Believing in God and trusting Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin and eternal life does not automatically guarantee freedom from idolatry. Even Christians can push God from the center of life by clinging to a faulty concept of Him, and that means worshiping a false god, one of human design.
In a discussion with a person who professed faith, we got on the subject of God’s discipline and I said something about the way He rebukes my sin. She replied, “Oh, my God is not like that.” Without rebuke, or without listening to rebuke, such a concept of God would set her free from His correction.
The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Here God infers that He is who He says He is, not what I want Him to be. Not only that, many doubt that God will reward their search for Him. Sometimes we think that the result of our search isn’t a reward at all if it means we need to change our behavior. Either way, that sort of faith does not please God.
I’ve had a few people think of me in a false way, particularly one person who put me on a pedestal as if I never made any mistakes. It was obvious flattery that wanted acceptance of her, but it was not true and unpleasant for me. I’m not sure if God, who is perfect, responds the same way to our false ideas of Him, but forbidding the worship of idols is high on His list of commandments.
The true God is many things. He is powerful, yet tender-hearted. His plans are perfect even when we cannot figure them out. In fact, if I presume God is going to act in a certain way, I could be thinking of my own version rather than the mysterious yet faithful God of the Bible.
Three of His followers had it right when they were held captive in Babylon. They refused to worship the idol of their pagan king. When threatened with being cast into a fiery furnace, the king asked, “Who is the god that will deliver you?” They replied . . .
O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:15–18)
No presumption. They didn’t know what God was going to do and said so, but their faith held. Regardless of what God did, they did not assume what His plans were, and steadfastly refused to save themselves by worshiping an idol.
There are some Bible promises that make me realize that I need to worship God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. One of them is . . .
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3–4)
If my mind is on a god that does not fit the God of the Bible, even though I think I have it right, then promises like that one do not work. I might feel at peace for a while, but my version of God will not come through on the promises. Who can invent a god like Him?
Another promise is this one, well known to many but again requires faith in the genuine God, not in some celestial Santa Clause that will do what I want Him to do . . .
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5–7)
If I have a wrong concept of Him, that error cannot guide me in the right way. My invented version can be manipulated according to my own understanding, but the God who loves me and gave Himself for me is above any manipulation and far greater than my imagination, totally worthy of whole-hearted faith and surrendered worship.