idolatry – making things in our lives "ultimate" things

Having gone to church last night, I was able to wake up late, make some coffee and sit and listen to a sermon by Tim Keller as I enjoyed my coffee.

The sermon was on Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1-2, and how when she was dealing with her barrenness, how she refused to find her worth in neither the cultural pressure that Peninnah pushed upon her (ie. that she was worthless because she was barren), nor the love that her husband gave her. She instead went to God, handed over her struggle over her barrenness to Him and in doing so found peace: “…then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Sam. 1:18). Her “ultimate thing” in her life was neither her desire for children, her husband/marriage but was clearly the Lord God Himself. Hannah found her worth in Him.

She had no idols in her life. Had she conformed to the culture of her day and made childbearing her idol, she very easily would’ve been destroyed by her barrenness. In the same way, making her marriage her “ultimate thing” – her idol – she could have also been destroyed. But instead, she set her heart on the Lord and worshiped Him above all else. Whatever her future looked like, she would find security, peace, and complete love and acceptance from the Lord.

In an article that Tim Keller wrote, he says,

“Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.”


“Whatever we worship we will serve, for worship and service are always inextricably bound together. We are “covenantal” beings. We enter into covenant service with whatever most captures our imagination and heart. It ensnares us. So every human personality, community, thought-form, and culture will be based on some ultimate concern or some ultimate allegiance—either to God or to some God-substitute. Individually, we will ultimately look either to God or to success, romance, family, status, popularity, beauty or something else to make us feel personally significant and secure, and to guide our choices. Culturally we will ultimately look to either God or to the free market, the state, the elites, the will of the people, science and technology, military might, human reason, racial pride, or something else to make us corporately significant and secure, and to guide our choices.”

What have you made into “ultimate things” in your life? What idols do you need to confess??

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