Being Dependent on Ritual = Pagan Idol Worship

Christians all know that idol worship is bad. “Make no graven images” is a law that’s been around for a long time.

However, images still drive much of Christianity, and I aint just talking about Catholics and their crucifixes and statues of Mary and the saints.

Idolatry is a reliance on an image to evoke certain feelings or responses. Idolatry is evil because it makes you dependent on physical objects rather than God. Obviously, with true idolatry, the object represents something false, there is no god behind the idols of false gods.

Religion under Moses’ Law relied heavily on external things as well–priests, sacrifices, holy-days, and such things. Unfortunately, those objects began to take precedent over the God behind them.

When God Himself showed up on earth, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Jewish leaders would rather have their symbols than God. Jesus just didn’t give them the same feelings and sensations as their physical religious deeds.

Galatians is a book written to confront false notions of the Old Covenant that crept into the New Covenant. Galatians 4 has two fascinating verses:

Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”

Paul’s is saying that they (Gentiles) used to worship false gods. They were caught in bondage to external things to evoke spiritual feelings, but missed God entirely through these things.

But now they have a better knowledge of who God is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why, after getting the substance, do they desire to go back to symbols? He uses the word “again” twice–you are going back to pagan ritual again.

Earlier in the chapter he talked about Jews also being in bondage to elements of the world as their worship until Christ came.Now that Christ has come, God has been revealed to both Jew and Gentile, therefore, they know God and shouldn’t need temporal, sensual, elements of the world anymore.

Paul then says:

Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Paul is saying that now that Christ has fully revealed God, going back to Old Testament rituals is like pagan worship of false gods!

Point One: you used to worship gods that weren’t God
Point Two: Now you know God through Christ and Paul’s preaching
Point Three: But you go back to weak and beggarly elements–externals–again
Point Four: Externals such as esteeming days better than others.

To Paul, observing special days is a return to pagan idolatry. To Paul, substituting a physical thing to “get you in the mood” is idolatry. Worship leaders often call this “preparing your heart to enter His presence,” and such things. This is fancy talk for “let’s get in the mood.”

People are suckers for this stuff. We want that THING that is going to make us feel like we just “met God,” or we need that picture to remind us to think about God.

I really think we need to be careful with this stuff.

*If you need certain types of music in order to worship God, you might be an idolater.

*If you need pictures, images or statues to remind you that God is there, you might be an idolater.

*If you need movies about little kids seeing visions of heaven in order to remember that heaven is for real, you might be an idolater.

*If you need movies about the Son of God to get you to feel emotions about the Gospel, you might be an idolater.

*If you need to be in a certain building to feel you are “in the presence of God,” you might be an idolater.

*If you need special days to do special rituals (traditions) to make you thankful to God, or to think about Him, you might be an idolater.

*If you need special clothing to make you feel holy, you might be an idolater.

Once Christ came and revealed God to us, we don’t need images, shadows and types–we have the real deal. Getting sucked back into these things is bondage, says Paul. Even going back to Old Covenant external forms of worship is now akin to pagan worship, according to Paul!

Fight off that urge to feel certain emotions that are dependent on physical things. We worship in Spirit and in Truth.