As I said Sunday, it just wasn’t pretty. The idolatry, greed and power of Judah’s kings, with few exceptions, spun the country into a downward spiral. Under Manasseh, even child sacrifice happened. The poor and widows and orphans were ignored. The result was that God withdrew his blessing and allowed Babylon to completely conquer and destroy Jerusalem and the temple.
All because of one simple commandment: you shall have no other gods before me. Idolatry.
I fear that we don’t really acknowledge that we deal with idolatry today. So, let me sharere something that Timothy Keller wrote in his book, Center Church (p. 70) in which he discusses something Martin Luther wrote as well:
One of the most important biblical and practical ways to help people come to see how they fail to believe the gospel is by instructing them on the nature of idolatry. In his Treatise on Good Works, an exposition of the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther states that the call to “have no other gods before me” and the call to believe in Jesus along for our justification (Rom 3-4) are, in essence, the same thing. To say that we must have no other gods but God and to say we must not try to achieve our salvation without Christ are one and the same: “Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which commands: “Thou shalt have no other gods,” which means: “Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust and faith on Me alone, and on no one else.”
Luther’s teaching is this: Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense f acceptability, joy, significance, hope and security is by definition our god – something we adore, serve, and rely on with our whole life and heart. In general, idols can be good things (family, achievement, work and career, romance, talent, etc.—even gospel ministry) that we turn in to ultimate things to give us the significance and joy we need. Then they drive us into the ground because we must have them. A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger or discouragement when our idols are thwarted. So if we lose a good think it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us…
Idolatry, then, is also the root of our other sins and problems.
So if the root of every sin is idolatry, and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation and justification, then the root of every sin is a failure to believe the gospel message that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our justification, righteousness, and redemption.
Idolatry devastates. The gospel heals. Which do we cling to?