Identify and Murder Your Idol! – February 10, 2023

In 2016, at a conference sponsored by the wall street journal, the CEO of Netflix stated they the company’s goal was to eliminate boredom and loneliness. They strive to do this through entertainment because they recognize it as a significant idol in our culture. As we finish our study in 1 John, we look for a final time at the last challenge from John, Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

Last week we looked at several questions we must ask of ourselves to find our idols: What do my finances tell me? What does my time tell me? What does my attitude tell me? What do my thoughts tell me? And what does hardship tell me? Once we have identified our idols, we must overcome them. But how? John challenged us to keep ourselves from idols, but how do we do this? It is one thing to say it and another to actually do it! Thankfully, God’s Word does not keep up wondering. To overcome our sinful idols, we must take two steps. We find these two steps in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3.

The process of overcoming our idols is like the process of changing clothes. We put off the old clothes, and we put on the new ones. To overcome our idols, we must first turn our back on them. We must turn away from them. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote regarding our idols. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:20-22). But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth (Colossians 3:8). As long as we hold on to idols, we cannot overcome them. So how do we turn our backs on our idols?

First, we must see our idol for what it is. Ephesians 4:17-18 reminds us, Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. First, Paul states that these idolaters walked in the futility of the mind. What they were doing was vain, arrogant, and futile. When we worship the idols of our hearts, we ask them to do things they cannot do. We are engaging in futility. These idols cannot satisfy because only the one true God can satisfy. So, we constantly need more from our idols. We need to redesign our idols because we become incredibly frustrated as they fail to satisfy us. The belief that these idols can satisfy is the height of vanity and arrogance. We believe that we can replace God in our lives. We will be disappointed when we look to family for our satisfaction or identity. We will be disappointed when we look to relationships for satisfaction or identity. We will be disappointed when we look to our jobs for our identity and satisfaction. Whenever we think, “if only this would happen, then I would be happy,” we will be disappointed. It is futile thinking.

Second, Paul states that while idol worshipers are incredibly arrogant, they are ignorant. They have had their understanding darkened by sin. They cannot know the things of God (and therefore truth) because they don’t know God. Paul calls them blind. As you observe those who are blind from birth, they are severely limited in what they can know. How do you describe colors to a blind person? How do you describe what something looks like without that individual having any point of reference? Yet this is what the world is like spiritually. They are trying to understand the world around them: origins, purpose, future, and meaning. Yet, they have no frame of reference with which to work because they are blind. As a result, God calls them ignorant. And when we follow our idols, we make ourselves ignorant. We act like ignorant people.

The first step to overcoming our idols is to see them for what they are. We worship them because we believe that they will satisfy us. We set them up because we think that they will bring us joy. We must admit that they will not do these things. They are futile and ignorant.

Once we have seen our idols for what they are, the next step in putting off our idols or turning our backs on our idols is to murder our sin. We must murder our idol. Consider what Paul and Peter stated. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). John Owens calls this action the mortification of the flesh. To overcome our heart idols, we must say no over and over. We must remind ourselves that we don’t have to obey that sin. We can turn away from it. We don’t have to worship that idol. We can turn murder it.

Unfortunately, many of us stop at this step. We seek to say no to the idol in our power. We come up with catchy ways to help ourselves say no (like counting to 10 before we get mad) and then become frustrated when we fail. However, there is a second step to destroying our heart idols. We cannot destroy our idols without employing this second step, which we will look at next week. However, we cannot utilize the second step without taking the first step. So, say no to your idol, mortify your flesh, and consider yourself dead to that sin!