“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn
THE SUBJECT : Idols
THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Exodus 20:3; I Chron. 28:9; Deut. 26:7; Matt. 4:10; Ps. 96:6; Ps. 29:2; II Cor. 5:9.
REFERENCES TO THE STANDARDS : Confession : II.1 & 2; VII.5; XXI.2 & 6; XXII.1 & 2; Larger Catechism : Q. 7; 34; 97-99; 103-110; Shorter Catechism : Q. 4; 41; 45; 49-52.
The Shorter Catechism, in Question 45, reminds us we must “know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify Him accordingly.” This is important for us to accomplish if we are to glorify God as we should.
When the first commandment is read, and especially when we take time to meditate on it as we should, we recognize the danger of having idols in our lives. This is a danger to which every professing believer is tempted. There is always the delight of the world to which a professing believer is drawn. With some it is one weight, with others it is another.
The writer of the hymn, “O For a Closer Walk With God” put it so well when he said,
“The dearest idol I have known,
What’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”
In order for the believer to know, acknowledge, worship, and glorify God it is certainly of the utmost importance that he know Christ as Savior and Lord of his life. This is the foundation stone, this knowing of the Christ of the Scriptures. But upon that Rock-like foundation there must be added the gold, silver, and precious stones of good works if we would truly give Him the glory due Him. Our salvation is not based on those works, but if we are truly saved, we will bear such fruit—we will give evidence of our spiritual life. This means a life of self-discipline on the part of the believer and much of his success has to do with not putting other “gods” before the Almighty, Sovereign God.
It is so easy for us to put other things before the living solely to the glory of God. We can be guilty of it even in those things that are right and proper in themselves, especially in the eyes of the evangelical world of today. For example, there is the prevalent disease of “running-to-meeting-itis” that so many fall prey to in this day. I am not talking about the local church. I am referring to the many evangelical meetings outside the church that take believers away from their church. God has given us specific instructions regarding the visible church but too many times we have other “gods” that come before His visible church.
Or, as another example, hobbies may be used. It is important to take time off and relax. But sometimes it is hard to understand the justification of the hours spent on hobbies. And even more difficult to understand is when it is on the Lord’s Day! Many of these hobbies have become idols.
The church today is not falling because of the idolatry of old but is falling because of the two popular idols of today : Unbelief and Conformity to the World. It is a different type of idolatry in some of its aspects, but idolatry none the less.
Sometimes the thought never occurs to us of our idolatrous ways. A short list of possible idols might be to God’s glory :
—A particular doctrine that is practically the sum and substance of what we believe;
—A recreation for which we long, one that we suddenly find ourselves spending more time than necessary for relaxation;
—A person, or persons, whom we put on a pedestal where only God belongs;
—A “thing”, whether it be money, a car, a boat, a recreation, etc., that becomes more important to us than the things of the Lord as presented in God’s Word.
The list could be much longer. It is impossible for me to list all the ways you can make idols out of things even as it would be impossible for you to list all for me. The point is : We must be careful, sensitive, in this area so that we do not disobey and sin against a holy God!
Paul approaches the question in this way : “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (disapproved).” Not that he was in danger of losing his salvation, but that he was in danger of losing his salvation, but that he was in danger of losing approval by God.
We must discipline our lives so that idols do not creep in. When they do, we must put them to death. Otherwise we will find ourselves dedicating our lives to other things, rather than living to His glory.