“The human heart is a factory of idols” These famous words, written by John Calvin, capture the true condition of our nature as humans: like a economy line, our hearts are cranking out new things, people, and experiences to worship in the place of God. On any given day our hearts will start and stop production on a long list of idols that include things like approval, comfort, getting a husband or wife, physical pleasure, the next techno gadget, wealth, security, control, freedom and power.
There’s nothing incorrect about what Calvin said, but there’s another level to it that we must be aware of. So, let me ask, what do all of the above idols have in common? They are all things, people, or experiences that you want to fulfill your desires. You will know these things have become idols when you are willing to sin to get them or sin if you do not get them, but what they all have in common is you. You make sacrifices of time, energy and money to things like comfort and security in order to please yourself. Therefore, in reality, it is not as much that we are putting things like comfort and security on the the throne of our hearts (where only God belongs), but rather, we are putting ourselves on that throne instead. When we worship idols we are, essentially, worshiping ourselves. When you get down to the bare bones of each decision we make, there are really only two options: worshiping God or worshiping self.
This is why Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Notice he did not say, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny his idols.” It’s not that this statement would have been wrong, but Jesus knows the reason why we worship things other than God is because we want what we want. We are at the root of all the idols we serve. So, the heart of the matter is that we must humbly step down from the throne of our hearts to and return its seat to the only One to whom it rightly belongs.