I came across this excellent little work by John Angell James over at GraceGems and thought I would I would post a snippet here. I highly recommend you go and edify yourself with the rest of the content. James offers some excellent insights into the often overlooked idols of the heart: self, home, job, society, and even the church. Yes, all of these can provide us with plenty of spiritual idols that we may esteem and worship in the place of God. This is a good reminder to be watchful of our hearts, and obey especially His first commandment.
The apostle John closes his first epistle with the following tender and solemn admonition—“Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” Those to whom he thus addressed himself had been converted from Paganism, and needed to be cautioned against relapsing into their former idolatry, and against every practice which would in the smallest degree seem to countenance it. There is no need that I should warn you against this sin in its literal import. You have never bowed the knee to a graven or molten image, and never will—but is there no such thing as SPIRITUAL idolatry? The first commandment of the decalogue says—“You shall have no other gods before me.” The meaning of this precept, which is the foundation of all religion, is not merely that we shall not acknowledge any other God besides Jehovah—but also that we shall treat him as God! That is, we must love him with all our hearts, serve him with all our lives, and depend upon him for our supreme felicity. It is obvious that all this, as well as prayer and praise, is the worship which God requires.
The bended knee, whether this be done to God or an idol, is of no value—but as the expression of the state of the mind and heart at the time. The affections are a much more sincere and expressive homage than bodily attitudes and outward forms of devotion. Hence it is obvious that—whatever we love most, and are most anxious to retain and please—whatever it be we depend most upon for happiness and help—whatever has most of our hearts—that is, in effect, is our God!—whether it be Jehovah or Jupiter, or whether it be friends, possessions, or our own desires, or our own selves! Is it not, therefore, to be feared that the hearts of many professors are going too much after other objects of worship than God, and need the admonition, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” Of these objects of spiritual idolatry there are many classes.
1. There are the idols of the HEART!
SELF is the great idol which is the rival of God, and which divides with him the worship of the human race. This is “the idol that disgusted the Lord and made him furious”—even in the temple of the Lord! It is surprising and affecting to think how much SELF enters into almost all we do. Besides the grosser form of self-righteousness, which leads many unconverted people actually to depend upon their own doings for acceptance with God; how much of self-seeking, self-valuing, self-admiration, self-dependence—there is in many converted ones! How covertly do some seek their own praise in what they professedly do for God, and their fellow-creatures! How eager are they for the admiration and applause of their fellow-creatures! How much of self, yet how little suspected by themselves, is seen by One who knows them better than they know themselves, at the bottom of their most splendid services, donations, and most costly sacrifices! What admiration do some cherish of their pious experience, their painful conflicts, their deep sorrows, their lively joys, their full assurance! With what feelings complimentary to themselves do they secretly meditate on these exercises, or relate them to their friends! How much do some dote on their blameless conduct, their spotless character, and the estimation in which they are held by the church and the world—they make an idol of their reputation!
I knew a venerable man who attained to the age of seventy, in blameless conduct. He was esteemed for his sanctity by all who knew him, and then fell into odious immorality. On being asked if he could trace his fall to any ascertainable cause, he replied, “I was proud of my reputation, and Satan taking advantage of this state of mind, tempted me, and I was taken in the snare of my own pride!” In how many ways does self steal away the heart from God. How subtle are its workings, how concealed its movements, yet how extensive is its influence. How SELF perverts our motives, lowers our aims, corrupts our affections, and taints our best actions. How much incense is burned—and how many sacrifices are offered on the altar of this idol!
Peace & Blessings,