Once the word "idol" meant to me mostly the image of a carved statue worshipped in foreign religions. But since the days of American Idol and (more importantly) learning from the Bible about what idolatry really is, I've realised that our modern day culture has many invisible idols: money, sex, autonomy, power etc. Most Christians are wary to keep clear of both the visible idols of false religion and the invisible idols of popular culture. But might I suggest that there is a third category, let's call them "respectable" idols. Christians can easily forget to check for these "respectable" idols in our own heart such as: our moral goodness, financial security, family, doctrinal orthodoxy, approval from other people etc. I was teaching some children some time ago, that an idol is anything that we start to love more than God. Most idols are actually good things, but have become idols because we priorities them over and above our love for God. This is why the Bible says: "All have fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) The sin in every human means even Christians must battle our compulsive drive to love idols more than God. If we understand this we will realise that we cannot fix the problem of sin by merely avoiding the idols of the culture, idolatry will just rise up in a different "respectable" form from within us. Sin is deeply embedded in our hearts. No amount of conscious effort can make us righteous. What hope is there then? Thanks be to God that through Jesus he has removed the penalty of sin and by the gift of the Holy Spirit he is transforming our heart to truly love God first. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Inspired by thoughts from Chapter 10 of Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller.