Posts

Are We Idolizing Our Relationships?

Written By Melly Tjoa, Australia

“My life is incomplete. I’m still waiting until my knight in shining armor swings by on his horse, scoops me up in his arms, and takes me away in the distant sunset!  And then, I’ll feel complete.” I laughed at that comment, along with others who attended the talk on relationships that evening.

But as I thought about it, I realized that we do not just think about romantic relationships that way. As relational beings, we—myself included—have a natural tendency to make an idol of any relationship.

Last year, I moved to a new church. The saying that church should be like an extended family came to life as I experienced being in a community that lived this out. As months passed by, the hospitality, gentleness, and kindness I witnessed impressed me. I met caring and humble people I admired.

When you see something of great beauty, it’s natural to want to exalt, praise, and call attention to it. You see, we were designed by God not just to have relationships, but also to worship. That makes it natural for us to want to worship people and/or relationships. At least for me, I know I rush to idolize when something looks admirable, often forgetting that I have not seen all there is to see yet.

 

The Problem with Idolizing Relationships

But while my heart surged with delight in this new family and relationships, my mind reminded me not to get carried away. After all, the reality of human relationships is that people will eventually fail.

A friend recently told me of her disappointment with a new friend.  She thought she had found someone she could build a meaningful friendship with, only to realize after spending more time together that the friend wasn’t who she thought she was. This happened within a month, leaving her discouraged.

It only took my friend a month—it might take me a while longer with the new church, but it is coming. Disappointments will come eventually (from either ourselves or the other party).

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t invest in our relationships. But perhaps, we need to reframe our perspective when it comes to viewing the relationships God has graciously given us.

 

The Better Alternative: Reframing of Perspectives

1. Recognize It’s A Glimpse of Something Greater

If we’re blessed to be in a warm and tight-knit church family right now, imagine what heaven will be like eventually! The joy of the present good relationships and community should give us a better picture of what is to come. It should spur us to long for and look forward to the ultimate joy of heaven.

With a clear perspective of what relationships are for and what they point to, we’d then be able to find the right enjoyment in them and have the right response even if things fall apart.

 

2. Look to the Source

I aspire to be like people I admire, but I need to remind myself that my ultimate role model is Christ Himself. People who live by the Spirit manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but they are ultimately, a reflection of the true source, Jesus Christ.

To strive to be like someone else, apart from Christ, would be to miss the entire point. So, just as Paul calls on the Corinthian church to be imitators of him, just as he is of Christ (1Corinthians 11:1), let’s turn our admiration for others into a desire to be like Christ.

 

3. Rest in the Unchangeable

Because we live in a sinful world, disappointments will come—both from those we don’t like and those we admire. When faced with disappointments in relationships, we should become more sober and less attached to the things of the world.

This also sets a contrast with the only One who will never disappoint and will always remain good. That should drive us to draw closer to Him each time and help us find our assurance in Him.

 

4. Consider the Cross

I find forgiveness hard when someone offends me, and it is often so because I am inward-looking. During these moments, I need to remember the one who was once mistreated too (and to the worst degree), yet forgave completely. I am only partly wronged as I am not blameless like Jesus was.

In fact, when someone wrongs me, it is likely that I have wronged him or her too (either in outward retaliation or subtly in my heart). So, other than seeking to forgive, I should seek forgiveness too. The cross is a reminder not only that He forgives, but that He forgives us. It is because we ourselves have experienced mercy that we now can extend forgiveness to others too.

 

When we exalt relationships higher than they really are, they have the potential to become harmful to us. This is equally true of relationships that are clearly unhealthy for us and of those that seem good.

Viewed rightly, however, the experiences we have in our relationships can awaken us to reality, drive us to Christ, and free us to love willingly even those who are undeserving—just as Jesus would. With the help of the Spirit, we can realign our perspectives to live the way God intended us to.

In the end, it’s not about the relationships, or about us. It is about Christ and becoming more like Him.

5 Signs that Something is an Idol in your Life

Written By Grace Debora, Indonesia

I was swept up by the Korean wave and became an avid follower of K-Pop in 2009. Back then, I was obsessed with the 12-member boy band, Super Junior. Every break time, my friends and I would gather and talk excitedly about our favorite members, gush over YouTube videos we had watched the night before, or share facts we dug up about them.

Pop culture has become an entrenched and essential part of the lives of young people today. Who hasn’t heard of the queen of pop, Taylor Swift, the popular British boy band, One Direction, or heartthrob Song Joong-ki of the recent K-drama hit, Descendants of the Sun? With the accessibility of information, it’s easy to find ourselves obsessing about our favorite “idols” and getting wrapped up in what’s going on in their lives. In my case, this pattern went on for about a year until God pulled me back and showed me that my life focus had shifted.

Today, the term “idol” is used flippantly to refer to celebrities or whoever we revere or hero-worship. But in the Scriptures, “idol” refers to foreign gods or anything that replace God in our life. In fact, the first commandment God gave to the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Amid a culture of idolatry, God explicitly commanded His people to worship Him alone.

And He demands the same of us today. But first, we need to identify what “idols” we have in our lives. For me, these were the signs that showed something else had replaced God in my life:

1. Time

The amount of time we spend on something reveals how important it is to us. When I was obsessed about Super Junior, I would spend all my time after school downloading and watching videos of them, and reading up about them.

2. Energy and resources

Along with time, we might find ourselves pouring our energy and resources willingly into cultivating our interests. I remember spending a lot of money on Super Junior’s albums, concerts, merchandise, and even on programs organized by the international fan club. Emotions-wise, I was so invested that I sometimes got mad at others who would bad-mouth my favorite artists—to the point that I found myself despising them.

