Idolatry: The Principal Crime of the Human Race, Part 3


Jeremiah’s Indictment against Idolatry among God’s Chosen

Listen to the heart-rending words of God to His people.

This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, ‘It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.’ “As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the people of Israel are disgraced—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets. They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns. “Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,” declares the Lord. “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord: “Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? (Jeremiah 2:5, 10-11, 20-21, 25-29, 31, NIV)

These verses in Jeremiah are one of the greatest indictments against idolatry ever written to the house of God. All churches, pastors, teachers and Christians of this generation would do well to heed these fiery words of truth. What fault do we find in God that we must stray from Him? Why must we exchange our glorious God at the bank of this world for worthless idols that cannot heal, help or save us? Why must we love our idols so much and refuse to give up our foreign gods, consulting with them as if they were our spiritual father? Why do we so often turn our backs toward God and declare, “I will not serve you! I will not obey you! I will not take heed to your Word!” Why do we make gods and worship their images, disgracing God by thinking these idols give our life meaning and purpose? Why do our hearts roam the earth, searching for something to satisfy our inner thirst and hunger instead of simply coming to God and surrendering all to Him? Why do we forsake God who is the fountain of living waters and hew out for ourselves old, broken cisterns that can hold no water? Why do we feel the need to run wild with the world and prostitute our hearts to another god?

The Wounding of God’s Heart

All of our idols are worthless! All of our idols are broken! All of our idols are rubbish! Why is our heart an idol factory when we are children of the most spectacular and amazing God the world has ever seen? Why do we desert our God, forget Him days without number? What does an idol possess that God does not? Yet Ezekiel declares that Israel, God’s beloved, had deserted Him! They crushed and broke God’s heart! Are we continuing in this same heart-breaking pattern today by deserting our God for our precious idols? Has the church become a house of idols and thrust God from its presence? Is God grieving and shedding tears daily because of the idolatrous condition of your heart? Nothing breaks God’s heart more than the idolatry of His children.

In the nations where they have been taken as exiles, those who have been spared will remember Me—how I have been wounded by their promiscuous hearts that turned away from Me, how I have been hurt by their wandering eyes that desired lifeless idols. They will hate themselves for the evil they have done and for their detestable actions. (Ezekiel 6:9, VOICE)

They will realize how I was crushed by their unfaithful heart which turned from me and by their eyes which lusted after their idols. (NEB)

They’ll realize how devastated I was by their betrayals, by their voracious lust for gratifying themselves in their idolatries. (MSG)

I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. (ESV)

God has deep emotion and love for His children. He wants to be loved; He wants to be wanted; He wants to be adored. God’s heart is crushed when we are unfaithful to Him by giving our love and affection to an idol. God’s heart is broken and deeply hurt when we betray Him for other gods. He weeps over our hearts that turn away from Him and go whoring after idols. The intensity and depth of God’s broken heart is revealed in the Hebrew word “broken” which means to break into pieces, to be shattered, to be crushed, to be torn to pieces by a wild beast, and to be ruptured. We shatter God’s heart to pieces and wound Him when we choose to forsake Him by giving our hearts to worthless idols.

Idolatry Takes Away the Heart

Hosea 4 tells us that idolatry takes away the heart. God is devastated when He loses our hearts for He has lost our love, devotion, and worship. We choose whom we love. We choose whom our eyes adore. We choose the object of our thoughts, time and passion. We all have a first love. Is it Jesus or something else? Are we letting the spirit of Judas enter into our hearts where we depart into the night from the presence of Jesus to betray him?

Pause a moment and think who your heart is following? What has captured its passion? Who is your first love? Have I betrayed my Lord for an idol? God cries out like he did in Micah 6:3: “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!”

Jesus weeps over our hearts because he sees the plans our Heavenly Father has for our lives. He sees our calling, he sees our potential, he sees the impact we could make for his kingdom. He sees what could have been if we had not wasted our lives being seduced by an idol. Given the amazing things that God has done for us to prove His love, does He deserve such treatment? Have we become so molded by our culture that we have become tired of God? Are we tired of His commandments and calling? Are we tired of the sacrifice that He demands in following Him? Has the flame for God in our hearts been extinguished? Would we rather enjoy the things of the world than the things of heaven? Are we weary of the demands of discipleship that the Lord Jesus requires? Have we lost our heart for God and opened the door wide for idols to enter?

