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Don't be an American Idol

Paul teaches the church at Corinth that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). What he means in that verse is that if you spend time with people who have bad character, and engage with them in verbal exchanges, you will pick up their habits, and ideas, and those ideas and habits will stain, taint, or ruin your character. After your character is ruined, so will be your life. This is because such interactions shape how we think, what we believe, and how our minds interpret the world around us. This is why we should not conform ourselves to the patterns of people who hate God, but instead we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds in light of the love of an almighty and loving God (Romans 12:2).

A psalmist discerned a similar truth long before Paul, but from a decidedly different angle. In Psalm 135:15-18, he writes that idols are just dead lumps of earthly material with no breath, no eyes, no ears, and no mouths by which they can speak. They are lifeless, inanimate, and powerless. But the potent part of that passage is when the psalmist argues that the people who make those dead idols become just like the idols they make! A maker of idols becomes lifeless, powerless, speechless, and dead to sight and sound. In essence, he is transformed just like those people who keep bad company.

But it gets even worse. The prophet Jonah recognized that those who pay regard to vain idols forsake the hope of steadfast love (Jonah 2:8). The horror of such a loss is hard to imagine. Consider a world in which you have lost the mercy, love, faithfulness, and grace of God because you chose to align yourself with the dead and lifeless elements of the world.

Modern western people may be quick to defend themselves against the charge that they are makers and worshippers of idols. But even cursory examination reveals the deception. They often do have idols. Those idols are green and called dollars. They’re ephemeral and called fame. They’re made of metal, and plastic, and rubber, and sold on cement lots. They’re made of paper and called diplomas. It isn’t that these things are evil, it’s that they become worshiped at the expense of the one true God.

We tend to worship those things for which we offer the sacrifice of life, time, effort or money. And if we’re making such sacrifices outside the bounds of God’s plan for our lives, Jonah says that we are in danger of losing our hope in God’s steadfast love. And if we lose the love of God, then we also lose our sense of love for others and ourselves. We might even lose the love of others. Ultimately, we lose what life we have to the meaningless and lifeless idols we’ve pursued. We lose our families, and our peace, and genuine life. But if we sacrifice for the God who loves us, then we have abundant love, and an abundant life which flows out of us, and nourishes what God loves, and what we wisely love (John 4:14).

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