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Idolatry: the Sin behind the Sin

Below is the start from Jason Taylor’s challenging message on ‘Idolatry: the Sin behind the Sin’. If this whet’s your appetite, the recording will soon be available to download…

Imagine a medieval city in Tuscany back in the fifteenth century.  Most days the market place is bustling as traders sell olives, hams and various cheeses as kids run around narrow alleyways without a care in the world.  Not today; the atmosphere is tense, the market place empty and the streets quiet. The Duke of Pisa has sent his troops to capture the town and they’ve taken up defensive positions.  The towers – so common in medieval hilltop towns – have been overrun and the flag of the Duke of Pisa flies proudly from the top of each one.

When news of the attack reaches the Duke of Florence, he’s angry.  This town is special to him; he chose it, gave it his patronage, faithfully provided and jealously guarded it over many years, often at great cost to himself.  This town is so special to him and he wants it back. So he summons his soldiers and lays siege to the city.  It’s not an easy task, the Pisan troops are stubborn and well entrenched and even after the market square is retaken, the war’s won but there are battles still to fight: the towers need to be retaken one by one.  But, notwithstanding the battles ahead, at least the residents of that ancient town know that victory is guaranteed.

Your heart is that town.  It’s been captured but God wants it back.  He’s engaged in a war to recapture your heart, tower by tower, from the idols that have taken up residence. God says:

“… Men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces…I the Lord will… recapture the hearts of Israel who have all deserted me for their idols.” (Ezekiel 14, v 3-5)

 The question is not whether you and I have idols, we do.  Our hearts are idol factories; we churn them out as effortlessly as we breathe.  The question is whether we recognise our idols?

In our contemporary Western culture the word idolatry conjures up images of primitive people bowing down to statues.  That seems alien to us, but actually we’re not that different.  Every culture is dominated by idols… they just take different forms …

We may not bow before a statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, but many young women are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern with body image.  We may not burn incense to Plutus, the God of wealth, but many sacrifice family & church commitments on the altar of their career.   The list goes on. Ancient cultures made idols for everything: academic achievement, marriage, childbirth, fertility, pleasure.

So do we. The only difference is that our altar and statues aren’t physical.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that we don’t bow down and worship… we absolutely do. And the consequence of our idolatry spreads like tentacles into who we are and everything we do.  They drive us.  And just as Gods in ancient times were bloodthirsty and hard to appease… our idols are no different.  They suck us in, they enslave us. They really are the sin behind the sins.  This is a vital area for every single Christian…

Jonny Herring

Jonny is serving as Assistant Minister at The Village congregation. He is married to Charlotte and they have a daughter called Amelia. As well as spending time with his family, Jonny enjoys playing squash and dabbling in photography.