The Challenge of Idolatry in the Life of the Christian

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.


Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters  -     By: Timothy Keller<br /><br /><br /><br />

If you haven’t purchased Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller, please do so. Keller defines idolatry as:

” It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

Biblically speaking, we probably know Israel always had challenges with idolatry. Remember:

  • Idols are the products of human hands.

  • They have no power either to hurt or to help those who worship them.

  • Idols are supposed to mediate a deity’s presence and power.

  • The first commandment is to have no gods before God ( Exod. 20:3 ; Deut. 5:7). In addition, the construction of any images ( Exod. 20:23) or even the mention of the names of gods ( Exod. 23:13).

  • It isn’t wrong to have other loves, ambitions, or loyalties. But they can’t come before God.

Keller discusses some of these idols. Keep in mind, I agree with him that the key is to not make God’s gifts to us into ‘substitutes’ for God. Here are some of them. Note: I have added some of my own points and a few of my own.

Idol of Materialism

  • Our identity is in what we have and don’t have. “I am what I own.”

  • We worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff.”

  • Where we live/our net worth.

  • Remember, the saying, ”He Who Dies With The Most Toys, Wins”?  This is incorrect. ”He Who Dies With The Most Toys” dies as well. You can’t take your possessions with you!“  Remember the text, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”- James 4:14

Approval Idolatry

  • I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry).

  • The need to gain constant approval from  others.

  • The constant need to be affirmed.

  • Our identity isn’t in what God thinks of or approves of. Instead, it is in what others think of us.

Career Idolatry

  • Millions of men—and increasingly more women can end up spending 60-70, even 80 hours a week working.

  • We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing it for them, to give them a better life. But the truth is we are doing it for ourselves, to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world.

Relationship Idolatry

  • Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry).

  • I need to be accepted by the opposite sex and I am looking for this person to meet all my needs/emotional, physical, and spiritual.

  • God is the only one who can meet all your needs.

Political Idolatry

  • We think the politics/politicians can fix all the problems of our culture.

  • We assume if we get the correct politicians in office, they can change the hearts of people.

  • The Gospel is the only thing that can change the human heart.

Image Idolatry

  • I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry) If I don’t have this image, people won’t accept me.

Idolatry of Happiness

  • All that God wants for us to be happy!

  • It is true God wants us to be happy. But he wants us to be satisfied and content in Him.

  • God is more interested in holiness than happiness.

So what is the cure for idolatry?


The power of the resurrection comes to us everyday in Christ.. As Paul says in Galatians 2:19-20, “For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Our true identity is in the one who died and rose again on our behalf. This identity isn’t dependent on other’s opinions and it isn’t built on any conditions. And it can’t be changed.  Mediate and chew on this truth daily

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