We have all felt the desire to do something against God’s will. But when we did it, we experienced momentary happiness, only for it to give way to the disappointing realization that it was fleeting.
Headless of the result, we often continue to try to replace that momentary happiness with other promising joys. In the end, however, such temporary and fleeting pleasures only leave us empty and unsatisfied. No matter where our hearts seem to lead us, the potential pleasures we find disappear like vapor.
The human heart is an amazing thing, isn’t it? We typically think of the heart as a powerful muscle which pumps blood throughout our body. But the Bible also uses the word to represent the inner person, encompassing one’s thoughts, motives, and desires. The “heart” is the rational, emotional, and volitional center of a person. Yet the Bible also says that the human heart has now become a fountain of evil because of our sin (Mark 7:21).
Enjoy God? What a concept...
This was not the case at first. When God created all things, he made humanity after his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:25). God created us for a specific purpose: that we might glorify God and enjoy a relationship with him forever. To glorify God means to honor, love, praise, cherish, and revere him. What an incredible purpose in life! We were designed to delight in God and joyfully serve him. This is probably the reason that human heart is only satisfied when it accomplishes what it was created to do — to glorify and enjoy God forever.
The tragedy, however, is that every human being fails not only in accomplishing this end, but even in desiring it.
Our rebellious attitude against God, makes it impossible for us to find satisfaction in participating in our God-given purpose.
Instead, we search for substitutes. We look for anything that will fill in the void left in our life because of sin. The Bible calls all substitutes for the one, true God idols.
Do Idols Still Exist?
Very few of us have ever heard the word idol. We might think that such things no longer exist.
A quick analogy might help us realize that idols are much more than carved figures. Lawn mowers are designed to cut grass. If a lawn mower had a mind of its own and decided to shift from cutting grass to cutting gravel or water, disaster would ensue. The blades of a lawnmower are made to cut grass. That’s what a mower does. But when it deviates from the very purpose that it was designed for, namely cutting grass, and begins mowing stones and puddles, it only hurts itself and others.
Humans were made to glorify God and to enjoy him. We were designed to worship only the one, true God and serve him wholeheartedly. But we have exchanged this ultimate purpose for lesser ones.
Even though God should be the sole object of our worship, we constantly turn away from him, rebelliously searching for other purposes in life. We still find ourselves doing what we were designed to do — worshipping something and serving it. Only now, the object of worship has changed. We have moved from green grass to mud puddles and jagged rocks, from God to idols.
As Romans 1:21-25 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened....
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
The various puddles and rocks of this world that we choose as substitutes for God are endless and invariably devastating. Anything that takes the rightful place of God in our lives is understood to be an idol. This exchange of God for idols is lethal to the human heart.
Types of Idols and Addictions
Idolatry is not a practice only found in ancient cultures. It is very much prevalent in our own culture. One manifestation of idolatry is addiction.
We see its fatal effects everyday. We seek the thrill of drugs to give us happiness, only to drop into the shaky depression of addiction. We view alcohol as the thing that will wash away our cares and give us courage, calmness, or prestige, but inevitably it leaves us painfully hung-over and abused.
The pursuit of meaningful work is an admirable goal, but careers and occupations can also be elevated to the status of an idol that dominates all of life.
Similarly, grades can become everything for students. All is sacrificed for academic excellence, sometimes leaving the rest of one’s life in shambles.
Likewise, relationships are a common substitute for God. We are continually tempted to put friends, mentors, partners, spouses, or even children on pedestals, and seek our identity and purpose from them.
Sadly, many seek fulfillment through an act or service,such as prostitution, pornography, or other forms of illicit sex.
In all these cases, something or someone is sought after, desired, and idolized. Life revolves around this idol. In some cases, addiction results. In every case, an object is vainly pursued in the hope of finding lasting joy.
Finding Permanent Satisfaction
The major problem is that what is being pursued was never meant to give unending joy and can never do so. It was never meant to take the place of God, in whom alone we find unending joy, peace, and satisfaction.
Created things can never truly replace the Creator.
They were never supposed to. Whenever we begin living for someone or something other than God, whether it be good or evil, we are inevitably disappointed and left unsatisfied. It’s like trying to make a square block fit into a round hole — it just doesn’t work.
Blaise Pascal once said, “There’s a God-shaped vacuum in every heart.” How right he was.
“Our souls are restless until they find rest in God,” said Augustine. Only God can satisfy."
But how do we turn from our idols and addictions and turn toward God?
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