From the book,
THE WORKS OF THE FLESH:
Understanding and Defeating the Works of the Devil.
Available in e-book and
paperback formats on
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these;
witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions,
heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such
like: of the which I tell you, as I have also told you in time past, that
they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Americans are not idolaters like millions of others around the world who
worship gods of metal or stone. Most groups in Protestantism would never
accept having idols in their churches and they would definitely never
pray to them. Most Christians know God's will in this regard and shun such sins.
Bible Christians are not idolaters.
that really the case? Could it be that we also are idolaters but of more insidious form
of idolatry that is difficult to see and more difficult to admit?
What is an idol, first of all?
and Wagnall Dictionary defines “Idolatry” as follows:
admiration or veneration.
To love or
admire blindly or to excess.
adoration, homage, veneration given to a deity.
Excessive and ardent devotion or admiration.
is therefore not simply something we prostrate ourselves before; it is
also something we are totally committed to, and obsessed with that comes
between us and God.
at an interesting Old Testament example of obsessive attachment to idols.
The context is Jacob and
Rachel leaving Laban secretly.
“Now Laban had
gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that
were her father's” (Genesis
This a perfect
example of a person who refused to leave behind her family’s idols. They
had been a part of her life since childhood and she was so attached to
them that she actually stole them and then deceived her own father as to
where they were.
This is an
excellent example of "excessive admiration or veneration," of
“blind and excessive love,” of “adoration, homage, veneration given to a
deity" and of “excessive and ardent devotion or admiration"
toward “tangible” idols.
God feel about idolatry? In the book of Exudus,
God made it perfectly clear that idolatry was not acceptable.
have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any
likeness of any thing that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself
unto them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third
and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me (Exodus 20:3-5 KJV).
In the book of
Leviticus, He reiterates the same view.
“You shall not make idols for yourselves;
neither a carved image nor a sacred
pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved
stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the
Lord your God” (Leviticus
From the start
God made it clear that he would not stand for anything “before” him. He
had to be first and only first.
therefore must stand between us and Him—nothing. Nothing may be
loved by us to that extent,
DIFFERENT KINDS OF IDOLS
there are idols that are difficult to see and that many would never see
as being idols. What are they?
look at some of them.
One of the
idols that historically has separated humans
from God and that has been a source of spiritual shipwreck for some has
Important, critical, the source of great benefits and also a potential
source of great troubles --
if it becomes an idol.
The Apostle Paul warns against the destructive power of money
“For the love
of money is a root of all kinds
of evil, for which some have
the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves
through with many
“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not
double-tongued, not given to much wine, not
greedy for Money” (1 Timothy
“For a bishop
must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed,
quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for
money” (Titus 1:7).
obsession for money, according to the Bible, will be especially prevalent
in the last days:
men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters,
proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Timothy
been blessed with much wealth and use that blessing to give to others,
and thus they become co-workers with God and God blesses them so that
they will give more.
money can become addictive. Some people have a knack for making money,
and they become very successful, and thus Satan finds their weak spot. In
fact their success could be a satanic ploy to get them addicted, so that
they become so consumed by financial success that they spend their time
finding new ways to make money and spending time administering that
money, at the expense of their spiritual life.
great religion, the rich have found a way to deal with this problem: they
have a group within their religion that is employed by the rich to study
and pray "on their behalf."
course know that we cannot do that. We cannot use mediators. We cannot
pay someone to work our salvation for us.
through the years have made money their idol, though the returns were
few. These are idol seekers. They strive in every way to make lots of
money, but in vain. In so doing they leave God behind and their salvation, and in the end they end up having neither.
Let’s read again I Timothy 6:10.
the love of money is a root of all kinds
of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their
greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
therefore, can we know if money is an idol?
1. Do we spend so much time making and
administering it that we have not time for God?
2. Are we obsessed with it? Is that what
goes through our minds always? Are we so obsessed with it that in reality
we are trying to create our own Kingdom on earth, now, by dreaming about
big homes, property, wealth?
3. Do we resent having to pray and study
the Bible, because it is time taken away from work and from making money.
2. Do we resent the Sabbath rest and do
we want it to end fast so as to get back to making money.
3. Do we share as little as possible
with others. Do we give as little as possible to
the work of Jesus Christ and resenting having to give.
4. Do we abstain from giving tithes, or
do we resent having to give tithes and resent having to give offerings?
signs to watch out for in this first form of idolatry. Another form of
idolatry is entertainment.
need a diversion. We all need to stop at times and be refreshed. Most of
us at times enjoy getting in front of the tube and simply surf. Sometimes
that is our entertainment: surfing.
people entertainment becomes their life. Some of our elderly find
themselves watching a lot of TV, especially during long winter months.
After my father died, my mom used to tell me that TV is what kept her
is not a problem. The kind of entertainment and how it is used can be a
TV is not
a problem -- what we watch and what we “don’t do” as a result of TV
watching can be a problem.
