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American Idols

by Jeff Randolph
February 21, 2010
[ Audio ][ Printer Friendly Sermon ]


One of the most popular TV shows in this country is called American Idol. Ever since it first aired, I've jokingly referred to it as American Idolatry. I say jokingly, because we understand that an "idol" doesn't necessarily carry the same meaning as it did in ancient times.

Today, when most people think of the term "idol", they might think of a person, someone who is greatly admired, or looked upon as a role model. Back when I was younger, if you asked me, I would tell you that my favorite baseball player, Ken Griffey Jr., was my idol. He wasn't someone I worshiped as a god, but someone I greatly admired.

That said, what about the basic (and Biblical) definition of an idol, an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed, (cf. Lev. 26:1) does this have any bearing on our lives today?

I mean, America is "one nation under God", where the primitive practice of idolatry is long gone, right? So we can just ignore any New Testament passages warning of the sin of idolatry (Gal. 5:20; 1 Cor. 10:14 "flee idolatry"; 1 Jn. 5:21 "keep yourselves from idols") because that's not really a problem today, right?

I would argue that today, perhaps more than ever, we have a problem with idolatry in this country. Our "American Idols" are not so much statues of wood or stone (cf. Isa. 37:19; Dan. 5:4, 23; Acts 17:29), but a number of things to which Americans devote themselves, and ultimately place before God (cf. Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 6:14).

  1. People

    1. It's one thing to admire people for the things they do, and quite another to fixate on them for who they are, something very prevalent in our culture when it comes to celebrities (cf. Lk. 16:15).
    2. Movie and Music Stars
      1. There are entire TV shows dedicated to talk about celebrities (fashion, love life, what they ate for breakfast, etc.).
      2. America is more interested in celebrities than far more important things
        1. It seems like America knows American Idol better than American History!
        2. Estimated 1/3 have some degree of celebrity worship (Gray)
          1. Many, especially younger folks, might hold to certain views simply because their favorite celebrity does
          2. Some even react emotionally to the lives of their favorite celebrities (Celebrity Worship Syndrome)
          3. Sometimes it becomes dangerous stalker behavior
    3. Athletes
      1. This year's Super Bowl was the most watched program ever. We love sports!
      2. I love sports too, but have you ever thought about how much time and resources are put into covering sporting events?
        1. How many cameras, TV crews, and sports writers do you see at a pro sports event?
        2. Even in college sports - there seems to be lots of emphasis on sport over school
        3. "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes and just about every one of them will go pro in something other than sports"
          1. How many people have this in mind when watching the bowl games, or the tournament coming up next month?
      3. Athletes are so adored in this country, and many times they, like celebrities, just let you down.
      4. Even so, many Americans would rather discuss the latest celebrity and/or sports news than have any sort of conversation about God.
        1. Many Christians fall into this category too!
        2. How do you feel if you miss your favorite TV show or sports game? What about when your team loses?
    4. Civil Leaders
      1. While many devote their lives to celebrities and athletes, they look to our leaders for help and for salvation
        1. Israel looked for a king and rejected God (1 Sam. 8:4-7)
      2. We put all our hope and trust in them (Ps. 146:3; Ps. 118:8). Maybe you've seen things like this recently.
      3. It's sad that many Americans identify with, devote themselves to, and want to be like their favorite celebrity more so than Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21-24)
  2. Possessions

    1. Many of the things we own are necessary, helpful, and fun to enjoy, but we need to be careful about appreciating such things more than God.
    2. Wonderful things given by God become to us better than God
      1. To covet more things is idolatry (Col. 3:5)
      2. To trust in the things that help us is idolatry
        1. Trust the tools over who gave us the tools (Hab. 1:16)
        2. Love of money (1 Tim. 6:10)
    3. Number one political issue for Americans is economy
      1. Serving the god of wealth, mammon (Matt. 6:24)
      2. Not the right outlook (Matt. 6:33)
    4. Life does not consist of possessions, not worthy of devotion (Lk. 12:15)
  3. Pleasure

