Idolatry is a topic that has become very misunderstood today. We read many instances in the Old Testament of entire cities who become obsessed with idol worship. It became such a problem at the time that God even set a commandment in stone with His own hand forbidding it on Mount Sinai. And just like all things that God forbids us from doing, He knows how large an effect it can have on a society. We see a perfect example of this in the story of Jonah and the city of Nineveh. Nineveh is notoriously known for being an evil city. The Old Testament prophet Nahum cries out:
“Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey! The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end—they stumble over the bodies! And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms. Nahum 3:1-4
The New Testament also talks about idol worship in the city of Corinth. Paul even devotes most of his first letter to the church of Corinth to the danger of idolatry ( 1 Corinthians 10:15-22 ).
Idolatry is everywhere in the Bible and is the constant struggle that many men of God have had to deal with while carrying out their ministry, but where is our idol worship today? Did idol worship stop once God stopped inspiring the Word? Anything but. Just a few weeks ago we had one of the biggest sporting events in the world with the NFL Super Bowl. People pay thousands of dollars to sit in an arena and watch men compete over their physical ability, while others take the time and money to stare at screens that broadcast the event. People that never even watch football and don’t even know the rules stay up late and scream with a pining desire for their team to win. Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, describes it as nothing different from what Paul was dealing with. Driscoll speaks on modern idolatry saying, “I think if a sporting event was going on and somebody was dropped in from Israel 2000 years ago they would definitely think they were at a religious event.” It is not that our golden calf has died, but that it has been changed and disguised.
What is the idolatry issue at its core? Merriam Webster defines idolatry as “the worship of a physical object as a god.” When we commit ourselves to idols, whether it is football, Facebook or work, it is man’s attempt to replace the hole that is present in our hearts. God has created all of us to worship. When we don’t have God present in our lives, we naturally search for something, give ourselves, make sacrifices, and devote our lives to. But while the Bible is clear that lost people are obsessed with idols, this is not just a distinctly humanistic trait. Idolatry is also running rampant throughout the Christian circles today without much attention paid.
As I am a ministry student, I see so many people who are looking at ministry in the complete opposite way that we are supposed to. So many students and professors see the Gospel as a product that we have to make modern and change in appearance to make it appealing to people. I see churches that are avoiding the power of the Gospel and instead are adding new lights and a cool song written by their worship leader donning a pair of worn-out TOMS and flannel shirt.
When did we get to the point where we started questioning the power of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and decided we can make it better? A v-neck and beanie do not lead people to the cross. We can sit here and wonder what the issue behind the modern church is, but it is the same problem that everyone else in this world is facing. Our sinful nature is slowly mimicking our idolatry as worship.
So what does true worship look like? This can be explained in three simple points.
1. Worship is not a song
The Michael W. Smith song Heart of Worship absolutely nails this point in the bridge:
"I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself,
is not what You have required."
Although the Bible plainly talks about using song here on Earth and later in Heaven, it is incredibly clear that that is not the whole equation. Song and music is simply a vehicle that God has given us to praise Him more corporately. Worship is meant to be so much more than just three songs we sing before the sermon.
2. Worship is prayer and Scripture.
If the goal of worship is to ascribe worth to God, how can we ascribe worth without knowing the characteristics of God? So many young Christians create idols in a speaker, pastor, or a book about God when they don’t even read the 66 love letters directly from God. And not only did God provide a direct lesson to His character and teachings, but through the Great High Priest Jesus Christ, we now have a direct and constant connection to God Himself. Do not take prayer lightly whatsoever. It is meant to be a tool used by us constantly.
"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17
3. Worship is constant.
I put this as the last point because it is the most difficult to grasp and where I personally am at in my walk, but it should honestly be number one in any Christian’s walk. This is easily one of the most important elements of a Christian that is constantly getting overlooked by almost every church member and elder preaching from the pulpit every Sunday. The worship that we give our Father is meant to be a constant and deliberate action in every single aspect of our lives. David Crowder, the popular artist and worship leader from Waco, Texas, describes it as this in his book Living Praise:
"It is more difficult to find the Creator in a barbecue sandwich than in your favorite Sunday-morning song, but when you do, when you begin to find Him in all the stuff of life, everything starts singing. Every moment breaks into song. Every breath becomes sacrifice, and the songs become sweetness. This is living praise.”
The fact of the matter is that our entire existence was made to give Him adoration, so if we find any element of our life not in complete devotion, we need to rework how we are doing things. It may seem like a Sunday school thing to say, but being in constant prayer and worship is truly the only right way to live. Even something as mindless as brushing your teeth or waiting on your YouTube video to load should be 100% about God in every shape and form.
I do not want you to be downtrodden that you aren’t meeting these Biblical doctrines. Never forget that we are sinful human beings that are called to meet the impossible Godly standards of Jesus Christ.
“The best worship that we ever render to God is far from perfect. Our praises, how faint and feeble they are! Our prayers, how wandering, how wavering they are! When we get nearest to God, how far off we are! When we are most like Him, how greatly unlike Him we are!“