Temptation is never an easy topic, especially when we are faced with it each and every day. The story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4 relates to all of us. The first temptation was that of identity. The second temptation was two-fold, an attack on Jesus’ identity (again), and an attempt to get Jesus to doubt God’s promises. The devil was really going after Jesus. In both instances, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture and affirming His trust in God. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it happens again in the third temptation.
It goes like this: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” This temptation was idolatry.
According the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, Idolatry is “1. The worship of idols, images, or anything made by hands, or which is not God. Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, &c. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals. 2. Excessive attachment or veneration for anything, or that which borders on adoration.”
Mark Driscoll explains idolatry this way: “The tricky thing about idolatry is that it is usually the pursuit of something that is otherwise good… Idolatry is enslavement to something we love… it’s a good thing that is elevated to a god thing.” Since our idols are the things we treasure and value more than Jesus, we discover them by honestly asking what gives our life meaning, worth, and value.
Scott Thomas and Tom Wood identify four idols in their book Gospel Coach: Power, Approval, Security, and Comfort. I have listed some of the things we pursue in each one. I would like you to read through each list slowly, asking God if you are pursuing any of these things more than you are pursuing Him. If so, make a note and I will let you know what to do afterwards.
Power Idol: control, position, influence, success, strength.
Approval Idol: relationships, achievement, social circles, appearance.
Security Idol: family, finances, protection, religion, safety, future.
Comfort Idol: pleasure, health, freedom, excesses, home and vehicles, recreation.
Our new “saviors” make promises to provide us with meaning or worth—ways in which we will achieve wholeness. But these self-made idols also threaten us, warning us that if we do not serve them, our lives will be worthless, meaningless, and empty. We start out by asking them to serve us, but eventually their allure is too strong. They overtake us, mastering our desires and ending up controlling almost every aspect of our lives.
So, what do we do?
When Martin Luther wrote the 95 thesis that kicked off the Protestant Reformation, he started them with these words: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ… willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”
Thomas Watson, an English Puritan from the 1600’s wrote this, “Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.” Watson identified six ingredients for repentance: Sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred of sin, turning from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart.
While idol identification and rejection are necessary in repentance, true and lasting change is not complete without turning in faith toward God.
Let’s look at the idols again and see how we can turn toward God.
Power Idol: God is glorious, so I don’t have to produce results.
Approval Idol: God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself.
Security Idol: God is great, so I don’t have to be in control.
Comfort Idol: God is good, so I don’t have to look elsewhere for comfort, peace, and fulfillment.
Make these confessions and prayer your reality this week. Stop replacing the glory of God with our own glory. Stop worshiping the created rather than the creator. Run to God!
This was first published in The Chappell Register on October 30, 2014. Modified for this blog.