Thus far, we’ve seen that idolatrous lusts darken our minds and blind us to the source of blessing and calamity. Another broad theme in the Bible is that idolatrous lusts re-make us in the image of our idol.
Re-make is the appropriate verb since in the beginning God created us in his image (Gen 1:26-27). Even in our fallen state, we bear the image of our Creator God, however imperfectly.
The pleasure of our malevolent enemy is to adulterate everything that God has made, putting his perverted spin on the Lord’s good work. Thus, the bible describe idols as having a transforming influence on us. They re-make us in their image. The more they claim our affections and devotion, the more we resemble them and the less we resemble God. As Greg Beale argues in his book by the same name, we become like what we worship. Consider these texts:
But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved. (Hos. 9:10)
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. (Ps. 115:4-8)
Thus says the LORD: "What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? (Jer. 2:5)
They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. (2 Ki. 17:15)
Even in God’s frequent description of Israel as a “stiff-necked” people, this concept is communicated. That phrase is almost always used in association with the people’s worship of the golden calf (Exo 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut 9:6, 13). The idea is that the Israelites were like a rebellious calf, resisting its master.
Again, we should not think that the effects of idolatry are unique to the people who worship physical statues. The characteristics mentioned in several of the passages above are metaphors for spiritual blindness, deafness, insensitivity. It appears that idols make us insensitive to the things of the Lord.
If you think about your own history, you’ll see this is the case. Isn’t it true that when other things claim your highest devotion/affection, you are least sensitive to the things of the Lord? Isn’t it true that when you are most taken with the things of the world, you are least interested in spiritual things? This should be terrifying to those who know just how badly we need Him as we navigate life in this broken world.
We can be certain - idols are not idle; they are constantly moving on us. If we are not killing our lust for them, we are becoming like them.
Conversely, Paul teaches in Romans 8:29 that God’s gracious plan is to transform those who belong to Him into the image of His Son, in a sense, to restore the image of God marred by the Fall. Those of us who have been bought by the blood of Jesus should be disturbed by the thought of our being transformed into the image of an idol rather than into the image of Christ.
The good news is that this principle - we become like what we worship - works both ways. Thus, we should conscientiously set our minds and affections on Him to the end that we would be come like Him (Rom 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-11; Col 3:1-5; Heb 12:1-3; 1 Pet 2:4-5). Overcoming idolatry is never just about getting rid of an idol. There must be an accompanying growth in our worship of Jesus, a reordering or right ordering of our affections, so that He is in His rightful place in our minds and hearts. Taking the fight to the enemy means taking our affections to Jesus by availing ourselves of the means He’s given: word, prayer, and the Body of Christ.
Next time: a broader case for idolatry as the domain of demons.