claim to serve Christ.

Christians, this post is for you.

The Bible presents a clear record of worship. As mentioned last week, the Bible points out that man was created for a purpose. He was created for work and service to his heavenly maker. This work and service is an act of worship to God. As Christians, this service is not directed at some generic understanding of god. We believe the God of the Bible has revealed himself through his word and his acts in history. He has a name, he is specific, and he is personal.

Furthermore, the Bible is plain when it says that God’s clearest revelation of himself came when he descended to earth and was born a man. God became man, and his name is Jesus.

As a Christian, our service is to Christ.

In fact, that is precisely what worship is. It is service to your God. Unlike the modern concept of worship that is nothing more than the 20 minutes of music before the preacher gets up to talk, worship is life-encompassing. It is a lifestyle more than a single act. Is singing during that 20 minutes worship? Certainly. But your view of worship is terribly anemic if you think that is it.

So, saying we were created to serve God is the same as saying we were created to worship God. Those two statements are basically one in the same.

Furthermore, if you do not serve God, then you do not worship him.

The Bible has a word for this. The act of worshipping anything other than God is called idolatry. Simply put, you are a slave to something, and if it is not Christ, then you are an idolator. Like the word worship, I think modern Christians often misunderstand idolatry.

Idolatry, to most Christians, is how all those people out in the jungle with bones through their nose worship. We conger up images of a bunch of tribal people bowing down around some stone statue. Then, because that seems silly, and like something we would never do, we check that sin off the list as though we do not commit it. However, idolatry stands at the very heart of most every sin we commit.

I will say it again. If you are not serving Christ with your life, then you are serving something else, and you are an idolator.

Our Christian culture, particularly in the South has deeply rooted idols. In the sleepy little town where I grew up, most claim to be a Christian. (Honestly, that is true of most of the Southern United States.) Yet, far fewer live as such.

Sure, most cultural Christians in the States have a list of “do’s and don’ts.” There is some framework in their mind for being a good person or acting like a Christian. But it is simply that, a framework of actions they have decided allow them to live an acceptable life.

That is not the gospel, and that is not serving Christ.

In truth, most cultural Christians today give little service to Christ. Their lives are lived in search of their own fulfillment and enjoyment. Decisions are made not for the benefit of Christ and his church, but for the betterment of the individual. Cultural Christians serve a master, but it is not Christ.

This is nothing more than idolatry.

These actions prove not to be genuine acts of service to Christ. Instead, they reveal a heart that has a deeper love, the real idol behind the veneer they have labeled “Christ.”

Ironically, this American cultural Christianity is very similar to the brand of Islam I encountered in West Africa. Out in the villages of West Africa everyone claimed to be a Muslim, and all believed very much that they were. However, these people who claimed to be adherents to a radically monotheistic religion would then turn around and sacrifice a goat to their ancestors. They still had their idols under the surface of their Islamic religion.

It is no different in America today. Many claim Christianity, and yet they worship something completely different. It will be subtle, like “success” or money or happiness. In many instances, we fall prey to worshipping ourselves. We’ve tried desperately to become our own God. All of our decisions are made to with self-seeking motives.

And if we look back at Genesis, is that not how it all started?

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,  but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:1-6, emphasis added).

Adam and Eve were the first idolators, trying to place themselves in the seat of God.

So many years later, we have the same problem.

Keelan

Keelan Cook (@keelancook) is working on a PhD in Biblical Studies at Southeastern and works in the Center for Great Commission Studies. He spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB. Keelan is currently one of the pastors at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC.

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