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Counterfeit Gods

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Idolatry

“You shall have no other gods before me.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
To contemporary people the word idolatry conjures up pictures of primitive people bowing down before statues. The biblical book of Acts in the New Testament contains vivid descriptions of the cultures of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Each city worshipped its favorite deities and built shrines around their images for worship. When Paul went to Athens he saw that it was literally filled with images of these divinities (). The Parthenon of Athena overshadowed everything, but other deities were represented in every public space. There was Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty; Ares, the god of war; Artemis, the goddess of fertility and wealth; Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship. Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones. Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols. Each has its “priesthoods,” its totems and rituals. Each one has its shrines—whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios, or stadiums—where sacrifices must be made in order to procure the blessings of the good life and ward off disaster. What are the gods of beauty, power, money, and achievement but these same things that have assumed mythic proportions in our individual lives and in our society? We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image. We may not actually burn incense to Artemis, but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige.
In ancient times, the deities were bloodthirsty and hard to appease. They still are.

Heart Idols

Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
In the Bible, idolatry includes, of course, the ritual worship of gods other than the true God of Israel. It means to bow down or to “kiss the hand” or make sacrifices to the gods of other religions and nations.
Anyone who does so forfeits God’s salvation (). But the Bible makes it clear that we cannot confine idolatry to literal bowing down before the images of false gods. It can be done internally in the soul and heart without being done externally and literally (). It is substituting some created thing for God in the heart, in the center of the life. For example, the prophet Habakkuk speaks of the Babylo nians, “whose own strength is their god” () and of their military power, to which they “sacrifice . . . and burn incense” (). In and , the prophets charge Israel with idolatry because they entered into protective treaties with Egypt and Assyria. These treaties offered the payment of high taxes and political subjugation in exchange for military protection.
In the Bible, then, idolatry is looking to your own wisdom and competence, or to some other created thing, to provide the power, approval, comfort, and security that only God can provide.
The heart is a human idol factory. It develops, creates, and stirs the emotions to manufacture an idol.

Anything Can Be an Idol

Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (pp. 179-180). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
When most people think of “idols” they have in mind literal statues—or the next pop star anointed by Simon Cowell. Yet while traditional idol worship still occurs in many places of the world, internal idol worship, within the heart, is universal.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 180). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The Bible makes the allusion that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.
The central plot device of The Lord of the Rings and the undercurrent of The Hobbit is the Dark Lord Sauron’s Ring of Power, which corrupts anyone who tries to use it, however good his or her intentions.
No matter how good your intentions are with achieving an extraordinary education, romance, sex, relationships, career, or even ministry endeavor, it can become your god, crowding out your first love of Jesus.
The very first commandment is “I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before me” (). That leads to the natural question—“What do you mean, ‘other gods’?” An answer comes immediately. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to worship them.”
expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing an education, seeking to land the best job with the best benefits, attempting to look your best, chasing down love and the perfect relationship, these are all gifts from God. God has given us love, sex, money, giftings, abilities, skills, and ambition. However, if we look to those things to satisfy our deepest longings then we will end up empty.
A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
idolatry. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

Tearing Down Idols

Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Before we can tear our idols down, and we all have them, is we must identify them.

Imagination

One way to that is by taking inventory of your imagination. In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about? Do you develop potential scenarios about career advancement? Or material goods such as a dream home? Or a relationship with a particular person?
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Money

Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also” (). Your money flows most effortlessly toward your heart’s greatest love.
Our patterns of spending reveals whats in our hearts.

Religion

Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 168). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This may be strange and confusing. However, you may be a person of faith who regularly attends church and has professed faith and obeyed Jesus Christ. However, if your prayers or desires are not met and you lash out in fear and anger. Does your faith in God and the church depend on whether or not people engage you in fellowship, or if that boy or girl continues dating you?
Then perhaps your faith is not in Jesus but in some other idol.

Put Idols to Death

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
You and I have been raised with Christ, and we are to seek the things that are above and not the things which are below. To put our idols to death, then we must put our flesh and earthly sinful desires to death. We must constantly keep our idol manufacturing hearts accountable to God and His Word.
Happiness is not found in the abundance of things, or in treasures in this world, or in relationships with the opposite sex. Our happiness is found in our delight in Jesus Christ. Where we keep Him first then we keep everything else in its rightful place.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 179). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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