Is idolatry a sin of the past? After all, in the sophisticated, rational world of today, who would actually be guilty of worshiping little statues and carved deities? But what if idolatry is more than that? What if it is in fact the entertainment of thoughts and beliefs that push God aside and replace Him with ideas and perspectives that we cherish more than Him?
On Sunday morning, we will be examining the declarations of the Old Testament prophets against the idolatry so rampant in their day. What we have to understand is that there is just as much a problem with this sin in our day as at any other time in history. In the seventeenth century, David Clarkson was considered one of the foremost leaders of the non-conformist movement among churches in England. His sermons and writings have been held in high esteem over the centuries and have again recently been rediscovered by many.
As you prepare to come worship and hear the Word of God this Sunday, prepare for that day by allowing Clarkson to pose a series of sixteen questions for your consideration. For those who think themselves incapable of falling prey to idol worship, let these questions penetrate your heart and mind as you ask the Lord to show you what might be hidden secretly in your heart?
Ask the Lord what things have prominence in your affections, priority in your investments, and are more formative than your longings after God.
(1.) Do ye not value these things more than the light of God’s countenance?
(2.) Do ye not love them more than holiness, than spiritual riches, the riches of Christ?
(3.) Do ye not desire the increase of them more than growth in grace?
(4.) Do ye not delight in them more than in communion with God, fellowship with Christ?
(5.) Do ye not grieve more for disappointments herein than God’s withdrawings?
(6.) Are ye not more affected with worldly crosses than soul distempers?
(7.) Are ye not more afflicted with wants of these things than spiritual wants?
(8.) Are ye not more eager in seeking these than following after God?
(9.) Think ye not earthly enjoyments to be greater security than the great and precious promises?
(10.) Are not the thoughts of them more pleasing, welcome, than the thoughts of heaven and of Christ?
(11.) Do ye not esteem others more for these than for their interest in God?
(12.) Are not these your hope and confidence of security against an evil day?
(13.) Do not these employments make you omit holy duties, or cut them short, or perform them in a careless, heartless manner, hereby serving God as though ye served him not, as though ye cared not to enjoy him?
(14.) Do not your hearts stick so fast in this thick clay (as the prophet calls it), as you can scarce raise them towards God in prayer or heavenly thoughts?
(15.) Do ye prize these more, out of any other respect, than because hereby you may be most serviceable to God?
(16.) Are ye not more careful to increase or preserve them than to employ them to the utmost for God?
–Works of David Clarkson, Volume II, “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven”
If we are honest with ourselves before the Lord, there are many things in our lives that have become just as much idols as carved figures are. Our hearts have shifted our trust from God to lesser things. May our prayer be as the chorus by Charlie Hall expresses it, “Give us clean hands, give us pure hearts, let us not lift our souls to another.” Once rid of our idols, we can then worship the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength–and in purest form, with nothing diverted elsewhere, we will adore Him who alone is worthy of all praise!
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies, but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” (John Piper, Hunger for God, p. 14)