People are wired to worship. We were created by God to worship Him, and doing so meets deep-seated needs that we have in our lives. Even people who say they don’t believe in God live a lifestyle of worship. They have put something other than God upon the throne of their lives. They love it, bow to it, and surrender their all for it. As Christians, our focus should absolutely be the Lord Jesus Christ. But, if we aren’t careful, the world system all around us can muscle into the middle between God and us. We must always make sure that we are allowing God to provide for the four critical needs that worship meets. Otherwise, we, too, are guilty of modern idolatry.
Worship Meets Our Need For Purpose/Focus
Everyone needs a purpose, a focus for our lives. We need to feel like we matter, and we always have something that occupies the majority of our thoughts accordingly. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:19-20 that a believer should go about “speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” He should be our focus, our purpose for everything we do. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
For so many years, I was a believer, but I lived for myself. The world occupied my thoughts, and my goals were all worldly and me-centered. When He came for me and saved me, all of a sudden, all my thoughts were on God continually. I prayed to Him and thought about Him. I was concerned that every decision and action was one that would be pleasing to Him. In every situation, I thought of how my life lined up with the Bible. I remember recognizing the major change in the way I thought and remarking to a new Christian friend online in surprise, “God is my God!”
Idols of Focus
But even things that are good can start to occupy the majority of our thoughts and focus if we aren’t careful. A calling, a good career, is important. But, if we are working for more money, promotions, and respect in the eyes of men so much that it interferes with the time we have to give to God, that can be idolatry. Good health is important, but when exercise or diet becomes our life’s goal and main concern, that can be idolatry.
Family is very important, and neglecting spouse or children is a sin. But, when they start to hold a position in our hearts greater than God Himself, that’s idolatry. It isn’t sin to have a nice home, car, or phone.. But, if you are never satisfied with what you have and always want more — better furniture, a new car, or the latest phone — this can be idolatry if it occupies our minds and hearts above the Lord.
Worship Meets Our Needs For Comfort
When we are sad, upset, tired, or stressed, the Holy Spirit comforts us. We surrender all of those negative feelings to Him and trust Him to take care of us. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Consider also 1 Peter 5:6-7. It says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Going to God with our problems is an act of submission. We submit ourselves to Him and let Him know we need Him.
One time a supervisor embarrassed me in front of my peers at an after school event. She had let me know already during the school year that my conservative views were a problem for her. This day, she was stressed about all the extra responsibility she was under at the end of the school year. When I was unable to find the papers she was looking for in a given moment, she snapped. She sent me home in a very rude and public way. I was humiliated and went straight to my truck and cried to God. In my prayer, I begged Him for a Bible verse that would put everything into perspective so that I could process through the hurt.
I wanted to forgive her, but I didn’t know how I could face her again after this. Within just a few moments, Romans 8:28 popped into my mind. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” A second later, I heard, “Do you really believe ALL things?” Yes, yes I do. I still felt hurt, but I knew that God had a purpose even if I couldn’t see it. He comforted me.
Idols of Comfort
But how many times do we take our need for comfort to things other than God? We submit and surrender ourselves to the mindlessness of social media, video games, movies, or sports. We lose ourselves in a glass of wine or a slice of cheesecake or by complaining to a friend. Instead of giving all that hurt to God and allowing Him to bind us up, we seek temporary comfort in the things the world can give us, and that is idolatry.
Worship Meets Our Need For Connection/Belonging
Worshiping God with music or in prayer is like picking up telephone, connecting us to Him. We hyper-focus on Him in thanks, adoration, and love, and He often responds by letting us know in tangible ways He is there with us. Often, we can feel him in church or in our prayer closets. It is then that we know deep down that he is our God and we are His children. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, we read, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We seek out His people for fellowship because we all have the same focus to our lives: pleasing Him. We belong to Him.
Idols of Connection
But sometimes our connections to others can get in the way of our adoration for God. I have a dear friend and brother in Christ who testified at church a while back about a dream he received from the Lord in warning. My friend’s mother has a form of dementia. He had been spending hours thinking about her, praying for her and with her, and reading the Bible to her to keep her mind active. Unbeknownst to him, his mother had started to become too important to him in his heart. The Lord was now warning him that the seat belonged to Him alone. It was a sober warning for him as well as to the rest of the church who heard him speak. Family connections are good, but nothing should come before God.
But, how many times do we put our families before God? We think about them and worry instead of giving them to God? Or worse, how many of us have substituted a real connection to our Maker with connections involving politics or patriotism? We organize ourselves by political affiliation, pitting “us” against “them.” We rally around political ideals instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good and right to love our country, but when that love supersedes the love for the things of God, this is idolatry.
Worship Meets Our Need For Guidance
Everyone has choices every day, and not all of them are black and white. As children of God, we want to do the right things. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to know what they are. So, we seek the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” God will direct us when our lives are focused on Him. We seek Him, and He answers us. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Seeking God for answers is an act of submission. We submit to Him and His direction because He knows what’s best for us.
Sometimes God answers us immediately He lets us know without a shadow of a doubt what we should do in a given situation. Sometimes, however, we must wait on His timing. This can be difficult for those of us for whom a three-second lag for a website to load is often described as “taking forever.” We want answers, and we want them now. So we look to other, more worldly, things to give us the guidance that should come from God alone.
Idols of Guidance
A few years ago, I had a good friendship with an older sister in the Lord. We talked daily, and I would take my problems to her. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with seeking godly counsel, and elders in the Lord can often have very good advice. But, it seems that my dependence on this particular sister was excessive. I had thought after thought that I should be talking directly to the Lord about things. But time and again, I “couldn’t wait” for Him to answer and went right to her for her opinion about what to do. Not long after those warnings started, the friendship shattered. I came away with a clear understanding that whatever the apparent cause of the rift, the true reason was because I had put her above the Lord in that particular area.
One more way that people can seek counsel from places other than God is from divination. Most Christians don’t have to be told that psychics and astrology are demonic and wrong. But how many Christians do the little Facebook quizzes to tell you what kind of person you are or what will happen to you? Any time you allow someone or something to speak over your life or future, you are giving God’s place away, and this is idolatry.
When we think of idolatry, we might picture statues like the one of Molech from the Old Testament that was an oven for burning babies in human sacrifice or statues of Mary that some people still venerate today. Really, though, an idol is anything we put above God in our hearts. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we get those needs met from people and things other than God, this is modern idolatry, and it is unacceptable to God. We must guard our minds and be vigilant that the only one on the throne of our hearts is the Lord Jesus Christ.