Today we are going to discuss the topic of idolatry. This is going to be a little different than your normal teaching on idolatry, in that we are going to discuss what I perceive to be one of the most dangerous idols of all in the Christian Church – the idol of Jesus. Don’t stop reading now, this is not a blasphemous article, and you will soon see why Jesus can be one of the most dangerous idols.
First, let’s define idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of idols, and an idol is an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. Now that we have an understanding of what an idol is, let’s get into the meat of the matter.
The Idol of Jesus
I know most of you by now are thinking I am crazy and that I am being Blasphemous. After all, how can a Christian possibly call Jesus an idol? It is a good question, so let’s get into it. The Bible is the Word of God. In fact, in John 1:1 it states that
“In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”This shows us that if we want to get to know God, then we must get to know His Word because the Word of God is God – it reveals to us how He thinks, His compassion, His anger, His grace, His mercy, His love. It paints for us an image of who God is and who He is not. The more we study, read, pray, and meditate over His word, the more we will get to know who God is, and the clearer the image of who He is becomes.
However, the church, especially in modern times, but not limited to modern times, has had a habit of changing the meaning of God’s Word. In order to adjust to societal beliefs, Christians, and the Church, have begun to more loosely interpret the Bible in order to make it more acceptable and easier to draw people into Church. We have begun to focus more and more on the Grace of God, and less and less on certain fundamental aspects of the plan of salvation, namely repentance.
Much of the church has created a new image of Jesus by placing stronger emphasis on certain verses than on other verses, or simply by ignoring parts of the Bible. This is done not only in church, but even on a personal level. How many times have people read a verse that convicts them and makes them feel guilty, so they go on reading like that verse doesn’t exist. They may skip it entirely or ignore it. The problem with this is that if the Bible paints an image of Jesus, and we skip parts of it, we are missing brush strokes. The more verses you skip, ignore, or change to make Jesus acceptable for worship, the more brush strokes we are missing and the less the image of Jesus painted in our mind is actually like the Jesus described in the Bible. When this happens, we are creating an image for the purpose of worship, an idol, and we call that image Jesus. However, the Jesus that is being worshiped is not the Jesus of the Bible, it is the Jesus that we created to meet our needs, and that we have molded to fit our beliefs and world views.
Jesus’ Warning to Believers
In Matthew 7:21-23 we see Jesus give the following warning:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
This is one of the scariest verses in the Bible to me because it reveals a scary truth: Many people that think they are saved are not. How do we avoid being in this crowd? Make sure that the Jesus that we worship is the Jesus described in the Bible, and not the image of Jesus we create for ourselves for our convenience. Our values and beliefs should not mold Jesus into an image that is acceptable to us and society. Instead, the Image of Jesus should mold us into an image that is like Jesus through the process of conviction and repentance.
Crafting an Idol or Conviction and Repentance
The Bible shows us what is acceptable to Jesus and what is not. When there is a behavior in our own lives that the Bible teaches is wrong, it convicts us – we feel guilty because we see that we have done wrong. When this conviction happens, we have two choices: stop that behavior or continue it. If we continue in that behavior, then we are getting ourselves into some very dangerous territory. In 2 Peter 2:21 it warns
“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. “As we can see, it would be better for us to not even know that we were doing wrong, than to know and continue in it. However, if we cease that behavior and repent of it, then this is the promise made to us in 1 John 1:9
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
As you can see, our reaction to sin in our lives is what decides our fate. If we continue in known sin, we are in very dangerous territory because we know better and do it anyway. However, if when we learn about sin in our lives and we change the behavior, we will be forgiven. To put this into the context of the subject of idols, if we change our behavior then we are changing ourselves to become more like the image of Jesus. This is done through the process of conviction and repentance. The Bible convicts us when we learn about sin in our lives, and when we stop the sinful behavior, this is called repentance. When we learn about sin in our lives and we continue in that sin by making excuses, ignoring verses, or changing the interpretation of verses, then we are transforming the image of Jesus into the image of us, then worshiping that image as Jesus. This is done both in the church and in our personal lives. I believe this is especially true in many Mega Churches.
Wolves in the Flock
The problem is that people in general do not like the Truth of God’s Word. People do not like to feel guilty and people do not want to change their behavior. Recognizing you are walking in sin is unpleasant, and changing behavior that you enjoy is even less pleasant. So in order to draw in large crowds, many churches have distorted the Word of God by skipping verses, changing the meanings, or placing very strong emphasis on some and very small emphasis on others. This makes it much easier to draw in very large crowds of people because by doing so, one of the major parts of the conviction-repentance process is bypassed: the conviction. If you are not convicted by the Word of God about your behavior, then you will not repent of the behavior and there for the entire conviction-repentance process is bypassed.
The Bible warns us of these churches in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 where it states:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Also in Acts 20:28-30 it states:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
As can be seen in the verses above, the Bible warns us of a time where people will find teachers that will allow them to follow their own lusts and they will turn from the Truth. The Bible also warns that wolves will enter in among the church and will draw men after them. In other words, they will appear to be Christians. They will appear to be godly because they will even come from amongst the church. However, they are wolves and will not spare the flock. This is why it is very important that every Christian reads the bible daily. We cannot simply trust that our pastors are teaching us the truth because the Bible itself warns that some of them will be wolves. We must read the Bible for ourselves and know the Truth and the Word of God. If we study daily, and go in with a sincere heart and turn from our sins and change ourselves into the image of God instead of changing God into an image of us, we can avoid creating an idol that we call Jesus.
I believe that the single most dangerous idol is the idol we create that looks like Jesus and then call Jesus, but is not Jesus. In fact, Romans 1: 23-25 warns us precisely about this:
“And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”If we create an image of Jesus that we call Jesus but is not Jesus, then we are worshipping an idol. However, we may not recognize it as an idol because we have called the idol Jesus. Doing this will include us in the crowd in Matthew 7:21-23 that thought they were saved but were not.
When we read the Bible, we must recognize it as the Word of God and we must recognize His authority. We cannot mold the image of God into the image of us, we must transform ourselves into the image of God by ceasing sinful behavior when we learn about sin in our lives. We must be diligent in seeking sin in our lives in an effort to stop it. This is a form of worship and the glorification of God in our lives. To continue in sin when it is revealed to us is the glorification of evil and of the devil. Read your Bible and pray daily, and learn all you can of Jesus and worship Him as the Bible describes Him, not by changing Him into an image, or an idol, acceptable for our worship.