Idolatry seems to find its way into the hearts of God's people. This false deity that exalts itself in our lives is a hindrance in our pursuit of holiness. Many of us might proudly say, "I have no idols; I serve God Almighty and worship Him alone." Unaware of the subtlety of certain forms of idolatry, we run the risk of never correcting it, never acknowledging its existence. What form of idolatry can be so subtle, that we might excuse or condone it?
Greed- We can make material things an idol. There is nothing wrong with having, so long as these things don't have us, our hearts, and our time above the things that truly matter. We must pursue holiness and God's Kingdom, above our own interests and goals.
One of the ways this can become an idol is when we get caught up in making excuses for it. "If I make a lot of money, I'll be able to help more people," I've heard some say. While that might be true, it is not necessarily what God has in mind for us. We are to depend on His Word and guidance to make decisions, not the size of our bank accounts. I've witnessed God's timely provision time and again.
Relationships- Even people in godly relationships can be in danger of idolizing their significant other. It can happen in friendships, marriages, and even with our enemies. Although we are aware the Bible teaches the heart is deceitful, it is also very convincing. Our infatuation with certain people might appear normal, excusable, or just not a big deal. Whether it is or not is between those involved and God. But if a trusted person is brave enough to express their concern that we are giving certain others an unhealthy amount of our time, thoughts, or affection, let's consider if there might be any truth to it, instead of becoming offended.
Food- Many of us like to eat. Not so much because our bodies need it, but because food tastes good. We can easily eat beyond the point of satisfaction, and unfortunately, we might be spending more time eating than we are praying and reading God's Word. Everyone is different. I encourage us all to fast more often, that we might not only seek God more, but also cleanse our bodies. Let's eat to live, not live to eat. Remember that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (I'm really preaching to myself now).
Ourselves- We become too preoccupied with our own affairs- those we feel offended by, all that goes right or wrong, all that could be, wasn't, or is. We matter. We are important and we must take care of our home and ourselves. But there is a difference between caring for ourselves and caring only for ourselves. We cannot live only for ourselves and profess to love God.
What's a subtle way we can be self-centered? Not being willing to be inconvenienced or taken out of our routines. We tend to our homes, families, and attend church each week (possibly). We might even serve at our women's group at church, if it's convenient for us. But since when was service supposed to be convenient?
We certainly face trials that require our prayers and attention, but we sometimes become so focused on ourselves, we not only fail to trust God with our situations, but we also keep our focus on ourselves. We don't serve. We don't even try. We become content just being Christian and give minimal efforts to any form of ministry. It reminds me of when our children do the very least amount of work possible in their schoolwork, just to say they did it. I call that laziness. We cannot be lazy, self-centered, low-impact Christians.
Are we afraid of persecution and mockery? Are we too careful and unwilling to ruffle feathers, to stop speaking "politically correct" hypocrisy, and to get involved in anything that would require more than minimal effort from us?
My heart grieves for the church today. We have to wake up and pray for our own revival; a renewed love and desire for God and for the lost to be saved. In order to do that, we must be watchful and awake, allowing God to take down strongholds and idols through reading the Word, through fasting and prayer.
Take inventory of what's in your heart and mind today. Do it often. Filter your feelings through the Word of God and see if there is anything that needs correction. Those things that keep us from a deeper relationship with our Creator can be so subtle, they go unnoticed. But light still pierces darkness, and the Word is still alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). Don't live unarmed. Your enemy, the devil, is still prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
We MUST die to ourselves and crucify human desires that come from our sinful nature. (Galatians 5:24). We cannot rely on our own interpretation of right, wrong, or indifferent. We have God's unchanging, unshakeable Word that has established that.
Encourage someone that might be unarmed today. We might not have it all figured out ourselves, but God remains faithful and uses us to speak His truth to one another, in love.