Confessions of a Christian Idolater

Come to the Fire Magazine

I never considered myself an idol worshiper. I love Jesus Christ, He resides in my heart and I’ve asked Him to be Lord over every part of my life. Yet, as I prayed for a closer walk with Him, He graciously showed me that I was indeed, an idolater.

No, I didn’t have gods made of wood or stone, although the electronic box that sits enthroned in a fine wooden cabinet toward which all of our furniture is postured in the living room could be considered a “god” of sorts. I didn’t worship the starry hosts or bow down, figuratively or literally to a little marble fat man. Yet an idolater I was still.

The god that I had innocently allowed to take center platform in my heart was my own body. I had started exercising after my first child was born to get back into shape. That was fine and was expected for my health. However, over the years I had allowed my exercise routines to grow and consume more time in my days. I had to work out every morning regardless of my schedule for the day. While I had learned that throwing in just one load of laundry before my morning Bible reading could be too distracting to continue, still I’d often exercise first - just in case I wouldn’t have time later.

In a busy day with a schedule full of “to do’s” I didn’t want to miss out on the endorphins that so pleasantly flooded my brain when I did cardio exercises. I didn’t want to chance a new bump here or lower sag there. I HAD to exercise every morning or I didn’t feel good and I felt incomplete. Often that left no time for reading God’s Word or praying and listening to Him. I had become greedy with my time.

There are few times and places in my life when my mouth is actually shut. Gardening, vacuuming and showering are among those very few times. One morning while showering after a particularly grueling workout, the Lord spoke firmly, lovingly, but quite clearly into my heart. He told me that I always find time to exercise, often pushing Him out for the entire day. He reminded me how I felt when articles I wrote for the religion section of the newspaper for which I worked, were bumped for other seemingly more important news. I had loudly complained that, “sports are their gods!” Then he posed the most uncomfortable, convicting question to me. “Aren’t you making your body your god?”

“Umm. Umm. Well God, isn’t taking care of my body - YOUR temple - important?” No response. Blushing in the shower, I knew He was right. I couldn’t rationalize my way out of it. I was making my body my god. I had become an idolater!

A new commitment was necessary if I was to advance in my Christian walk. Reading God’s Word had to be a priority for real.

Now I make sure I read the Bible first before anything else. When shopping for a new exercise DVD, I check its length. If it’s more than 40 minutes long, I won’t buy it. If time does not permit even a 30-minute workout, I deal with it. I adjust my mornings accordingly; add a cardio workout where I might have previously had a weight bearing workout planned. It can be done. So now my body is not my god. I’m still healthy; I’m still in shape. I’m just not consumed with perfection or irrational “must do’s”.

There have been other times, I hate to say, that God has had to tell me about my priorities. Putting anything before Him is wrong. When I obsess over money, or the lack of it, and allow it to consume my thoughts, money becomes my idol. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

Ephesians 5:5 says, “For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

So God taught me that anything that comes before Him and my time with Him is unacceptable; it is idolatry. Anything that consumes my thoughts and my heart, other than Him, is idolatry. Like Jesus is quoted as saying in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I Corinthians 8:4b-6 says, “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

Because He is a jealous God, He won’t permit idols to stay. I don’t want to make my God jealous. I will take heed the instructions given us in I John 5:21, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Now if something urgent takes me away in the morning before I can read the Bible or commune with God, I feel incomplete – not convicted – just unfulfilled, like I haven’t had breakfast. I hunger for time with Him; I thirst for His word. I asked how I could grow closer to Him and He so graciously showed me, quietly yet clearly in the shower one morning.

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