Idols

What are your idols? I’m pretty familiar with some of mine. But God’s mercies are new every morning. We can look to Him for the satisfaction we need.

Sojourner Between Worlds

There are so many idols to distract us from God and His truth. This world has many temptations to entice us away. Our hearts are the real culprit however. Much of what we desire and long for can be classified as good desires and longings, yet how we seek to fill those desires and longings often leads us to idolatry.

But wait a minute! Idolatry? Most of us, particularly in the Western hemisphere, would say that we don’t practice idolatry. We don’t bow down to wooden or gold statues. We don’t offer sacrifices anymore. But idols aren’t necessarily something physical. Idols are anything that we look to for satisfaction. Idolatry is worshipping something or someone other than the true God. In this way, we can see multiple ways that we turn to idols to fill our desires rather than to God Himself.

The desire for close friendship is a valid…

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A Mighty Fortress Is Our God — A Song

Martin Luther, c1529; translated by Frederick H. Hedge, 1853

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Reformation Day, Plus 500 years

(Originally posted October 13, 2013)

As you must know by now, today is not only Halloween, but also the anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church at Wittenberg in Germany (Wittenberg, Saxony of the Holy Roman Empire at the time) back on October 31, 1517, 500 years ago today. His purpose was to confront the Roman Catholic church regarding practices that he felt were unbiblical, especially those pertaining to the selling of indulgences. Many consider this event to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Take a few minutes to read through Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. It makes for an interesting read and it marks a major historical turning point in church history.

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
(commonly known as The 95 Theses)
by Dr. Martin Luther

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences.
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.
  31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.
  38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

His Mercy Is More — A Song

His Mercy is More

What love could remember no wrongs we have done
Omniscient, all knowing, He counts not their sum
Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father, so tender, is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

What riches of kindness he lavished on us
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

 

Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and Heresy – Important Words with Important Differences

Orthodoxy-Heterodoxy-HeresyI often see words and terms tossed about on social media without clarification that I feel should be clarified. It is my firm belief that we all need to be careful about how we use words and phrases when we write or speak, and we need to seek to understand how others are using terms when we’re reading and listening. How terms are defined and used make all the difference when seeking to understand or be understood.

The terms I want to address with this post are orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and heresy. These are words that are not always easy to define or describe and yet the differences between them are very important. Misunderstanding these terms leads to miscommunication and, often, unnecessary strife.

I have a couple of further disclaimers before I give my descriptions and uses of these three terms.

  1. In my definition of orthodoxy, I am not using this term to address what is known as the Orthodox (capitalized) churches, such as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc. I am writing about the basic definition of the word orthodoxy (lowercase) as it relates to followers of Christ.
  2. These are not easy terms to define or describe as they seem to have some ambiguity built in, especially as they deal with people’s belief systems. What one person considers orthodox, another may consider heterodox, and what is heretical to some is orthodox to others.

With those disclaimers out of the way, here is my take on these words.

Orthodoxy (from Greek “correct belief”)
The true and correct teachings of Scripture. In my position, orthodoxy is the body of teachings of the Evangelical church so far as it corresponds to the truth of Scripture. The belief that Jesus is fully God is an orthodox belief.
Heterodoxy (from Greek “different belief”)
Beliefs or teachings that differ from orthodoxy but not so much as to be categorized as heresy. Those who hold to heterodox beliefs are still within the fold of Christ and are saved, though they are mistaken about some non-essential issues. The age-old debate between Calvinism (or monergism) and Arminianism (or synergism) is an example of what may be a heterodox belief. These systems are opposed to one another and therefore cannot both be orthodox, but neither is heretical.
Heresy
Beliefs or teachings that differ from orthodoxy to such a degree that they can no longer be called beliefs of Christianity. Those who hold these beliefs, properly understood, fall outside of the fold of Christ and are not saved. The belief that Jesus did not physically die on the cross (e.g., Docetism) is an example of a heretical view.

Everyone who traffics in truth (which should be every true believer in Christ) believes that their understanding of Scripture is the correct understanding and is therefore orthodox, so there is obviously a blurry line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. However, I believe that every true believer holds some heterodox beliefs. Throughout our Christian lives we seek to grow in our understanding of what Scripture teaches, correcting our heterodox beliefs when we become aware of them. In this way we grow more and more orthodox, more and more in line with the true teaching of Scripture.

I also believe that there are some who are truly saved that hold to some heretical view because of ignorance or misunderstanding only. This is simply a matter of training or education for such brothers and sisters. They hold to views that they do not fully understand. Given the correct understanding, those who are true believers will abandon heretical beliefs.

Regarding mistakes with the word heresy, I have seen two extremes:

  1. I have seen people say of someone with whom they disagree that he or she is a heretic but still saved. I believe that is a contradiction; a true heretic is outside of Christianity.
  2. I have also seen people say of someone with whom they disagree that he or she is not saved because of a belief that they hold which should rightly be called heterodox. They would say that anything beyond orthodoxy, as they understand it, disqualifies the person from being saved. I disagree with this position based on the word descriptions above.

One more thought on the word orthodoxy. Some will disagree with my definition, claiming that the classic definition of orthodoxy is that which the church has taught down through the ages. The problem I have with that definition is that the teachings of the church through the ages has been erroneous in some cases, having been corrected later. This makes the classic definition somewhat useless, in my opinion.

In closing, let me say that these are very basic descriptions of these words as I see them. Some will certainly disagree. Regardless of the positions we hold, as we discus and debate them we should be careful with how we use the words we use, giving and asking for definitions where needed.

