More on Idolatry

This past Sunday’s sermon was kind of a part 2 on Genesis 22 and the story of Abraham (almost) offering Isaac as a sacrifice to God. In “part 1” Dave showed us that Isaac is in some sense a picture of all of us. Just like God provided a ram to die in Isaac’s place, he has provided a Lamb to die in ours. Then this past week, I tried to show that there is also a sense in which we need to identify with Abraham. In (almost) offering his son, Abraham had to wrestle with who his greatest treasure was: God or Isaac.

We all have “Isaacs” in our own life. By that I just mean that we all have things that vie with God to be our greatest treasure. These “Isaacs” (or idols) are always hard to detect because they are always good things. One definition of idolatry is that it is making good things into the ultimate thing. So how do you know what your idols are? In the sermon on Sunday I mentioned that I’d post some questions that might help you determine the idols you most struggle with. But before we get to those I want to consider one more thing.

Genesis 22:1 tells us that the whole “go sacrifice your son” deal was a test. God initiated a test–a massively difficult test–in Abraham’s life in order to help him wrestle with the issue of idolatry. The test (“Take your son, your only son, the son whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”) is so horrible that it is difficult, for me at least, to read the story. Imagine what it would’ve been like to be in Abraham’s position.

Was it cruel of God to put Abraham through such a test? Not at all. It was incredibly loving and merciful. How can it be loving and merciful and kind for God to put Abraham through something so painful? Because it was the only way to expose Abraham’s idolatry. If Abraham had never had to go through such a wrenching trial, then he would’ve never had to wrestle with the issue of whether he loved God or Isaac more. It’s likely that Abraham would’ve made Isaac ultimate and given to Isaac what belongs only to God.

Here’s the take away point for us: God puts us through trials for the same reason. He wants to strip us of our idols so that we can find true and lasting joy in worshiping him and him alone. But as Abraham can testify, being stripped of our idols can be extremely painful.

If your idol is security, then it is painful to lose your job. If you idol is your reputation, it is painful to look foolish and vulnerable to others. If your idol is appearance, it is painful to grow old. If your idol is to be accepted into the “inner ring,” then it is painful to be an outsider.

So one way to view trials from a biblical perspective is that they are God mercifully ripping lesser idols from us so that we might gain a greater treasure: God himself.

Idol Revealing Questions
As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods is a very helpful resource on the topic of idolatry. In it he has a list of questions that help us discern what our idols might be.

What am I most afraid of?

What do I long for most pas­sion­ately?

Where do I run for com­fort?

What do I com­plain about most

What makes me hap­pi­est?

How do I explain myself to other peo­ple?

What has caused me to be angry with God?

What do I brag about?

What do I want to have more than any­thing else?

What do I sac­ri­fice the most for in my life?

If I could change one thing about my life, what would it be?

Whose approval am I seek­ing?

What do I want to control/​master?

What com­fort do I trea­sure most?

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