God’s Word in Exodus 20:3-5 is both a command and a warning: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,”
This command and warning is repeated again and emphasised in Exodus 34: 14 “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”.
Yet, we are faced with raging, rampant idolatry in the world today that disrespects the Lord God Almighty and is in opposition to our relationship with Him, which is a relationship of love based on worship, adoration, reverence, submission, surrender, service, obedience, and dependence.
Idolatry is anything we allow to take priority over and undermine our relationship with God; from a false belief to an addiction, activity, object, person, pastime, obsession or habit.
I am talking of us making idols (false gods) of: money; entertainers and entertainment; sport, sportspeople and sports teams; food; homes; vehicles; work; careers; fame; success; sex; science; education; philosophy; political belief, aspirations and leaders; spouses and children; family; and even our churches, Christian leaders and the work we do for the Lord – they can all become an idol, which we allow to take precedence over our relationship with our Holy Father.
However, the most pervasive form of idolatry, today, is self, which places self-worship, self-glorification, self-gratification, self-indulgence, self-esteem and self-mage above God.
Living to self
Instead of dying to self and living to Christ, we live to self and die to God, allowing self to become our idol.
We worship at the altar of self-satisfaction at the expense of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind; and loving our neighbours as ourselves; that Jesus told us are the great commandments on which hang all the law and prophets (Matt 22:37-40).
In fact, self (that is proud, carnal, worldly, and lustful) rears its ugly head throughout our lives and stands at the centre of our idolatry of money and pleasure.
Self-worship in the 21st Century is characterised by the importance of image, which is manifested in the passion we have for selfies, and the time we devote to creating computer-generated personas for which we sacrifice so much of our effort and energy, yet so much of which is insincere, artificial and a virtual mask.
The virtual, which is largely driven by the internet, is a growing part of the idolatry-of-self challenge that we must overcome as more and more people in the world are living their lives defined by and bowing down to the self-image they project via the internet.
However, this virtual not-real self-image has both a material and spiritual effect, not least of which is to disconnect us from Spirit, even though all life is determined by Spirit, for God is Spirit.
We are spending little-or-no time devoted to prayer and walking in the Spirit, while most of our time is devoted to walking in our material circumstances and accumulating possessions, and a disturbingly growing amount of time is devoted to our virtual circumstances and growing our virtual persona.
This is not to say that everything about the internet, cellphones, computers and electronic communication is bad, on the contrary many of the devices and applications are extremely useful; they have improved communication, access to information and the quality of our lives, but balance and self-control is crucial when it comes to how much of our time is devoted to them, especially their games and self-promotion functions.
A lack of control has the effect of our lives becoming simulated, which can easily turn into a stronghold obstructing our Spirit development and having a negative effect on our material lives by undermining real person-to-person, eye-to-eye communication and relationships with our family and friends.
Most forms idolatry practices, today, whether virtual or real, have self in common; with the aim of increasing our self-esteem in the eyes of the world and the corporate goal of having complete control of the world, placing ourselves above God and making ourselves the gods of our lives.
Our pride, disobedience and desire to be like God has been our fatal downfall since Adam and Eve, and it continues to be so, today. We need to repent, humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are nothing without our Creator, Lord God Almighty on Whom we are completely dependent, Who is worthy of our praise and sustains us in all ways and always.
Change of focus
We need to focus on Him and concentrate on that part of us which is Spirit, infinite and eternal, for all else will pass away (the material, the natural, and the virtual) as Revelations 21: 5-8 promises: “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ . . . ‘He who overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death’.”
Instead of idolising self, we should be dying to self.
Uncle Angus Buchan, in a Devotion called “Dying to Self” says, “Our biggest enemy is ourselves. If we can die to ourselves and let Jesus Christ live in us, then we will have eternal victorious life”.
He says we need to die in order to live – we need to choose Jesus Christ above ourselves.
“The easiest way to die to self is to concentrate on the Lord. We have to become one with Christ,” says Buchan.
“How do we do that? Stop concerning yourself with what other people think of you and start focussing on the Lord.”
Buchan says we need to set ourselves apart and be different.
We ought to spend: more time pleasing God and less time pleasing people; more time sacrificing time to the Lord in worship and prayer and less time making an idol of the pleasures of the flesh; more time walking in the eternal truth of the Spirit and less time stagnating in the transient fact of the virtual; more time developing self-control and surrendering our carnal appetites to Jesus and less time being dictated to by the fulfilment of our sensual desires, as we wait for our Saviour to return.
Our focus on the Spirit through Lord Jesus Christ, as opposed to the carnal, material or virtual, is critical to overcoming idolatry, (especially of the self) and maturing in our relationship with God.