by Brad Bigney
A biblical understanding of idolatry dramatically changed my life and exposed how far I had drifted from the gospel. And the problem is not peripheral—it’s central. Anything that prevents the gospel from center stage in your life will dramatically affect the way you live and hinder the degree to which you can glorify God, because when the gospel loses center stage your spiritual immune system shuts down, leaving you susceptible to so many other sins.
That’s why Paul stresses the priority of the gospel when he says, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” According to Paul the gospel should have first place in our lie, yet countless Christians live every day with something other than the gospel holding first place in their lie.
But maybe you’re still thinking, “Sure, idolatry’s a big deal, but it’s in the Old Testament, not where I live today.” If that’s you, then consider the last little verse in the New Testament book of John. It’s worth noting how John ends his letter. After giving us 105 verses on the importance of a warm, loving fellowship with Christ our Savior, how does the apostle of love wrap it all up? He closes in 1 John 5:21 with this sober warning: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” Did John lose his train of thought? Is he changing subjects? Not at all. You see, gospel treason—gospel drift—inevitably leads to idolatry because our hearts don’t just drift aimlessly; the drift is always away from the gospel, away from our Savior, and into the grip of something or someone else.
So the last line in John’s letter leaves us asking the most basic question of all: Has something or someone besides Jesus Christ taken the title deed of your heart? Does something or someone else hold your heart’s trust, loyalty, and desire? You say, “Of course not! I put my trust in Christ when I became a Christian. He holds the deed to my heart.” Unfortunately, while Christ owns the property, we can still live like traitors, giving the right of ownership to other people and other things. We’re prone to giving our heart to squatters all the time.
Let me illustrate how this happens. Nobody wakes up and says, “I’m going to start living for the approval and affection of my husband. Starting right now, this will be my ruling passion, and I will refuse to find comfort in God or
His Word until I get the approval and affection from my husband that I crave.” Nobody says that out loud. Yet millions of people—including Christians—live this way without even knowing it. They’re trapped and miserable because they have made a functional god of something or someone other than the one true living God, which leads to misery and chaos every time.
But part of what makes this battle so tough is that we don’t recognize the idolatry we’ve bought into. We don’t see that we’re building our life around an idol (marriage, kids, job, hobbies, etc.), but
He does, and He loves us too much to help us chase our idols. In fact, He’s a jealous God. That’s why He says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am God, that is My name; and My glory I will not share with another, nor My praise with graven images.”
Redemption and the glory of God are the big themes that run through the Bible. Why? Because God knows we drift and need to be brought back again and again to the Savior
, and to the sin-shattering, idol-smashing gospel. In Gospel Treason I lay out a plan that will help you identify and destroy the idols that keep you enslaved to certain sins in your life, sins that keep you from experiencing gospel joy and freedom. I want to lead on a journey that I think will help you pursue holiness and fight sin much more effectively, as you learn to keep the main thing the main thing.