But God has not given up on our hearts. He cries out like in Malachi 1:2; “I have always loved you!” He wants to recapture our hearts. He wants us to turn back to Him where He waits with open arms. He is watching at the window like the father of the prodigal son, hoping to catch a glimpse of us coming back home. The words of the prophet Hosea ring true of God’s beautiful heart and His tender care of us. He can’t let us go of us or forsake us, but will always fight to regain our hearts from the clutches of idolatry.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me. “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me and my compassion overflows. (Hosea 11:1-4, 7-8, NLT)

God’s love for us is so great and vast that it is immeasurable. He treasures us and has given us abundant grace and goodness from our first breath. God has taken care of us with kindness and love, holding us by the hand, and teaching and guiding us. He has stooped down to wipe the tears from our face and to clean and mend our wounds. He is what every parent should be and a thousand times more. He has never failed us, never abandoned us and never forgot us.

Yet the tragic thread throughout the history of God’s people is they are woefully inadequate in knowing their God. They honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. They become deaf to God’s calling not hearing His pleas to come and enjoy Him, and give Him their hearts. They fail to see God’s loving hand in their lives, and He loses importance as they sacrifice their ambitions, goals, and dreams on the altar of another god. They desert God and His way of life days without number, and are determined to live life according to their own wishes. They run after the paths of other gods and crave what these gods promise. They become empty and oppressed by their own foolishness in ignoring God’s calling and invitation to turn from their wicked ways and come back to Him.

At the Heart of Every Sin is Idolatry

Just as in the Old Testament with Israel and Judah, the same is true today in the Christian church: Idolatry has consumed the heart of God’s people. Our true desire, love, and passion so often lie with another. Jesus continues to plead with our hearts like he did with Peter asking if we love him more than all the things of this world. As Christians our hearts are full of idols, and we do not even know it. At the heart of every sin against God is idolatry, and the desire for something other than God. Sin is the taking of our heart and aiming it in another direction away from God. What do you thirst for in life? What do you crave for daily? What do you hunger for in life? What is the driving force behind everything you do? Where is your appetite? The answers to these questions reveal the idols that are controlling your heart.

The Greatest Commandment

God’s loving heart is torn by our divided loyalties. He is hurt, grieves, and mourns, but His compassion still overflows towards us like a mighty river. He has laid out in the Bible for all to see what He desires, what He wants, what He craves and what He commands above all other things. At the center of His Word, Almighty God sets forth the greatest commandment and instruction for life ever given in the history of the world. This commandment is written with the very finger of God, and should be the cornerstone of our thoughts, desires, motivations and deeds. To break this commandment is to brand our heart an idolater. To violate this instruction is to break the very heart of God. To willfully turn our back on this holy decree is to label us a rebel and traitor against God’s kingdom. This commandment must be the foundation of our heart. It is the critical key to determine the condition of your heart.

Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me. “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (Exodus 20:1-5, NLT)

Then one of the scribes came up and listened to them disputing with one another, and, noticing that Jesus answered them fitly and admirably, he asked Him, Which commandment is first and most important of all [in its nature]? Jesus answered, The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. (Mark 12:28-30, AMP)

The human heart is to have one governor, king, lord, master, and God. God will share your heart with no other. This is the principal rule of the heart that God must have all of its love, devotion and worship. There is no territory for any rival god. There is no peace treaty that allows other gods to co-exist and occupy the heart. God and idols cannot live together in the same place. Nothing else can be a god in our lives. God owns the exclusive rights to every inch of our hearts. When we violate this fundamental truth, we set the entire order of God’s kingdom upside down and disrupt the essence of His creation.

