1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
We find ourselves in Eastertide, the time of year that we celebrate the way the resurrection of Jesus has transformed the world. The entire cosmos has been changed, shaken at its very core. And because the world has been changed, we can be changed. Hope has arrived: forgiveness has been achieved and new life has entered into the world. And God promises that forgiveness and new life to everyone who turns from his sin and trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In our text, Paul catalogues a number of sins from which God in Christ has determined to free His people. Today we consider the sin of idolatry. In Romans Chapter 1, the Apostle Paul declares that because of our fallen nature all human beings worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. In other words, we are prone to idolatry, to the worship of false gods rather than the Living God. Though we all know the Living God deep in our hearts and consciences, we suppress that knowledge, refusing to glorify God as God.
In modern America we like to think that idolatry is a distant problem – it conjures up in our minds images of primitives bowing before graven images. But idolatry is far more pervasive than we like to think. Because human beings are religious creatures, we always worship something. As Bob Dylan sang, “You gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you gotta serve somebody.”
An idol, therefore, is anything that we place above the Living God in our affections. The first and second commandments demand that God be first in our affections. Idolatry is the inverting of our priorities and placing the Living God lower on the scale or repudiating Him altogether. Our idol may be something relatively good like our reputation or our family or our career or our country; it may also be something intrinsically evil like a false god or a perverse behavior. Regardless, any time the Living God is not first in our list of allegiances, then we are guilty of idolatry.
So how does idolatry manifest itself? Idolatry reveals itself in our desires and actions. Whose approval do you want most? Whom do you strive to please above all others? Whom do you most fear disappointing? Whose precepts and commandments are supreme for you? What makes you really upset? For whose honor are you most concerned? These questions help get to the heart of the issue: we are to fear the Lord and serve Him come what may. We are to seek His glory above all – more than our own, more than another’s, and exclusive of any other deity.
Reminded, therefore, of our calling to place the Living God first in our affections, to turn from the worship of idols to the Living God, let us confess that we have often placed other things before Him. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.