If we are
addicted to violent movies, that is a problem.
If we are
addicted to sexual movies, that is a problem.
entertain ourselves with porno movies, that’s a big problem.
neglect studying our Bible because we are busy watching TV, that is a
problem. If we neglect praying because we cannot miss TV program after TV
program, that’s a problem.
we read can be a problem too. Are we heavy into romance novels? Why? What
is the real reason? I remember a lady who devoured romance novels. It was
an obsession. That can become a problem, not only if it is becomes a
need, but especially if we are attracted to pornographic kind of novels.
Some of us
use the computers for altruistic reasons, others
use them for selfish reasons.
Christian ministers have been warning people for years
that computers and specifically the Internet can become a bottomless pit
of addiction and self-destruction. Are we heeding the warning?
a form of idolatry for some. Travel is exciting, stimulating, some time
refreshing. Travel, though can be very addictive—and travel agents and
the travel industry know that very well.
How do we know that that travel has
become a problem?
Do we get ourselves in large debts so as
to see a new country?
Do we compromise with our tithes and
offerings so as to travel?
Do we ignore saving for a rainy day, as
long as we travel.
ignore saving for our old age, when we will become a financial burden to
our children if we don’t save when we are younger.
Some of us have to work hard to tackle all our financial
obligations. Some of us have both a full-time and a part-time job so as
to tackle our financial obligations. Some simply love to work. Some
simply love to accomplish. We know that some people are workaholics (work
How do we know that work has become an idol? There are clear signs:
We work very long hours, not because it’s demanded, but because we love
to work. We hate going home. We hate leisure. We hate social time. We
love to accomplish.
Our family gets set aside and both the wife and children are often
neglected. This can be true of successful women who neglect the husband
and the children as well.
How do we know if work has become a spiritual problem? Little or no
time for prayer and Bible study. Resenting the Sabbath for forcing us to
stop. Longing to get back to work.
Cars, motorcycles, collections of any which kind. They can be
wonderful and relaxing, but only if they don’t become an obsession. Do we
neglect our duties to God and family because of hobbies?
people who crave knowledge. They study and study, but for the wrong
reasons. Knowing is fine. Studying to be a competent worker or
professional is necessary. Being curious is one of God’s great gifts.
Craving to better understand the functioning of God’s creation is
wonderful, if it leads to a deeper appreciation of God’s greatness.
Studying history is a terrific exercise, if the aim is to better
understand how society became the way it is today, and to see what Satan’s
ways have produced through the ages. And on and on and on.
given us a mind that wants to be filled, and it will be filled forever
and ever, in the spiritual realm.
knowledge sake, though, can be a problem, if the motivation is wrong; if
we study to feel superior to others, that is
wrong. If we study to impress others, that is wrong as well.
The warning that “Knowledge puffs up…” (I Cor. 8:1) remains just as valid
today as it was when it was written nearly two thousand years ago.
people say: "I only have one obsession: Bible study. I study my
hours and hours
a day." Others may say "I take one topic at a time and dig into
it at great lengths." Is that not impressive?
Bible study be an idol? The answer is absolutely, yes! Bible Study has
historically been some Christian’s greatest idols. Why? They study their
Bible so much that other responsibilities are neglected. Their family
suffers, studies suffer, work may suffer. They
spend too much time studying things that are of little or no consequence,
when it comes to God’s will or spiritual growth. They spend little or no
time studying the Bible for self-analysis. They study to feel superior.
They study to find new truths, revealed to them only. They do little or
no praying. Prayer is not for them. Bible study is sufficient. They do
little or no fasting, little or no serving -- but they do much Bible
What kind of knowledge should Christians
thirst for, first and foremost:
this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for
you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in
all wisdom and spiritual understanding”
“…and that from childhood you have known the Holy
Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith
which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
be our idols? Which people in our lives can become an idol?
a. A boy-friend or a girl-friend.
Many young people who were dedicated and
committed in the church, stop
attending when they meet the person of their dreams.
b. Family members
churches have many examples of people who have taken their calling
seriously. Some churches are filled with spiritual widows and widowers
who faithfully serve God without a mate ever joining them. Many of you
came to the point where you chose between your mate and God and chose God. Unfortunately, some
don’t. Their mate becomes their idol.
children be an idol? Yes!
some, mothers in particular, they invest their whole being into their
children. Time, energy and money are invested in their children and God
is left out of the picture.
start with the birth of a child. Children can be time consuming; in fact
they can totally take over. It is very easy to justify setting God aside
because of little time. Very easy to stop praying or studying because
there is too much to do.
pray first thing in the morning. Study when baby is asleep. Listen to a
Bible on tape. Read a verse and meditate on it, even while doing chores.
