If you’re a part of a Sunday morning adult Bible class at MoSt Church, you’re surely preparing your heart and mind in reading, study, reflection, and prayer for our focus this coming Sunday (Mar. 27) on the second of the Ten Commandments (“you shall not make an idol” – Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 5:8-10). With that in mind, let me to steer you toward some “good stuff” for you to consider.
Jason’s Hood’s fine article entitled Idolatry, the Gospel, and the Imitation of God appeared in Christianity Today just today. I believe you’ll find it helpful for consideration of application of the second commandment today.
No doubt you’d also enjoy and benefit from Dan DeWitt’s brief, simple series of posts recalling J.B. Phillips’ classic work Your God is Too Small. Here are the links to that series: Your God is Too Small (intro), Absolute Perfection, Grand Old Man, Meek & Mild, Parental Hangover, and Resident Policeman.
Finally, following are a variety of questions from which I’ll choose a few to use in the 20/20 class. Some of these are of my own creation and some I have robbed from the likes of Atchley and Shelly.
How would you feel if your mate or best friend made a sculpture of what they wished you look like, instead of the real you, and then spend all their time gazing at the sculpture and ignoring you?
What would you say are the first and last examples of idolatry mentioned in the Bible? What specifically are those idols? Do you believe they are still around and actively worshiped by many today or are they long since passe? Explain?
What Old Testament accounts or quotes come to mind when you think of the subject of idolatry? What New Testament accounts or quotes do you recall in regard to idolatry?
What is the difference between the first commandment (“no other gods before me”) and the second commandment (“you shall not make an idol”)?
Notice how the first commandment regards our not being distracted by other gods and the second commandment concerns our not developing them. Rather than eliminating God (or gods) from our lives completely, we humans tend to worship someone or something. Why do you think this is so?
God once said, “I am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5a; Deut. 5:9a). He hasn’t changed. In fact, this is specific the reason (‘for”) we are to never bow down to or worship an idol. What is the meaning of this phrase “I am a jealous God?” How is it a good thing that the living God is “jealous?”
How and why is it that the breaking of this second commandment (as well as the avoidance of breaking it) greatly affects future generations? (Ex. 20:5-6; Deut. 5:9b-10)?
Aside from the fact that God said “don’t do it,” what is it exactly that makes idolatry sin? From which Scriptures does your answer come?
J.B. Phillips once wrote a book entitled Your God is Too Small. How is idolatry an attempt to shrink God?
“Insecurity is usually the soil in which idolatry grows best.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
Idolatry often consists of either making a means into an end or substituting a thing for a person (i.e. – valuing something[s] over someone[s]). Such even happens often within Christ’s church. Can you name some examples?
How can you know when something becomes an idol in your life?
It has been said that the most common idols for men in their 20’s is sex, for men in their 30’s money, for men in their 40’s food, and then the cycle starts all over again. Whether you think this observation is hysterical or spot-on, what might the cycle be for women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc.?
Do you believe the genders are tempted to construct different idols? That is to say, what are some idols women tend to make and what are some idols men tend to build? How do you account for these similarities or differences? Does any particular Scriptures come to your mind in this regard? How do the opposite genders in the room react to your observations?
What can we learn about God’s image by looking at Jesus? What can we learn about our image by looking at Jesus?
What would you say are some modern attempts to mix idolatry and the worship of God? What potential “golden calves” threaten to steal our allegiance from the true God today?
“When it comes to the relatively important things in life (basic values and behavior concerning wealth, power, prestige, justice, security, peace, work, time, and so on), most Christians are indistinguishable from the world. Still, Christians know that they should be different from the world in some way – otherwise, what would Christianity mean at all? So, in an effort to establish some kind of Christian distinctiveness, attention and concern is focused on the trivial (which, by its very nature, does not require us to make difficult changes in our lives). In the end, it is okay to be entirely captive to the idols of mass – consumerism as long as we don’t watch R-rated movies; perfectly acceptable to spend our entire lives pursuing a cozy, suburban affluence as long as we don’t mow our lawn on Sundays; just fine to live life completely indifferent to systemic, mass-starvation around the world as long as we don’t drink beer. We, like the Pharisees, ‘strain out a gnat and swallow a camel’ (Matthew 23:24).” – Christian Smith. How do you react to this quote? Do you see any relation to it and the the subject at hand, namely, idolatry? Explain.
Anything or anyone can become an idol, even very good things such as the Bible itself (bibliolatry). Can you name some examples of how you have seen the cross of Christ made into an idol? A particular religious practice? A leader? Etc.
Have you ever confused love for your particular church with love for God? How are they the same? How are they different?
What do you hear Christians today say about God that you do not think first century Christians would have said?
How does your church, as the body of Christ, reveal the true God to the world? Are there ways you think it communicates some form of false image of God or idolatry? Explain.
When you think of idolatry in regard to other religions (i.e. – Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.),what comes to mind? Now, imagine you were a member of one of those religions looking at Christianity. What might you then imagine as common idols within Christianity today? Explain.
How do you try to keep God “in his place” in your life? Describe three ways that you try to manipulate God for your own purposes.
“Who you worship determines who you are.” Who would your neighbors say you are by watching your home life? What/whom do they see you worshiping?
Do you ever find yourself trying to put God into a neat package you can define and manage? Why do we sometimes do this?
How do you try to limit and control God? What borders and boundaries have you most commonly put on him?
What idols need to be confronted in your own life? How will you confront them, destroy them, and when?
What are some practical steps we can take today to guard our hearts against the pursuit of idolatry?
“Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.” (1 John 5:21, The Message)