I am presently pastoring a church in a remote area in Nigeria, a community of idol worshipers. My neighbor joined the church. In the process, I discovered that he was in so many religious societies. Free Masons, Ogboni Fraternity, and there is a strong local Juju idol worshipper to which he is strongly attached. He wants the freedom to practice Christianity as one of his religious beliefs.
He took ill a couple of months ago and instead of calling on Christ he resorted to a massive and open display of different animal sacrifices. This kept us apart for a while. But after I visited to greet him as a neighbor and admonished him, he resumed church with his family.
A few days ago, he performed more sacrifices as he had just been initiated into the traditional palace council of the King. I was advised by one of my pastor friends to visit him again and pray with the family. My spirit is so grieved inside me. I find it difficult to do in light of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians.
Rev. Mrs. Constance Oyolu.
Dear Reverend Oyolu,
Two issues emerge from your question. The first is the issue of church discipline.
The Bible gives an example of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. In this case, the discipline led to excommunication, and the apostle Paul explains the need for discipline.
One illustration he used is that sin is like yeast; if allowed to exist, it spreads to those nearby in the same way that “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (verses 6-7). Also, Paul explains that Jesus saved us so that we might be set apart from sin, that we might be “unleavened” or free from that which causes spiritual decay (verses 7-8).
Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-27 that Christ wants to present His bride, the church, as pure and undefiled. Finally, the testimony of Christ Jesus (and His church) before unbelievers is also essential. When David sinned with Bathsheba, one of the consequences of his sin was that the name of the one true God was blasphemed by God’s enemies (2 Samuel 12:14).
The ultimate goal of any disciplinary action a church takes against a member is to bring about godly sorrow and true repentance.
When repentance occurs, the individual can be restored to fellowship. The man involved in the discipline case in Corinth repented, and Paul later encouraged the church to restore him to full fellowship with the church (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).
Unfortunately, disciplinary action—even when done correctly and in love—is not always successful in bringing about restoration. But even when church discipline fails to bring about repentance, it is still vital to accomplish other good purposes such as maintaining a good testimony in the world.
The second issue you mentioned is idolatry.
You know it’s not possible to sacrifice to idols and be a Christian. The Ten Commandments are very clear about worshipping the One and Only God. In fact, idol worship is at the top of the list!
“You shall not make yourselves any idols: no images of animals, birds, or fish. 5 You must never bow or worship it in any way; for I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god!” (Exodus 20:3-5)
Many Christians from other parts of the world do not understand that idol worship still exists. They also don’t realize that they too worship idols, but their idols come in different forms. All idolatry is insidious and destructive.
What is an idol? And who is an idol worshipper?
Usually when we think of idols we think of little statues or wooden figurines that people kneel before and pray and worship.
A close missionary friend of mine, Tom Terry, defines an idol as “any representation of a deity or exalted person that people venerate or worship. Idols are usually a focus of worship or a tool used to direct veneration or worship to what it represents.”
· An idol is anything that is more important to us than God.
· An idol is anything that absorbs our hearts and imaginations more than God.
· An idol is anything that attempts to give us what only God can give.
· An idol is anything that seeks to find meaning apart from Christ.
· Money, power, and sex are idols that transcend every generation.
Essentially, an idol is anything real or imagined that takes a person’s focus off of the one true God and gives dedication, veneration, or worship to something or someone other than the one true God. Simply, we worship an idol ay time we attempt to find money, meaning, power, or pleasure apart from God.
How can we identify idol worship in our lives and overcome it?
First, be aware of your true spiritual situation.
Find anything that you might venerate more than or/in addition to, Jesus Christ.
Of course, as Christians in the Western World, we are not talking about little statuettes. We’re talking about all of the sins and activities that crowd the Lord Jesus out of our lives. Today, many people worship idols of money, possessions, or reputation. These are our real idols.
Second, recognize that idolatry is evil, because no idol represents a true deity or true reality.
The only true deity is the God of the Bible and no one knows what he looks like. “God does not have a physical form that can be accurately represented” (Tom Terry).
Third, it’s not possible to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ while simultaneously hanging on to our idols.
We all have a choice to make. Ask yourself the question, “Do I want my idols or my Lord Jesus Christ?” You can’t have both.
If we try to keep an idol while we are attempting to serve the Lord, we will spiral into a decimated Christian life. Jesus demands exclusive rights to our worship.
Fourth, make a commitment to let go of your idols and avoid them at all costs.
John the Apostle states it simply in 1 John 5:21; “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
We must conscientiously and deliberately put idols in the proper perspective or throw them away. This means confession, repentance and a renewed commitment Christ as Lord and Savior.
I pray you will be able to reach this man. You certainly are a Spiritual Warrior in Christ’s kingdom!