The greatest thing you can ever do is to love God with every ounce of your soul, with every part of your mind, with every bit of your strength and with every fiber of our heart. Everything we are and everything we ever hope to be must be focused on loving God. He is our first love. He alone is worthy of the heart’s praise, adoration and worship. In the beginning was God and God alone. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He created the heavens and earth with the power of His Word without the help of any lifeless idol or imaginary god. In Him is life that he breathed out into every living thing throughout the earth. By Him every atom in all creation is held together. He is the light that shines in the darkness, and nothing can overpower or extinguish it. He alone is the Lord God and there is none other. All other gods are counterfeits and worthless imitations of the one true God. All other gods are imposters and charlatans who attempt to deceive their way into our hearts.

Oh that the Lord God may open our eyes and give us spiritual wisdom and insight to see the endless list of gods attempting to gain access into our hearts. This commandment must be engraved in our hearts, and we must discipline ourselves to obey it without reservation. If we disobey it, then we allow the deadliest disease ever known to mankind to infiltrate and corrupt our hearts. This commandment from the heart of God should have a big red warning sign beside it, because to ignore these holy words is to sign a death warrant for our own spiritual, mental and physical destruction. So when Satan comes knocking at the door of our heart with the temptations of idolatry we can cry out like Jesus “The prince of the world is coming and he has nothing in me; he has no claim on me; he has no hold over me; he has no power over me; and he has no part in me!” John 14:30.

In this first commandment, the Hebrew word for “before me” is al paniym, and means before or in front of my face. It literally says: “Don’t ever let any other god get between your face and my face!” God wants the intimacy, closeness, and tenderness of a face-to-face relationship with His children. God wants us to look on our face, and make His face shine upon us, without the interference of an idol being stuck between our faces. No idol should ever block or hide the face of God in our lives. We deeply insult God to His face when we are more in love with an idol than we are with Him. He lovingly whispers to our heart, “Here I am! Here I am! Look to me! Gaze on my face! Come to me and let us fellowship together and enjoy each other in the intimate embrace of love!” The Lord is ready to respond to your heart in a second for you are His most beloved. God’s arms are wide open to receive you! Why are you letting an idol block your path to the heart of God? Why are you letting an idol cast its shadow on your face and prevent your eyes from gazing on the glory and majesty of God Almighty?

The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name. All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes. All day long they insult me to my face by worshiping idols in their sacred gardens. They burn incense on pagan altars. (Isaiah 65:1-3, NLT)

The Two Faces of Genesis

The first usage of paniym in the book of Genesis sets forth a foundational truth about the face and the daily choice that confronts the heart.

Now the earth had become waste and wild and darkness was on the face (paniym) of the roaring deep but the Spirit of God was brooding on the face (paniym) of the waters. (Genesis 1:2, EBR)

When the archangel Lucifer, God’s second in command, revolted against God and was cast out from God’s presence to the earth with one third of the angels, it had a cataclysmic effect on the earth. The entire earth was engulfed in darkness and became a wasteland of chaotic ruin. Imagine raging, violent waves of troubled waters that had consumed all the earth. God describes the face of this roaring deep as darkness. This is the first face in Scripture, the face of darkness, and it was caused by Lucifer’s pride, rebellion and rejection of the one true God. This face was borne out of war with God and tasted crushing defeat. This is the face of emptiness, the face of ruin, the face of destruction and the face of nothingness. This is the true face of idolatry.

The second face is the face of the Spirit of God that was moving in the chaos to bring glorious restoration to the earth. No matter how fierce the waves or how turbulent the waters, the Spirit of God was the face of light, the face of life, the face of hope and the face of deliverance. The Spirit of God is brooding in deep thought over the ruins of the earth, ready to spring into action to bring to pass His magnificent plans in the midst of chaos. The Spirit of God is about to renew the face of the entire earth and bring life, light and order back to creation. The Spirit of God breathes life into every living thing and dispels the darkness with one word from His lips.

