2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

     Idolatry kills. It is the most pernicious and terrible of all religious inclinations. The corrosion of idolatry is dissolving souls in many church fellowships as I write this. The Forerunner commentary states; “The apostle Paul prophesies of an apostasy in II Thessalonians 2:3, 9-12, and he prefaces it with a warning against being deceived. The great apostasy may already be fully underway, spurred by the rising tide of deception in society. . . . . This is especially true for those who do not really believe the true source of knowledge, God and His Word. Thus, after subtle doctrinal changes, many of the brethren have fallen away.”  If you do not love the truth you replace it with a lie that you love in its stead.  This is idolatry.

     For some idolatry is a false doctrine, for others it is a person who claims to be a prophet and it is often both – the false doctrine issuing from the false prophet. This process of deception isn’t always perpetrated on the unsuspecting.  Many can read God’s Word in Scripture and so are able to tell the difference between falsehood and what is written in the Bible.  They prefer the lies; “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

     The lure of the golden calf will always beset our fellowships; “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1) And there will always be priests who will be only to ready to provide for the idolatry and the doctrine to go with it; “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me. So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ ” (Exodus 32:2-4) Note the lie – the idol brought them out of Egypt! And the people who knew better, believed the lie and danced to its tune (Exodus 32:6)

     In the end, it was death for them.  They had to drink the bitter cup of their own idolatry; “And he [Moses] took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.” (Exodus 32:20)  And many died of the plague that followed (Exodus 32:35)  In the times of the early church, idolatry was clearly listed among the poisons that killed the soul; “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

     Dr. Steven Lambert writes; “Idolatry and false teaching are synonymous terms. Idolatry always has associated with it some form of false teaching, and false teaching is always an ilk of idolatry. As Tozer so brilliantly articulated it: ‘The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.’ In other words, the person engaging in idolatry simply contrives his own doctrine concerning spiritual matters and the composition of ‘truth,’ and conducts his life based on those determinations even though they are not congruous with the real Truth which emanates from and is defined by God as Truth in His Word.”  If you don’t really believe in God’s Word you can make up any convenient lie, believe it and teach it to others.

      Big trouble starts when an idolater idolizes himself and gathers a group of willing followers to do the same.  Though such a false teacher may promote false doctrine he uses enough of God’s Word to seem good. Indeed he is good enough to fool people for a time while he consolidates his hold.  The seed  of a cult comes to fruition when the false teacher and his followers promote each other; “. . . just as nobody decides to join a cult, cult members never think or admit they are in one. Cult members like to reassure themselves in collective self-delusion that they are superior, even denouncing other groups as being cults and/or congratulating themselves on being the true path, being rational and objective and even trumpeting their own non-cultism!” (Cults)

    The false teacher and his followers are locked into a spiritually downward spiral.  Jesus warns us; “”Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)  As the hypocrisy, deception and pride grows, many followers are lead astray;  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15) The Pharisees idolized themselves and their own self-righteousness; “Their morality was self-justifying motivation and therefore spiritually pathological. At the bottom of all their law-keeping they were actually breaking the most fundamental law of all.[to have no other gods before God!]” (Tim Keller)  A false teacher’s pride in self is the same and when his followers see him as a ‘stand in for God’ the church becomes spiritually sick.

     In any church or organization where the leader is idolized, a bitter empty decay sets in; “And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, And reward them for their deeds. For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord.” (Hosea 4:9,10)  Both priest and people caught up in the addiction of idolatry; “In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against God’s rule just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones.”(Tim Keller)

     Stick with Jesus.  Run from idolatry and do not worship anyone or anything other than God.  Scripture tells us; “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:20,21)

Praise the Lord!