Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice for the Idol (1752) - oil on canvas

You may have read one of the more popular articles here at Victapolis entitled “Culture Matters.” Well, yes it does. I make no apologies for that whatsoever. ;) But listen carefully when I say that culture isn’t the only thing that matters in life and ministry—nor is it the most important thing. In fact, when we start saying that “culture is king,” we then move beyond the danger of being irrelevant into another extreme of being idolatrous.

I'm currently reading Kyle Idleman's Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart, and it is shaping up to be a timely read. Sometimes means can become ends, sometimes goals can become gods, and sometimes even good things can become “god things.” For instance, I am reminded that Christian consumers of entertainment culture (TV, movies, video games, etc.) must take care that harmless goals of contextualization and relaxation do not lead to harmful practices and cultural idolatry. Paul toured the Athenian pantheon in Acts 17 and found a helpful sermon intro (the altar to an unknown god); what he didn’t do was set up any of those idols in his home or his heart.

Listen well, dear brothers and sisters: There is nothing wrong with a hobby or a pastime. There is, however, everything wrong with a God-replacing obsession. This is not a given, but rather a possibility: some of our self-proclaimed pastimes may be idols in disguise.

This is a fantastic book. But it is also a challenging one. If you think about it, the Word of God is the same way: it contains words of delight and words of challenge.

How can we tell the difference? Well, here is my definition of idolatry: Anything that we cherish more than Christ, and anything that prevents us from fulfilling the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  Idleman says that “what you are searching for and chasing after reveals the god that is winning the war in your heart.” And if indeed we Christians are constantly putting other gods before “big-G” God—and we will know by the barometer of our time, money, and affections—we have to ask ourselves if Christ is really the Lord of our lives, or if we’re just paying him lip service.

Remember also that entertainment isn’t the only god vying for our affections; in Gods at War, Idleman also discusses the gods of success, money, achievement, romance, family, self, and others. Might anything be keeping us today from living the abundant life God has ordained for us? Are we selling ourselves short, and was C.S. Lewis right in his assessment?

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

Doesn't this look so much more fun than those mud pies? I thought so. ;)

Perhaps today God is calling us to rise up in full obedience to Hebrews 12:1: “Let us throw off everything that hinders,” and not just “the sin that so easily entangles.” Indeed, sometimes the “good” is the enemy of the “best.”

Perhaps today God is calling us to remember both our high calling and Christ’s high authority in 2 Timothy 2:3-4: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”

And perhaps today God is calling us to burn away the thorns that keep us from growth, as in Luke 8:14: “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear [God’s Word], but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

The common image among all three of those Scriptures? Entanglement. But God wants us to be free, and while he has the power to deliver us, we have the responsibility to say “yes” to him and make choices that honor him.

To use a quote from a movie I saw recently (The Shawshank Redemption): “It comes down to a simple choice: get busy living or get busy dying.” I pray that anyone reading this would choose the former, and that process truly begins when we make a decision to put God first in our lives and dethrone all would-be gods. --C.

[Many of our idols today are not made of wood and stone, but of metal and wire. For a related article on the dangers of technological addiction in the 21st century, check out "Ready Player One, Hearthstone, and Wisdom's Call in the Digital Age"!]

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