Idolatry: Love


A famous song by the Beatles repeatedly stated, “All you need is love. Love is all you need.” Unfortunately as humans we seem to look for love in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways. We try to find love through promiscuity and sexual activity. We try to find love through marriage. We even try to find love through our children. These may sound like proper channels to find love but we are going to study the scriptures in this lesson and show how all of these are false gods.

Love In Sexual Immorality

First, the scriptures identify that we often are seeking love and satisfaction through physical intimacy. Our society is very sick today as it plunges itself into sexual immorality. Americans spend 10-14 billion dollars on pornography each year. And our country is not the top consumer of pornography. Studies have been done believing that nearly half of all men who claim to be Christians view pornography. Sex before marriage is now considered common and normal. People claim to be followers of God while living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, as if this is acceptable to God. God is very clear about his requirements for our bodies.

1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 ESV)

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul. We are commanded to abstain from sexual immorality. We are to control our body in holiness. That means not in passion and lust like the world that does not know God. God has called us to purity, not impurity. Please listen to verse 8. If you disregard this command, you are not disregarding me, or this church, or even the apostle, but God. You are directly violating God’s clear command. There is to be no looking at anyone who is not your spouse. There is not to be living together between people who are not married. I would like to word verse 8 another way. If you cannot stop looking at these things on the computer, living with someone who is not your spouse, or having relations with people who are not your spouse, you have an idol. If you are doing something that you cannot stop, then you have an idol. You are worshiping the idol of love and pleasure. We see this was a common idol in the days of the scriptures just as it is today. Turn to Exodus 32.

We looked at the golden calf incident when we first started this series. When Moses was delayed from coming down from Mount Sinai, the people cried out for Aaron to make them gods to lead them. Aaron takes their gold, the gold that God had given them by plundering the Egyptians, and fashions a golden calf. Please notice verses 5-6 of Exodus 32. Aaron declares that tomorrow would be a feast to whom? It would be a feast to the Lord. The people think that they are worshiping God. They think they will be okay in what they are doing. Please notice what they are doing in verse 6. So they rose up early the next day and brought their offerings. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Friends, they were not drinking Cokes and playing baseball. Some translations like the NIV, NLT, and NRSV use the word “revelry” to try to softly communicate what is occurring. According to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, the Hebrew word used here that is translated “play” refers to things that I do not want to mention in a mixed audience with children. Do you understand what they are doing in their drunkenness? Exodus 32:25 says that the people were “unrestrained” (NKJV) and “running wild” (NRSV). If we are unsure of this, turn to 1 Corinthians 10 and you will see Paul quote this text and elaborate on what is happening.

Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. (1 Corinthians 10:7–8 ESV) When you read the rest of the Exodus 32 account you will see that God nearly kills all of them immediately. Do no tell yourself that living together, sleeping together, or sleeping around is acceptable to God. God’s wrath burns hot from these actions.

Love In Marriage

Second, we often try to find our satisfaction in marriage. You might be surprised to consider the idolatry found in this. The media portrays romance as an ultimate goal. While men fall to the idol of physical gratification, women fall to the idol of romance. Movies declare, “You complete me” and that there is “The one.” Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking: you are placing all your hope and satisfaction in this other person who will fail you. Do you suppose that the person you married is perfect? I am sure many of you are quickly saying, “Oh, no, he’s not perfect.” So why are you putting your hope in that person? Marriages bear unreasonable expectations today leading to why there are so many divorces today. People enter marriage because of what the other person does for me, rather than what I want to for my spouse. A marriage cannot bear the weight of selfish expectations. If you think you need someone to complete you, you are never going to find that person. No one can complete you because they are just as sinful and broken as you are.

There are a number of people who fall into this marriage trap in the scriptures, but I would like focus our attention on Solomon. First Kings 11:3 reveals that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Now, we might say that this does not apply but consider that the 1000 wives was not from making 1000 treaties with the nations. What possesses a person to continue to get married over and over again? Solomon is looking for something in love that he is not finding. The Song of Songs is a song of dating and marriage. One of the main characters is Solomon. Listen to the words he says as he is trying to woo the Shulammite woman.

