Creflo Dollar - Understanding Modern Day Idolatry - Part 1
If you have your Bibles, go with me to the book of Acts. The book of Acts, chapter 17. Now, one of the things that we're gonna look at here today is it's gonna show us just where we are in time, and it's gonna show us a lot of things about what's goin' on. It may give some answers to some questions that you've had about, you know, why are people carrying on the way that they're carrying on. And so we're gonna begin this today. We're gonna talk about "Understanding Modern Day Idolatry," idolatry.
And so I wanna just look at some Scriptures so that you can check the attitude out, and then I'll begin to explain to you what idolatry is, and it's vital that you understand this 'cause I'm gonna need you to preach it. I'm gonna need you to explain it. In the book of Acts chapter 17, in verse 16 says this. He says, "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry". "When he saw the city wholly given to idolatry," or he says that the city was full of idols, full of idolatry. Now, don't misunderstand what he's saying in this verse of Scripture. His spirit was stirred. It didn't mean that he was excited. That word translation is "troubled". He was troubled because he looked at the whole city and saw that the whole city was in idolatry. Think of that. The whole city was in idolatry. The city was full of idolatry. And so now what is it about idolatry that caused Paul to be troubled? He was troubled in his heart because he was in Athens, and he saw that all of Athens was full of idolatry, and it troubled him.
Now, one of the things I want us to get ahold of is that, you know, first of all, is it possible that we can look at our city and see that the whole city is full of idolatry? I'll answer that and say, "Yeah". Is it possible for us to look at our state and to look at our nation and to look at the world... and I'll go as far as to say and the whole world is full of idolatry, and, yet not many are troubled because we just don't know what it is. Why was he troubled when he saw that the whole city was full of idolatry? So that's one point. Let's look at the second point here. 1 Corinthians chapter 10, and verse 14. 1 Corinthians chapter 10, and verse 14. This is gonna be groundbreakin' in your thinking in your Christian life. 1 Corinthians 10, and verse 14. He says this: "Wherefore, my dearly beloved", watch this, "flee from idolatry". Flee from it.
So here's Paul. He looked at it. He saw it. It troubled him. Then we go to the Scripture. He says, "When you see idolatry, flee from it. Get away from it". So what is it about idolatry where this recommendation says to flee from idolatry? Get away from it. And then look at this third point here that we see. This is our opening, our introduction here. 1 John 5:21, I wanna look at it in two versions. 1 John 5:21, the King James, and then 1 John 5:21, the New Living Translation. Let's look at the King James first. The King James, 1 John 5:21, he says, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols, amen". "Keep yourselves from idols, amen".
Now, for most people, you think, well, "Keep yourself from the little statues, and keep yourself," no, no. He says, "Keep yourselves from idols". So Paul was troubled by idolatry. Then he said, "Flee from idolatry". Then he said, "Keep yourself from it". I mean, we have to know what this is if it's that vital that his responses is this. Now, the next translation is gonna give us a little insight on what idols and idolatry is about. Look at the New Living Translation. The New Living Translation, 1 John 5:21, a'ight? He says, "Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your heart". "Keep away from anything that might take God's place in your heart". Stay away from anything, so that's what an idol is. It's anything that will try to get you to replace God in your heart. The Scripture says, "anything that might take God's place". Can you recall or can you put your finger on anything in this life that has taken God's place? Anything or anyone that has taken God's place? He said, "Stay away from anything or anyone that has taken God's place". So that's a little key to it.
Now, I must now go to this next point. Let's now spend the next several minutes on what is idolatry. I'm so excited about this. I'm ready to preach right now, but I gotta realize I gotta bring ya along with me, amen? I can't be hollerin' and screamin' and shoutin' and doin' James Brown split, and don't nobody know what I'm shoutin' about, a'ight? So notice what he says. Let's talk about what is idolatry. Let's start off with what we just saw in 1 John 5:21. What is "idolatry"? A'ight, so I'm gonna give layers of definitions so that you can begin to see the layers that are involved in idolatry. So here's the first layer: "Idolatry" is "Replacing God as priority in your life with anything or anyone". Idolatry is replacing God, replacing God. In other words, God, at one time, was your major priority, so it's replacing God as priority.
So if God was, at one time, the first priority in your life, and now he's at number five, idolatry is whatever you replace God with, a person or a thing. He says, "Whatever you replace God with, the something or the someone, that's when it's idolatry". You see, you must understand that there's nothin' greater than God. And how is it that we can take somethin' or someone else and put them in God's place? And what Paul was sayin' was he looked at the whole city, and he discovered that the whole city has replaced God with someone or somethin' else. And he said, "You need to run away from anything that has the potential of replacing God with something or someone". He says, "Stay away from that. Flee from that. Run from that".
Now let's go to Colossians chapter 3. We're nailing in, we're zeroing in on the root meaning of "idolatry". The root meaning of "idolatry". Let's look at Colossians chapter 3, in 5. Colossians chapter 3, in 5. Now let's take it from another perspective. He says here, "Mortify", that word "mortify" means "to put to death" or "to separate yourself from". "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. Put to death and mortify fornication, put to death and mortify uncleanness, inordinate affections, evil concupiscence, and covetousness. Put that to death", but notice what it says here, "covetousness," comma, "which is idolatry". So we got to take some time to look at covetousness because the Bible says here that is covetousness, which is idolatry.
