…and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man… (Romans 1:23).
What is the greatest sin of which man is capable?
In support of his contention of man’s radical depravity, Paul in Romans 1 points to sexual perversion.
But that is not his primary target.
The sin that is most grievous of all? Idolatry.
And it’s squarely in his apostolic cross-hairs because idolatry represents an exchange that is foolish and harmful, with an incalculably paltry return.
Paul demonstrates the progression of corrupt thinking that gets us to that place, an evolution of human thought process, causing us to turn from God and flee to the embrace of idols.
It occurs in 3 truth-rejecting steps.
According to Paul, they are suppression, refusal, and exchange.
Here’s how it happens:
Suppression – Mankind intentionally discards what we know to be true, by all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness (v.18).
Refusal – human beings, created in the image of God, refused to honour Him or be thankful to Him. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him (v.21).
Exchange – the third step down in human degeneracy involves the inevitable result:…they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (v.22,23).
So how does that translate in our 21st century world?
Most people I know don’t worship an inanimate object placed in the center of their home, or erected in the town square. But if we don’t worship physical objects, our culture often exhibits a bondage of slavish adoration to conceptual images: beauty, success, wealth.
Notice: none of these 3 is evil. Each is morally neutral.
But when the desire for such swells out of its reasonable place in our lives, imbalance results. Something good given by God ultimately replaces Him in our affections, our passions, and the expenditure of our God-given resources.
In our most recent gods at war video, Chuck Bentley related his story of business success, concluding that his sensible desire to succeed in business had morphed into an all-consuming drive for personal wealth. It began to change when the Lord brought him to this recognition: “It was my personal prison”.
Takeaway – Here are some diagnostic questions to ask in self-assessment:
What do I dream of achieving? What do I complain most about? What do I most sacrifice for? What do I first consider when making decisions? What has prevented me in the past from doing what I later recognized was worthwhile?
Our honest response to those self-directed questions may reflect reasonable, balanced issues. Or they may indicate something more sinister that we have previously failed to see, a toxin that is destructively draining spiritual health.
~image by Geodum at freeimages.com