Updated: Jan 29
By: Lizzie Williams
Idolatry: what an icky word. But while it may be icky, it’s been on my heart to talk to you about idolatry for a while. We know it’s bad; it’s even in the ten commandments to “have no other gods” (Exodus 20:3). We see it so evidently in the Bible when people kept turning away from God and worshipping statues such as Baal. For example, I’ve been reading Jeremiah lately and God gives the people of Jerusalem so many chances to turn away from their false gods and back to him, but their hearts are stubborn, so (because he is a just God) God must punish them for their wickedness. If you’re anything like me, you read that and think “what a bunch of idiots.” I mean, why would anyone turn away from the living God, the God that created us and provides for us every single day, and turn to a statue? They literally melted some gold together and then were like, “yes, this is god...” uh what? We always think (hopefully) that “I would never do that!” But actually how true is that statement?
I know you probably aren’t worshipping a statue, but you might still be committing idolatry. How is this possible? Well the way I see idolatry is this, anything you put before God is an idol. For example, have you ever skipped quiet time to do something else? I know I have. Sometimes I lay in bed and I scroll on instagram for a while with the intent of still logging on to my Bible app before I fall asleep, but then I scroll for too long, get too tired and say “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or I get so busy with schoolwork that I just don’t have time to read my Bible that day. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, those are just a couple examples of how I let things get in the way of my relationship with God. Maybe you can’t relate to those specific examples, but take a second to stop and think if there is anything in your life that you might be putting before God. It could be a person (possibly a significant other), an activity (i.e. binge-watching Netflix) or something totally different.
Another way to identify idolatry is that it leads us to do things that are not glorifying to God. For example, if I love my boyfriend so much and I just want to keep him happy so I send him nudes or I sleep with him, then I am putting what he wants and putting his happiness above the things that God wants and above God’s commands. Therefore, I am putting him above God. Or another example is I want a good grade so badly that I am willing to cheat on my exam. I care about my grades so much that I no longer care about honesty, a value that is so evident in the heart of God. One example that really convicted me was from Pastor Mike Patz who pointed out that we put down the name of God at football games during our alma mater, claiming that “there’s no other name as glorious” as that of the University of Florida. In reality, the name of Jesus is and always will be more glorious and that is what we should be proclaiming.
Idolatry doesn’t even have to be in regards to a physical thing. For example, Colossians 3:5 says that greed is idolatry. That’s pretty convicting considering we live in a culture that values wealth and pushes us to always want more. We see that Judas idolizes wealth as he is willing to turn over Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). People can idolize popularity, doing whatever it takes to stay liked. People can idolize happiness, which is very unfortunate as doing so actually pulls us farther away from our true source of joy which is God. Idolatry can take so many forms.
So, you recognize you have an idolatry problem, what do you do now? The first thing I will always tell you to do is pray about it. We are called to pray without ceasing and to pray about everything (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6). And as you pray, repent of your sin, asking for forgiveness (Acts 3:19). Something else that I have found to be so empowering and freeing when it comes to idolatry is fasting.
Fasting is simply going without something, and it is a time to draw closer to God. We see fasting so many times in the Bible, especially before big decisions are to be made, people are to go do work for God, or when people need to draw near to God (Acts 13:3, Joel 2:12, Exodus 34:28). Fasting doesn’t just mean we give up food or drink, we can fast from anything. Furthermore, it is not convenient or easy and it’s not meant to be; instead, it should be a time when we rely on God for our strength and peace.
Additionally, during times when we would would do whatever we are fasting from, we should spend time with God. For example, if you decide to fast Netflix, any time you would watch Netflix, spend time reading, praying, and meditating. If you decide to fast Netflix but then fill that time with other worldly things such as browsing instagram, then you aren’t really accomplishing what you set out to do; you’re just trading one idol for another. Also, I get that fasting can be more easily done for some things than others. Like, how do I fast from my boyfriend or from school? Well, for the boyfriend situation, I would say talk to him about it. If you are equally yoked, like we are called to be, he should also want you to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Maybe set apart certain hours where instead of texting him, you talk to God instead. When it comes to school, maybe try to get ahead on homework so that you can take a whole day to focus on God. Like I said, it’s not easy, and it’s not convenient, but it is rewarding. Through fasting, we grow closer to God, and we gain self-control, which is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If you want to do this, but you’re not sure how, I know that Sabrina or I would love to help, so feel free to reach out. You can also go to your accountability groups and ask them to help keep you accountable during this time. However, I don’t recommend going around and bragging about your fast as we are called to fast in secret (Matthew 6:16-18).
Overall, examine your heart and see what in your life may be taking the place of God. It may not be obvious, but it may still be there. Pray and ask God to reveal this to you. Above all, remember that you are forgiven and loved. Have a blessed week!