Now, I don't want everybody to get caught up on all these religious terms and just not know what it means 'cause how're you gonna talk to Christians and talk to people? You know, we gotta meet people where they are, and you can't go talkin' to people, you know, "Oh, the anointing is", man ain't even saved. He don't know what no anointing is. We've got to get down on people's level. You know, the greatest number of people who've decided not to believe in God is in this time. There are more people that don't believe in God today than ever before, why? Because there've been a whole lot of ministry malpractice in the pulpit. Oh, my God, I felt that thing. Ministry malpractice in the pulpit and them things that are goin' on. When you look at a Christian, you don't wanna be like 'em because we've deceived the world into thinkin' that Christianity is perfection.
And so, when they don't see perfection, because you put that up there, Christianity as perfection, when they don't see it, they think somethin' wrong with your thing, but you gotta start tellin' the truth. Christianity is not perfection. Christianity is a person who "sees God as my source for everything, and even when I'm messed up, he's still my source". Christianity is not beatin' somebody down because they failed to reach perfection. God didn't make you perfect. Now, Adam and Eve were, but they messed it up for everybody, so everybody at that particular point was born into sin, shaped into iniquity, and we need to quit playin' that little game. You put it out there, "I'm flawless," so when you fell, people are like, "There must not be anything to your thing". That's not the truth.
If we were flawless, we wouldn't need God. If we were perfect, we wouldn't need Jesus. I don't know about you, but I need a Savior, praise the Lord. And what happens is he gets me better and better and better, so when I finally reach that goal, I have no choice but to give God the honor, the glory, and the praise, and I have no choice but to say, "Look at what God has done. This is the Lord's doing, and it's marvelous in our eyes". Somebody knew you 30 years ago, and they look at you now, then when they see you right now, they think, "You ain't like what you used to be". You'll say, "This is the Lord's doin', and it's marvelous in our eyes," amen? A'ight, now, so "covetousness" is "idolatry".
So let me back up just for a moment before I make this statement. I began to look at God's design for us. Listen to this: God designed us to have needs and wants. Think of that. God designed us to have needs and wants. God designed us, and, you know, I don't want people to ever get into deception like you're not supposed to have anything that you need, and you're not supposed to have anything that you want. That's not how you were designed. You were designed with needs and wants. So if you go around talkin' about "I don't have any needs," and "I don't have any wants," I mean, everything could be cool right now, but you live a whole life, you're gon' need somethin', a'ight? You live a whole life, you're gon' want somethin', so when that time comes, God is saying, "I am the one that will meet your needs and your wants". He designed us with needs and wants so that we might know him and delight in him as our provider and our sustainer.
God wants to be your provider, and God wants to be your sustainer. God wants to sustain you. God wants to provide for you. Do you understand how powerful that is? God wants to be the one. I like to say it like that: God is my supply house. God is my supply house. Please understand that God is my supply house. Before I go on, let's look at a couple of Scriptures. First, let's look at Colossians chapter 2, in 10. Colossians chapter 2, in 10. Oh, hallelujah, I pray that people will just run to God today and say, "Lord, please forgive me for thinkin' that I was more than what I really was". Look at this: In verse 10, he says, and I love this, he says, "And you are complete in him. You are complete in him". I am complete in him. I think about that. I'm complete in Jesus. Glory to God, I am complete in Jesus. Hallelujah, I am complete in Jesus.
Now, I can remember a time, and you can remember a time where you were not complete because I believe you can only be complete in him. And I see people tryin' to be complete in everything else but in Jesus. I see people tryin' to be complete in their jobs. They try to be complete in relationships. They try to be complete in the amount of money they have. The only way you're ever going to be complete is in Jesus. You don't believe me? Try it. Let me tell ya somethin', I've learned somethin' about life, and here's what I've learned, that either you're gon' let God teach you, or life will teach you. I said either you're gon' let God teach you, or life will teach you, and life will teach you in the ways that, whether you like it or not, life will teach you. God would rather you receive his instructions, but sometimes people don't do it. "I am complete in Jesus". Release your faith for that. "I am complete in Jesus. I'm complete in Jesus right now".
Now look at Matthew 6:32-33. Now, this is his point. We were created with needs. We were created with desires only so that God can meet those desires. God wants to be provider. God wants to be sustainer. God wants to be your supply house. Look at these next two verses. He says, "For after all these things do the Gentiles seek, for your heavenly Father knoweth that you have," what? "Need of all these things". We're gon' look at it in a moment, and we're gonna see what those needs were, they were physical needs. God knows you have need of all these things. He says, "But here's what I want you to do: Seek first the kingdom. I wanna meet your needs. I wanna sustain you. I take great joy in meeting your needs and sustaining you. Everything you need, I want to be your supply. Everything you want, I wanna be your supply". Man, when I laid down last night, I said, "God, I, just, I thank you for deep sleep. I'm trustin' you for deep sleep in the name of Jesus, glory be to God".
