Over the past few weeks I've noticed that Facebook has a new feature. Stories and videos pop up in my news feed with the title "Popular Across Facebook." No doubt our internet overlords at Facebook have determined that these videos and stories are ones that I am likely to read or watch based on other links that I have clicked in my social media browsing history, so these stories and videos are supposedly tailored to my interests.
But rather than identifying with these stories and videos and their popularity "across Facebook," I find them repulsive. I hate them.
The reason I hate them is that they are filled with messages designed to get me to believe in false gods. They are videos of "pastors" and "preachers" of a false gospel that has nothing to do with the God of the Bible. You see, based on my browsing history, I've been lumped into a culturally Christian sub-category, and internet codes have determined that the popular stories and videos that I will most likely watch and/or read are Christian ones. And so Facebook has shown me videos that are popular amongst the Christian sub-category. The only problem is that the Christianity peddled (and I use that word intentionally) and espoused by the majority of these preachers and their videos looks nothing like biblical Christianity.
Rather, they preach a gospel of prosperity. They preach a gospel of healing - but only if your faith is good enough. They preach a gospel of God as a life-enhancement program that will help you live up to your fullest potential so that you can get that promotion at work, get a new car and house, and finally have fulfillment in life. They preach a gospel that makes God out to be a good luck charm, rather than the sovereign Lord of the universe.
In short, these videos that are so "popular across Facebook" are promoting false gospels and the worship of false gods. Indeed, it is accurate to say that idolatry is popular across Facebook.
Ancient Israel was a people who struggled with idolatry. They were surrounded by other nations and people-groups who had their own ethnic deities, and Israel began to regard those false gods of other nations as being on par with the one true God. They had a low view of God. They didn't regard him as the one true and living God of the universe who reigns and rules over all and to whom all submission is to be given. Rather, they regarded him as a casual deity who could help them live their best life now. And if he didn't help them live their best life now, then they didn't have to worry because there were a plethora of other gods waiting in the wings that they could look to for help. To them, God was merely a good luck charm, or maybe a butler who they could rely on to help them and do nice things for them.
It's no wonder that they left him when they got a better offer from somewhere else.
This is why Israel fell into idolatry - not because there was some kind of better power in these false gods, but because they had a low view of the one true God. They thought he was simply one god among many. Sure, he could help you now and again, but next month you might get a better offer from a different god, and so you go where the winds of idol worship take you.
Don't be fooled into thinking that idolatry was an ancient Israelite problem. It's just as prevalent today in our culture as ever it was, and it is even existent in the American church. Many people who call themselves Christians treat God as their butler. They're not going to submit to him, but instead they want God to submit himself to their desires. Sure, they might call on him when they need him, but when things are going alright in their lives, then they're going to pursue their own desires. They're not going to concern themselves with what he wants from them - at least not until they might need him to get out of a scrape. And if God won't give them what they want, then they'll go and find someone or something who will.
That is idolatry. And it is no different than the idolatry with which Israel struggled throughout the Old Testament, except maybe that our idolatry doesn't involve worshipping a statue made out of stone or metal. I heard a pastor say once that the most idolatrous time of the week in this country is at 10:30 on Sunday mornings, because there are many people who go to church to worship a god of convenience, or a god who will be their good-luck charm, a god who serve them.
And the reason for 21st century American idolatry is the exact same as it was for Israel: we have a low view of God. As evidenced by the videos that are popular across Facebook, so many people view Go as a life enhancement program, or as a good luck charm, or even as a butler who exists to serve their every need. But that is a false god, not the God of the Bible. And these false gods are peddled to the American Christian subculture, and people eat it up.
The reason that many people - even Christians - are prone to idolatry is that they have no knowledge of the God of the Bible because they have forsaken his word. It's easy to see a slick, silver-tongued pastor on Facebook and fall in love with his message about how God wants you to be healthy and wealthy, because we are prideful creatures, and if we're honest, the idea of being healthy and wealthy is very attractive to us. And such we have such a minuscule foundation of biblical truth in our heads and hearts we will quickly move our trust and devotion to whichever god can satisfy our selfish desires. Put simply, because we do not know the true God according to his word, we will fall to any false god that we find attractive.
1 Peter 3.18 says that "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. God wants nothing more than for all people to come to repentance and faith so that he can save them. But he will not save them if they come to him as a good luck charm. He will not save them if they are only coming to him to live their best life now. He will not save them if they come to him to find health, wealth, and prosperity. He calls people to repent and believe and to worship him in spirit and in truth, according to his word.
God will not compete with the false idols that are popular across Facebook. He calls us to know him in truth, and in order to know him we must turn to his word. It is easy to spot a false idol when we know the real thing. Regardless of how "popular across Facebook" these idols are, they need to be smashed.
Know yourself. Know the Bible. Know God.