The church as we know it today began with repentance. When Peter preached the cross at Pentecost, thousands came to Christ. This new church was made up of one body, consisting of all races, filled with love for one another. Its corporate life was marked by evangelism, a spirit of sacrifice and even martyrdom.

The wonderful beginning reflects God’s words about Israel: “I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality.” The rest of that verse describes what often happens to such works. “How then have you turned before me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21, NKJV). God was saying, “I planted you right. You were mine, bearing my name and nature, but now you’ve turned degenerate.”

What caused this degeneration in the church? It always has been and will continue to be idolatry. God is speaking of idolatry when he says to Jeremiah, “Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But my people have changed their glory for what does not profit.” (Jeremiah 2:11).

Most Christian teaching today identifies an idol as anything that comes between God’s people and himself, yet that’s only a partial description of idolatry. Idolatry has to do with a much deeper heart issue. The number-one idol among God’s people isn’t adultery, pornography or alcohol. It’s a much more powerful lust.

What is this idol? It’s a driving ambition for success. It even has a doctrine to justify it. A man of the world once said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Tragically, Christians are also caught up in this pursuit. How far we have strayed from the gospel of living through dying to self, ego and worldly ambition. The idolatry of being successful describes many in God’s house today. These people are upright, morally clean, full of good works; but they’ve set up an idol of ambition in their hearts, and they can’t be shaken from it.

God loves to bless his people. He wants his people to succeed in all they undertake honestly, but there is now a raging spirit in the land that is overtaking multitudes: this is the spirit of love for recognition and acquiring of things.