The Idol of Self

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21)

The sin of idolatry isn’t just having some ceramic angel or bronze buddah sitting on your mantle.   The sin of idolatry is building yourself, your identity, happiness and purpose in life on something or someone other than on God and His Word.   Whenever a career, romance, friendship, lover, political ideology, cultural phenomenon, popularity, rote prayer, or religious tradition becomes more important than knowing Yahweh Himself, it becomes the sin of idolatry.

“You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit–you only want to satisfy your own desires. You are like unfaithful wives, never realizing that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who chooses to be the world’s friend is thereby making himself God’s enemy” (James 4:3-4).

Idolatry involves more than a subtle drift from God, it is loving something more than Him as our Creator, Provider and Father.    It is wanting the desires of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of our own lives more than the perfect will of God (1 Jn. 2:16).   Idolatry is the self-centeredness of our own wants, hopes, fears, expectations, and our own physical or spiritual needs that fill our hearts rather than delighting in what our heavenly Father desires.   Idolatry is being enticed and captured by the ways of the world that invites and reinforces the father of lies in our lives.   It is desiring the kingdom of the flesh and this world rather than Spirit and the present and eternal Kingdom of God.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Idolatry can easily become the focus of our motivation.    Buried within the human heart are self-loving desires that are so strong and so determined to be satisfied that, when thwarted, lead to conflicts with those who get in the way of their fulfillment – including ourselves.  Idolatry of self breeds hostility to God and others and eventually makes us slaves to addictions, anxiety, envy, resentment, jealousy, anger and obsessive behaviors.  No amount of drugs or pharmaceuticals can cure the symptoms of the idolatrous soul because such idolatry brings judgement on the self.

“Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).

Idolatry in its inception in the mind and heart is rebellion against God.  Rebellion is like witchcraft; idolatry is having a stubborn heart.    All rebellion is sin with the irony that though we are being stubborn and rejecting God,  God rejects us and we receive His judgement.   We cannot venerate and glorify ourselves, our fleshly desires, and the ways of the world and then believe that God is for us, cares for us and will always be accepting of us.    To believe such things is nothing more than arrogance which is an even greater idolatry of believing we know more and better than God.

“For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh, he has rejected you …” (1 Samuel 15:23 ).

Idolatry and the sin associated with it breaks the first commandment of having no other gods, including ourselves.  When we break the first commandment, we break all of them (James 2:10).  When we break the  the commands of God through willful and stubborn hearts, we do not receive blessings, but curses  (Deuteromony 28).

The Commandments

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3) 

Do not worship any other god, for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

Deuteronomy 30:16-18“For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,  I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.”

Worshipping other gods seems foolish to many people who believe we have evolved beyond the days of Babylon, Greece, and Rome.  However, just the other day there was an article about a statue of Satan being unveiled in Detroit.  Godless people have gods whether or not they define them as gods.  God looks at the heart of the person and if it is turned from Him, they will disobey Him and be drawn to worship other gods.  They will rationalize their own hearts in the worship of other gods while subltly preparing themselves to worship the Adversary in ‘his self glory’ and pride when he sits on the throne in a temple in Jerusalem.

Number 2:  

“You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Exodus 20:4-5). 

Do not learn the ways of the nations ….  For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.  They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.  Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk?” (Jeremiah 10:2-5 ).

Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it?  Or an image that teaches lies?  For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.  Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to a liefeless stone, “Wake up!’  Can it give guidance?  It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it” (Habakkuk 2:18).

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

We make for ourselves idols whether they are wood or flesh.  Consider the flesh of swine.   God says that the pig was not created to eat, it is unclean.  Yet, the pig has taken great prominence not only in the world, but also in the lives of believers who will defend their ‘grace’ to eat its flesh contrary to what God’s Word simply says.  When we set our belief system up against the never-changing Word of God, we have made ourselves gods and the pig is now our idol like the golden calf.

Number 3: 

“You shall not misuse the name of YHVH your God, for Yahweh will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name” (Exodus 20:7). 

“I am YHVH; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

How often is sin rationalized by those who call themselves by the name of God or His Son, Yeshua/Jesus?  With the recent same-sex marriage ruling, many people, even Christians, believe that God desires such abominable unions because of a redefinition of love.    Misusing His name in this way profanes His name in the world and removes every opportunity for those steeped in sin and rebellion to repent, receive forgiveness and a enter new full life.  Those who justify immorality with the name of God and the name of His Son, who died to deliver people from sin and rebellion, will stand before God guilty of idolatry.

Number 4:

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). 

For their hearts were devoted to their idols... because they had not obeyed my Torah but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their fathers’ idols” (Ezekiel 20:16, 24).

Idolatry includes rejecting God’s decrees and descrating His Sabbath.  First, desecrate means ‘to treat a sacred thing with disrespect or violate.’  Second, calling any other day ‘Sabbath’ is again taking an authority we have never been given.  We turn ourselves into little gods which is nothing more than idolatry.

