Alpha & Omega

Idolaters Anonymous
Stealing God's Glory

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What are the common kinds of idols? How do idols affect hope and meaning? What does joy have to do with idolatry? What frees us from idolatry? How does forgiveness bear on idols? Who is Jesus? What is Gethsemane? What is spiritual warfare against idols? What is the Good News? What is Idolanon?
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John Baillie Robert Barclay Emil Brunner H.H. Farmer P.T. Forsyth Ole Hallesby Wilhelm Herrmann Rufus Jones Thomas R. Kelly Kierkegaard H.R. Mackintosh Paul K. Moser Reinhold Niebuhr John Oman Helmut Thielicke
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Spiritual Warfare

Idols keep us from fully enjoying the loving friendship with God that alone allows us to live freely in peace, joy, and unselfish love. Because God loves us so deeply, He wants our friendship with Him for our good. It is for our sake, therefore, that He forbids idolatry. He wants us to be freed from anything that would keep us from living in the power of His love, in friendship with Him. God's love, offered by the Holy Spirit, is a spiritual power that seeks always to draw us closer to Him in trusting friendship. There are spiritual powers at work in idols that seek precisely the opposite goal: to separate us from God, to keep our attention on things that do not satisfy, and even to have us worship false gods (Deut. 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Cor. 10:19-21). These dark powers are the real problem. They underwrite the imprisoning power of idols.

One powerful effect of dark powers is to keep us unaware that we are holding on to idols. Things we consider harmless or take for granted as good can mask the powers that keep us from relying on God as our ultimate source of comfort, security, and goodness. Consider, for instance, how common it is for (a) Americans to attend a sports event rather than a worship service, (b) someone to go shopping rather than to pray or worship to relieve the "blues," (c) someone to approve of academic achievements that promote an elite and exclusive intellectual class rather than to follow Jesus, or (d) someone to talk to a human friend about a serious problem before, or instead of, seeking God's guidance through prayer. People thus seek comfort in sports, shopping, education, and human relationships, among other things. What could be harmful about these things?

Anything or anyone interfering with our loving and trusting God as the ultimate provider of good things in our lives is harmful. Powers of darkness, however, do not announce themselves as harmful. They work to keep us deceived about the truth, masquerading as good (2 Cor. 11:14). It should not be surprising, then, that many of the things we consider harmless are actually harmful. We should ask whether they keep us from fully loving and trusting God for our peace and joy. We become complicit with dark powers when we hold on to idols that diminish our loving and trusting God. We are likewise complicit when we enable idolatry in others, such as when we are indifferent to idolatry in the lives of others.

Our struggle with idolatry reflects, in the end, a conflict between opposing spiritual powers: God's power of life and unselfish love versus dark powers of death and selfishness (see Eph. 6:12). The struggle concerns not so much the identified idol itself (the material object, the sought after achievement, the human person) as the dark spiritual power behind the idol. Alone, without the power of God's love, we are no match for powers of darkness. They will sift us like wheat. With God's power, however, we can be released from the destruction of our idols. Jesus shows us, in his life, death, and resurrection, how the power of his Father's merciful love shines through all darkness and overcomes even death.

The apostle Paul tells us how we can effectively receive God's liberating power and put it into practice in our lives:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV).

As we observe Paul's command, we find ourselves resistant to the idols that otherwise lead us to bondage and death. We find ourselves triumphant, owing to a power not our own, in the spiritual warfare over the kingdom of God's unselfish, nonviolent love. This power is centered in Jesus, the One who has triumphed over darkness and death, even for us. He alone delivers us from evil. He alone gives us life everlasting. He alone is Lord. By entering in to frienship with Jesus as Lord, we find peace and satisfaction that make idols pointless and even repulsive.

Plea

Be, Father be,
for me all that I see,
my closest
my dearest
reality.

Wherever it wants, blows
Your Spirit of life.
Wherever it wants.
O please, let me live.

Darkness blinds all of my days.
Clouds cover my shameful heart.
I want to see clearly;
to breathe You
each word.
I want to be freely alive
Your child in
death’s world.

In Your great mercy
dear Father, I pray,
give me Your eyes like the Son.
Let them shine through to You
so that others see too.
Let the dread set before me
disperse like the wind,
so that everyone knows,
it’s for Joy that I live.

Color

Your angels are throwing bricks at my heart again.
Wake up! they cry in vain.
The impact crushes
the blood it gushes
everywhere.
My dreams are red tonight.

The demons are poking sticks into my pain again.
Dream on! is their refrain.
The rules confound
and I am bound
to die.
My hopes are black tonight.

Your flames are bringing licks of life again.
Stand up! You cry like rain.
The love it burns
my heart returns
to You.
Tonight, there is a rainbow.