the main reason that we use avatars…masks/alter egos/representations of who we are…is to mask our worship of idols.
because we are created in the image of God, we are created to worship. that means that by our very nature we desire to give praise and adoration to someone or something who is bigger than us, and we desire to praise beauty for what it is. however, because of our sinful nature we struggle to worship the One who deserves our true worship. all of this together means that what john calvin said is true, “our hearts are idol factories, and all of us are experts at creating idols.”
exodus 20:1-5 gives us a quick definition of idolatry: “anything or anyone in which you place your ultimate significance, purpose, and meaning; and in so doing to which you ascribe ultimate worship or meaning.” God is very clear that he will not tolerate his people’s worship of idols (exodus 20:5) and he is clear that he is the one who deserves our true worship (exodus 20:3). we also need to remember that idols are, as mark driscoll says, “good things that we make God things…which makes them sinful things.”
exodus 32:1-8 then gives us 3 characteristics of idols:
- idols are always selfishly motivated – in exodus 32:1 we see that the people of israel built the golden calf because they were impatient with how long God was taking to talk to moses. so they decided that they would do what was best for themselves, and they would build a golden calf in to be their God. they were committing the ultimate idolatry, they had a God-complex and wanted to be God. likewise all of our idols are selfishly motivated from a heart that thinks it knows better than God.
- idols are real – exodus 32:2-6 shows us that they built a real idol, that they created real days of worship, and that they rose early to give their lives and worship to it. in other words, they did what is natural to the human soul…they worshipped their god. in this sense the idol was real: it drew out real worship from souls who were created to offer real worship. that is the danger of idols…the worship is real, even though the god is not. and because idols are usually good things they are usually things that we enjoy or areas in which we are gifted, and that makes them even more dangerous.
- idols are not real – exodus 32:7-8; 1 kings 18; 1 corinthians 8:4 all show us that although the worship is real, the idol is not. none of our idol can save us like God can save us, and under the weight of our expectations of salvation we end up crushing the idol and destroying ourselves.
remember the image of smeagol killing his friend for control of the ring of power. remember how he became a shell of himself…an avatar…fully comsumed with pursuing “his precious” until he became gollum. when we pursue good things as if they are ultimate things we end up as spiritual gollums.
where are you committing idolatry? my sense is that most of us know…but if you don’t know, begin by looking in areas of giftedness or in places where you enjoy any number of things. this is not to say that God wants to destroy the things we enjoy, but it is to say that often when we enjoy something or when we are good at something there is the tendency to worship the thing and not the Giver of the thing.
how are you masking the worship of your idol? we all do it, some more explicitly than others…but we all do it. if you dont know, ask a cellmate, or someone you trust…usually your closest friends will know and will help you fight the battle against idols.