I grew up in a small town in Virginia. Many people worked in factories including my mom and step-dad. They worked at a company that made glass bottles and my mom worked as an inspector while my step-dad worked in the “Hot End” where the actual bottles where made. Temperatures would exceed 150 degrees easily as the mixture of salt, old glass and chemicals were poured into a giant bowl and heated to 3,500 degrees. Then in rapid fire succession the “glass” would come shooting out of the bottom of the bowl resembling tiny fireballs. It would then go into a mold, solidify and become a bottle.  This one machine would actually make 532 bottles a minute.

That machine with all its complexities doesn’t hold a candle to the complexities of our own heart.  You see, while that machine turned out 532 bottles a minute, our hearts do the same when it comes to idols. John Calvin once said “The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, an expert in inventing idols.” Idols can be good or bad things that you seek to find life in, joy in, purpose in; that take the place of Jesus! This mass production of idols is part of a divine design of our souls gone wrong! God placed a longing in us to worship and that worship was made to be directed towards Him.

We long for validation, for something or someone outside ourselves to approve of us. But instead of turning to the true God and Savior, Jesus, we make substitutes called idols and we, like Gollum, have our own “precious.” We all have our own functional saviors and little gods, our “precious” if you will! We are all seeking to be delivered from some perceived need we have and find joy!

For some loneliness is the perceived problem that they need a Savior for so they turn to sex for companionship to save them from that Hell of  loneliness. For others it is pain and heartache that is the perceived problem they need a Savior for so they turn to alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or even suicide to find peace to save them from the Hell of pain and heartache. For others it is more subtle, disapproval is the perceived problem they need a Savior for so they turn to excelling in academics or at their jobs or accumulate more peers for applause and approval to save them from the Hell of disapproval.

Thus we all have idols we worship! We take these idols and functional saviors and we seclude ourselves and keep them close forming a wall of perceived safety. What we are doing is the very essence of sin: substituting Jesus, the true and living God whom we have been created to find life in, and instead have sought life in little gods we have forged with our own hands and minds!

I’m going to take the next few months to write about the idols of our culture. But before I do that I want to take one more post on defining sin as idolatry so that we better understand it. My goal is that we evaluate our own lives as we look at each idol. And if we are honest, we will find that everyone of these idols can be found in our hearts.  Thus my goal is that we see the sin beneath the sin. I desire that we see our sin as so much more than the outward act but as a failure to have Jesus as our God, Savior and Treasure. As a result may we put these idols to death and fix our minds on something, or rather someone, other than ourselves and that is Jesus and the cross.

Chris Barksdale is a Pastor at Bethesda Baptist Church in Brownsburg, IN. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. This article was initially published on the website of Bethesda Baptist Church.