Tony Evans: How to Tell When You’re Serving an Idol

One day I had gotten in my car to drive to the church. I pushed the garage door opener, but nothing happened. Needing to get to a meeting, I decided to call the repairman. The first thing he asked me to do was walk over to the garage door and check to see if the canisters at the bottom were facing each other, or if one had gotten knocked to face another direction. This is because when the two canisters fail to align with each other, the signal does not connect, and the garage door will not raise. As soon as I turned the one canister which had gotten knocked out of alignment back toward the other canister, my garage door opener worked just fine. I was free to leave, all because of this powerful thing called alignment.

The garage door had been too heavy for me to open on my own. It had been too difficult for me to force up. But a simple adjustment in alignment did the trick. Similarly, believers who refuse to align to divine rule in their lives face closed doors, blocked destinies and trapped dreams. It’s all about alignment. You cannot ask God for divine favor while simultaneously making choices that go against His revealed will. That’s a contradictory request due to the nature of a covenant. Remember, a covenant is a divinely-created relational bond which carries with it both blessings and consequences.

Moses made it clear what the consequences would be if the Israelites did not choose life. He said in Deuteronomy 30:17-18:

“But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.”

They would perish. Their dreams would perish. Their plans would perish. Their hopes would perish. All because they chose to be drawn away and worship other gods.

We may not have wooden idols in our culture today, or statues to bow down to. But we do have other gods whom far too many of us serve on a regular basis. People have chosen race over God, culture over God, class over God, gender over God, possessions and entertainment over God, and so much more. We keep making all these choices and wonder why things are so chaotic, not only in the world but also in the Church. It’s because we keep choosing idols over God’s revealed rule.

How do you know when you’ve chosen an idol? An idol is any unauthorized person, place, thing or thought which you look to in order to determine your decisions. Whomever, or whatever, influences you to the degree of making the final decision in your life is an idol. If it is not the true, living God and His Word, it is an idol.

You serve what you obey. You worship what you align underneath. If the entertainment industry sways your final decision about something, and it contradicts with God’s rule, then that is your idol. Or if economics makes the final decision, or a friend, a relationship, even a spouse—all of these can be idols. After all, had Adam listened to God rather than Eve, he would not have also eaten the fruit. And we would be living out a very different outcome today.

Any overruling of what God says on a subject in your life – whatever the person, place, thing, or thought is – at that moment and in that decision becomes your god. It’s your idol. And you have removed yourself from the covenantal covering of the umbrella. See, the covering no longer works when you choose an idol. When you choose financial profit over biblical principle, or you choose cultural norms over God’s revealed rule – you are worshipping an idol. It’s a lot more straight-forward than most people like to think. Matthew 6:24 states it this way: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” For personal application, you can substitute wealth in there for whatever it is that trumps God’s rule in your life and draws you from an intimate relationship with Him. For example:

 You cannot serve God and popular opinion.

 You cannot serve God and people-pleasing.

 You cannot serve God and dishonesty.

 You cannot serve God and immorality.

 You cannot serve God and pride.

See Also

 You cannot serve God and secularism.

 You cannot serve God and bitterness.

 You cannot serve God and yourself.

You have to choose. What’s more: You get to choose. And with those choices come consequences: Blessings or curses. Essentially, you get to choose if you experience blessings or curses.

When you think about it, that is a really good thing. God has given us the opportunity to choose whether we want to experience blessings or curses – favor or futility. It’s up to us. It’s up to you. You get to choose.

Moses described this choice as one between choosing “life and prosperity” or choosing “death and adversity” (Deuteronomy 30:15). Keep in mind that biblical terms for life and death aren’t always tied to physical life and death. There would be no one left on earth to read this book if each of us were to die physically whenever we rebelled against God. Nor would there be anyone to publish and print it. Spiritual life involves connection to God and all He supplies. Spiritual death means separation from God which leads to inner turmoil, adversity, futility and discontentment.

Unfortunately, today, there are many people who are spiritually dead. Even in the Church. As a result, their lives are full of the compounding impact of years of negative consequences for wrong choices. But the good news is that we live under the new covenant. We live under the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. We can make a U-turn on any wrong road at any time and start choosing life.


Excerpted with permission from U-Turns by Tony Evans. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing.

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