Idolatry is all that is not God as the basis or object of man's life.
That is tremendously comprehensive. We think of idolatry, of course, in terms of heathen idols.
We might perhaps bring it into a closer realm, where people clearly put things in the place of God but oh! it goes much deeper than that, and, in the Scriptures, idolatry is never regarded as merely negative or passive.
There idolatry is always seen to be an active thing, inasmuch as it is the work of an intelligence which is opposed to God; and that Satanic intelligence is always making it its first object and aim, persistently, continuously, and by every means, to get something into the place of the Lord personally.
You see, it is possible to have the things of the Lord in the place of the Lord Himself; and that is idolatry in principle.
Yes, it may be the things of Jehovah not other gods.
In place of the Lord, Who is the object of man's life, His things may be given precedence, and in principle that is idolatry, and the Cross is ever being used by the Holy Spirit to strike at everything, no matter what it is, that comes to occupy the place of the Lord Himself, the place that the Lord Himself should occupy.
Idolatry is always religious, and it may be the Christian religion as well as any other religion that is marked by idolatry.
I am saying some strong things, but there is cause.
You see, idolatry exists in principle whenever or wherever anything, even good in itself, becomes an object in itself rather than God, the Lord Himself.
There are many things which are not only harmless but good in themselves, which have, nevertheless, been allowed to take the place of the Lord Himself, and good things can therefore embody the principle of idolatry in the one in whom the devotion is found.
Touch some Christians, or Christian institutions, and let the touch be even in relation to something more of the Lord Himself, and you will find an uprising of jealous regard for the institution which utterly blinds to that possibility of an extra measure of the Lord Himself.
You can be so devoted to a denomination, a missionary society, a piece of Christian work, that there is no room for any extra measure of the Lord.
The thing itself has become the end, the object for which you live, and when the Lord wants to get you moved on into something more of Himself, the obstacle is that good Christian work, association, institution, tradition, connection.
Yes, and that is idolatry in principle, and we see from history how the Lord again and again has had to smite with smashing blows things which in themselves were good, in order to save His people unto Himself personally.
Even things which He gave at one time, have had to be taken away or shattered because the gift has become the end, the object.
That is what is happening: and a very necessary thing it is too.
The Lord is not protecting good things today. If those have become something to which men have become devoted, with which they have become bound up, He is allowing them to be broken and destroyed.
~T. Austin Sparks~