I’ve had to deal with a lot of idols in my life. And I mean as a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian who has also been in leadership for over 25 years, including currently being the Senior Pastor of a local church for nine of those years.
Am I talking about putting my work or family or money ahead of serving God? No, I’m talking about my religious idolatry while faithfully serving God.
I define religious idolatry as making anything having to do with following Christ more important than my relationship with Christ Himself.
And I’ve found religious idolatry more insidious than any other form of idolatry. Why so? Partly because we often revere these things as important to being a “good Christian.” And many of these things actually are important, but they become idols when we put them before God Himself, or when they subvert His nature and purpose in our lives.
Here’s just a partial list of religious idols that God has had to deal with me about over the years…
– I’ve made the Cross more important than Jesus Himself
– I’ve made going to place (heaven) more important than knowing a Person (my heavenly Father)
– I’ve made going to heaven when I die more important than living from heaven now
– I’ve make knowing God’s Word more important than knowing the God of the Word
– I’ve worshiped worship more than God
– I’ve made the church building the “house of God” instead of my heart
– I’ve made building my church more important than Jesus building His Church
– I’ve taken heed to preaching, commentaries and opinions of men about what God says in His Word more than what God actually says in His Word
– I’ve exalted my opinion about who I am over God’s by contradicting what He says about me in His Word (I called myself a dirty sinner with an evil heart;, He calls me a new creation, dead to sin, with a new heart!)
– I’ve made knowing who I am in Christ more important than knowing the Christ in me
– I’ve made being a servant of God more important that being His son
– I’ve made my efforts more important than His affections
– I’ve made His blessings more important than His embrace
– I’ve made trying to obey God more important than just believing Him
– I’ve made my authority in Christ more important than my communion in Christ
– I’ve followed after signs and wonders instead of having them follow after me
– I’ve made success in ministry more important than His affirmation of me
– I’ve made head knowledge more important than heart knowledge
– I’ve preferred to study about God rather than actually know Him
– I’ve made love a thing rather than a Person
– I’ve made myself more loving, merciful and compassionate than God when He didn’t answer my prayers the way I thought He should’ve
– I’ve let denominations (or non-denominations) and doctrinal differences divide me from other believers in Christ
– I’ve made doctrine more important than our union in Christ
– I’ve made defending “truth” (which is my interpretation of truth) more important than coming into the unity of the Spirit
– I’ve made having to be right more important than seeking to understand
– I’ve made politics more important than the Kingdom of God
– I’ve made being a uncompromising conservative more important than being a bleeding heart liberal with the Father’s love
– I’ve hated and feared the world that my heavenly Father loves so much that He risked everything by sending Jesus to die for them so that they might be with Him
– I’ve made my eschatology more important than showing the Father’s love to the precious people of the world religions I’ve demonized
– I’ve let keeping a moral standard be more important than being caught unconditionally accepting people where they are
– I’ve played God by condemning people’s lifestyle or unrepentant behavior
– I’ve played God by withholding forgiveness from people who hurt me
– I’ve made playing “God” in people’s lives more important than loving them
– I’ve made telling people what’s wrong with them more important than Who loves them
All of these religious idols have come crashing down, one by one, swept away by a continual flood of God’s overwhelming love–so overwhelming at times that all I can do is lay at His feet until my strength returns. And every time I encounter the Father’s outrageous love this way, I love others a little more and critically judge them a little less. And all of my frustration and vitriol against what I think is wrong with the world—and with everybody else but me–gives way to endless waves of joy that floods my soul.
One thing I know for certain now…His love never fails.