So what does this have to do with the Catechism question, “Are there more gods than one?” The answer, “No, there is only one God”, speaks of uniqueness, but it also speaks of exclusivity.
But there’s a subtle difference between simply identifying an idol as anything we regard as more important than God, and that which draws our hearts away from where God (in His revealed will) would have them be. Ask a child, “Do you love the Steelers more than you love Jesus?”, and very likely the answer will be a resounding “NO!” But if, in some way, being obedient to the Scriptures should come in conflict with following the Steelers, how might that child respond? How would you respond?
When the needle of a compass is pegged on the “N”, we know it’s being pulled by a magnetic force from the North Pole. If a strong magnet is brought close to the compass from the opposite direction, the needle swings around, away from its intended focus. An idol can also be anything that turns our actions and thoughts away from God toward our own desires, causing us to want what satisfies our wants, rather than to want what God wants – exalting ourselves, instead of Jesus.
What the Bible calls us to is to want what God wants. To want His wants.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
Like the needle being drawn toward North, magnet to magnet, God’s own children are drawn toward Him. But like a weak compass can be diverted by another magnetic pull, drawing the needle away from North, so the hearts of God’s children – my heart – can be pulled away from God’s wants and toward satisfaction of my own wants and desires. When I saw Miss Chris illustrate this with the magnets and compass in class, a weighty feeling of great sadness fell on me. This is what happens when we let our wants dominate and pull us away from our precious Lord and Savior. Paul’s warning in Ephesians to idolators is dire: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5
But we’ve also learned that the Holy Spirit is the power at work within us, to keep our thoughts stayed on Christ, and to deliver to our hearts the desires of God. There can be only one true God, and His strength to sustain us and hold us cannot be matched by any idol, material or immaterial.
A sound and edifying sermon on Soul Idolatry delivered by Puritan David Clarkson is available HERE.