Thank you for your prayers for Larry and I while we’re in Greece. We are enjoying the beautiful island of Zakynthos and appreciate the ministry of Taki and April Korianitis who are pastors of a Baptist church. We are preparing for speaking at a Marriage Seminar on Oct. 7-9. As we’ve gone over our talks with them to get insight into the mind of the Greek people, it’s been fascinating to get to learn about the Greek way of life and thinking. And of course, many of the terms we use as Americans cannot be translated into their language. So it has been a challenge for Taki and April to find the concepts that will translate. Please pray for God’s wisdom and direction as we continue to work with our material. Also for interest in the community especially among unbelievers who will hear about the seminar. Please pray for airtime on the local radio and ads in the local newspaper. A concept of a marriage seminar is pretty unknown here and yet the needs are great.
While here, I’ve been reading through the book of Acts since some of what is chronicled there occurred not far away. As I came upon Acts 7:39-41, I was struck by Stephen’s sermon points. He says to those who will end up stoning him, “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt–we do not know what happened to him.’ And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.” (NASB)
I saw in those verses four points about the formation of idols and how they work in our lives. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our lives. It can be people pleasing, anger, worry, discontent, our reputation, or our image. It’s when we “worship” anything and it becomes our source for handling life, instead of trusting in God’s love and surrendering to Him. It’s anything that is more important to us than God. When it is threatened, we feel tense and respond in unholy and unloving ways–reactions which are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s look at those four points contained within the Holy Spirit’s words through Stephen.
1. The first point is found in verse 39: “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” The ground floor of idol formation is disobedience, repudiating God, and turning our hearts back to our old patterns. To repudiate means to “refuse to accept or be associated with.” The Israelites wanted to again be associated with Egypt and yearned for its leeks and onions. They forgot that they hated being there–and they were hated there. They were in bondage as slaves. While there, they whined and complained that God wasn’t delivering them. And when God did, they quickly forgot their former pain and wanted to return. Even though God wanted to lead them to a wonderful new land flowing with milk and honey, their hearts were focused on where they’d come from—not to where God wanted to take them.
2. Verse 40 tells us why we do this. The Israelites said, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us.” There’s something important in those three words “go before us.” The Israelites evidently felt they were on their own. There was no one to go before them. They must have felt unprotected and exposed. They were afraid something bad was going to happen to them without someone with them. Moses, their leader was missing in action. He was up on the mountain with God and they have no one to guide them or tell them what to do.
You and I do the same thing when we respond with or act in old patterns of solving our problems, relating to people, or trying to get our needs met. Maybe we grew in our ability to love unconditionally but when stressed, we returned to trying to change or manipulate the people around us. Such manipulation is an idol. But did manipulating people in the past benefit us or others? No. Did it represent the Lord or bring glory to Him? No. But we easily forgot that it didn’t work and we “turn our hearts back to” our old ways–our idols of the past.
The idols of our lives are revealed when we feel threatened and exposed and it seems like God isn’t coming through for us. One of my idols is my image. I don’t like to be seen without my makeup. As we prepared for our trip, I knew I would be traveling for a long time, about 40 hours (it turned out to be 46). After 30+ hours, we would be sleeping at a home before we headed out for the last leg. Knowing my make up wouldn’t last that long made me ask whether I wanted to even start with it.
That thought made me feel tense because I believe that people who look better get treated better. Maybe if I look good, I’ll get an upgrade into a first class seat. Maybe if I look good, I’ll get better service on the flight. That is one of my basic assumptions of life. And it feels threatening to think I’ll miss out on something good if I don’t look good.
But let’s look deeper into that. Is it possible that my assumption leaves out God? Where does God’s sovereignty and power come into that? If my assumption is correct, I’m saying what happens to me is determined by my makeup–not God’s will for me. It rejects His ability to fulfill whatever He desires. If He wants me in a first class seat, is He hampered by whether I look pretty? Is my treatment on a flight dependent upon how I look? Since I don’t believe God “will go before me,” I need an idol–my image.
Looking at the situation that way helped me to decide not to wear any makeup. I wish I could tell you I was upgraded to a first class seat or that I received special treatment, but I didn’t. But it was a good exercise in trusting God for whatever He wanted to do during our journey.
In my next post, I’ll share points 3 & 4 with you.