The Old Testament
3 You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3, NET©
The first, of the ten commandments of God means that you should not have any other gods besides Him. All gods that are not God are therefore idols. Everything that competes with God for your attention is an idol. But exactly how is an idol defined and where do they hide?
It’s easy to imagine an idol as a statue, or something which you can fall down before, but is it really the correct definition of an idol? Below is a bible text from Ezekiel 14 that defines idolatry.
Idolatry of the heart – Ez 14:3-4, NET©
3 “Son of man, these men have erected their idols in their hearts and placed the obstacle leading to their iniquity right before their faces. Should I really allow them to seek me?
4 Therefore speak to them and say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: When any one from the house of Israel erects his idols in his heart and sets the obstacle leading to his iniquity before his face, and then consults a prophet, I the LORD am determined to answer him personally according to the enormity of his idolatry.
An idol is not just a thing that you fall down in front of physically. An idol is something that you setup before you , whatever it may be. But it is not limited to physical things, but also intangible things, ideas, thought systems, and more. An idol steps into the heart of a person, and takes its dwelling there, to lead the person astray in sin.
In the New Testament
Can we find the first of the ten commandment in the new testament?
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'” Matthew 4:10, NET©
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, he used the scripture to resist the devil. From the above quotation, we clearly see that it is only God whom you will a) worship and b) serve. Therefore, what we worship, we will also serve. There is a connection between service and worship.
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24, NET©
Someone can only have one true master, and there is more than one who claim the worship and service. Therefore the idolatry takes place in the heart of them. These idols are competing with almighty God for attention.
13 No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it. 14 So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:13-14, NET©
Those that suffer from temptations in their lives have idols in their hearts. When someone is tempted, it is because an idol, has lordship in their heart, and is ringing the church bells to call for attention and worship.
Once the temptation wins, then the act of sin becomes a worship service to that idol. Therefore, escape from all temptation, because it has its roots in idolatry, and whatever idol, that is setup before them have been allowed to step into their hearts.
5 So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5, NET©
We are commanded to kill all the desires that competes with almighty God, for the first position in our hearts. All desires that we prioritize before following God, is idolatry. Everything that we desire to satisfy us, which is not God or of God, that is idols of our hearts.
A few examples from the quote above: sexual immorality, that is, everything related to sex for our own selfish gratification, also all forms of sexual perversion are idols, just as uncleanness, lust and desire to commit evil. Even the love of money is idolatry.
Are You an Idolater?
Self-check: Are you a sinner, do you worship anything else except for God. Which is to prioritize anything else above Him?
5 For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Ephesians 5:5, NET©
The Bible is clear that the anyone who is an idolater will lose their eternity with God. Such have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Idolaters must repent of their sins and renounce their idols. And seek God to have their heart cleansed from all the idols that have stepped inside their hearts.