The Essence of Idolatry

“‘You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes’” (Psalms 50:21).

Western society, with all its culture and scientific knowledge, is in the same satanic trap that governs the life of an aborigine bowing down to a rock. We all have our gods. Many worship the god of materialism—getting more stuff is their highest pursuit. Others worship the gods of sex or entertainment. Of course, behind all of this is the worship of self.

However, the essence of idolatry is possessing thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It may be creating a god, but it also may be making the true God into something He isn’t, or thinking something about God that is untrue.

Idolatry is more than worshiping some inanimate object; it is having an unworthy conception of God.

God said to the wicked in Psalm 50:21, “You thought that I was just like you.” That’s precisely what some have imagined about God. They have portrayed God after their own sinful mental image of Him. Careless Christians can do this also.

In The Knowledge of the Holy A. W. Tozer writes, “The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

As we learn about God this month, ask Him to remove misconceptions you may have about Him. Be diligent to learn what God says about Himself and not what you or others think He is like.

Suggestions for Prayer
• Praise God that He is the only God.
• Pray for forgiveness if you have been more committed to any other god or if you think thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.

For Further Study
• The ancient Greeks had hundreds of gods. Just for good measure the Athenians built an altar to the unknown god. Read Acts 17:16-34. How did Paul approach those who worshiped false gods?
• How can you use Paul’s example as you witness to unbelievers today?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187

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