One of the lots of lots of great things about God is that if you need to know something, He will make it clear and easy to understand. Case in point, the Ten Commandments. The second command is simple:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)
Could it be any easier? No idols, period. Nothing that it is in the air, the earth, the water- nothing must take the place of God as… well, God.
Why even bring it up in a modern series on the Ten Commandments, then? Few people today worship statues of wood, stone, or metal by bowing before them and burning grain on altars. True enough, but that is not exactly what the verse says. God’s command is to not worship any idols nor to serve them.
To serve means to be used for a purpose. Therefore, the simplest way to find an idol is to look at where you put the most stock. Where do you spend your time, energy, and/or money? What occupies your thoughts? What is the ultimate authority over your life? What is the one thing without which you can’t live?
Social life, physical appearance, a boyfriend, celebrities, self, even science or math are common idols today. People who pour themselves into these things make tiny “gods” out of temporal created things.
Then look at the consequences of faith in your god. How does it end?
In the case of the girl whose idol is her social life, living for the sake of her profile online and in social circles, making unreasonable sacrifices for the sake of finding pleasure in her friends, her entire world comes to an end when a friend moves away or a fight creates a deep rift. Appearance as an idol leads to disasters like anorexia and depression and leaves girls spiritually empty. A girl whose idol is her own self makes tragic mistakes that read like the Iliad (if you don’t know, look up the Trojan War). No matter what idol you worship, it will leave you empty without God.
Look in the Bible at what God promises. He shows steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who serve him. Do not be like those who are punished to the third and fourth generation for disobedience; live for the one true God who has the power to create and rule the universe and yet still keep track of your own heart.