The Leader

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on December 31, 2008

For years we’ve read about or experienced firsthand the “worship wars”—conflicts over music styles, song selections, and drums. But far too little has been said about the worship wars going on inside us. And they’re much more significant. Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most—God or something else. Whenever we love and serve anything in place of God, we’re engaging in idolatry. We love our idols because we think they’ll provide the joy that comes from God alone. We think having them will truly satisfy us. We think they’re worthy of our worship.  Of course, we’re wrong.

Throughout Scripture, idolatry is the greatest snare the people of God encounter. God condemns idolatry repeatedly in his Word. He hates it when we pursue, serve, or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us and put us to shame (Isaiah 45:16; Psalm 106:36). The apostle John warned his readers and us, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Idols are powerless to help us and end up making us into their own image (Psalm 115:8). Like David, we should hate idols and those who pay regard to them (Psalm 31:6). Too often, though, we ourselves are the idolaters.

When some of us hear the word idolatry, we picture primitive tribesmen bowing down to statues of wood, metal, or stone. Or we think of countries like India where Hindu temples dot the landscape. When I went to train pastors in India years ago, I met many men who had grown up worshiping idols as a daily ritual. But idol worship is a daily ritual in America, too. Only it’s more subtle and therefore more dangerous.

Idols are all around us. Can you spot them? They come in different forms. Material comforts. Financial security. Sensual pleasures. Musicians have their own special idols. New gear. Electronic gadgets. Hip clothes. The most powerful idols are the ones we can’t even see. Things like reputation, power, and control. As Christians we’re sometimes like the people described in 2 Kings 17:33: “They feared the Lord but also served their own gods.” We fear the Lord externally, doing all the right things on Sunday morning—singing, strumming a guitar, lifting our hands—yet actively serve false gods throughout the week. We profess to love the true God but actually love false idols. It’s a condition that God, in his mercy, is committed to changing. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

From Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,

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