Gods at War
by Kyle Idleman
Idolatry seems so primitive. So irrelevant. Is a book on idolatry even necessary? Why not a book about rain dancing and witch doctors?
And yet idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible, and that should raise caution signals for us. Idolatry comes into every book. More than fifty of the laws in the first five books are aimed at this issue. In all of Judaism, it was one of only four sins to which the death penalty was attached.
Seeing my faith and life through the lens of idolatry has rebuilt my relationship with God from the ground up. As we’ve talked more about it, many in our church would say the same. Understanding the significance of this issue was a game changer.
As we look at life through this lens, it becomes clear that there’s a war going on. The gods are at war, and their strength is not to be underestimated. These gods clash for the throne of your heart, and much is at stake. Everything about me, everything I do, every relationship I have, everything I hope or dream or wish to become, depends upon what god wins that war.
The deadliest war is the one most of us never realize is being fought. I understood how my eight-year-old daughter had yet to get a handle on that commandment, but the problem is that most adults haven’t done so either. I wonder how many of the rest of us are just where Morgan was, believing they can put a nice checkmark onto that list and dismiss any concern over idols forever.
The deadliest war is the one most of us never realize is being fought.
What if it’s not about statues? What if the gods of here and now are not cosmic deities with strange names? What if they take identities that are so ordinary that we don’t recognize them as gods at all? What if we do our “kneeling” and our “bowing” with our imaginations, our checkbooks, our search engines, our calendars?
What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?
Imagine a man who has been coughing constantly. This cough keeps him up half of the night and interrupts any conversation he has that lasts more than a minute or two. The cough is so unrelenting that he goes to the doctor.
The doctor runs his tests.
Now imagine the doctor knows how tough the news will be to handle. So he doesn’t tell his patient about cancer. Instead, he writes a prescription for some strong cough medicine and tells him that he should be feeling better soon. The man is delighted with this prognosis. And sure enough, he sleeps much better that night. The cough syrup seems to have solved his problem.
Meanwhile, very quietly, the cancer is eating away at his body.
As a teacher and church leader, I talk to people every week who are coughing.
Struggling. Hurting. Stressing. Cheating. Lusting.Spending. Worrying. Quitting. Medicating. Avoiding. Searching.
They come to me and share their struggles.
They unload their frustrations.
They express their discouragement. They display their wounds.
They confess their sins.
When I talk to people, they point to what they believe is the problem. In their minds, they’ve nailed it. They can’t stop coughing. But here’s what I’ve discovered: they’re talking about a symptom rather than the true illness—the true issue—which is always idolatry.
Excerpt taken from Gods at War, Kyle Idleman, Thomas Nelson © 2013.