(This series of articles was written at the beginning of the first lockdown in March/April 2020)
This is the final article (of 736) that will appear on the Premier Radio website, as they are revamping their content, moving away from text to audio. Yeshua Explored will, from next week, be continued, but on my own ministry website, www.saltshakers.com.
The Exile of Judah came about through general idolatry and the corruption of the Temple worship system. People had turned away from God and even those who were ordained to lead worship to Him were not performing their duties as they should. Is it fair to suggest that today’s Western Church is following the same pattern? On the face of it this would seem an offensive question, how dare you compare us with those blatant idolaters in Bible times? Yet the reality is that the circumstances and environment have changed, but the sin is the same.
The Hebrews had turned from God to alternatives: You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 29:17). Here’s a modern paraphrase, applicable to many Christians today:
You saw among them their detestable images on screens and monitors, of abhorrent sexual practices, sport/film/pop idols, impeccable homes, jewellery and antiques …
Anything that is yearned for, jealously guarded and lovingly nurtured is a substitute for God, it’s all a form of idolatry. This could include even ourselves, evidenced by the rise of gyms, self-improvement programmes, dating apps and beauty salons let alone the meteoric rise of the narcissism of Instagram profiles. Idol worship is more prevalent than we have probably ever imagined, and it’s a slippery slope slidden by Christians too, not just the back-sliders. We can easily, happily slide forwards, with eyes-open, towards this corrupter of souls. Many Western Christians live double existences, a personification of Platonic dualism. We divide our lives into the sacred and secular without even realising it. We can very easily slip seamlessly between the two, as circumstances dictate, as the World increases its grip on us. We can convince ourselves that it is being relevant to the culture that surrounds us, but often we are the ones being salted by our society, rather than the Biblical injunction to do the opposite, be as salt and light … The narrow path hasn’t changed, we are often too bloated to fit through, our spiritual eyesight too dim even to find the entrance! Yes, idolatry is still alive and well and sadly thriving!
The other factor behind the Exile was the corruption of the Temple worship system.
“Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:11)
The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:31)
“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” (Jeremiah 6:13)
Jeremiah was an unpopular figure, particularly among the “priests” and the “prophets”. There are a few “modern day Jeremiahs” who seem to be held in similar “low esteem” these days. Am I saying that today’s prophets, priests, pastors, ministers etc. are corrupt? No, far from it, there are many good people among this number doing their best. My quarrel is with the system we have inherited in which to fulfil these roles. This is where the corruption has seeped in, as you have read earlier in my potted history of the Church. We have inherited systems and structures created by minds educated in the Greek mindset of Plato and Aristotle. We have all inherited this mindset, it’s what drives the systems in our society, particularly scientific progress. It was never meant to be the way we “do Church”, but, since it was adopted by the Church Fathers and theologians and philosophers that followed, it has become part of the ecclesiastical furniture!
So when we compare our situation with the corruption of the Temple system at the time of the Exile, we are now looking at the corrupt system itself as not the best way to build up the Body of Christ and create and maintain disciples. In fact the word “corrupt” is a bit harsh, let’s instead paint a picture of it as a system that’s not the most ideal way to build God’s Kingdom.
Flockdown, then, is God’s stark reminder that we Christians need to rethink how we live our lives and how we organise ourselves. It is a strong message for our generation, simply because of our current environment, a combination of many factors to make this a unique period in human history when God has felt the need to give a major nudge to His people. He has done this out of love and mercy, not just for His Church but for the World that needs a more relevant and effective Church.
This is an extract from the book, Flockdown: Is the Church out for the count?, available for £5 at https://www.sppublishing.com/flockdown-263-p.asp
Is idolatry still an issue in the Church?
Written by: Miriam Emenike
© Premier Christian Communications 2022
Premier consists of Premier Christian Media Trust registered as a charity (no. 287610) and as a company limited by guarantee (no. 01743091) with two fully-owned trading subsidiaries: Premier Christian Communications Ltd (no. 02816074) and Christian Communication Partnership Ltd (no. 03422292). All three companies are registered in England & Wales with a registered office address of Unit 6 April Court, Sybron Way, Crowborough, TN6 3DZ.