Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Discerning your Idols

One of the things that has really transformed the way I look at life is a really honest realization of the things that enslave me -- my idols. And I think there are three "levels" of idolatry, and I think the deeper the level of idolatry you acknowledge, the more change in your life you see.

1. Shallow level: "External sins are idols." Getting drunk, lust, crude language, forgetting to read the bible and praying. Most of us know that these things are wrong and harmful, and sometimes we do them, and wish we didn't.

2. Deeper level: "Behind external sins are deeper idols." We realize that we can't break the pattern of laziness in our lives, or our pattern of anxiety, our our patterns of people-pleasing. And then we realize that behind our laziness, is a deep fear of failure -- we run away from hard challenges, because we hate feeling incompetent. Behind our anxiety is a deep fear of not being able to control our circumstances. Behind the people-pleasing is our deep desire to be loved and accepted. All our idols are an attempt to find some kind of self-worth.

3. Deepest level: "Even my goodness is an idol." Perhaps the hardest to acknowledge and the most important idol, is realizing that even our efforts at purging our idols, when we focus on our efforts to be good, are actually still turning away from God as our savior. We want to be our own saviors, by forcing God to bless us by our good behaviors. When our goodness is our idol, we become self-righteous, proud people.

In the end, all of life is seeing our idols, and turning from them to God. Because all of our idols are worthless -- approval from people and even our self-effort may temporarily give us comfort, but the end leave us empty and wanting more, like a cheap drug -- or like a wooden idol.

...the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'...Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isa. 44:17, 21)

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