The American Idols We Worship by Kevin Probst
American Idol is a reality show to find new solo talent. It has been running at the top of the ratings for nearly nine years. It is the only program to be rated number one for six consecutive years in the Neilson ratings. The title of the show belies America’s unbridled thirst for celebrity. It is as if America’s youth live their fantasy for popularity and fame and wealth through Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Hicks. Every year we choose another idol to adore.
In theological terms, an idol is defined as anything one might rely on for salvation other than God. It is that which captures love which should be directed to God. An idol can be just about anything. Answering certain questions can help you determine if there are idols in your life. What is it that brings you joy? What do you worry about? What are you willing to sacrifice time and money for? What are the things or the people in your life that you simply could not live without?
The sin of idolatry is addressed more than any other sin in the Bible. In fact, because God saw the danger of this particular sin, he addressed it in the first two of the Ten Commandments. “You shall no other gods before me and you shall not create any gods of your own to worship instead of me.” 20% of God’s directives toward us deal with idolatry. Tim Keller has done extensive study on idols and he says, “Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer.” (1)
Keller reminds us of Rocky Balboa when he says he is going the distance. “If I can just go the distance I’ll know that I’m not a bum.” What is it in your life you really NEED to conquer? Have you given yourself to achievement, to the accumulation of wealth, to the acquisition of fame and fortune? Which of those things must you acquire so you will know you are not a bum?
There is within every soul an innate desire to worship the one and true God. We often try to distract ourselves from that primary appetite by substituting secondary objects to worship. We try to heal the pain in our heart by consuming drugs or alcohol or we try to address the emptiness by going on shopping sprees or skipping about from one romantic relationship to another. But these are all temporary fixes, poor substitutes for the salvation that Christ offers us. We are really saying to God, “Your son isn’t good enough or big enough to satisfy my needs, I must heal myself and create my own happiness.”
Unlike the cattle in the field who eat and then lay down in satisfaction, we eat and consume and search for more and more on an everlasting quest for satisfaction. It never comes because the void in our heart is a puzzle space created for Christ. He alone can satisfy our cravings.
Consider Solomon. He was perhaps the wealthiest man in history. Though he had all the toys a man could ever want he was still looking for more to satisfy the emptiness in his soul. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines and probably barn sized closes to hold all their shoes. I’m sure he thought each one would be the one that would finally satisfy his yearning for fellowship and love. No girlfriend or boyfriend, no husband or wife can satisfy completely our desire for love. Only Christ can do that and if we think otherwise we set up others to be our idol.
Americans have idols. We put many things before God. In our search for soul satisfaction we look for it in excessive leisure. Men strain their relationship with their wives and with God by idolizing football and sports. Women go on spending sprees in an attempt to erase the emptiness only to strain their relationship with their husbands and with God. We are especially reminded during the political season that men will do anything to achieve high rank and power. Position and power becomes an idol. We bow at the temple of materialism and worship fashion. We bow at the institute of learning and worship knowledge. We bow at the temple of labor and worship filthy lucre.
Americans have idols. We have made our own gods. Isaiah 44 tells of the man who finds a tree in the forest and he uses it to create a fire to stay warm. He then uses the fire to cook a meal and with what is left of the wood he creates an image and bows down to worship it. “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.” (Isa. 44:9)
The absurdity of seeing a man make a wooden object and then say, “Save me; you are my god” is nothing but tragic. Is it not every bit as heartrending to see a man look to modern idols of power, prosperity and sex and say “You are my god, save me.” Isaiah 44 contrasts a man who finds only emptiness in worshipping his own created idol with a man who worships the Creator of all who is absolutely supreme and totally sufficient for the needs of man!
Christ addressed our yearning for stuff in a very concise manner when he said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Christ is saying, “Let me fill the void in your soul, let me satisfy all your longings then I’ll take care of all the other things in your life.”
Occasionally I’ll clean out my storage shed. When I do I wonder at the fact that what is now a bunch of junk seemed to have had value in earlier years. There is a lot of junk in our lives. It may appear to have value but in the whole scope of things it doesn’t. When Christ is centered in our lives a lot of stuff becomes junk.
Whatever is the longing of your soul, whether it is strength for the next step, or provision for the next day or supreme truth to sustain you forever, Jesus is there to satisfy our all the longings of our heart.
1. Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age. – Tim Keller
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.