    1. God has created many good things, and so there is a place for pleasure in our lives.
    2. The problem is that for many, pleasure has consumed our lives.
    3. So much so that we find pleasure in things that are harmful
      1. Drugs
        1. Most recognize the harm in illegal (street) drugs, but many have become addicted to prescription drugs as well.
        2. Prescription pain killers ranked second behind marijuana
        3. When we let substances have power over us (1 Cor. 6:12), even if helpful, they become our idols.
      2. Alcohol
        1. If there were any substance that it could be said Americans worship, it would have to be alcohol.
        2. Many love to talk about how drunk they got last weekend, can't wait for next one.
        3. Songs are sung about it
        4. Even in this down economy, the alcohol industry is going strong
          1. Why? Because Americans simply live to drink!
        5. Don't have anything to do with the god of alcohol!
    4. Sex
      1. Many Americans live for sex, want to see sex, and will pursue sexual pleasure at any cost.
      2. Supposed to be special bond between husband and wife by which they can enjoy each other and produce children (Heb. 13:4; cf. Gen. 2:24; 1 Cor. 7:1-4).
      3. Has become a common thing with no special significance. "It's just sex."
      4. Nobody bats an eye over fornication anymore (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18), and homosexuality is gaining more and more acceptance (Rom. 1:26-27; because they worshiped the creature over the Creator, men behave this way).
        1. Even adultery
          1. Celebrities (many brush it off..."not like they killed anybody...not like it's illegal...nobody's business...having an affair not moral depravity, it's life")
          2. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush." (Jer. 6:15 )
      5. God's Word is out, unrestrained sex is in, its an American Idol.
    5. Leisure and entertainment
      1. Americans want to be entertained and have a good time all the time.
      2. Average American spends 4+ hours watching TV a day
      3. It was once recognized that Americans were the hardest workers in the world. If that's still true, how much longer do you think that will last?
  4. Nature (Rom. 1:20-25)

    1. This is one of the more subtle points, but the fact is that many in this country essentially worship nature as result of evolutionary assumptions, and as seen in modern environmentalism.
    2. There is nothing wrong with "going green," in fact, we should be good stewards of our planet.
      1. God certainly didn't create this world to be abused, but the problem arises when many see nature as a wonderful thing (and it is) and then conclude it is the only thing.
    3. Much of the reasoning for taking care of the environment is not to be good stewards to what God has given, but because it rests totally on mankind to preserve the earth for future generations.
    4. Because of evolutionary presuppositions that nature is all there is, it's up to us alone to save the planet. Things have gotten out of hand:
      1. Supposedly, cow manure is one of the greatest threats to the environment.

        "We are told that the 1.5 billion cattle on Earth are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming - more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined" (Miller, 2008)

      2. "Yet, Australian scientists are delighted with the discovery that flatulent kangaroos produce almost no greenhouse gas methane due to their peculiar digestive flora (bacteria) - which researchers hope can be transplanted into cows and sheep to prevent their contributions to global warming" (Miller, 2008)
      3. "One environmentalist emphatically insists, "Having children is selfish," and gave as her reason for having an abortion, "it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world" (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007).

        Another environmentalist maintains that "a baby would pollute the planet" and "never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do" (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007).

        Still another asserts, "That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of the Earth.... [W]e are doing out bit to save our precious planet" (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007)" (Quoted from Miller, 2008, emp. added)

    5. Is it really all on us?
      1. Christ upholds all things (Heb. 1:3; cf. Col. 1:16)
      2. God takes care of things (Matt. 10:29; Ps. 65:9-10; 104:24; Acts 14:17)
    6. Man is supposed to subdue nature (Gen. 1:28).
    7. We need to recognize that the purpose of nature is to a provide temporary environment in which to live while we seek God (Eccl. 12:13; Col. 3:2), and that nature itself is designed to point to God (Rom. 1:20).
      1. Maybe the earth temperature is supposed to fluctuate.
      2. Not considered an option because that would involve the concept of a master design.
    8. Extreme environmentalism, built upon evolution, is a religion devoted to Mother Earth and Father Time and leads to worshipping the creature over the Creator (Rom. 1:25).


  1. So America has idols, who cares?
    1. God cares (Ex. 20:3-5; Deut. 6:14; Matt. 4:10; 22:37)
    2. Christians should care
      1. Most of what was mentioned in this lesson should not be anything new. If it is, wake up!
      2. Be careful of the influence and "conscience searing" (1 Tim. 4:2).
      3. What agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Cor. 6:16-17)
      4. We should be motivated to speak against these American Idols as Paul was of those in Athens (Acts 17:16)
    3. All Americans should care
      1. Consider Daniel 5:17-28....And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified... God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it...You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting...
      2. It has happened to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and even Israel. So what about America? (cf. 2 Kings 21:11-13; 2 Chr. 24:18; Matt. 23:32; 1 Thes. 2:16; Rev. 16:19)
      3. Consider Thomas Jefferson: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever" (Quoted from Miller, 2005)
      4. Consider Daniel Webster: "[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity" (Quoted from Miller, 2005)
    4. It's not too late (Jer. 18:7-10)
    5. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Pr. 14:34)
  2. Do you have a problem with American idolatry?
    1. Where are you sacrificing your time and talent? (Rom. 12:1)
    2. What would you give in exchange for your soul? (Matt. 16:26)