There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my perfect one, is the only one, the only one of her mother, pure to her who bore her. (Song 6:8–9 ESV)

At this point Solomon already had 140 women. Yet he thinks that this woman is the woman for him. We know that he still had 860 more women to go! Rather than placing our reliance on God for our hope and satisfaction, we place our hope on our spouse. We expect them to provide for us everything we were looking for in this life. No marriage can handle that expectation and thus the marriage fails. Nowhere in scripture does God say to get married for what you will get out of it. God never says that marriage is about finding our own personal satisfaction. Marriage is about giving to the other person. Marriage is not about what you get but what you give. As long as we come into marriage with selfish expectations, then we will continue to see marriages fail and we will continue to worship our idol.

Love In Children

Third, we can seek this love through our children in a couple of ways. First, we can think by having children that we will cause our spouse to love us more. I have seen women become baby factories with the hope that this will cause the husband to love them. The classic example of this is in Genesis 29 where Leah is bearing children for Jacob, trying to win his love. This is the same error of trying to find our self worth and identity in our spouse. Second, we can seek love through children directly. Since we are not finding the love that we need to bring us satisfaction in our spouse, we try to find that satisfaction in our children. We turn our attention away from loving our spouse and focus on the children, so that they will depend on us and need us for everything. Rather than teaching our children about growing up in this world and living independent, we stunt their growth by babying them and demanding them to depend on us. You may be able to think of a few examples of this problem in the scriptures, but I see Eli falling into this idolatry trap. Rather than restraining his children, Eli coddled his children and let them do whatever they want, leading to God’s wrath against them and subsequent death. Think about how Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau, causing all kinds of family problems. We are setting our hearts on our children’s destruction when we try to find our satisfaction in them. These are unreasonable expectations that crush the child and breed resentment.

Love In Family

Finally, let’s talk about how our love for our family can easily become an idol in our hearts.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26–27 ESV)

Too often we go against this direct command and put our family first, above God. There are a number of ways that we make family our idol. Often we use our family as a reason why we cannot serve or worship God. We declare that our family is in town for the holidays and we do not go to worship God. We make family our idol when we put our children’s interests and their happiness first, above God’s interests. We let them do other things than worship God. Rather than training them to love God and worship, we let them play with toys, play games, or not come at all. If we are not teaching our children to engage in singing, praying, and listening to God’s word, why do we think they will when they grow up? We can turn page after page of people who have made an idol out of their families. From Jacob to Eli, from David to Rebekah, we read of the constant failures of placing our families above God. Rather than showing the bad, let us look at one amazing example of properly loving family. In Genesis 22 Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar to God. Abraham goes and does it. Listen to God’s words as Abraham pulls the knife and is about to slay his son.

“Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:12).

Family does not come first. How many of us would truly do what Abraham did? How many of us would make excuses for our families in some way because our family is our idol. We do not focus on the family. We focus on God and by focusing on God, then we will act and live properly toward our spouse and children. When you truly love the Lord, then your relationships in this world will properly align. Everything we have, even our family, is for the glory of God.

Shattering The Idol

Let’s talk about the steps we can take to make sure that we do not fall into or continue the error of idolatry in love.

  1. Physical intimacy is not love. Do not use physical interaction to try to find or generate love.
  2. Watch out for “using” rather than “loving.” In all that we have talked about in this lesson, the issue is that we are using these things for our own selfish needs. Too often physical intimacy is not used as an expression of love, but to selfishly fulfill our passions and lust. Marriage is used, not for putting the interest of our spouse above our own, but to use our spouse to fulfill our own selfish needs. Children are used for our own selfish needs. Families are used for our own selfish needs. Everything must be for the glory of God, not our selfish fulfillment. None of these things are about what I get out of it, but how it will glorify God and what is in your best interests. Do not use people and relationships for your self.
  3. Our life is hidden in Christ (3:1-4).

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4 ESV)

Your identity is not found in your spouse. Your identity is not found in your boyfriend or girlfriend. Your identity is not in your children. Your identity is not in your family. Further, your satisfaction is not found in your spouse, children, boyfriend/girlfriend, or family. Your identity and your satisfaction is found only in Christ. Your identity is in what Christ has done for you. Your life is not about you. Your life is about Jesus. You will only find satisfaction in him. You will only find the love you need from him. The love of God is all you need.

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