Throughout the Old Testament, idolatry is one of the greatest snares for the people of God. It is no less dangerous for us today, only more subtle in its forms. The battle is real; we must be aware of it. To learn more about idolatry and the subtleties with which it presents itself in the Christian life, consider listening to the following sermons by Dr. Caldwell:
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Am I An Idolater?
When you think of an idol, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of small carved figures, statues, or images people bowed down before, worshipped, and sacrificed to in the Old Testament. But really, what is an idol, and what does it look like today in our 21st century? As Christians, how should we think about this, and how are we to remove idols from our lives if they aren’t these things? These questions and concerns will be addressed in this episode of the Straight Truth Podcast today between Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Listen in as Dr. Philpot asks Dr. Caldwell to share what idolatry is. If idolatry doesn't consist of just bowing, etc., before figures, images, and statues today, what is it, and how does it impact our relationship with God?
Dr. Caldwell says idolatry is a matter of denying what God has revealed about Himself. We are not to worship the God of the Bible with images, figures, etc. To do so is to reduce what God has revealed about Himself to an image that comes from men's minds. It’s an image that derives from ourselves instead of from God. It’s a denial of God; it is a false god. That is what idols are. Why do men make idols? It is to form things with their hands that began in their hearts and minds. It is conceiving of God in terms that are different than what He has revealed about Himself, reducing Him to an image of our making.
Therefore this is something we need to think about for our day and age. Dr. Caldwell says that even in the New Testament, most of the idolatry we read about speaks of external literal concrete idolatry. But idolatry isn’t limited to just images and little pictures. Idols can exist in our minds, in how we think about God, in ways that we speak to one another about God, and can even exist in terms of what we substitute for God. Dr. Caldwell shares several examples of things that can be idols in our lives, explaining that anything that we can replace God with is an idol. He believes we are so prone to serve what we can see with our eyes, what we can touch and handle with our hands, instead of conceiving of God in the spiritual terms in which He has revealed Himself. We neglect to focus on the attributes of God, on His character, and His truth. We want something more substantive to our minds than that, and it's why men live for what they can see instead of what is unseen.
Dr. Philpot mentions Paul speaking of covetousness as idolatry. He asks Dr. Caldwell, in what way is coveting idolatry? Dr. Caldwell shares that this is one verse where the spiritual nature of idolatry is made clear. Covetousness is desiring something you don’t have, something God has not chosen to give you, being jealous of, and for something someone else has. There is no trust in God’s wisdom, in what He has chosen to assign to you. Covetousness is an internal issue. It connects with what Dr. Caldwell mentioned earlier. God has revealed the truth about Himself, but we want something different. When we put something in place of God, it involves a rejection of God. You actually want another god, a god who will give you ‘that’ which you desire instead of ‘this’ which you have. In this way, it’s idolatry. You have put something in the place of the God who is sovereign over your life.
Dr. Philpot says, in this way, the attraction of idolatry in the Old Testament isn’t really that much different substantively. There is this substitution of something else for the one true God of the Bible. Dr. Caldwell says it makes him think of the golden calf incident in Exodus 32. The people there are doing that in the name of the true God. It’s obviously dishonoring to Him. But why did they want something tangible? This also connects with all we've been discussing, says Dr. Caldwell. Christians are to live by faith, not by sight. But we want to live by sight. We want something tangible, substantive, something we can hold. Because of this, we end up substituting things for God that seem more real to us. And that’s a danger.
Moses (Deuteronomy 32) and Paul (1 Corinthians 10) both speak of people sacrificing to idols, other gods, and false gods. They both say that it is sacrificing to demons. In what way is an idol a demon or demonic? Dr. Caldwell shares that in New Testament (1Timothy 4), we are warned about the doctrine of demons. Spiritual error comes from the domain of darkness. This domain is the realm of Satan and demons. We need to understand that idolatry is spiritual error inspired by demons. Demons stand behind it and are involved in it. That is true from a doctrinal point of view but also from a practitioner point of view. These practices don’t come from God. It isn’t what God has prescribed. They come from man's fleshly mind affected by sin, informed by the domain of darkness. That is why there is a demonic element to it.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
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