Dear Teenager, You Are an Idol

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Dear Student,

I need you to understand that you are an idol.

Imagine a place where there are temples everywhere. Shrines dot the high places and idols welcome you into storefronts and homes. Priests conduct incantations, repeat mantras and offer blessings. Worshipers bow and vow, leaving food or promises at the feet of some image. You may think I’m describing a time before you were born or a place far from your home. But I am talking about you, right now. You are an idol.

This isn’t your youth pastor being cute. It’s the Bible’s view of all mankind, ancient and modern, religious and secular, pre- and post- modern. We are all idols – created images of our Creator –  and the world is our temple.

What is an idol in this sense? Back when the gods had names – like Baal, Molech, Ra, Marduk, Osiris, Zeus, or Saturn – they needed representatives in the world of men. They needed images to capture their essence. They needed idols to mark their territory. So men, wanting to please their gods, would carve idols of wood and mold images from gold. And since rocks weren’t gods, they needed to be possessed by the gods first. Acolytes carved mouths into the images. The priests would then ceremonially wash the mouth of the idol so the gods could breathe into them. Only then were idols proxies for deities.[1] Only then did the idols spread their god’s kingdom and beckon others  to worship.

But further back, when not even God had a name, he made the world with his mouth. Inside that world he made a garden – a temple. A place where he could walk in the cool of the day with his people, people who he had made in his image. He made people from mud and dust. But since dust motes and mud aren’t alive they were breathed into by God and inhabited by his Spirit (sound familiar?). In that garden temple we were proxies for the divine – his images, his idols. And as idols we were commissioned to take his garden temple into all the world and beckon others to worship.

Dear student, this is important. This is what you’ve also been made for. There’s a wild world waiting to be cultivated into the temple it’s meant to be. And there are wild hearts waiting for an idol to show them how to bow the knee and confess with tongue that “Jesus is Lord.”

Do you know why old kings would place their images and statues in the farthest reaches of their empires? It was to mark territory. In the middle of deserts and in outlaw cities, those images shouted through stone, “The king rules and reigns these lands. He has conquered enemies! And he is coming soon to bring justice and order!”

And that’s you. Like Oregon trailers you are on the frontiers. You are pioneers among generations and nations that have not yet heard the good news that the war is over, and peace and justice is coming to the badlands.

Do not abdicate this responsibility. Do not water down the options by placing earthen idols next to you. Those idols are just wood and stone, processors and OLED screens. They can’t save anyone; they aren’t listening to your prayers except to target their marketing. You, dear student, are living and breathing idols of the God who lives and breathed into you.

And you are not the only idol.

While the “gods” of this world have blinded the minds of most to the good news of the coming kingdom, there is a another God who will heal blind eyes. What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ who is the very image of God, reimagining this world according to his precepts. We are idols for the sake of Jesus Christ, the true and brighter idol who is not merely breathed into by God, but is God himself. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. And we by God’s grace are being made into his image and imbued with his power day after day. This Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us as his gospel rebellion grows like yeast in dough.

Student, you are not alone. All authority has been given to your fellow imager, Jesus. So make disciples and consecrate new images, teaching them to declare the glory of God and obey his commands. Jesus, the God become idol, will be with you always, until even time itself ends. (2 Corinthians 4:4-8, Hebrews 1:3, Romans 8:29, Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:18-20).

 

 

[1] Schneider, Tammi (2011). An Introduction To Ancient Mesopotamian Religion. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 68.

 

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