Let's just be honest though, when we use that term, we are using it more metaphorically than literally. We aren't as likely to find ourselves building stone images and bowing down to them in our day as we are to put things in our life ahead of Christ.
Now we all automatically know these things. There are things that while innocuous of themselves can be sinful if we put them too high in our lives. In fact, anything despite how innocuous it is in and of itself becomes sinful and becomes idolatrous when we treat it as a higher priority than we do Christ.
While we typically think of cultural things like television, music, and books as being things that we have to watch to keep within their proper sphere to avoid idolatry. We tend to forget that all things are actually like this.
Have you ever stopped to consider whether the way you worship God had become more important to you than actually worshipping God? Have you ever found yourself in a position where you find your ministry within a church to be an end within itself, and not a means to please God?
If you said, yes, then I'm sorry, my friend, but you're an idolater. Yes, you are in love with the process that you use to worship God. Yes, you are in love with the ministry that you have been placed in. Yes, you are in love with the things of God. Yes, there is nothing wrong with that.
But there is something wrong with displacing your love for God with this love. Burk Parsons explains in Assured by God,
"Some Christians have studied the Word of God for many years. They know their Bible backward and forward, and they know every doctrinal "i" that should be dotted, and every systematic 't' that should be crossed. The love the theology of the word of God, but their love for God Himself has been displaced... Whether it is our love of spending time studying things about God or whether it is our love of spending time serving God, such things can too easily replace our love for God Himself who is our great reward and inheritance... We must be consumed with the understanding that all of our service o God and all of our understanding about God should lead us to love God more and more."
When I read these words two weeks ago, the Holy Spirit much convicted me that this was what I was doing in my Christian life. I had begun to enjoy the study of the Bible, not because it corrected me, or brought me closer to God, but rather because it gave me an intellectual footstool to find a greater knowledge about God. But all that knowledge was on a more abstract and less personal basis.
But of course that doesn't mean I should stop studying the Bible! That would be a horrendous move on my part. What it does mean is I need to pray and work on my mindset during such activity to ensure I have dedicated it to the Lord and not my intellectual benefit.
Perhaps the same should be done in churches across America, where I believe ministry, church attendance, and probably yes, even intellectual knowledge about God has displaced the love that Christians feel for God Himself.
Modes of worship are not God, but we certainly can't treat them so at times. When we do, no matter how beneficial and amazing the act is in and of itself, it has become our idolatry. We just can't have that.