Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on September 10, 2015, is provided by Pastor Mark Chun who pastors Radiance Christian Church in S. F. He studied biology at University California, San Diego and completed his Master of Divinity at Talbot School of Theology.
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Can Modern Christians Commit the Sin of Idolatry?”
2 Kings 16: 10-16 (NIV)
Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. 11 So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned. 12 When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings up on it. 13 He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and splashed the blood of his fellowship offerings against the altar. 14 As for the bronze altar that stood before the Lord, he brought it from the front of the temple—from between the new altar and the temple of the Lord—and put it on the north side of the new altar. 15 King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: “On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.” 16 And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.
Principally speaking, the entire Bible can be summarized as man’s struggle against idolatry and the restoration of our relationship with the one true God. Admittedly, most of us probably don’t see this as a problem because we don’t necessarily have physical idols and statues that we bow down to. However, the most dangerous idols are the ones that we have in our hearts. John Calvin, the theologian of the Reformation, once described human nature as a factory of idols; and because no one has perfect faith, all of us, to varying degrees, hold onto our idols. The problem of idolatry is not merely a Christian issue, nor simply a matter of religion: It is a human dilemma that permeates through our entire existence. Even the ardent atheist Fredrick Nietzsche cites this as a problem in one of his books as he describes our relationship to money and success:
What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its value, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalized fraud…what gives rise to all this? It is not real want—for their existence is by no means precarious…but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold…What once was done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money, i.e. for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feelings of power and good conscience.
It would seem that the natural inclination of the human heart is to worship something or someone; and in the absence of God or a weakened relationship with God, we will find other alternatives to fill that void. The human problem of idolatry really only makes sense through the lens of a biblical worldview: We have been created by God in order to worship Him but sin has corrupted that original purpose. In time, the sin of idolatry leads to unspeakable disaster for Ahaz and the people of Israel. In the same way, idolatry left unchecked in our lives will lead to great tragedy. Take a moment, therefore, to examine what’s really fueling our drive to accomplish and accumulate: Is it a desire to further God’s kingdom or mine?
Prayer: Gracious Father, would you reveal the hidden idols of our hearts through your Spirit so that we may not sin against you. Help us to love you more than the things that You have created, whether that be money, power, success, or even our families. We confess our tendency to stray from You and ask that You keep our hearts from wandering. We pray in name of the one true God, Jesus Christ, Amen!
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 45
Lunch Break Study
Read Romans 1:19-25: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Questions to Consider
- Why are people without excuse in regards to their ignorance of God?
- Why do people exchange the glory of God for their idols?
- What is God’s punishment for those who continue in idolatry?
- A common argument against Christianity is the notion that it is unfair to judge people who have never heard of Jesus. However, Paul reminds us that what can be known about God is plainly evident to all through His creation and is rejected freely; therefore, no one has an excuse.
- Never one to mince words, Paul teaches us that we exchange God’s glory for our idols due to our futile thinking and foolishness of heart.
- The most frightening judgment that God can sentence on anyone is simply giving them over to the lusts of their heart and allowing them to freely do whatever they choose.
Theologians talk about the different levels of idolatry that we can get entrenched in. All of us have a surface level of idols and these are relatively easy to pinpoint: beauty, wealth, fame, relationships, children, sex, and the list goes on. But there is a second level of idol at a deeper level where the idols are harder to identify—such as independence, control, people’s approval, reputation, and so forth. Generally speaking, these deeper idols drive the worship of the surface idols. Ask God to help you identify these deeper idols in your life and to give you the wisdom to deal with them.