How Do You Know Something Is An Idol? - Ep. 3

Now that we've identified an idol, we can begin to wage war. But you have to know what victory looks like if you’re going to win a battle. 

Let’s take the game of baseball as an example. What is victory in baseball? 

  • Number of strikeouts? 
  • Number of base hits? 
  • Number of errors?'s in center field for everyone to's who crosses home plate the most.

No. The definition of victory is pasted in center field for all to see. It’s the number of times you cross home plate. So let's look at Scripture, at a passage you may not have seen before.

Isaiah 44:12-20

The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,

    pounding and shaping it with all his might.

His work makes him hungry and weak.

    It makes him thirsty and faint.

13 Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood

    and draws a pattern on it.

He works with chisel and plane

    and carves it into a human figure.

He gives it human beauty

    and puts it in a little shrine.

14 He cuts down cedars;

    he selects the cypress and the oak;

he plants the pine in the forest

    to be nourished by the rain.

15 Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.

    With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.

Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it

    and makes himself a god to worship!

He makes an idol

    and bows down in front of it!

16 He burns part of the tree to roast his meat

    and to keep himself warm.

    He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”

17 Then he takes what’s left

    and makes his god: a carved idol!

He falls down in front of it,

    worshiping and praying to it.

“Rescue me!” he says.

    “You are my god!”

18 Such stupidity and ignorance!

    Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.

    Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.

19 The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,

    “Why, it’s just a block of wood!

I burned half of it for heat

    and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.

How can the rest of it be a god?

    Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”

20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.

    He trusts something that can’t help him at all.

Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,

    “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”

In describing the cycle of idolatry from the vantage point of a blacksmith, we begin to see idols for what they really are. We can see that what he’s bowing down to is just a block of wood…that he harvested, carved, created. 

But like last week, this idolatry seems a bit disconnected from our culture though. We're not a "bow down to something" culture. We have more…ahem…pride than that. And our idols are much more dangerous and sneaky. With our finances, time, energy, and gifting, we bow down to idols like success, good looks, strength, speed, and food. These are good things, meant to be enjoyed...just not meant to be placed on the ultimate throne of our lives. 

My friend, Joel Thomas, says, “The wrong why will always lead you in the wrong direction.” 

Why are you working out? (For a refresher, check out our "fit for more" content HERE: What does "Fit For More" Means To Us? Why are you running? Why are you trying to eat healthy? Why are you buying this...going her? 

We want a god we can control. It's easier that way. But with a god we can control, we have a god that's ultimately weak, who can’t ultimately fix the longing of our heart.

You don't have to settle for that kind of god...there's something/someone better! Someone that never leaves/forsakes, that doesn't let you down, and that owns the "cattle on a thousand hills." (Psalm 50:10) This is Someone that doesn't need you, therefore can give out of an abundance. God knows you.

Before we even say a word in prayer, God knows what we need. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He explained, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8

God knows what you need, the most hidden longings of your heart. He knows your pain, your doubts, and your frustrations. Yet He still desires to be close to you. That's some good news right there!

God is great...his strength, power, and abilities don’t have a limit (Psalm 147:5). Your idols and mine do. My health has a limit. So do my relationships and my success. Think about this: who was the most successful car manufacturer? Was it Henry Ford? Quite possibly. 

How’s he doing right now? He’s dead. He’s not enjoying that success anymore.

How about the greatest baseball player? We can have a debate on who that is. But do you know what I know? Either his records have already been smashed, or they will be.

So...when it comes to choosing what's better...what is that? What's the "better"? 

Better is found in surrender. And the difficult part of surrender is that it’s typically a sign of weakness, because the one who surrenders is the one who loses. 

But not in God's Kingdom. We surrender so we can win. Surrender--> victory. Suddenly this idol, this THING, achievement, relationship that can't really fulfill us (Andy Crouch says, “In the beginning, idols offer you everything and demand nothing, but by the end they offer you nothing yet demand everything.”). It’s time to surrender. 

But what does that mean? Tell God that He's won. That He’s in control. That He gets to call the shots. Through prayer, other believers, through the reading of Scripture, and biblical teaching, we’re declaring that He’s the King who gets to order and direct our steps.

Surrender is a sign of weakness...but it's through this that we receive supernatural strength.

If you want to walk into victory, let’s surrender together.


Pastor Ben Reed
Ben Reed is a Pastor at Mission Community Church just outside of Phoenix, AZ. He and his wife have three kids. He is the author of the book, Starting Small, and blogs at Ben is also a runner, a Cross-fitter, and an avid coffee drinker.

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