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Identifying Idolatry


"And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Deuteronomy 4: 28, 29 KJV

Recently I’ve been enjoying reading through some sermons from a preacher in the late 1890’s. The phrase "But if from thence" was the anchor of his message titled, “Backsliding.” Looking back to this section of scripture, Moses was instructing the nation of Israel before they entered the long-promised land, warning them not to forget the Lord their God and go after false gods, the practice of idolatry.

Idolatry is such a foreign concept to us in modern times if we think about this worship practice as a turning to carved wood and stone. However, our culture has plenty of idols for us to pursue and I’m sure you could name them with me: power, money, pleasure, to name just a few. 

How can you tell if idolatry may be influential in your life? There are several overt signs and multiple scriptural references, but I’ll just list one: 

2 Timothy 2:2-4 "For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,…"

Often, idolatry is more covert and may take careful personal evaluation to discover. Going through my second Step Study in our Celebrate Recovery Ministry recently reminds me of some of the tools God has given us to identify idolatry and other sinful patterns. Step 3 says, “We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God,” and Step 4 says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our selves.”

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God has given us tools to evaluate our hearts and practices, so that we can see and turn from idols, or sinful habits. We can practice the truth this old preacher focused on, “if from thence.” These are the words that identify the position of the idolater who has seen his/her sinful condition and begins to turn to God.

The English Standard Version uses words and grammar we can identify with more closely, “But from there.” From this position of recognition and repentance we are commanded to “seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” God demands our whole heart, not just part. He has no pleasure in a heart that is divided, pursuing false godless patterns and false gods. 

Challenge: Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you, turn your life and will over to the care of God, and make a searching and fearless moral inventory to identify any idols in your life.


Father, we know you are the only true God and everything else we see is part of your creation. You have made us for yourself and for your pleasure, and you have given us new hearts that long for you. Please help us see the sinful habits and false gods we may have, so we can turn from them to follow you alone.