The Idol of Self

1 Thessalonians 1:9

selfModern man often laughs at the folly of people who fashion images of worship that represent some element of the natural world. The images may be of some animal with desirous characteristics or of items related to earth or space. Think trees or stars for the latter category. These images become idols when worshipped.

Surely it is folly to worship that which has been created by God rather than God himself. It is more folly to worship that which is formed by human hands rather than God who has created the human hands.

The modern man laughs because these attempts at worship are considered unenlightened or vestiges from a pre-scientific era. This might be well and good if modern man turned from the folly of those uneducated ancestors and turned to the living God as did the Thessalonians.

How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.

–1 Thessalonians 1:9

However, our modern minds typically have turned in another direction. The prevalent idol of today’s culture is the idol of self. Instead of worshipping those things created by God on days 1-5, we place our affections on his Day 6 creation – man.

This is the ultimate expression of idolatry. The chief item of creation now usurps the position of the Creator. Instead of worshipping God as the center and deserving of glory, we place man at the center and call out his praises. In so doing we have followed the course of Lucifer himself who attempted and attempts to exalt himself above God.

Phrases that are popular in this realm include self love, self hate, self image, self esteem, self talk, self actualization, self confidence, etc.

Sadly, those who claim the name of Christ are not immune from this flipping of Creator and creation. Consider some of the statements heard in the Christian arena today and answer whether these issues are God-centered or man-centered.

1. Who’s Serving Whom?

Don’t misunderstand. There is a place for asking God to give to us. Jesus himself teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread (Luke 11:3).” But he teaches this only after he first instructs us to pray that “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come (Luke 11:2).”

The issue is one of motive. Are we praying for God’s will or for our will? Are we seeking to serve God or have God serve us?

At times we will pray for what we want, as in for healing or protection. Yet, like Jesus we must quickly get to “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).”

2. Father Knows Best?

Most children reach a stage in life where they think they know better than their father. That has also become true for some concerning our heavenly Father. In fact, it is a mindset as old as Job. We preface statements with “If I was God…” There is no good ending to the beginning of that statement.

We might also think that if God only understood what I was going through, he would act much differently. This is assigning the trait of omniscience to man instead of rightfully assigning it to God.

3. Who Needs Forgiveness?

Some pop psychologists urge bitter folks to forgive God. Seriously. We put ourself in a place of absolving the Holy One from his “sin” of not doing what we thought he should have done. We do well to remember which one in this transaction is holy and which one is sinful.

4. Who Is Your First Love?

For the biblical Christian, we understand that to properly love one another we will have first loved God. But today we hear that before we can love one another, we must first love ourself. Books have been written and classes have been taught on the necessity of learning how to love yourself. This is presented as a high, if the highest, priority.

Can you find any such teaching in the Bible? No. When the Ephesian husbands were instructed to love their wives, they were love them “as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28)”. A few words later, they are told “For no one ever hates his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29).”

Some will object and claim to know those who hate themselves. They will cite as proof those who harm themselves. However, the harming of self is not a sign of hatred, it is a sign of the love mentioned in the above verse. The one who harms self loves themselves so deeply that they seek to end whatever pain they are experiencing. They do this without regard for the pain it will cause others.

5. What Do You Claim?

We are taught in the Bible to claim the promises of God. We sing of standing on these promises. It is that God has spoken and we can depend on that.

But perversely today some team a “Name it and Claim it” theology. Listeners of these proponents are encouraged to create their own blessings from God by naming health and wealth. The result is that the prayer relationship again elevates man’s desire over the desire of God.

Instead we should stand strongly on God’s promises (which may me sickness and poverty) while praying to him. Buck Parsons recently tweeted, “If prayer actually changed God’s mind, I would stop praying.” That is sound prayer advice.

6. Who Gets the Credit?

Are you living to build your brand, get your name out there or become famous? If so, you have missed the boat. That is idolatrous, self worship. The true worshipper will seek the fame, the renown, and the glory of God’s name.

As you consider these six questions, how much idol worship is in your spirituality? If any at all, God would have you to repent and turn from your idol. Even if that idol is you.