What keeps us from responding properly to God's love? We know God's love is loyal and faithful. He is utterly devoted to us. But are we devoted to God? We were created to love, and it's all too easy to spend our love on things and people other than God. We have a choice in who we love. But when we choose something other than God, it is an idol.
What is Idolatry?
Whenever we cherish, trust, or fear something more than we cherish, trust, or fear God, we practice idolatry. Whenever we derive our value or worth from something or someone other than God, we practice idolatry. Whenever we worship the creation over the Creator, we are practicing idolatry. Basically, whatever we prioritize above God is an idol. We are always in danger of misplacing our love on something or someone who is not worthy. But we cannot serve both God and money, security, approval, comfort, or looks. We must hold God at the position of highest honor in our hearts and lives.
Keep Yourselves From Idols
So if idolatry is such a common trap, how do we keep ourselves from it? At the close of 1 John, the author encourages his readers, saying, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." His word, "keep," could be better translated "diligently guard." In other words, we must intentionally watch out for anything that threatens to take God's place in our lives.
Here's a simple diagnostic to find out whether or not something in our lives is an idol, based on Tim Keller's book, Counterfeit Gods:
- What do you think about?
- What do you pray about and/or dream about?
- Where do you spend your money?
- What makes your emotions go crazy?
- Where do you turn when things go wrong?
As we have just entered the season of Lent, now is a good time to examine ourselves to see if there are any areas where love is misplaced in our lives. If you're not sure about a potential place of idolatry, consider giving that thing up for this season in order to focus more deeply on God. Be careful, though: the point is not to "diet" from the tasty stuff only to return to it on Easter day. Instead, when we strategically relinquish anything that may be hindering our relationship with God, we fill that empty space with Christ. We turn our hearts and minds and all our attention to Christ. Only when we focus on Christ will our love be rightly directed. And His love will not disappoint.