“…for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” Exodus 34:14
We’ve been going through the book of Deuteronomy on Sunday mornings at my church. We’re in the first part which recounts the mass Exodus from Egypt and the persistent idolatry of Israel. My pastor is very gifted in bringing the message into the present and making it personal and practical. So I’ve been praying and searching my heart for where I’m worshiping something other than God.
I’ve been receiving some really encouraging feedback about my writing lately, which is great and gives me courage to continue and to hope for future possibilities. But recently, after I post something I find myself checking back every 30 minutes or so to see how many have read it and if anyone liked it. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong. But what is going on in my heart is wrong.
I’ve found myself beginning to rely on the approval of others for my well-being. I get schoolgirl-giddy if someone likes something I’ve written or I feel depressed and unloved if no one responds. In my heart, I don’t just want people to like me; I want them to think I’m WONDERFUL, Brilliant, the Most Incredible Writer they’ve ever read! I want millions to read my work and love me! It kind of reminds me of this scene in The Fellowship of the Ring (starting around 1:03)…
I’ve dealt with glory-mongering before in my own heart when people have said something nice about my singing voice but I’ve had more time to learn how to check my heart and be able to “pass the test” more frequently. So this really isn’t a new struggle or idol for me but just a new expression of it.
I sincerely want my writing to bring glory to Christ. I want to make much of Him, not myself. But my heart is drawn to this idol for approval. But human approval doesn’t last. It’s fickle. Here today, gone tomorrow. What others think of me is not something that I can put my trust in or get any kind of lasting comfort from. I would have to work myself to death in order to generate a sufficient amount of goodness (or apparent goodness) to inspire enough compliments to almost satisfy my insatiable thirst for approval… So I need to find approval where I already have it: in Christ. In Him (by grace, and not based on how great or terrible I am), I have the Father’s approval, comfort, love and grace.
Somewhere along the way I’ve soaked in a few questions that are helpful in determining what has become, or is becoming, an idol. (I’m sure it was in a book I read by someone much more intelligent than me. I don’t know who it was and I couldn’t find it, so if you know who it is, please leave a comment.) These questions should be asked prayerfully, asking the Lord to show you your idols:
- Am I willing to sin to obtain my desire or do I sin when I can’t obtain it? Example: when no one likes my post, do I drown my feelings in an entire batch of brownies? (not really, but there may or may not be a tendency towards this…)
- Am I turning to this, rather than to Christ, for comfort, safety, happiness, etc? Example: would my emotional well-being be majorly affected if no one read this post? (no comment…)
- Am I obsessing about it? Where do my thoughts go when I have time to think? Example: how often am I checking the number of people who have read it or if anyone has commented?
- Then you ask these questions: Why am I obsessing? What do I want? Why does this matter so much to me?
So once we’ve determined our idols, then what? How do we tear down our idols? We turn from them and put our worship back in the right place. We replace our affections for our idols with affection for Christ. We study who God is and what He has done (here is a wonderful resource on the Names of God that I’ve been going through). The more we know about God the deeper our worship. The deeper our worship the more we will love Him. And the more we love him the more we will obey Him (John 14:15). So present yourself to God as a living sacrifice and be transformed by Him. He will drive out our idols. They will bow before him like the Philistine god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-5).
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1)