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Battling Idolatry in Our Own Hearts

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A couple weeks ago, my friend told me about a woman named Lily.* Lily lives in Tibet, a country known for flat-roofed temples, snow-capped mountains, and colorful tapestries.

Lily practiced Buddhism for most of her life. In Buddhism, people seek “enlightenment” in hopes of stopping an endless cycle of reincarnation. Buddhism remains the most practiced religion amongst Tibetans. Lily worshipped Buddha as the holiest, most compassionate, and wisest man to ever exist.

As an adult, Lily invested her entire life savings into Buddha statues. As a grandmother, she reserved a special room in her house where bronze and gold Buddhas lined the shelves. Gratefully, though, after several years, Lily came to know Christ! This meant God now sat on the throne of her life.

Smashing Idols
Lily immediately began planning how to get rid of her Buddha statues. She could donate them: reduce, reuse, and recycle, right? Or she could melt the gold and bronze and sell the material. After all, that was her entire life savings! Lily looked into God’s Word, and she read this:

The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 7:25)

After praying, Lily invited her family over. She didn’t want anyone else to place their faith in these idols, so she handed a rod to each adult and unlocked the door to her special room. Shards of gold were sent smashing to the floor, and bronze dust permeated the air.

Identifying Idols
Like Lily, we too have idols to smash. Regardless of whether or not they sit on a shelf, hang in our bedroom, or rest in the kitchen, we must squash them. “So,” you may be wondering, “what kind of idols are we talking about?”

One way to identify idols in your life is to evaluate which things or which people you rely on to do what only Jesus can do. For example, we make an idol of self-preservation by seeking the perfect body, high academic marks, or an impressive resume. We think the large muscles or toned legs lead to a healthy and long-lasting body; top marks equal a high-paying job; an impressive resume leads to greater success. We begin to set our mind, heart, and soul into these goals and we grow enslaved to them. Like Lily used to do, we set aside more money, time, and attention for these things than for God.

Maybe it’s not that simple for you. Maybe you idolize the approval of man, so you’re constantly gossiping, always striving to win, torn between exhaustion, anger, and fear. Or maybe you idolize comfort, so you try to eliminate every risk, financial and physical, even if it means disobedience to God.

Fleeing Idols
After we identify our idols, the next question becomes, “How do we flee these idols?” Here are four suggestions to get you started:

  1. Pray. Seek God’s strength to fight and His wisdom to discern.
  2. Give thanks. Offer up thanksgiving for what God in His grace gives you daily.
  3. Set boundaries. Limit the time and attention given to things that may be becoming idols. In its place, you might try journaling, serving others, or placing the monetary investment elsewhere.
  4. Cling to the gospel. Squash idols with the truth that covers our sin––the gospel. Speak the gospel to yourself every day and use Scripture to support it.

Consider how fleeing idolatry might play out practically in light of the gospel. When battling the approval of man, recognize that God now looks upon His people based on who they are in Jesus: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11). And when you do sin, remember: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is continually gracious to those who are in Christ.

Idolizing perfection? Remember: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Acknowledge your sins and your poor decisions, and remember that God knows them too: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). You may experience or fear rejection, loss, humiliation, or embarrassment, but God knows everything about us and He still loves us.

Idolizing power? “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:1, 27). God is the Creator and Author of Life. He alone reigns.

Idolizing a person, object, or relationship? “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Remember that God has reconciled you to Himself, and there is nothing greater than Him. The eternal life He gives us is greater than anything this world has to offer.

Our hearts all too often deceive us into thinking that rejecting an idol results in a cataclysmic loss. But remember God’s grace to Lily: though her entire life’s savings were destroyed in an hour, she found what she was created for––to know and glorify the one true God. Lily’s idols had been destroyed, but she had come to know the Savior who gave His life to redeem her. And by God’s grace, Lily led her grandchildren to Christ. Squashing idols can bring glory to God in the lives of others as well!

*Name changed for security purposes

Alexandria hopes to close the gap between people and God’s Word through writing, so that they may come to know God’s love for them. She currently serves in the children’s ministry at her local church, Harvest Bible Chapel Oakville, and will intern with Power to Change Students in the spring.
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