And then, when I get up after deep sleep, I'm like, "Look at the sustainer. Look at the provider". Glory be to God. He says, "I'll meet your need, and I'll add things to your life. I'll meet your needs. I'll add things to your life". Now, now that I know that, let me shift back to what we were saying: Coveting is idolatry. So let's look at "coveting" to see what it is. Why would he say, "coveting" is "idolatry"? Well, "coveting," when you covet somethin', it turns our attention from God. When you covet somethin', you turn your attention from God, and you place it on somethin' of lesser value. When I covet somethin', I take my attention off God, and I put it on somethin' that has lesser value than God, "coveting". Coveting, it leads us to believing that we can be satisfied in this life apart from God. Coveting wants to get you to believe you can be okay and satisfied in this life apart from God.
Coveting is not just wanting something. It's not just craving something. Coveting is "Well, I'm turnin' away from God because I believe that there is somethin' better and greater". That's where we are. That's where we are in this world. "I'm turnin' from God because I believe there's somethin' greater, of greater value. I'm turnin' from God, and I'm gon' turn to education". Education is good, but we now put value on education greater than what it really is. Listen to me carefully now. So let me take what coveting is. Let me take how God designed us, and let me give you, I believe, a really root definition of "idolatry," and here it is: "Idolatry" is "the value that you give to a thing more than God". "Idolatry" is "the value that you give to a thing more than God".
See, the thing may not be wrong until you give it greater value than God. It may not be wrong for you to play golf unless you give golf greater value than God. So the question I want you to consider is have you given any person or anything greater value than God? That's idolatry. It's the value that you give to the thing. Look at your life. Look at your life right now. "Have I given anything or anyone greater value than God"? Because whatever thing in your life or whatever person in your life that you value more than God, then that thing or that person has become your idol, and your value that you placed on it has entered, you have entered into idolatry. I'm tryin' to show you that God is the number one. He is the one that we should be looking at.
And, again, in Colossians 3:5, "idolatry, which is covetousness," is a foolish, here's what it is: Idolatry is a foolish endeavor that takes a Christian and sends him grasping for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Idolatry takes a Christian and sends him grasping or trying to get satisfaction in all the wrong places. So idolatry sends you away from God, and now you're goin' down the path, tryin' to get satisfaction, but it's in the wrong place. You're not gon' get satisfaction, you know, in a job. You're not gon' get satisfaction in the millions. You're not gonna get satisfaction in the validation that other people give you. You're tryin' to grasp for satisfaction in all the wrong places, that's what it is. And I see that everywhere today. It's not God. God is like a second thought. It's not God, it's like, "No, I don't see God as the greatest, but I'm gonna do", even, you know, you may think, "Well, I'm gonna go into self-preservation mode," and through self-preservation mode, you're tryin' to grasp at satisfaction. That's the wrong way. "That's a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is destruction".
And we continue to go down the path that seems right, but the end of it is destruction, and that's what idolatry does, and that's why it says to flee from it. That's why it says don't be a part of it because it will lead you down the path, tryin' to get satisfaction in all the wrong places. Every one of us, we know somebody who fits this model of what we just shared with and what we're talkin' about. Now, before I look at the modern-day idolatry, there's modern-day idolatry, you know? Social media helps to promote modern-day idolatry. Not wrong, but if you give it greater value than God, it is. Sex, not wrong in the place of marriage, but if you give it greater value than God. There's just so many things. Image, if you give it more value than God. What are you giving more value than God? You know what you have to do today? You have to completely say, "God, I no longer believe that the path that you provided or you are my way out. I'm gonna go and do other things that I see other people do".
See, the problem is you're thinkin' that you know what other people have gone through, but you're not there to see the whole life. You're not there to see how the whole thing turns out. People can show you whatever they wanna show you, and they can make things look as successful as they wanna make things look. That's why you gotta be careful. And then what you don't know is they can't sleep at night. What you don't know is their family is all broken up. They ain't got nobody to love 'em. What you don't know is how sad they are, and what you don't know is how often they have to fight chronic depression and how often they have a gun pointed to their brains because they wanna kill themselves. You don't know that 'cause you don't live there, and you're not there.
And so people can make things look like it's perfect without God, but I can promise you, I'll show you a Scripture in a moment. I can promise you it ain't never gon' be right with something or someone in God's place 'cause you were designed for God to take care of you. That's what you were designed for, for God to take care of you. Now let's look at some Old Testament views of idolatry and what it says there in the Old Testament. Let's look at Jeremiah 16, verse 20, and then I wanna look at Jeremiah 16:19-21 in the NLT. So let's look at King James first, Jeremiah 16, in 20. He says, "Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods"? Isn't that interesting, the number of people who have made gods unto themselves, but they're not gods at all? Even in some of the support groups that I used to run, one of the first things was you gotta pick somethin' out to be your higher power. Your higher power. There's only one. I know about the highest power.