He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20)
Isaiah 44 describes someone who has built an idol and doesn’t have the sense to question its validity. Verse 19 says, “The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god?”
As usual, Scripture is good to reveal truths to us that were relevant a long time ago and now. One truth is that humans have a foolish propensity to worship a lesser god (an idol) and are not quick to examine its power over our lives. One common idol that is particularly troubling is self.
Over 72 million posts on Instagram alone are tagged #selflove which is more than telling of what modern society thinks of themselves, and it’s certainly not the healthy view of self that Scripture talks about in Romans 12:3. And even though we can’t expect non-believers to think like believers should, I am sure that some of those posts can be attributed to Christians.
Christians are not immune to this idol. Popular preachers and worship teams accrue cult-like followings and the messaging is consistent - we love God because God loves us - ignoring the myriad of other characteristics of God that are separate from what He can do for us.
What is so alluring about this idol of self that causes even seasoned Christians to fall prey to it? It is important to reflect on this: how is exalting yourself more enticing than loving and knowing God?
(Take note here, though, that the nature of this idol is not as flamboyant as you might think. I’m not suggesting that self-idolaters wake up, look in the mirror, and worship what they see. I’m suggesting that, even in their quiet times with God, even in doing good things, they are their top priority - not God.)
Christian, do you have sense enough to recognize that you have idols in your life, and will you question their validity and power over you?
The idol of self will present itself in sneaky ways. Before we delve into those, it’s important to start with a prayer of examination/reflection - “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23)
While the idol of self will appear in different ways for all people, a couple of ways that the idol of self may manifest in the Christian’s life are the following:
The way we approach Scripture. Do I, more often than not, go to Scripture with a desire to know more about God’s character or with hopes of figuring out a solution to a conflict?
The way we approach worship. Am I worshiping the God of the Bible and who He is or am I worshiping attributes of God that I like and that are beneficial to me? And do I approach worship with an end goal of an emotional high?
The way we approach difficulty. Am I commonly thinking I don’t deserve this difficulty?
It is not an easy revelation to consider. You - a Christian who possibly serves faithfully in your local church, studies Scripture, and prays - could actually be idolizing yourself.
Consider what Paul Washer has said about this, “Most who claim a genuine love for God know very little about His attributes and works as they are revealed in Scripture. Therefore, the “god” they have made is nothing more than a figment of their imagination. They have a “god” made in their own image.”
After a time of reflection, have you found that the idol of self has snuck its way into your life? Scripture says to “flee from it” (1 Corinthians 10:14) and to “utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction” (Deuteronomy 7:26).
While on Earth, we will never be completely free from idols, but take heart, Christian, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
By Maize Warren