We all worship something. The question is, what?
Although very few people in western societies make physical idols, all of us have served the creature rather than the Creator (Jer. 25:6; Rom. 1:18–2). We often take the really good things of life and make them ultimate. Our romantic view of life has fooled us into thinking that we could fill all our needs with someone or something in this life. We look to things and people to satisfy an endless list of demands and infinite desires. We want them to fulfill us, but they cannot.
We create an idol (i.e., something we worship) whenever we look to something or someone to give us ultimate satisfaction, happiness, or joy. Everyone is worshipping something. And yet, we will never find satisfaction in finite things or people. God is the only fulfillment of our desires (Ps. 36). As Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Another way we make images of God and bow before them is by fashioning God in our own image (2 Tim. 3:1–9). Christians tweak and change the God that they find in Scripture into something much easier to digest, and therefore easier for us to use for our own ends. If we do not like something we read in the Bible, it is very easy for us to rationalize it away to make God fit our own vision (Jer. 6:14 and 23:17–32; 1 Thess. 5:3). This god will end up boring us and is really unworthy of worship or adoration since he is a self-projection.
As creatures made in the image of God as male and female, we have failed to do and be everything God has rightfully required (Gen. 1:27–28; Matt. 19:4; Lev. 18:5). We have failed to see all good things as flowing from God and to him (James 1:16–18). We have fallen from God’s glory in all we say or do by failing to praise him as the cause and highest end of our very life (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 119:169–76). We do all of this by worshipping something or someone else.
We need more than therapy for what ails us.
Although there is a time for therapy, something much deeper is at stake—our very ability to live. What secular cultures need are not more psychotropic drugs. No, they need nothing less than an all-embracing turn to God who will rescue them from their distress. Only the Lord can hear us where we have fallen because he is the only one who has fallen to a deeper point of distress on the cross. In so doing, he can save us to the uttermost.
God in his great mercy and love sent his eternal Son to become a man (Gal. 4:4–7; Heb. 2:14–18). He became the true human image of God that focuses our gaze back upon the living God as we look to him in faith (John 14:6–14; Col. 1:15–20; Heb. 1:1–4).
Jesus sees that we are enslaved to our desires and pleasures (Eph. 2:1–10). He breaks the control of the idols that have captured our hearts and brings us to true freedom and love that are only found in him (Micah 5:3; Isa. 2:8; 1 John 4:7–12). We desperately need God every day to renew us as we worship him.
Christ came with this singular purpose. He came to destroy the works of the devil and smash the idols we have put in his world. He has cast down the idols of our hands and hearts by dying for us on the cross. By dealing with sin’s guilt, Jesus begins to deal with its power in our lives, gently lifting our eyes to the heavens from where our help comes (1 John 3:8; Ps. 121).
We have the Savior we need.
Jesus has reflected back to the Father the perfect obedience required of man, taking the curse we deserved for breaking this command (Matt. 5:48; Heb. 10:6–7). He is the fulfillment of what humanity should have been, the true icon of God (Col. 1:15), reflecting and giving God the glory. And now the pleasure of the Father rests upon his children whom he has promised to conform to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:26–30).
Christ did not bow to any idols but fulfilled what it means to be the image of God and can, therefore, save us. He did not bow like Adam did before Satan’s lies but responded with the words of his Father (Matt. 4:1–11; John 4:34; 6:32–44). The love and beauty of the Father were greater than all the treasures this world could offer, and that is what Christ holds out to us. Through his faithfulness, God leads us from the idols of the heart to greener pastures where goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:1-6).
Our only hope is this free forgiveness and grace. Nothing less than God can bring restoration and redemption to such a culture of despair. Recognizing the evil of our sin with the beauty of grace is the greatest therapy and solace. We need absolution for our pent-up guilt as well as the power of love to restore our vision of life. We need forgiveness to live with ourselves once again. This is what we find in Jesus who took all our shame and guilt, clothing us with his love, meaning, and purpose—to give us back to God as holy and blameless before him.