Number 5:

“Honor your father and mother so that you will have long life” (Exodus 20:12). 

“Yeshua replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’  he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:3-8).

“And he (Yeshua) said to them:  ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.   …Thus you nullify the Word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.  And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:9, 13).

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions (manmade traditions) and the basic principles of this world rather than on Messiah (God)” (Colossians 2:8).

Traditions are not only ‘of the Jews’, they are manmade meaning all men everywhere create ‘traditions’ that nullify the Word of God.  We are to learn from Israel and not repeat their mistakes or judge them in their mistakes for ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, not just the Jews.  Whenever any man creates a tradition that depends on the basic principles of this world rather than on Yeshua, it could be considered ‘humanism’ which is nothing more than the sin of idolatry.

Number 6:

“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, because you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).  

Wanting something more than God is providing or being unforgiving when each of us is equally guilty of sin is putting ourselves in the place of God.  Taking any human life that is made in the image of God for our own purposes, to reach our own ends, is idolatry.

Number 7:

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). 

Ezekiel 6:8-9 “How I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.”

Adultery starts in the heart whether it’s spiritual or physical.   Spiritual adultery is choosing another Husband other than the God of Israel and His Son as our Bridegroom.    Physical adultery is wanting another man’s wife or another woman’s husband.  It’s all putting love of self first rather than sacrificial love. This is also idolatry.

Number 8:

“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).  

“Will a man rob God?  Yet you rob me.  But you ask, “How do we rob you? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Money is not the root of all evil for Solomon was given great wealth.  It is ‘love of money’ that becomes evil because we keep it all for ourselves for selfish motives.   The ‘lover of money’ does not accept that Yahweh is the Provider and gives us everything we need.  “The love of money’ becomes a means to reach a personal end.  Ultimately, we ‘steal’ from YHVH because everything we have comes from Him.  If we don’t believe that and trust in money for provision, it’s idolatry.

Number 9: 

“You shall not give false testimony” (Exodus 20:16). 

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25).

The ‘father of lies’ is Satan.  When we exchange God’s truth for lies, especially in the area sexual immorality, we put our flesh needs about our spiritual needs.  We begin to worship the creation rather than the Creator.  Giving false testimony is submitting to the ‘father of lies’  and brings us back to commandment number one and having no other gods before the God of all Creation.  This is not only idolatry, but also a great deception in the making.

Number 10:

“You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17).  

“The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire.  Do not covet the silver or gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to Yahweh your God” (Deuteromony 7:25).

Being ensnared by the coverings of our idols is destestable.  Consider the idols of the sports or music world.  We are easily ensnared by their outward appearance, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones.  When we covet their lives or lifestyles, we are being ensnared and that is called idolatry.

Separation from God and His People

“Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’ 

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! “When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the Lord will answer him myself.  I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

According to Ezekiel, repentance and a change of heart is what is needed – not only for Israel, but those foreigners who live within Israel.  We must remember that we are bound to the God of Israel through faith in Yeshua and therefore the warnings about idolatry are for us as well.

Often times believers only consider physical idols like statues to be wrong.  However, anything that is made by man that is put above God as Creator and Provider is idolatry.  Just as Yeshua taught that anger in the heart leads to murder and lust in the heart leads to adultery, idolatry in the heart leads us away from God’s best and puts our desires above His.    It is so easy to place something we desire or someone we think we need higher than our Creator who loves us, gave His life for us, and has a plan for us, but it is the sin of idolatry.

The traditions of men also have their roots in idolatry and have caused blindness.   People have been blinded  that cutting down a tree and decorating it with silver and gold is idolatry.  They have been blinded to the understanding that candy eggs and chocolate bunnies steal the glory of Yahweh and the Truth of new life in Messiah.  Even more distressing are those whose blindness cause them to believe evil celebrations and activities rooted in witchcraft, divination, sorcery, casting spells and glorifying the dead can be transformed into something good, righteous and holy because they have deemed it so.   This is nothing more than the idolatry of man once again.  This type of ignorance and arrogance reveals an idolatrous heart condition and causes God’s people to worship other gods and goddesses.

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

There needs to be a deep repentance not only from church and cultural traditions rooted in practices of other gods and idolatry,  but also the personal idolatry that fills the Temple of the Living God with with things that do not edify, purify and bring glory to Yahweh.  Repentance that changes the heart from stone to flesh  restores Yahweh back on His throne.  Once reestablished on His throne, we will see that we can never have what we want by the ways and means of this world nor would we want those wicked, idolatrous, lawless practices.   With Yahweh ruling our lives,  we will begin to see that what we wanted may not even be what we needed.  With the love of our Father put in its rightful place in our lives with a correct definition,  we will receive good and perfect gifts from our Creator, blessings He desires to give us to make us more like Him through His Son (James 1:17).

“Therefore, my dear friends, run from idolatry! (1 Corinthians 10:14).

©2012/2015 Tent Stake Ministries

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