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How to identify and eliminate idols

It was years ago, but I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

His question came seemingly out of the blue as we are driving home on a rather grey day.

“Mama, how do you make an idol not an idol anymore?”

I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror and saw him staring out the window at the trees whizzing by, their shape distorted by waves of low-lying fog.

It was a great question, and I wanted to seize this teachable moment but my mind was grasping through fog for an answer.

How do you make an idol not an idol anymore? Really – how?

I knew why he was asking. There had been several discussions about idols in our house recently, particularly with him. When limiting the use of video games caused a major meltdown in my 7-year old boy, a wise mama wonders if she is dealing with an idol.

And as with any lesson I am trying to teach my children, I am so painstakingly aware that God is trying to teach me the same one.

What has priority place in my life in the spot reserved only for God? What have I allowed to grow in importance until it usurps my Father and sets itself up on the throne of my heart? Is it approval? Success? Happiness?

Oh dear, the list could go on.

“Mom?” He was still waiting for an answer.

“Really, son, the only way to dethrone an idol is to ask God to remove it. Ask Him to make loving and obeying Him more important to you than anything else in your life.”

I saw him nod slightly.

For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary (Psalm 96:4-6).

We rode on in silence.

I decided not to press him further. I could see he was thinking, and even more importantly, that the Lord was working in his heart.

And mine.

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the world of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them (Psalm 115:3-8).

All idols grow dangerously tall in our hearts. Idols that cannot speak, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot do anything – except fill the space that’s reserved for God alone. And when we trust in them we become like them.

Deceived into thinking they may have something to offer us. Deluded into believing true fulfillment might be found in any one of those earthly things. And then we cannot see the truth or hear His voice. We become just like the idols we worship.

God continually instructed the Israelites to tear down their idols. To smash them to bits. He knew of their danger if they weren’t completely destroyed. How they lure distracted hearts away from the one true God.

Lord, smash the idols in our lives. Make our desire to know You be infinitely greater than our desire for anything else.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).

As I pulled into our driveway that day, the verse at the end of John’s first letter came to mind. Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

Lord, replace our idols with your unsurpassed greatness and goodness.


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