Sermon:  American Idols


Summary:  Idolatry is not just an ancient problem, but is an ongoing problem because idols come in many forms.  The problem with idolatry is that God prohibited it because he is the only God, and all other replacements for God are nothing more than heavy burdens we cannot carry that leads to evil.  God wants us to flee from idolatry and put our hopes and trust in him.


Text:  Various


Scripture Reading:  1 Cor 10:7-14



1.      When hear the word, “idol,” what do you normally think of?

2.      Probably depends on context:

a.      On TV – Think of celebrity

b.      In church – Think of Baal, or something like that

3.      Isaiah 46, passage on idolatry, kept popping up the last three weeks

4.      Maybe this is God trying to tell me something.  Sermon on this topic?

5.      Last week, saw Hananiah, Meshael, and Azariah faced with idolatry

a.      Nebuchadnezzar built a 90 foot statue for all to worship

b.      They refused to bow down before his statue and worship it

6.      What is the problem with idols and idolatry?


I.     God Said Don’t

A.   I Could Read the Verse where God said don’t make idols, and that is enough

B.   was explicit about it

1.    (Ex 20:22-25) 22 And the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 

a.    He said don’t… period.  That settles it.  But God says more…

b.    Starts with, “You have seen that I talked with you from heaven.” – Because he is the living God

c.    God goes on to say to not make gods of silver to be with me, or a god of gold

d.    God even specified how to build an altar – dirt, or uncut stones!

i.      Does not specifically say why

ii.     Maybe to avoid the temptation toward idolatry?

2.    (Ex 32:4-5) And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden[a] calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 

a.    Who are they worshipping? V.5 – Tomorrow shall be a feast to Yahweh

b.    So…. Yahweh looks like a golden calf????

i.      Evidently, this is the kind of “god” they were comfortable with?

ii.     God was angry and wanted to destroy them

iii.    Moses interceded, and God relented

iv.   Moses grinded up the idol with water and made the people drink

3.    (Dt 4:15-16) 15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, …

a.    How are you going to represent God in an idol?

b.    Can’t be done.  Besides God said don’t

4.    (Acts 17:29-30) 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent

C.   ILL:  Amazing how an artist can capture a person’s likeness

1.    Maybe a painting, or even a sculpture

2.    I submitted a couple photos of my great grandparents to an AI machine, brought them to life with smiles, blinking of the eyes, etc.

3.    Reminded also of Bitstrips – I got good at making bitstrip avatars

4.    But you CANNOT do this with the God of the heavens

D.   Do not serve an idol

1.    There is nothing in creation like God

2.    Besides – God said DON’T


II.   Idols are Extremely Heavy

A.   They cannot do anything

B.   (Is 46:1-7) 1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; but themselves go into captivity. “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.

1.    Do you recognize the names of the Babylonian gods?

a.    Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar, which means, “May Bel protect his life

b.    Nebuchadnezzar – Nebo defend my crown

c.    Nabopolassar – Nebo protect the son

2.    What kind of gods were Nebo or Bel?  HEAVY

a.    Think of Nebuchadezzar’s 90 foot gold statue.  How heavy?

b.    What if 90 foot god has to move from plan of Dura to the capital? 

c.    Will take an army of beasts, and wagons to move it!

d.    What happens to the statues when enemy attacks? – Try to take them with you!

i.      Given a little time to gather your belongings to make trip to captivity

ii.     Try to pack up your god, maybe only 9 feet, not 90 feet tall

iii.    But it winds up being too heavy for oxen, horse, etc.

3.    Gods point – You have NEVER had to carry me

a.    I have carried you

b.    I will carry you until you are old and gray

c.    Your god of gold can’t do anything except stand there & be heavy

d.    Even if you cry out to it, they can do nothing, except be heavy

4.    God contrasts himself to their idols:  “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. 12 “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: 13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”

a.    He is God, and there is no other!

b.    God will accomplish his purpose

c.    God will bring salvation

C.   ILL:  Reminded of the Museum over I-80 at Kearney

1.    About the road underneath over the years

2.    First it was the Oregon Trail, Train Travel?, Lincoln Highway, then Highway 30 in 1926, then I-80 in 1974

3.    One of the sections was devoted to travel by wagon

a.    Had a replica of the trails with a wagon on it

b.    Off to the side, could see belongings from several families that had left things they had valued behind

c.    Included a piano, big heavy furniture, and other things

d.    Too much weight for their oxen to carry

D.   That is what an idol is like

1.    It is dead weight – literally DEAD weight

2.    No benefit except to weigh you down


III.  Evil Follows Idolatry

A.   When one gives up on the one true God to serve an idol, evil results

B.   Can think of these examples:

1.    (Ps 106:36-38) 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.

a.    Idols became a SNARE to them

b.    Wound up sacrificing innocent blood of their children to their idols

c.    This passage quoted by pro-life Christians

2.    (Psalm 53:1-3) 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven  on the children of man to see if there are any who understand,[b]  who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

a.    There is no God – What is the result of this?

b.    Corruption, sin, evil

3.    (Rom 1:18-32) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.     24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.     26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.     28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

a.    Notice the progression from not acknowledging God to replacing God with something else

b.    Even though seem wise and enlightened, not realize they become fools

c.    In order to jettison and free self from God, they wind up becoming blind slaves, not even realizing it

d.    Notice the result – debased mind that leads to all kinds of evil, and thinking it is okay, giving approval to it

4.    Seems to suggest that often, the opposite of Theism is not Atheism, but Idolatry

a.    People do not just jettison God and leave an empty void

b.    People usually replace God with…. Something, and that becomes god

C.   ILL: I can think of a couple of examples

1.    Humanism

a.    People don’t think of it as a religion, but it is

b.    Has its own orthodoxy, beliefs, and practices

c.    They have their meetings, teachings, societies, and publish books

d.    Their definition: “A system of thought that stresses the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”

i.      No room for a creator God who gives commands and instructions

ii.     God has been replaced by…. Humans (humanism)

iii.    This obscures the idolatry, because it makes idols out of humans

e.    With no God, no standard but humans – How do you determine what is right or wrong?  Boils down to who has the power….

