1 John 2:16
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
Many cultures are saturated with idolatrous practices, and in fact, anyone who worships a god other than the God of Scripture is worshiping an idol. We Christians in the United States may not experience those exact temptations, but there are still other idols that tempt us today.
One day as I walked past my father’s bedroom door, he called out to me: “Robertson, come here. I want to tell you something very important about ministry.” I went to his bedside, wondering why he would tell me about ministry when that was the furthest thing from my teenage mind. “The three great temptations of the ministry,” he continued, “are girls, gold, and glory.” I was literally dumbfounded. I had always assumed everyone in ministry was like my father, and those sins were as far from him as fire from ice. Nevertheless, I tucked away the idea for future reference.
In Japan I never heard of a single pastor who fell to adultery. Across the years I knew hundreds of pastors, some of them leaders who knew other hundreds. One national church leader, in answer to my query, said he knew of one moral lapse. One! So I was ill prepared for an experience during my second term of service.
At a meeting of hundreds of pastors, the church leader announced his sermon topic, “The Three Sins of the Ministry.” I remembered my father’s comment years earlier and carefully listened to see how different things were in Japan. Imagine my astonishment to hear him list the same three temptations.
Is sex, money, or fame a special temptation for you? If so, why not confess it before the Lord and covenant with Him to launch a major idol-smashing campaign until the power is broken? Ask Him to give you discernment and courage to identify and take the actions needed to rid your life of these idols.
1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
Let’s look more closely at one of our most common idols. We don’t bow before carved images, to be sure, but Paul referred to covetousness as idolatry (see Colossians 3:5). In addition, he classified covetous people with fornicators, idolaters, and thieves, saying they will never even see the kingdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:10). Coveting material possessions is a form of idolatry.
It’s possible to idolize something you already own. Imagine your house burns down tonight and consumes everything you own. List in order of priority the losses that would crush you, things you would grieve over.
I sometimes go through these exercises to be sure I hold things of this earth lightly. I don’t want to have even the faint scent of materialism about me. If I discover a sticking point — something I’m beginning to crave, something I hold too tightly — I immediately confess it and ask deliverance. I recognize it as idolatry creeping in, and God insists that I deal ruthlessly with it because idolatry is the ultimate disloyalty. To focus on material things is a sure sign I haven’t found Him and His gracious will sufficient. God’s command is clear: “you shall not bow down to idols or serve them.”