Imagine what would happen if the lines, traffic signals and signs vanished from our streets and highways. There would be chaos. Yet for many, that is what their life is: chaos. They have no moral compass to guide them, no set of absolutes – only their opinions. If there is a god in moral relativism, then it is a god of one’s own making.
So, how do we know the truth? By going to the only source of absolute truth: the Bible. Within its pages, we find a set of God’s absolutes that provide us with a clear grid by which to live. They are the foundation whereby we can know right from wrong, good from evil and true from false. We call them the Ten Commandments.
The first commandment is one that most of us think we don’t ever break: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3 NLT). A survey revealed that 76 percent of all Americans consider themselves completely true to this commandment. But is that really the case? It is very doubtful that most Americans never have had something or someone else in place of the true God.
It all starts with the place God occupies in our lives, because we will serve who – or what – we worship. Jesus said, “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him” (Luke 4:8 NLT).
If God is No. 1 in your life, then everything else will find its proper balance. But if he is not, then everything else will be in chaos.
Note the wording God used to preface the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2 NLT). God reminded the Israelites of what he already had done for them and how he had so graciously answered their prayers and demonstrated his love. He reminded them of how he had brought them from a miserable life of slavery and had delivered them.
God was about to give them basic rules for living, yet he didn’t start by threatening them or scaring them. He began by reminding them of what kind of God he is: a loving, caring God who rescued them from misery.
You may not have been a slave in Egypt, but you were – or perhaps are – a slave to sin, on your way to hell. But God loved you so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die in your place and pay the penalty for your sin. So if we really appreciate what God has done, if we know anything of his all-encompassing forgiveness, then it should be our pleasure to seek to live a life that is pleasing to him – not because we have to, but because we want to.
The Bible says, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT). This means that God is in charge of our lives – not us. But often we forget that and carry on as though we can do whatever our hearts please. We do what we want with whom we want, wherever we want.
But when it comes to worshiping God, it is all or nothing. Anytime we serve another god, we are doing it in the presence of the one true God. And when we worship false gods, it insults him.
We tend to imagine an idol worshiper as someone lying face down in front of a carved image. While there are many who do that, idol worship is much broader than that. Idols are alive and well in our culture today. They may have different names than they did in Moses’ day, but we still bow before them.
An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. And everyone has a God – even atheists. It is not the true God, but it is a god that they worship and serve nonetheless.
Idolatry comes naturally to us all, because we must worship, and we will worship. Even as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the human soul. The human soul will find an object of worship, whether on the shelf, on an altar, in the mirror, or in heaven. We are born idolaters.
We trade the living God for a fake one, because it gives us control. Albert Mohler, in his book “Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments,” says, “We can pick an idol up and we can put an idol down. We can move an idol to this place, and then we can remove it to another place. The idol is at our disposal. … We will devise our own worship because we have devised our own god.” And I would add that we then feel we can live our own way.
What gets you excited? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you think about most, dream about, plan for and perhaps scheme for? What are you really passionate about? What is the focus of your life? That, for all practical purposes, is your god.
Many people just worship themselves. As Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” And it is a lifelong romance for just about all of humanity. That is not to say it is wrong to love yourself, but it is wrong when you love yourself more than you love God.
Some worship money and possessions. Others worship their bodies at the First Church of the Perfect Physique. Still others worship people. They make an idol out of a rock star, celebrity, boyfriend or girlfriend. In the end, every idol comes down to a love of self more than a love of God.
But here is the question about idols today. Can this god that has been put in the place of the true and living God comfort us in times of pain and guide us in times of uncertainty? Most importantly, can this god save us? The god we can control is no god at all.
The one true God of the Bible has consistently sustained me and kept his promises to me. An idol cannot do that, but God can.