Idolatry occurs from ignorance or refusal to heed sound doctrine about the God of the Bible.
Even Christians and people who own Bibles can commit idolatry if they are ignorant of sound Bible doctrine.
Since doctrinal Bible study is unpopular in many Christian circles, idolatry (creating another god) runs rampant.
The Circumstantial God
The most popular false god in Christian circles is the god of circumstance. The god of circumstance does not need a Bible with all the “thees and thous”. It doesn’t require much “boring” study of anything, that is, except study of your circumstances.
The god of circumstance works by manipulating the circumstances to be in your favor or to be against you in the case that you are not worshipping him properly.
According to followers of this god you see him working in your life and in the lives of others by looking at your surroundings, happenings, and environment. When you see good things happening, your dreams becoming reality, or feelings of happiness, then the god of circumstance is blessing you.
When bad things happen, you can never reach your goals, or are in a constant bad mood, then the god of circumstance may be cursing you. I say “maybe” because there is no objective way to hear this god’s voice. It is entirely in the heart and mind of the believer.
Following the God of Circumstance
How do you become a follower of this god? First, pray for a blessing. Second, identify the blessing in your life. Third, repeat. Mere mental assents to doctrinal statements are unnecessary and even prohibitive from identifying the god of circumstance.
(Note: the second step will require some mental power to find the connection in seemingly unrelated events, search for signs, or the ability to see the good in what others see as bad.)
If your blessing does not come, or worse, if you feel cursed, then you need to make a change in your life. Perhaps changing the way you talk, dress, behave, where you work, how you eat (fasting), who you hang around with will gain favor with the capricious god of circumstance.
The Bible is viewed by the followers of the false god of circumstance not as the exclusive revelation of the true God, but rather a collection of some people’s encounters with their god.
Prayers to this god always include requests to change the circumstances, and to protect against bad circumstances and bad moods.
Identifying Circumstance Idolatry
Since these worshipers pray and go to church they are indistinguishable at first glance from other nominal Christians. Since they are under a performance system with their god, they blend right in to many denominations.
The main way to identify followers of the god of circumstance is by their dependence on their surroundings to define their spirituality or salvation. Followers of circumstance will most likely not be Bible students; however, if they do study the Bible or any other religious text it will be mainly in those areas where circumstances are changed.
Indiscriminate prooftexting from the Bible is used to prove that the God of the Bible is the god of circumstance. Most of these passages are under God’s covenant with Israel, and the ways in which God would intervene are clearly delineated in the law given to them (Rom 9:4-5).
Rather than the God of the Bible being circumstantial, he directly communicates with words to his chosen nation in time past and tells them what he will do. His interventions are always according to his promises to them and not the subjective will of millions of people on the planet.
Paul says that the church today are strangers from the covenants of promise, and are not God’s covenanted nation of Israel (Eph 2:12, Col 3:11). For this reason Paul’s epistles are largely ignored.
Paul and Circumstances
The God of the Bible taught Paul to be content whatever his circumstance. The apostle Paul wrote the following from jail:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” – Phil 4:11-12
Paul takes pleasure in his infirmities by his knowledge of how God in Christ is operating in this dispensation of God’s sufficient grace.
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Cor 12:10
Knowing doctrinally that he is at peace with God through faith in the blood of Christ, Paul can glory in tribulations knowing they work an unashamed hope:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” – Rom 5:2-4
Paul suffered many bad circumstances for the sake of the gospel, and did not count his good circumstances as a sign of greater spirituality (1 Cor 4:8-13).
Trusting circumstances instead of the Bible rightly divided has created a false spirituality and religion within Christianity.
What is more powerful than the false god of circumstance is the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16).
Understanding that Christ has delivered you from the power of darkness and the circumstance driven course of the world can be the beginning of true spiritual growth founded on the solid doctrine of the Bible rightly divided.