It is wonderful that as Christians we can have a personal relationship with our Lord. We don’t need a mediator. Nor is He represented by idols. However, sometimes we set up idols in our heart that get in the way of our relationship with Him.
A group of Israelite elders came to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 14:1-8. We aren’t told why they came to Ezekiel because God cut them off from speaking and making their request. God immediately told Ezekiel that He would not entertain their requests because they had set up idols in their hearts. They had separated themselves from God through these idols.
Besides not being told what their request to God would have been, we are not told what their particular idols were. But God said that the idols in their hearts were a stumbling block to themselves and to others of Israel.
Please consider these idols that can set up a stronghold in the heart. Look carefully at your own life and see which ones might apply to you and need to be removed. Maybe you struggle with something completely different than what I mention. I pray that this list will be used by the Holy Spirit to show to you your own personal need.
Isaiah 2:11 “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
We see proud people all the time. People who believe they don’t need God or anyone else to run their lives. Even Christians who have put their trust in God for their eternity are sometimes too proud to allow Him to control their daily lives.
Pride can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes it is hidden in other attitudes and character traits. Disobedience to authority is often a matter of pride. It is when you don’t want others telling you how to live or run your life.
Matthew 5:27, 28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
So many people are addicted to lustful thoughts and actions. Jesus gave a clear teaching on lust. If a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, that is the same as adultery in the eyes of God. Lust is not always passive either. Some people present themselves in a way so as to entice others to look at them in an inappropriate way.
I believe you should take care of your body as it is the gift of God with which you serve Him and house His Holy Spirit, but it should not be used to entice others into sinful thoughts and desires.
Exodus 20:3-5a “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:…”
You may be inclined to say, “Oh, we don’t have graven images in our house.” But is that true? A physical idol would be anything that you spend time with and are not willing to give up to serve the Lord. Or something that distracts you from focusing on God appropriately.
What kind of posters do you have in your bedroom? It is not wrong to celebrate the accomplishments of others. You may really like a certain sports star or entertainer—and that is not necessarily wrong. However, has your mind become filled with their abilities more than it is focused on God?
I love to read. But books can become idols. I don’t know that you have to spend as many minutes a day reading the Bible as you do other books. But, do other books rob time away from your time with God?
The television can also be a physical idol where people spend much more time worshiping what comes through it than they do thinking about God. “But I only use the TV to stay informed on the news and current events.” That’s fine. But not if it has become an idol that you are not willing to give up for the cause of Christ.
There are many other things that could be named in this category: cars, Internet access, telephones, etc. What is it that the Lord is bringing to your mind with a twinge of conviction right now? That could be the Holy Spirit prompting you to consider your own physical idols.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [food, shelter and clothing] shall be added unto you.”
Do you place your own needs and wants ahead of what the Lord wants you to do? If He called you to full-time ministry, would you be willing to obey?
As a person in ministry for almost 20 years, I still struggle with this. Sometimes I feel the Lord prompting me to get involved in a ministry in a greater way. I tell you, I have never regretted obeying. Don’t allow yourself (your own desires and plans) to become an idol in your heart.
Colossians 3:17 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
First of all, is your entertainment God-honoring? If not, then that is reason enough to step away from it according to this verse in Colossians.
Beyond that, there is the time and financial commitment that should be considered. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with sports, gadgets, or things. Where the problem comes is when you place those things ahead of serving and obeying God. Did you spend $50 on a night out with your wife, but refused to put $20 in the offering plate when God prompted you to do so?
Consider your own family entertainment. How does it compare financially, or time-wise, when compared to what you are willing to do for the Lord? When you value your entertainment more than the Lord and place it ahead of your willingness to serve God with your resources, then it has become an idol of the heart that should be removed.
Mark 7:8, 9, 13 “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
The Pharisees in the Bible made their laws into idols. They valued their own set of rules and traditions above the law of God. It is sad to see many Christians doing that today. So many have become enamored by the traditions of their church that they forget, or actively ignore, the teachings of the Bible.
This is another idol with which I struggle myself. Sometimes I allow my own opinions and personal standards to influence the way I approach the Bible and what it teaches. This can be where you allow rules—or a lack of rules—to dictate how you worship God.
Matthew 23:27-31 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.”
Religion can easily become an idol. Sadly, it often does. There are some religions that have admittedly thrown out the teachings of the Bible in preference to their own books or teachings. They claim new revelation from the Lord.
There are some worldwide religions that I have seen change and mold themselves to the indigenous religions of the area. They incorporate the idolatrous worship of the nationals so that they can gain more followers to their religion.
Focus on a relationship with God, not on an undying commitment to a church or religion.
Hatred and Bitterness
Ephesians 4:26, 27 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.”
Some people seem to be lost if they do not have someone or something to be mad at. There is nothing wrong with an anger over sin, but a consuming bitterness for a person will destroy you. Let go of your hatred and bitterness for others. The fear is that if you let it go then it would give approval to what the other person has done. But it is only destroying you; it does not affect the other person.
Instead of allowing bitterness to become an idol, try sincerely praying for the other person. You will have more joy and you will trade your worship of hatred for a real prayer life with God.
Fear and Worry
Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Really fear is another type of pride. Sometimes people hang on to their fears because it gives them comfort over what they can control. I am not talking about phobias of real things. I am talking about refusing to step out in faith and follow the Lord. That is another attempt to control your own life and not allow the Lord to be in control.
1 John 2:15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
We can easily focus on this current life to the point that we don’t see the world to come. It is amazing to me to see people who are so wrapped up in their careers that they can’t see a way to serve the Lord. People need to earn money to live. But what is the point of spending all your life working so hard that you can’t serve the Lord? Why do you have the job? Why do you work? Focus on the eternal and not the temporal.
Paul’s Formula for Removing Idols
Colossians 3:1-3 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
Christians should seek the things of God; place their desires and affections on things outside this world. All this because their lives are secure in Christ. We should live for Him and not for ourselves. This is not to earn salvation but to show a gratitude and love for what He has done for us.
Looking for some more tips? Take a look at our collection of Advice and Tips for the Christian:
Resource – The Holy Bible, King James Version. YouTube video “Change My Heart Oh God” by Eddie Espinosa.