Idolatry is at the base of so much of our error, when we err . . . though it is rarely ever recognized as such. For instance, when you get angry at someone, because they slighted you in some way, or didn't do something you thought they should have done and expected them to do . . . . Or, when someone offends you, or butts in front of you in a line at the store . . . and you feel indignant, angry . . . . It is because of idolatry--somewhere you think that YOU are important; you idolize your self, and worship at the altar of "King Me" . . . . Deep down, hidden is the ongoing presumption, "How dare someone cross me!"
It is a proclivity that we all have, to varying degrees. By God's grace, however, we are fortunate when made aware of it in ourselves, and through ongoing sanctification, the proclivity lessons, which is a great relief, praise God.
As Luther noted, idolatry often occurs according to certain opinions we have formed and demand that others also conform to or "worship" . . . . The worst schisms and conflict dividing the unity of believers derive from this tendency. One group is certain in their opinion that you must be fully immersed in Baptism to be "born again" . . . . Another group has the opinion that "no, sprinkling is good enough!" . . . and still another says that water baptism is not necessary for salvation at all, but is only a showing or sign of the rebirth already gained.
Someone else has the opinion that there is a pre-tribulation rapture and you must believe likewise! Another says not . . . and is of the opinion that there is no rapture at all.
It appears to me that many times, besides pride and self idolatry, it is out of spiritual laziness that idols are formed. If you develop an opinion (then make it an idol), such as, "self defense is NEVER to be used, in ANY situation" you relieve yourself of the need to be constantly in relation to the spirit and discerning, and instead can always just rely on your opinion-made-rule. Some things are "written in stone"--it is never allowed to murder . . . but there are many issues and situations which are not so clear cut; yet whole new sects, cults and denominations are established based on "this-or-that" opinion regarding secondary beliefs/doctrines.
So much of the bickering, fighting, accusing, denouncing and divisions among believers are destructive and unproductive . . . and frankly, unnecessary in the Great Commission; if only we understood and then remembered to "major on the majors, minor on the minors". Debate, discussion, argument even . . . can be fun and profitable . . . when controversial secondary issues are kept in their proper light and (one's own opinions) not elevated to hardline tests of someone else's fundamental standing as "true Christian."
Myself, I thoroughly enjoy the freedom found in Christ, and get great pleasure from studying, pondering, analyzing and attempting to discern the differences among the body of believers, where those differences are of minor nature--secondary to the basic, necessary facts of the Gospel:
The gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—which is the power of God for the salvation for everyone who believes.We are guilty sinners condemned under God's law; Jesus came to save sinners through His shed blood; when we believe and repent, being spiritually reborn, Christ's righteousness stands in our place, our sins forgiven and eternal life in the presence of God granted.
One of the more insidious and cruel opinions put forth as gospel . . . is the idea that if you do believe in Christ--are born again--that you will be rewarded with a "good life" and that things will go "your way" at last. Jeanie Jesus to the rescue!
"So . . . if I believe in Jesus . . . and pray really hard . . . and have faith . . . then God will protect me from physical harm . . . from poverty . . . from starvation . . . from rape . . . from torture . . . and not only that, He will help me achieve my personal dreams in this life . . . heal me when I'm sick . . . keep me from disease and accidents?"
Scriptures are taken out of context, like Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" . . . used by word-faith, prosperity doctrine hucksters when they insist that God only wants you to have the things you desire and "you best life now!"
What then do we say of the disciples who were put in harms way, persecuted, killed in the most horrific and violent of ways? They did not have enough faith? They must not really have been "Christians?"
Or the millions of believers through the ages who have suffered famine, disease, imprisonment, torture, rape, starvation, loss of children, property, health . . . ?
In fact, Jesus warned and braced the believer to expect not "your best life now" . . . but a likely life of hardship and persecution, because of being a believer and follower of Him. What He does promise, however is that He will never leave the one who believes, and that His presence will accompany us in all of our trials. "Riches" and "health" and peace and joy and love all around . . . we WILL have . . . one day, but not necessarily all of that (and most likely not) in this life, now.
But when we look at Jesus . . . above all . . . instead of our opinions, our self, this life, our dreams, our desires, and have Him as our sole subject of worship, the bounty found in the spiritual life, begun now, becomes sufficient, so that regardless of temporary deprivations, tests, pain and suffering, truly begin to pale compared to that growing and all-fulfilling hope . . . discovered and experienced simply . . . in His presence, His person, that He promised and, indeed bestows!
Not that we shouldn't pray for those things we want or hope to be spared. We know that He wants what is best for us . . . . But in the long run--not if getting a certain thing, or avoiding some trouble . . . will not actually be to our spiritual benefit. Sometimes, regardless of how we pray or what we pray for--He may give us the opposite. What we are to do then is be thankful in any case, trusting that He is Sovereign and that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to HIS purpose.
And to look for the lesson, the correction perhaps that God intends for us to see and make, in those instances when we get something quite other than that which we had hoped for or intended.
[My wife, in reading this section, adds a comment she heard from Pastor Greg Laurie, "Don't waste your pain asking God 'why? why this, O God?' . . . rather ask 'who' and 'what' . . . . The 'who' . . . is Jesus . . . the 'what' is what work in Him is being done. We may not know the 'why' until we get to Heaven.]
Beware of those, who, with subtle, devilish condemnation . . . would accuse you of "not having enough faith" . . . or not being a "true Christian" . . . if bad things should happen to you or you suffer some accident or tragedy or "misfortune" in your life. Such are intending to make you doubt, and so, doubting . . . withdraw from or resent God . . . thus being made fruitless and useless in service to the Kingdom. The devil cannot take away your salvation, but he can make you doubt it and question God when things don't "go your way" because of "your lack of faith."
Praise God always, in sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, in peace or in persecution. THAT is overcoming. THAT is avoiding idolatry. And therein . . . is found the everlasting peace which passes all (natural) understanding, and guards your hearts and minds, being in Christ Jesus alone--rather than in some idol, some opinion, or some other part of self, disguised. Idols begone and instead, enjoy freedom in Christ!