"Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters…shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
This verse tells us that idolaters will not go to Heaven unless they are born again and become real Christians, like the Corinthians being addressed, who were now idol-worshippers no more.
Perhaps you think this has nothing to do with you. After all, as a 'Protestant', you don't worship the Virgin Mary or pray to saints. It may be that you have been taught that there "is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). You do not kneel before statues and images and therefore, you conclude, there is no danger of your being an idolater. The Bible, however, also speaks of forms of idolatry that are rather less obvious.
We read in Colossians chapter 3 verse 5 of "covetousness, which is idolatry". If the chief motivation in your life is the love of money and not love to God, you are an idolater. You put money in the place of God.
Is your great concern to have a large house and car or just a big bank balance? Maybe you go to church, but what do you think about when you are there? What do you think or talk about the rest of the Lord's Day - your business or the price of sheep or cattle? Possibly, your upbringing keeps you back from doing certain things on the Sabbath day, but your heart goes after them.
The first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). The words "before me" mean "before my face". Your love of money, rather than God, is idolatry.
The Bible speaks of unconverted men being "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4). By contrast, the true motive of all of life is given in Scripture, "…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Is there anything of this in you?
When the devil tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God by eating of the forbidden fruit, he said to Eve, "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). He tells them not to take God's word for anything, but to assert their supposed independence and so make themselves equal to God.
It is this desire to take God's place that lies behind all sin. This desire to take over the rights of God is being worked out to an alarming degree in our present generation by the advocating of such things as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality or the abolition of Sabbath trading laws etc. - denying God's rights over life, gender and how we are to use our time. But your rejection of God's authority over your day-to-day living springs from the same root.
False Ideas of God
Here we come to the heart of the matter. The Bible is God's word to men. Here we learn what God is really like. He is holy and just and he punishes sin in Hell, as Christ himself taught when he spoke repeatedly of the "fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43).
The true God tells you that you are a sinner and deserve his everlasting wrath. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). God's love is shown in his sending his Son to be the Saviour of sinners by bearing the wrath of God in their place when he suffered and died on the cross of Calvary.
The Scriptures tell us most plainly that, far from being independent of God, we must depend utterly on Christ for acceptance before God. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). In fact, you need the Holy Spirit to change your heart even to be willing to depend on Christ for salvation, which is why the Saviour said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
Idolater or True Christian?
Do you love the God of the Bible of whom we have spoken above? Is it not rather the case that you don't like to think of God as he really is? You like to think of God as a God of love and nothing else. And if he punishes sin at all, it is only in people whom you regard as much worse than yourself, such as terrorists and other criminals.
Perhaps you like to have these ideas confirmed by liberal clergymen who preach of such a god. The problem is that such a god is a false god who does not exist and you must turn away from this idol. The living and true God holds you to be a Hell-deserving sinner and all your professed Protestantism, membership of Protestant organisations and church-going cannot take away your guilt before God. You must face up to God as he really is and seek deliverance as he says, through Jesus Christ who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).