2.    Marxism

a.    Believes that supernatural religion is the opium of the people

b.    Replaced theistic religion with the religion of the state

i.      The Original Sin – Private Ownership of Property

ii.     Oppressor – Bourgeoise, rich property owners – they are immoral

iii.    Oppressed – Proletariat – the working class, laborers

iv.   The Savior – The State

a)    Revolution to displace the Bourgeoise and replace with a communist system

b)    Elimination of class, redistribution of wealth, state oversees

c.    Sounded good in theory to many people – but was fantastic failure

i.      Communist regimes were more oppressive than what they had

ii.     It was another form of idolatry – made idol out of the state

iii.    What is the state?  Made up of…. PEOPLE!

3.    Every time you displace God, an idol will take his place

D.   Root of idolatry is man wanting to be in control

1.    Does not matter whether it is a statue god that man creates to his liking

2.    Does not matter if it is some humanist philosophy or some form of marxism

3.    See in in scripture and in history – evil follows on the heels of idolatry


IV. But is Idolatry Really A Temptation for Us?

A.   I am not a Marxist, or a Humanist, and I definitely don’t believe in statues

B.   This is the subtle and deceptive nature of idolatry – comes in many forms

1.    (Col 3:5-6) Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

a.    Covetousness is idolatry!

b.    This is what led to Marxism – Wanting to take from those who attained more wealth

C.   What do idols that tempt us look like today?  What is our American idols?

1.    ILL:  Celebrities and public figures

a.    For some reason, celebrities are seen as experts on all things!

b.    Doesn’t matter that they do not know any more than you or I

c.    People hang on their every word, imitate their hair style, want to be  like them

d.    That is a form of idolatry

2.    ILL:  Remember discussion among young people about whether to do or not to do something

a.    Question was rarely – “Is it ethical or moral or godly?”

b.    Question was – “Is it legal?”

c.    Just because something is legal does not make it moral

d.    This demonstrates the thinking of the state as god that determines what is right or wrong

i.      People seem to have made religion out of government and politics

ii.     All of their hopes rest on the government – so people are more invested in politics than ever before

iii.    Reelection of a former president.  Several Magazines had his face on the cover with the caption, “Second Coming”

iv.   THAT is idolatry

3.    ILL:  You ever hear, “I believe in science.  I follow the science.”

a.    Sound like a religious statement.  Is science now a god?

b.    What is science?  Learning the mechanics of how our world works – whether physics, chemistry, medicine, etc.

c.    What is “settled” science changes from generation to generation – it is not static

d.    The Nazi’s engaged in all kinds of “science” too

i.      They were advanced in science in many ways

ii.     This demonstrates what science cannot do

iii.    It cannot teach what is moral, ethical

iv.   When science becomes god, evil follows

e.    What science does not, cannot do – is tell you what is moral, ethical.  Only philosophy and theology can do that.

4.    ILL:  We looked at our idols in our Men’s Study – 3 roots, all idols stem from one or more of these…

a.    Desire for control

i.      This was part of the original sin – Did not want to listen to God

ii.     When you do things your own way… Well, look out the mess our world is in

iii.    God says to give him control, and he acts for our good

b.    Desire for significance

i.      Trying to find significance APART from God

ii.     This is at the root of sacrificing your family at the altar of your career, business, education, etc.

iii.    Our significance comes from God and fulfilling his purposes, whether it is scrubbing the floor or sharing the Gospel

iv.   In the kingdom, the greatest are the least of these

c.    Desire for comfort

i.      Nothing wrong with comfort, except when you make this your sole aim in life – It becomes an idol

ii.     This is why I have such hi regard for sojourners – They retire from their job, but not from God. 

D.   Idolatry will always be a temptation during our time on this earth

1.    1 Cor 10 speaks of the temptation of idolatry for Israel in the wilderness

2.    Then it says, “12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

a.    Take heed – Don’t think you are above the same temptation

b.    May not be tempted by a statue, but idols come in many forms

c.    God has provided a way of escape

d.    Next verse: 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

i.      Don’t delay, high tail it out of there

ii.     God provides a way of escape

iii.    The minute you recognize it, flee, get rid of it!

iv.   But the longer you delay, the harder it will be do escape



1.      God desires your love, loyalty, and trust.  (inv)

2.      Beware of idolatry

a.      Cannot ease your burden, but becomes a burden you cannot carry

b.      Evil follows idolatry

c.      Look to God in prayer, scripture reading regularly, reflection

3.      We think – HOW could Israel be tempted so much by idols?  That should stand as a warning to us.  We are tempted by idols as well

4.      Reflect on the potential idols and its temples in your life – and FLEE