Understanding Idolatry & Idols

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”” Exodus 20:3 NKJV

Many people believe that idols are man-made images that humans build and worship. Though this is true, (As Deuteronomy 27:15 (ESV) states: ““‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman’”), this is not the only form of idolatry or idols there are. What then are idols?

Idols are time robbers, spiritual drainers, soul damners, and suppressors of Holy Ghost flow.

Idols are anything that goes before God. It is whatever captivates our thought and activity. Idols are time robbers, spiritual drainers, soul damners, and suppressors of Holy Ghost flow. They disrupt and distort the connectivity and clarity we have with the Lord.

Wherever the heart, mind, and soul is engaged, there we may find God or an idol.

Idols are finite, and anything that is finite can interrupt God from being our focal point. This occurs not on His end, but on ours. Wherever the heart, mind, and soul is engaged, there we may find God or an idol. That is why we must always strive to love the Lord with all of our heart, our soul, and our mind (Matthew 22:37).

Idols can occur both on a conscious and subconscious level. Some idols are easily known, while others take Holy Ghost conviction and discernment. Not all idols are revealed at once, but ongoing - depending upon our maturity in the faith.

When we don’t love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, idols will manifest themselves in the following three realms:

  1. Physical (Concerned with the Heart)

  2. Self/Personhood (Concerned with the Soul)

  3. Metaphysical (Concerned with the Mind)

Each realm involves three tiers of recognition. We shall call these the following:

  1. Evident Idols (clearly understood by the common man. Soul damning.)

  2. Discerned Idols (perceived by those seeking to grow in the faith and in the Lord. Revealed once born again. Rob us of time and productivity.)

  3. Hidden Idols (must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. Almost perfect, but substitute good things of/from God in place of God alone. Can lead towards vain pursuits and limit the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.)

Let us dissect each realm of idolatry further.

(1) Physical Idols (Concerned with the Heart)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5 ESV

Physical idols pertain to our heart. They are desires that we see in the physical realm that we want to have. Reviewing these in the three levels of recognition:

Physically Evident Idols

These idols consist of the riches in this life - better car, bigger house, fancy furniture, and much land. They are that which habitually distract and disrupt us from seeking God.

Physical Evident Idols draw us in by their tempting and flirtatious devices. They are false fulfillments that desire us to chase and buy into them. Other forms may consist of us being in a habitual state of watching movies or T.V. shows, playing video games, and watching the news.

Physically Discerned Idols

These idols manifest themselves from desires and passions. These desires are of the flesh and influenced by the world. Idolatry in this form could be the want of being seen with only certain “esteemed” people of influence. These desires could also come in the form of hobbies and interests.

Some men could list all the stats of their favorite player, but can’t memorize two verses. They can list the starting eleven of their favorite soccer team, but can’t list the name of the Twelve Disciples.

Others feel the need to continually buy the latest technology to keep up with the Joneses. Some continually check the stock market, and are always doing research to find the latest fad. Others have a pornographic closet or fridge. They are so in love with clothes and food that it has become an idol.

All that is physical can become an idol if our passions and desires are continually focused on pleasing the flesh and investing in the world, rather than pleasing God and investing in our relationship with Him.

Physically Hidden Idols

These idols will not be perceived as idols, until the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. One of the ways these enter in is through the sense of dependability. It is a form of idolatry that can slowly slumber us into depending on something or someone, rather than God alone.

An example of this can be depending on man instead of God. It can be a shift in heart. We can go from listening to many sermons and reading many books in a desire to grow, to where it no longer becomes used as a means, but rather an end. We can become dependent upon man for being fed. We can enter into a phase of wanting to listen to man’s sermons more than spending time with and seeking God.

These forms of hidden idols are good in nature, but make us leeches to man, rather than solely depending upon God.

(2) Self/Personhood (Concerned with the Soul)

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,” Colossians 2:18 ESV

Idols related to self and personhood consist of an effect upon our soul. They are idols that drift us from God because they are focused on self. These can be related to our individual feelings and our want of acquiring. They can come in a variety of ways.

Evident Idols of Self

These idols of self consist of simply self. They come from a place of internal activity and a lack of care for others. These can include a want of attention through the continuation of posting on social media. They may be seen within conversations, such as the need to always speak about oneself, rather than being interested in others. These idols are narcissistic in nature and prideful in their ways.

Discerned Idols of Self

These idols can come in the form of acquiring. For example, one may desire to acquire knowledge in the faith, only to share that knowledge and be perceived as a wisdom bearer. Their idol may be to gain godly knowledge to be deemed as intelligent, wise, and as “a mighty man of God”. It is when the selfish desire precedes the knowledge that is gained, there the idol of self can be found.

Another discerned idol of self can be the constant want of predicting the times. Though we are to recognize and prepare for the times, we are not to predict the times. For Christ said no one knows the day or hour (Matthew 24:36). Many invest in the idolatry of their own agenda. Constantly reviewing and believing in conspiracy theories, they waste time in the idolatry of predicting the times, rather than using that time to grow in the Lord.

Our pursuits must always be checked and realigned by Scripture. They must be revealed as pure in nature and sought after with a humble heart.

