Finding Victory over Sin and Idolatry

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled 7 Blessings of COVID-19. One of the blessings I highlighted was that some of our cultural idols, including professional and college sports, were being eliminated. Though I am saddened that thousands of people lost their jobs, I believe that on the whole, this is hugely positive, particularly when it comes to Christians.

Now, it is important to make a distinction here. There are millions of casual sports fans who tune in every once in a while to catch the championship game or watch their alma mater play, but there are also plenty of hard core fans who never miss a game and are quote on quote “obsessed.” Just think of all the wives out there who rarely see their husbands during football season. Sometimes it is even the opposite – husbands don’t see their wives. This is where sports can become an idol.

For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, sports (pro, college, and high school) have been eliminated for the time being. Of course there is no shortage of re-runs to watch, but that doesn’t feed the obsession in the same way. It is also important to remember that sports is just one of many cultural idols. Media and entertainment are obviously another big one. Movies, sitcoms, reality TV, HGTV, news, etc. are all readily available. What better time to feed those idols of the heart?

It would take a long time to identify all the major cultural idols of our day. And even if one gets eliminate (like sports), we have a tendency to replace it with another. The human heart has been rightly called an “idol factory.” Satan can dupe us into thinking that we are doing great because we are not in bondage to an old, sinful stronghold. The problem is that we have replaced one with another.

Last year, I read a little book (based on a sermon) by the Puritan Thomas Chalmers called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” Chalmers premise is simple. It is only a new and more powerful affection that has the ability to displace an old affection. As was typical of the Puritans, his logic was sound, his argument was biblical, and I found myself in agreement with all that he was saying.

The question is – what has your heart? We know from the words of our Lord that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If you treasure something that this world offers – sports, entertainment, food, leisure, nature, even family (Luke 14:25-27) – more than you treasure Christ, then that is problematic. God is a jealous God and demands complete allegiance (Philippians 2:9-11).

My hope is that the people of God will take inventory of their lives. The Coronavirus has changed the world, but I pray that God would change our hearts. We need be intentional about cutting off the idols of our heart that keep us from God (Mark 9:42-50). By the grace of God, we must fight the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

May God richly bless you as you strive to pursue Him and treasure Him above all earthy things. Let me leave you with the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Praise God!

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