A guest blog by Brad Bigney
Idolatry is a constant threat because we’re so prone to Gospel drift. That’s why the hymn writer got it right more than two hundred years ago when he wrote, ‘Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.’ (‘Come, Thou Fount’ Robert Robinson, 1757)
In other words, idolatry exists because first affections for the Gospel and my Savior don’t, so the problem that we have with idolatry is not just some fringe issue. It’s not tangential, it’s central to all that’s going on in your life and so you don’t want to treat idolatry like some footnote or addendum that you might or might not ever get around to addressing as it relates to the bigger issues you’re facing and the struggles you’re having in life.
Let me show you why it’s so central to the confusion and conflict you’re facing with other people and your own sin. You see, idols move in when your heart starts to drift away from the Gospel, as does your love and affection for Christ. Drifting away from your Savior and the Gospel never leaves a vacuum because your sinful heart fills it up with idols, because we were made for worship! We’re wired for worship.
In other words, your soul gets sick and you take on a spiritual low-grade fever that puts you at risk for all kinds of other sin whenever your deepest affections start to move past the glories of your Savior and what He’s done for you, what He’s doing for you and what He will yet do for you. Every step away from the Gospel and your Savior is a step away from light and further into darkness and confusion.
Like mold on the bathroom tile, idols thrive in dark and damp places. Whenever your heart shifts away from the glorious heat and light of the Gospel that’s found in the face of Jesus Christ, idols start to pile up and scramble for the crooks and crannies of your heart unbeknownst to you. Gospel drift away from your Savior is what kick-starts idolatry and throws it into gear because we were made to worship and we’re going to worship something, if not Jesus, then something else!
That’s why G. K. Chesterton said, “When we cease to worship God we don’t worship nothing, we’ll worship anything!”
That was Paul’s concern for the Corinthians when he said:
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Cor 11:2–3, NASB)
When your mind gets led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ you start worshipping anything and everything, and you start digging, dragging your broken cistern.
Idols thrive when the Gospel dies and when the embers of your heart’s affection for Jesus Christ die, so that all He’s done for you begins to cool and go from white-hot, to orange, to grey ash.
Don’t let it happen. Keep the glory and wonder of the Gospel stirred by regularly reading through the sections of the New Testament letters that rehearse the great Gospel indicatives rather than skimming or starting to speed-read your way to the imperatival sections.
God knows what He’s doing in the way He designed the Scriptures for our spiritual diet. Most New Testament letters start off with at least 1-3 chapters rehearsing the wonder of what God has done for us before the writer jumps into what God has called us to do (Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-2, Romans 1-11 are just three examples of how God intended to feed us spiritually). So keep reading your Bible… all of it – as a remedy for Gospel drift that will serve you well in your fight against idolatry.
Brad Bigney is senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Evangelical Free Church in Florence, Kentucky. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Free Church of America. He is also a member and certified counselor of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors and a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors.
Buy the books
Gospel Treason: Betraying The Gospel With Hidden Idols