Although They Knew God...—Romans 1:21-23
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, 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" (Romans 1:21-23)
Since God has revealed Himself to us from the beginning, it forces us to make a choice. We can either glorify Him as God or we can choose to walk away. Paul describes this dilemma from the very beginning of time. Our track record is that we chose not to acknowledge God so our thinking became frivolous and impractical. The result was a foolish, dark, and hard heart concerning God.
Modern-day idols are just as prevalent but more disguised. Work, money, family, and material possessions have the potential to be idols.
This condition of a hardened heart is a process. If we claim to be wise without recognizing God as the sovereign creator of all things, we are fools. This leads to looking to other things to satisfy our deep needs. It’s a sad day when we exchange the glory of God for made-made idols.
It is easy to look at this and think that we would never make and worship idols such as primitive civilizations did. But as our society progresses, so do our idols. According to Timothy Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods, an idol “is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” 1 Modern-day idols are just as prevalent but more disguised. Work, money, family, and material possessions have the potential to be idols. Everything and anything we exalt above God is the modern day idol.
Idolatry starts with ingratitude. When we aren’t thankful to God, then it is a slippery slope into not glorifying Him as God and when we do that our focus shifts from Him to something else. Paul said, this is the mark of a fool.
Since the truth of God is written on our hearts (Rom. 1:19), we crave a connection with God. If we ignore this desire, we shut off our hearts and minds to knowing Him relationally. Without the spirit connection, then the best we can do to fill that yearning is with perishable representations of it.
Here’s the good news, knowing Jesus fills that hunger inside of us for a connection with God. When we know Jesus, we stop looking for something else. Today, I pray that you may experience Jesus in a way that deeply satisfies you. May you fill your God-shaped hole with the person of Jesus Christ and find true joy in this process.
For more on breaking the power idolatry has in our lives, watch Juli’s video teaching on the idol of greed.
1 Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009
Original article published May 20, 2009.