The Spirit of God is the living, true God in action, bringing God’s will to pass in intricate detail in His creation. God chose to restore the earth so it could be the birthplace and garden of delight for His beloved children. Our faces should always be turned to the mighty God who is Spirit, life, light, peace, and perfect in His order, purposes and will. There is no confusion, darkness, chaos, and ruin to those whose face reflects the glory, life and light of the Spirit of God. Will our faces be darkened by idolatry or be radiant by the Spirit of God? When we face the turbulent waters of troubles and challenges in life, will we turn our faces to an idol that brings darkness and ruin, or to the Spirit of God that brings deliverance, hope and restoration?

Confusion of Faces

In the book of Daniel, God describes a malady in His people, which he calls “confusion of faces.”

O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. (Daniel 9:7-10, KJV)

The ‘confusion of faces’ is a term that describes the dilemma of a people who cannot rightly discern what way of life to pursue. They are confronted with the faces of a thousand different idols that are in competition with the face of God Almighty. Their faces are covered in confusion. The faces of their many idols have caused them shame, grief and disappointment. They do not know where to turn. They are weary of oppression and do not know where to go. Every idol has a face that is calling out to them. They are groping for the truth, but too spiritually blind to find it. Their sin and rebellion against God has caused them to seek thousands of faces in the darkness of idolatry, which has plunged their hearts into confusion. Their shameful idols leave them desolate and bewildered in times of trouble. They have lost hope. They are in despair. Their lives are crumbling and falling apart in front of their eyes.

This condition is not unique to Bible times. Don’t we live today in the age of confusion of faces? Our idols have betrayed us, causing us great confusion and shame. Our countenance reflects fear, anxiety and uncertainty. We are hopelessly confused on the meaning of life and grasp at anything that will entertain us and numb the pain. The world is becoming more violent, evil and vicious yet we do not seek God’s face. God has been thrust behind our backs for the fleeting pleasures of idolatry. Chaos reigns in the inner chambers of our hearts as we follow our idols of shame.

History has confirmed this truth that idolatry always brings confusion, shame and moral deterioration to a people and nation because their spiritual life is in shambles. The life and light of God has departed from their eyes, ears and thoughts, which is a sure recipe for disaster. Shame is an intense emotion of the heart that is accompanied with feelings of guilt, dishonor, disappointment, and disgrace. Unfortunately for many, the shame will not become apparent until they stand at the judgment seat of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His face will be like the sun in all its brilliance, and his eyes will be like flames of fire. He is the first and the last, and holds the keys to death and hell. On that mighty and notable day of the Lord, the true folly and shame of every idol will be fully revealed.

God makes a remarkable promise in Romans 10:11: “The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him, who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him, will ever be put to shame or be disappointed.” When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and have no other gods beside Him, our hearts will never be confused, shamed or disappointed. Confusion of faces does not exist for the child of God who faithfully obeys this great first commandment.

The Worship of the Image

The second commandment also contains important truths regarding idolatry.

You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (Exodus 20:4, AMP)

Who is such a fool as to fashion a god or cast a graven image that is profitable for nothing? (Isaiah 44:10, AMP)

I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8, KJV)

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. (Habakkuk 2:18, NIV)

Blessed be the man who hath not made an image, or a figure, or similitude which the Lord hateth and which is an abomination before him. (Deuteronomy 27:15a, JTE)

The Bible clearly sets forth this truth that we must never fashion or make an image or figure into an idol and worship it. The wandering heart is so desperate for a god that it fashions a god into an image that it has conceived in its own mind so it can be seen, felt, touched and experienced with the five senses. This pattern of image-making arises out of unbelief and a lack of trust in the Everlasting God. Images seduce the heart and bring it into the camp of idolatry. Images drive motivation, ignite desires and fuel passions. We trust our images to take the place of God. Some of the most dominant obsessions of our culture, sex, money, beauty and fame, have the most powerful images associated with them. The world puts enormous pressure on the human heart to conform to its images.

The Devil is the master originator of images in every culture and nation designed to ignite rebellion and disobedience against God. The use of images is a primary tool of the Devil in setting up a command post and communication center within our hearts. Satan uses images to awaken and feed our sin nature. Images bring pollution, impurity and spiritual disease into the heart and clear the path for idols. Images prepare the way for idolatry.

