Unbelief and Idolatry

All unbelief is idolatry. Frankly, when we refuse to believe God, we are saying we believe/have faith in something other than God. Indeed, that is idolatry! In no uncertain terms we are replacing him with our own functional savior, someone or something we think can “take care of us”, “handle things” better than Jesus, or “meet our needs.”

This is why Paul says in Romans, “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). In this verse, faith doesn’t refer to our body of beliefs, but rather to our bold belief. It is referencing our actions and what makes them glorifying to God. In the words of the ESV Bible commentary on this very verse, “anything believers do apart from faith is sin, for faith glorifies God by trusting him and lack of faith dishonors him.” And why is that? Because we reveal we don’t trust him or worship him after all as the only God. And what is that? Essentially, idolatry.

Earlier in Romans, specifically 11:36-12:1, Paul painted a similar picture by highlighting three words and linking them together: Glory (11:36), sacrifice (12:1), and worship (12:1). While no doubt a host of sermons can be preached from these verses, at least one message rings out clearly: What we sacrifice for is what we worship. And what we worship is what gets glory from our life. If that isn’t God, it’s an idol; and that, plain and simple, is idolatry.

Unfortunately, the glory that results from idolatrous actions doesn’t ultimately become an attraction to God or a reflection of God, which is really what God desires from our life (Matthew 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31). It is, instead, a distraction from God. Indeed, that’s what idols do — distract attention from God. So I hesitate calling this type of attention from idolatry glory, simply because it is anything but glorious. It is actually gross, a glaring type of self-centeredness that replaces the Creator with created things, including us at times (Rom. 1).

So who do you ultimately trust to meet your needs? Handle your problems? Answer your questions? As you answer those kinds of diagnostic questions, a word of warning: Whenever we push God off the throne and repeatedly trust other things, we become idloaters. At that point we aren’t living a lifestyle of bold belief in the only true God, but one of fleshly unbelief in our own version of another god, and its nothing short of practical atheism.

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