In the past few months my husband and I were given an amazing opportunity to take a course offered by our church called “Imagine OS.” The course had various readings in scripture, excerpts from books, videos, and articles to help us apply the gospel deeply on a personal level and broadly in all areas of life and community. My familiarity with the gospel left me unaware of the extent of understanding and application I still had to discover. Now after six months of learning I am even more acutely aware of the depth still left to go. It is a beautiful thing.
Understanding sin as idolatry
One session in the course literally brought me to my knees in awe of both my need for Jesus and His all-satisfying ability to meet that need. I began to understand a profound, yet simple definition of sin as idolatry. Idolatry is a breaking of the first commandment to love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, and strength by giving something else that level of trust and value in your life. Treasuring even good things in wrong priority results in sin, whether in action or in motive. However, what broke me was tracing the actions I take in preserving my idols back to my heart to see the betrayal in valuing those things over the Lord in the first place. When we treasure God rightly the beautiful result is that we experience freedom. As I sought Jesus intently: His person, character, and the work He did on the cross for me, I began to sense a peace unparalleled. He gave His life to reunite my heart with its true love even before I saw my need. The desire was always there to put Him first, yet I tried to satisfy it with lesser things.
Discovering new layers of idolatry
One way this greatly changed my life was working through an exercise that helped me recognize the structure idols have taken in my life. I was able to identify the foundational idol of approval being the motivation of most of my actions. Realizing this helped me locate many more concrete idols in my daily life. These specific things caused me anxiety when I felt I could not control them. I realized an overwhelming craving for approval led me to idolize my efforts at work, my relationships, and even my appearance. In truth this was an underhanded selfishness; doing things well for others fed my ravenous ego. When I replace this idol of approval with God my motivation is to point others to my treasure in God, not my own aptitude. I find I am still compelled to work with excellence and be a dedicated friend because I want to reflect the work of Jesus in my life. I know I need Jesus every day to love and serve others well and when I mess up…well, it is a great segue to show my dependence on my savior.
Hope for freedom from idolatry
Understanding sin as a result of idolatry has made me more able to discuss the very Christian concept of sin with people who are not Christians. Quite frankly, I have yet to meet someone who does not desire to be free of vices they serve. When I see sin in the light of idolatry I am able to relate with others who have very different struggles. Sharing my personal idols has started great conversations and lots of “Oh, wow I do that too!” moments. It begins to reveal needs some would never associate with Jesus otherwise. The truth that having God at the center of our hearts sets all other loves right in our life is a needed concept to a scattered and overextended world constantly being let down by someone or something that was never meant to save them.
By Shauna Anthony