Hidden Idols of Self

Again, these may only be revealed by the Holy Spirit. The only reason I share these is because I myself have been convicted by most of the idols that have been mentioned.

These hidden idols of self are good on the surface. They may be for self-growth in the Lord and a desire of God. However, they can make a subtle adjustment that offsets our pursuit of God. Usually, these are found in our feelings. Many times we want a faith that feels. We seek after the peace and joy of God, rather than simply God alone. We desire the feelings of what He gives, rather than Him. We desire His blessings and a feeling of His presence, rather than simply Him.

Another form of this hidden idol of self could be in relation to Heaven. We can sometimes become so distraught by our hardships, trials, and sufferings, that we fail to see that God has allowed this to happen for either the strengthening of our faith, for the benefit of others, an opportunity to increase our reward in Heaven through our correct response, or some other Divine reason. Some of us idolize Heaven so much for the feeling we shall receive once there and the perfect bodies we will have, rather than to simply be with Jesus. We desire to escape our God-appointed cross for the sake of comfort and ease.

These hidden idols are just below the surface of a perfect pursuit. They are nearly right in our want, but they take the evidence, feeling, blessing, and attributes of God and raise them above God Himself. For they are after-effects and by-products of God, which are good - but they are not God, entirely.

Metaphysical (Concerned with the Mind)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

Metaphysics is simply a fancy term of referring to what is ultimate reality. It is the realm that our senses cannot perceive. It is the abstract realm, and it is that which is un-seen, un-touched, un-heard. The metaphysical realm is reality that can be known and discerned by the mind. Therefore, it is the realm of the mind.

Metaphysically Evident Idols

These idols consist of the thoughts we have within the mind. These can involve imagination and fantasy. The continuation of thinking about life with another person, sex, and the fulfillment of fetishes are all idols. The longer these reside, the more persistent they will be. The more we entertain these sinful thoughts, the greater the idolatry will be. For the more we meditate on that which is not of God, the greater the time and productivity is lost with growing in God.

Metaphysically Discerned Idols

These idols come from concepts. For example, a concept could be marriage. Some people think about being married and desire to be married so much that the concept of marriage becomes idolatry. They begin to think that that is what will fulfill them. Though the desire is pure and of the Lord, it can become an idol if it is continually reflected upon.

For some people are more concerned about becoming married, rather than preparing themselves to be married - namely, growing in the Lord, growing in virtue and character, and growing in their God-given role. There is purpose in singleness and we must be content with where God has us for the current season.

Metaphysically Hidden Idols

Lastly, there are metaphysically hidden idols. These consist of ideas that are profitable and admirable, but override God. They are usually ideas of working for or towards something to further God’s Kingdom. They are ideas that will help many, but can become a hindrance towards spiritual growth. It is focused on doing, rather than becoming.

The thought of desiring to do many things for God to further His Kingdom can set success above God alone. For these hidden idols can be the desire to do many things at the expense of focusing on the Main Thing.

Another example is the idea that one knows all they need to know about the faith. They therefore do not need to continue in their growth or desire of God. This fixed mindset can be devastating, as it eliminates the complete flow of the Holy Spirit. It is an excuse to not develop one’s relationship with the Lord. As this idea takes root in the mind, it becomes an idol of spiritual laziness, ignorance, and pride.

How To Overcome Idolatry & Idols

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 ESV

The solution to overcoming our idolatry and idols is to focus the heart, soul, and mind upon God alone. The more our gaze is upon Him, the less idolatry will rule us. As we continually desire to grow in God through ascetics (prayer, fasting, reading the Word) and a genuine inner disposition (desiring, wanting, and seeking) for God, the Holy Spirit will reveal the hidden idols that must go.

Stagnation and complacency must not have any part of our being. We must not see ourselves as predestined victims that must live in and maintain our original or formal state. God is Gracious and Good and He desires to both help us and make Himself known in our lives. He will never allow idols to interfere with those whose gaze is fixed upon Eternity.

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death”” (Revelation 21:8 ESV). Idolatry comes in many forms, and this is the end result for all those ruled by idols.

Though it is true that idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of God, we must know that God will lovingly guide us and show us the way of eliminating idolatry. For idols are universal in nature, but particular based upon each person and circumstance. If a discerned idol or hidden idol lingers within us, God will reveal it to us in His own time.

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV). May we run from our idols. May we repent and seek forgiveness when we have fallen. May we ask for a greater manifestation of the Holy Spirit and His power and wisdom to conquer the idols within. May we be transformed by the renewing of our mind. So long as the Holy Spirit rules our mind, and our heart and soul are set upon Christ, we shall be more than conquerors when facing the tempting, time-robbing, spiritual-draining, senseless, damning, deceiving idols of both self and the physical and metaphysical realm.

Stay encouraged, O Saints. Press on.


Heavenly Father, we are thankful that You are God and we are man. We thank You that You are the One Who rules and reigns. Lord, we come humbly before You, asking that You would forgive us of the idolatry that has lingered within us. Free us from the bondage of our idols. Shine light on the idols that we are not aware of. Lord, we want to be fully intoxicated with You, in order that we may truly desire, pursue, and grow in You. Not for feeling, but out of an authentic want of You. May our will be to live and do Your will, forever and always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lance VanTine

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