Title: Move over, "Indiana"!
By Randall Vaughn
"You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. Don't participate in the things these people do. (Eph 5:5-7 NLT)
Remember "Indiana Jones"? He was the savvy swashbuckling hero in the film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and others. Jones traveled the world in search of religious relics and idols from cultures that perished centuries ago.
Today, when the subject of idol worship is mentioned, most people get a "mental picture" of something similar to a scene from one of those movies.
Like the objects Jones searches for, idol worship is considered by most to be a "relic", an "obsolete practice" from the past that has no relevance in the 21st century. (One definition of the word "relic" is, "A belief or custom remaining as a trace of an obsolete practice".)
Accordingly, most people quickly dismiss the notion of idol worship in modern practice.
This may shock you, but I believe the worship of images in mainstream cultures around the world is alive and well in the 21st century. (I can "hear" the eyebrows being raised!!!)
Humanity has grown in knowledge, and sophistication. We now talk about "virtual reality" in casual conversation, when just a few short years ago, the concept did not exist.
We would not (in our "superior intellects") think of bowing down in worship to a tangible image, yet, every day, we nourish, admire, honor, protect, and "worship" the "virtual images" we have created.
Consider: While many today would not worship a literal "touchable" three-dimensional image, they would, in some cases, sacrifice almost anything for their "image".
Consider: They are more concerned about how they appear TO others than they are ABOUT others.
Consider: Their image comes first before God, spouse, children, morality, or integrity.
Although most would likely deny it, they DO worship the image they have created OF themselves (as opposed to those of past centuries who created images (idols) FOR themselves).
We have "image consultants" today who help others create and maintain the image they desire. Politicians, entertainers, executives, and sometimes even ministers, create images of what they would like others to believe they are.
Is this concept of worshipping a "virtual image" such a "stretch" to accept? In the Scripture above, Paul makes the same "stretch", saying that a greedy person is actually an idolater, thereby bridging a "gap" from the traditional concept of tangible idolatry to the concept of the worship of intangible idols ("virtual images").
Some people begin to admire the image they have created. They may even begin to believe in the image themselves. Therein begins their descent into the subtle trap of self-deception.
Next come compromises of integrity to protect the image. It must be maintained, they reason, or others may lose faith in them, become disappointed in them, or reject them. They are afraid to "expose" the "real" person behind the image!
Once safely protected, the image gets "hungry"! It must continue to grow and become larger and stronger. More compromises of relationships, integrity, and values follow.
Where does it end? Read the Scripture. It is not a pretty picture.
"But isn't that talking about "real" idol worship?", some may be asking.
Read the Scripture again. Paul said (in so many words) that worship of the "virtual image" is the same as worship of the tangible image (when he made the "connection" that greed was equivalent to idol worship as they knew it then).
The "worship" of a "virtual image" then, IS "real" idolatry!
So, how can you avoid that "subtle trap" referred to above?
Your MUST find your value, identity, and self-worth in your relationship with God, and not in what you do, where you live, what you have, or who you know.
Look to His image rather than your own!
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Col 3:9-10 NIV)
"Do not lie to each other,", and do not lie to yourself! Always be honest with God -- and with yourself -- about who you are, what you are, and what is important to you.
Remember what Jesus said.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mat 22:37-39 NIV)
Do those things and you will be safe, because if you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and you actively and aggressively "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator", there will be no opportunity for a "virtual image" to take His place.