An image is a representation of idol that introduces the heart in a powerful visual way to a false god. These images are often made into physical objects that become idols. These images can become a dominant thought pattern of the heart, a mental image that becomes an idol, fueling our thoughts, words and actions. These images brand themselves into the depths of the heart and mold it to become a reflection of the images it worships.

G.K. Beale in We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry explains:

God has made humans to reflect him. But if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.[i]

We are both imaging and worshipping people in the core of our hearts. These two inherent characteristics in our genetic makeup are the foundation of all idolatry. When sin poured into our nature like a deadly virus from the fall of Adam, it corrupted these core desires. Our hearts ran wild and began to create images out of fear, lust, pride and unbelief and made them into idols, bowing down before them. The Devil deceptively uses these core cravings of the heart to turn us into idolaters. He knows that deep in the heart of man there is a fervent desire to worship and to be passionately committed to something. We were made to worship as God designed every cell of our bodies and every part of our souls to be intimately and deeply in love with Him.

There are No Atheists: Every Person Worships Something

However, if the heart is not committed to God Almighty, by its very nature, it will fashion an image into a god to worship. We cannot remain on the sidelines when it comes to imaging and worshipping. The heart is never spiritually neutral in these areas. The heart does not exist in a spiritual vacuum with nothing to worship and no image to reflect. We yearn for something to give life meaning. We crave for something to pursue and chase after, and something to become the driving passion in our lives. Every single heart on planet earth has a god. There are no atheists. Every heart on planet earth worships. There are no exceptions.

Kyle Idleman in Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart says:

Everyone is going to worship a god. We were created to be worshippers, as birds were created to fly and rivers were created to flow. It’s what we do. The question for you is who or what will be the object of our worship … If that person is a member of the human race and comes fully equipped with mind and body and emotions, then it follows that the individual is, in face, a worshiper. It’s factory installed, standard equipment-not a buyer’s option … whether you realize it or not, you are worshipping. That what human beings do, right alongside breathing and eating and thinking … We each make the choice to worship, and then at some point we discover that the choice makes us. The object of your worship will determine your future and define your life. It is the one choice all other choices are motivated by.[ii]

The heart is an idol maker and must have a god to worship. The first ingredient in the recipe of idolatry is to find an image that can become an object of worship. The heart is creative in its images and loves to share them with others. Soon there is a community of people worshipping the same images. Man-made religions are borne out of an image that is forged into a god that holds powerful sway and control over people. The heart is a rabid image maker. The heart is fanatical about its images. In the chaos of this world, people desire to hold onto something that brings security, comfort and safety. The heart is looking for a savior, an image it can turn to as an object of trust, to save it from all of life’s perils.

Image: The Desire to Control Chaos

The picture for the Hebrew word “image,” tselem vividly illustrates this point. Hebrew is a pictographic language as each letter represents a picture. When the root letters of a Hebrew word are analyzed, they paint a picture illuminating the meaning of the word. God designed the Hebrew language to communicate a message to both the ears and the eyes.

The pictograph of tselem are the letters tsadelamedmem meaning “desire (need)—control (authority)—chaos.” An image arises out of the desire to control chaos. We look to an image to give us hope in the midst of troubling circumstances, and an anchor in the midst of the craziness of this chaotic world. We accept an image of the world into our hearts, turning it into a counterfeit savior that we hope can deliver us from our fears and give us peace. We are driven to images because we must control the chaos, and out of this obsession flows the birth of idolatry.

The human race has become masters at making images to worship. The world promotes a culture that is driven by its images. Images excite, stimulate, fascinate, mesmerize, and captivate. Images are designed to draw the heart into their alluring snare where they kindle the cravings of our sin nature. Behind every image is a false hope and an attractive ideal that is designed to turn the heart away from God. These images promise pleasure, satisfaction, success, self-fulfillment and self-worth. But God’s Word says in Habakkuk 2:18 that these images are teacher of lies. At the very center of every image is a cleverly disguised lie. Images cannot deliver the promise. Images cannot fulfill the dream. Images are built on deception. Images will always disappoint and ultimately bring sorrow and disillusionment to the heart. Images are designed by the god of this world to take the heart out of God’s camp and make it a prisoner of war.