7. OUR EGO
One of the
most ingrained and most difficult idols that has
destroyed the spiritual lives of many is hidden deeply in an area that is
very difficult to explore. It is an area that is deep, dark and very well
defended by a powerful guard.
is described by a word with only three letters. It is spelled, “EGO.”
it simply means “I” or me. It is a small word that represents for most
the most important person in existence: ourselves.
say that a person has a big Ego we mean that the person has an idol: himself.
have actually concluded that too much ego is a sign of mental illness,
which can go from mild to very serious. It is a disorder referred to as a
"Character Disorder." The specific term for people who have an
inordinate amount of self-love is, “Narcissistic.”
Such people idolize themselves.
the definition? Excessive admiration or veneration and blind infatuation
for themselves. They love and admire themselves blindly or to excess.
They adore, pay homage to themselves. They have excessive and ardent
devotion or admiration for themselves.
symptoms of its presence are many and they are unfortunately unseen by
the person who has this form of idolatry.
following are some of the symptoms of this kind of idolatry.
better than others.”
more than others.”
“I am more
competent that others.”
“I am more
intelligent than others.”
“I am more
knowledgeable than others.”
“I know my Bible more than others.”
“I give (time and or money) more than others.”
“I am more gentle and kind than others.”
“I am more forgiving than others.”
“I am more righteous and obedient than others.”
“I am more loved by God than others.”
This, of course produces a puffed up
attitude, which is not always easy to
Such a person may think himself/herself to be very humble. In fact
he/she may even be considered to be very humble. The problem with such
people is that they don’t only have excessive admiration for themselves;
they don’t just love and admire themselves blindly or to excess; they
don’t just adore, pay homage to themselves; they don’t just have
excessive and ardent devotion or admiration for themselves. They crave
for others to feel the same way about them, and they go to extremes to
make it happen.
they do? Some are willing to sacrifice and play the part and be all that
others admire, so as to get their admiration. They will volunteer, they will serve—to appear servants. They
will act humble—to appear humble. They will give abundantly, hoping that
the ministry will see the cheque --- so as to
advertise their commitment. They will give, and serve and visit, etc. to
create a name for themselves in the congregation. They may be
exceptionally warm and welcoming, while at church, to again gain that
admiration they crave and feel they deserve.
Who is really the focus of their efforts? Themselves.
Other symptoms of self-idolatry are
related to the sacredness of idols. Idols are untouchable. They must be
treated with utmost care. Such people are also untouchable in the sense
that they are very sensitive. They get hurt easily, because in their
eyes, they are special – how can anyone touch their ego. How dare anyone
touch their ego. They are fragile and must be
treated with utmost care. People know this and are very circumspect
around them, because they know of their sensitivities.
Such people are not easy to get along.
They have high expectations of themselves, and they have very high
expectations of you and me, especially if their idolatry is based on
their sense of ability and competence.
They have no patience with fools and
look down on most of humanity for being incompetent and dumb.
Such a person is usually tested when the
idol –themselves--doesn’t get the recognition he or she feels he or she
deserves. Then we got problems. In fact such people can become unhappy,
critical, cynical, and bitter. Some may even get bitter with God, for not
recognizing them, or for not inspiring the recognition. Some leave and
want nothing to do with Christianity. Some go to another church and start
all over again. Some are so filled with themselves that they start their
own church, so as to finally have the recognition they deserve.
They are not happy people, because
self-worshippers cannot be happy. They get a temporary high from praise
and success, but it’s short-lived. They crave more and more and more and
they always feel empty inside.
conclude, I would like to take you again back to the Old Testament. In
Ancient Israel we find a lot of idolatrous kings and a few Idol
destroyers. I want to briefly remind you of an idol destroyer: Josiah,
found in II Chronicles.
the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30
The king went up to the house of the
with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests
and the Levites, and all the people, great and small. And he read in
their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been
found in the house of the
Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the
to follow the
to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all
his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that
were written in this book. 32 And he made all who were present
in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem
did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 Thus
Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of
Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the
their God. All his days they did not depart from following the
God of their fathers (II Chronicles 34: 29-33).
section we have been reminded of the various forms of insidious idolatry
that may be hindering our spiritual growth or that may be separating us
from God. Some of us may have become aware of something we never saw
before. Some may have been reminded of something we already knew but have
done nothing about.
Some of us may have done our best to block out parts or most of the
article to make sure our ego was well protected. The mind, that is
deceitful above all things, does that very effectively.
We now have a choice: We follow Rachel’s example and hang on
fiercely to our idols, or we can be like Josiah and get rid of them from
our lives. We ministers are only tools in God’s hands. We are used to be
God’s messengers to His people. His people afterwards become responsible
for responding in a positive and determined manner.
The choice God has given us today is to hang on to or destroy our
Let’s never forget the first great commandment:
shall love the
God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy
Let’s therefore love only God with all our heart, mind and
strength and let’s not allow anything else, be it wealth, things,
knowledge, people, or ourselves, to stand
between us and our Father.
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The next section will address the next work of the flesh:
The Works of the Flesh:
The Fruits of the
© Copyright, Michael