3. Phone content

What we browse online, listen to, or view on our playlists or our social media accounts indicates what we’re preoccupied with. Back then, all the pictures on my phone were of Super Junior, my playlist had almost every song from every album they released and my social media accounts were flooded with updates by the fan clubs or the stars themselves. I followed many K-pop news sites and even signed up for an account in a foreign language so that I could follow their updates.

4. State of affairs

When God is not first and foremost in our lives, our lives show. Life becomes disorderly and things take a turn for the worst. During those moments where I lived and breathed Super Junior, I was sleep-deprived, haphazard in my school assignments, and lackluster in my service in church. Even though I followed a Bible reading plan, my mind was far away from His Word.  

5. Community

“Birds of a feather flock together.” That was evident in my life. All my friends were those who liked the same idol group and we did similar things together. At first, our conversation seemed lively and our friendship fun, but in reality, it brought me nowhere.

I started to limit my involvement in church, and did not bother to get to know others outside my group of friends who loved Super Junior. I also did not find it necessary to mingle with other friends—I thought my group of friends was the best. Later on, I found out that some friends stopped hanging out with us because they had felt left out.

 

Although God used friends, sermons, and devotions to sound the alarm in my life, I ignored the warning signs until one particular sermon forced me to question who I am and what I live for. That’s when it struck me that I had been wasting my life. Guilt and regret overwhelmed me when I came face to face with the reality that God was not the one I was worshipping; I had made Super Junior an idol.

So I repented. I deleted all the videos, threw away all the merchandise I had collected, and basically, removed all things related to Super Junior. It was hard at first—but that feeling only lasted for a week. The hardest part was not being able to keep up with the conversations. I tried changing the topic. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Nonetheless, I thank God that He helped me retain my friends. Moreover, God brought back the close friends I thought I had lost!

Idols may come in many different forms. It may be our work, social media, drama serials, or even our church ministry—anything that causes us to lose our focus and personal time with God. In college, I was addicted to watching movies. But thankfully, God made that known to me and enabled me to change.

God will not allow His children to remain in their sins. He wants us to live according to His plan and will. Therefore, He will use various ways to bring us back to Him. And if we recognize that God is prompting us to return to Him, let’s hurry back and return. Let’s put Him first and foremost in our lives.

Photo credit: mduangdara via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

ODJ: one more year

January 1, 2016 

READ: Genesis 1:14-18 

Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years (v.14).

Happy New Year! Today marks the day that planet Earth has once again completed its annual orbit around the sun. Just how many times the earth has made its journey is anyone’s guess. But we do know the voyage is a long one—584 million miles, to be exact.

The account of creation in the book of Genesis tells us some important things about the earth and its relationship to the sun: “Then God said, ‘Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.’ And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:14-18).

One of the most critical things the creation account declares about the sun is that it’s a created object. This might seem obvious to many of us today, but it wasn’t for the original audience of Genesis 1.

When Genesis was written down, God’s people had recently been delivered from 400 years of Egyptian oppression. During that time, the Israelites were continually indoctrinated with the Egyptian belief that the very sun they toiled under each day was one of many deities who played a role in creation.

The Bible’s creation account strongly counters Egypt’s influence on God’s people, revealing that the objects the Egyptians worshiped as gods (the sun, moon, stars, air, land, etc.) weren’t gods at all. They were created by the one true God—the same One who created us. May we worship only our Creator God this year!

—Jeff Olson

365-day-plan: Genesis 1:1-2:3

MORE
One theologian has said that reading Genesis 1 is like “visiting a really great art exhibition” where we actually get to “meet the artist.” How is that true for you? 
NEXT
What objects, activities, or people are you worshiping rather than the God who made them? Repent and renew your worship of the one true Maker of heaven and earth. 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: dynamite & self-idolatry

July 7, 2015 

READ: Matthew 6:1-4 

Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven (v.1).

Alfred Nobel invented the detonator in 1863 and the blasting cap 2 years later. Then, in 1867 he invented dynamite—something he hoped would revolutionise the mining and construction industries. It certainly did that, but dynamite also became the basis of military weapons for a century, with variations of it used in wars even today. Nobel would probably be saddened to know that something he intended for good has been used to cause great destruction.

Similarly, if we start to make a lot of noise about the good stuff we’ve done, it can also lead to some destruction. Sure, it’s tempting to believe that letting others know about the good we’ve done is beneficial. After all, it’s nice to hear a positive story of charity amid all the bad news that comes our way. And perhaps our generosity will spur others to follow in our footsteps. Right?

So why did Jesus teach that we should not do works of charity in public, but in secret where only God can see? I think the answer has something to do with self-idolatry. Self-idolatry, that sin of lifting ourselves up for others to admire and even to worship, is like dynamite. No matter how good our intentions might be, engaging in self-idolatry will bring about bad results. Our instinct as human beings to rebel against God ensures a path of destruction. It’s interesting to note that the very first command God gave to Israel was to worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3). This wasn’t only for His sake, but for our wellbeing!

Jesus calls us to humbly do good things—as if our left hand doesn’t know what our right is doing (Matthew 6:3). This honours God, allows us to receive His blessing (v.4) and keeps us from the destructive path of self-idolatry.

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Luke 7:36–8:3

MORE
Read Acts 5:1-11 for a tragic story from the early church about a couple who failed to give to God and others unselfishly. 
NEXT
Can you think of other reasons why Jesus so strongly warned us not to share our good works in public? How can you become content with giving in secret as Jesus instructed? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)