The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much with the constitution. Never break our by-laws. He's a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much like one of us...we ask Him to help us when we're in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we're asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn't a God I could have much respect for.
Paul taught that religions evolved because man did not honor the true God. Because of rebellion, they "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of the corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." One characteristic of idolatry is that it always confuses the creature with the creator.
Self-righteousness is the largest idol of the human heart - the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God's favour by thinking little of your sin, or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers ; or by looking to your religious exercises, your frames, etc; or by looking to your graces, the Spirit's work in your heart. Beware of false Christs. Study sanctification to the utmost, but make not a Christ of it.
If we exalt money, status, or sex above the Word of God, we are living in idolatry. Every time we inwardly submit to the strongholds of fear, bitterness, and pride, we are bowing to the rulers of darkness. Each of these idols must be smashed, splintered, and obliterated from the landscape of our hearts.
Whatsoever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to be rid our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately or immoderately upon them.
Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him... To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribound souls.
False gods patiently endure the existence of other false gods. Dagon can stand with Bel, and Bel with Ashtaroth; how should stone, and wood, and silver, be moved to indignation; but because God is the only living and true God, Dagon must fall before His ark; Bel must be broken, and Ashtaroth must be consumed with fire.
The difference between grace and works is the difference between worship and idolatry. The man inebriated with the thought that all he has is Yahweh's gift finds himself repeatedly on his knees, adoring, thanking, praising. But if we do not grasp grace we plummet into idolatry, for that is the inevitable corollary of self-sufficiency.