I hold to some beliefs that others—even most—would consider heterodox. I have been in debates and discussions that have challenged my beliefs on many issues. These encounters have forced me to re-evaluate those beliefs. I have studied what Scripture says about those beliefs and have either come away having changed my belief or having a firmer hold on my belief. Both have happened and I imagine both will continue to happen. It is in this way that we grow in our knowledge of God and his word.

A Simple Plea to Decide—Yes or No?

hard or easyI want to tell you something that I believe is a true statement. I then want to get your reaction to that statement. But this is not just an academic exercise; there are rewards or earnings for your decision. There are positives and negatives involved. So, here is the statement and the simple plea for your reaction to it.

The Statement:

God created you. You are, therefore, owned by God. You are given over to his command by right of that creation. There is an eternal penalty for disobedience—the penalty of death. Since you have disobeyed, you are under that penalty. The only way out of that sentence of damnation is for someone else—someone who is like you (human) and who is worthy—to pay the penalty for you. That human substitute has to be absolutely perfect in order to qualify. No one is perfect but God alone. So, if you are to be rescued from the penalty that you rightly owe, God has to become a man, live the perfect life you failed to live, and then die in your place. Jesus, who is God, did that very thing!

All who believe that and who place their hope and trust in Jesus alone as the righteous substitute that he is, will receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus as Jesus received their imperfections and paid for them with his life.

If you will change your lifestyle from whatever it is, if you will turn from your current trajectory in life, if you will turn to Jesus and give your life over to him and place yourself under his command—the command that he rightly owns—as his slave, he will apply the payment of your debt to you, declare you righteous, and rescue you from the penalty of death. You will live your life on this earth with real meaning and purpose and you will then live forever with him.

If you will not believe this statement, if you refuse to give God his rightful claim over you, you will pay the penalty for the debt that you owe.

Your Reaction?

So, today, make a choice. The choice has to be made during this lifetime. As I’m sure you’re aware, you are not promised a single more moment to live on this earth. According to one report 151,600 people die each day; that’s almost 6,317 each hour. I would guess that many of them didn’t see it coming.

So make the choice. Yes or No. For Jesus or against him. The default position is that you pay your own debt, which will mean an eternity of suffering. So if you make no decision at all, you decide against the payment of Jesus.

I beg of you to decide for Jesus and change your life. Call out to him. Pray to him. Tell him that you want his payment to apply to your account. Tell him that you want to live for him now and for eternity. Tell him that you want to be under his command rather than your own. Will you cry out to God today?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” —Romans 10:13

“Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” —John 3:36

Modern-Day Idolatry Is All-Encompassing

idolatry-answeredHave you thought much about the biblical sin of idolatry lately? Most people don’t think much about it because, after all, it’s not something that we deal with too much in the 21st century West. We don’t see many people bowing down and worshiping statues and shrines today, do we? But is that all idolatry entails? Is bowing down to an Asherah pole the full idea behind the biblical prohibition against idolatry?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think idolatry is the most pervasive of all sins. To be more precise, I am now convinced that all sin is a form of idolatry.

My friend and I are going through the book of First Corinthians in our Bible study right now and we just finished up the section in 10:14-22. This is part of a major section of this letter from Paul to the church in Corinth; it starts in 8:1 and goes to 11:1. In this section Paul is addressing a concern that was brought up in a letter that Paul received from the Corinthian church, that of whether or not it’s OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In this section he’s more specifically addressing the issue of Christian freedom as it pertains to eating meat sacrificed to idols in the temple dedicated to that idol.

Here’s the passage:

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (ESV)

And here are the final notes to that section as they were summarized in this morning’s study.

Participation is repeated several times in this passage. The word used most often for participation is koinōnia which is frequently translated fellowship in the NT.

New Testament authors expressed the essence of Christianity in one word. It is the Greek word koinõnia usually translated as “fellowship.” St. Paul reduces the whole Christian vocation to a koinõnia when he writes “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship (koinõnia) of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). St. Luke uses the same term to depict the life of the first Christians: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship (koinõnia), and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). 1 John goes a step further and affirms “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (koinõnia) with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Fellowship with Christ, leading to a fellowship with the Father, and fellowship with one another in Christ: there you have Christianity in one word.
(from the Overview of the book Koinōnia in the New Testament: A Dynamic Expression of Christian Life by George Panikulam • Pontifical Biblical Institute 1979)

By participating, or having fellowship, with demonic activity, we are joining ourselves in the same way to demons as we should to Christ. This is a smack in the face of the God who saved us and must be avoided at all costs.

An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God as an object of devotion. The most prevalent form of idolatry in Bible times was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities. From the very beginning of God’s covenant relationship with Israel, the people were to worship God alone.

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods, however. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions, and ultimately rebellion against God.

All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images, but all too frequently we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms.

  • Materialism – we like the comfort of things.
  • Pride – we want to make sure people think of us as important, accomplished, or worthy of adulation.
  • Child-worship – we do everything we can, honest or not, to ensure our children get the best education or things or accomplishments.
  • Freedom from discomfort – we often seek out, as primary importance, any escape from the difficulties and pains of life.
  • I’m sure you can think of many more.

The very basic command to us as children of God in a covenant relationship is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:28-31). We fail at that constantly. In fact, we do not obey that command for more than mere split seconds at a time. We are constantly in disobedience to that command. So, if we are not putting God first, we are putting something else first. That is idolatry.

It is my opinion that any sin is idolatry at its core, of which we are in constant violation. That is bad news. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro 7:24-8:1)

Though we are in constant violation, we must strive every moment of every day to avoid idolatry wherever we can. We must constantly seek to serve God in every decision and every activity (cf 2Pt 1:5ff). Anything that comes before that is idolatry.