The Devil is on every street corner pedaling his wares, as he wants us to enter into a deal with him. He tells us of his offer that is guaranteed to thrill our hearts and bring us all the things we so passionately desire. We can exchange the majestic image of God for any of the thousands of images in his warehouse. These images look so beautiful, cool, sexy and alluring. Our heart reasons: “If only I could look like that!” Our imaginations run wild as we crave for a new image. We want to go on a shopping spree in the Devil’s mall of images so we can make an exchange that our foolish hearts think will be more exciting and adventurous. We dream about our new images as spiritual blindness sets in. We forget about the glory and excellence of the immortal God whose image we bear, and decide it’s time for a makeover. We want to look like that beautiful model in the magazine. We want to dress like that sexy actor or actress on TV. We want to be like the rock star with all their fame, money and popularity. We want to be like that super sports athlete that is idolized by fans and elevated to kingship status in our culture. We want our lives to be full of the new cars, houses, and playthings of the rich and famous. We are in love with the images broadcast on television and the Internet, and we are deluded into thinking that these images are more important than God.

The Terrible Exchange

Romans sets forth the sad truth of this great exchange that occurs in the hearts of millions of people every day.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So men are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles. (Romans 1:20-23, AMP)

God is so magnificent that there is no excuse for exchanging Him for an image that arises out of our vain imaginings, foolish reasoning and stupid speculations. That is a horrible transaction no matter how you look at it. We are getting a raw deal because the image is a cheap, worthless imitation of God. It is a defective, dangerous product that will cause immense harm to the heart.

We were formed, made and created to be image-bearers of God’s glory. God’s glory is the manifestation of everything He is: His majesty, power, strength, holiness, greatness, goodness, and righteousness. The glory of God is the total sum of all God’s attributes. God’s glory is eternal, infinite, and boundless. The glory of God transforms the heart into a brilliant reflection of Himself. When we look in the mirror we should see a reflection of the glory of the Lord, not the image of the world. As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says: “Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” What an awesome privilege to radiate the image of the glory of the Lord as we become more and more like Him. What image can be compared to the majesty and glory of the Lord? All the riches, fame, and beauty of the world fade into nothing when compared to the glory of the Lord. It is like comparing a grain of sand to the entire universe.

Do you see why this exchange of images is the worst spiritual trade a person could make because it costs you your heart? The Greek word for “exchange” means to cause one thing to cease and another to take its place. In the Septuagint it was often used to describe the changing of clothes. In this exchange, we choose to not reflect the glory of God, but the glory of another image. We throw God out, like we toss off our clothes, and pridefully clothe ourselves with another image.

This has been the great sin of the human race since the beginning. For the majority of mankind has not honored God, not loved God, not glorified God, and not sought after God. Instead they have rejected God, trampling on His glory, casting aside every remnant of God from their hearts. They went after the counterfeit, and opened their hearts to worldly images they treasured and adored. These images represent their new precious gods and beloved idols. The glory of God was not welcome and the Bible says their hearts become darkened as they lived their lives in the spiritual dregs of idolatry. The sin of idolatry is a sin against the glory of God. The glory of God is the environment that the heart was meant to thrive in.

Yet every generation mindlessly runs with frenzied abandon after its images. People by nature try to limit God to the confines of physical objects or man-made characteristics that they can control. So people fabricate images to aid them in worshipping a god they have created by their own vain imaginations. These images become representations of the gods they worship, and give them control over who their god is, what their god is like, how their god acts and what their god demands of them. People create their own religions from the dominant images in their hearts. They have made countless images of humans, animals, inanimate objects and even ideas. A man-made object can never come close to truthfully representing the Eternal God in all His holiness, glory and majesty.

To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him? (Isaiah 40:18, NLT).

This is an excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life. Purchase at

[i] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 16.

[ii] Kyle Idelman, Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 57, 58.

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1 Response to Idolatry: The Principal Crime of the Human Race, Part 3

  1. Brenda says:

    Thank you

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