Once a week I drive across town to spend a couple hours with a group of ladies who are searching hard after God. We’re at all ages and stages of life. Some are mothering kids at home, others have recently retired. One just quit her job so she could care for her aging mom, so she calls herself – I love this! – a stay-at-home daughter. In the midst of all this caring and sharing and living and trying, everyone sets aside this time to study the Bible and ponder truth together. It’s a beautiful thing, these women with big hearts and (still) big dreams wondering where we all fit into God’s scheme of things.
We’re studying Kelly Minter’s “No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols”. We each work through the book during the week, and then when we get together, I teach something designed to help us go deeper. It’s humbling and rewarding and I still can’t believe they keep coming back in spite of me. So if it’s ok, I’d like to welcome you into our study circle for the next couple of weeks and share some of the things we’re learning.
What does modern-day idolatry look like? Is there even such a thing, or is it some sort of Christian-speak meant to invoke feelings of guilt? In week 1 of her study, Minter explains that an idol is anything in our lives that functions as a sort of god to us. It’s something we turn to for comfort, reassurance or safety. It’s something that helps us make sense of the world. It’s anything we put our trust in apart from God. Well, that was pretty self-explanatory to the gals and me. We all know we turn to various things to get us through life. Chocolate doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what fills my heart.
The ladies and I started our study by looking at Exodus 1, the story of how God begins to move the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt. We thought that maybe when it comes to idol worship, we could find parallels between these ancient people and ourselves.
The Israelites had been peacefully living in Egypt for generations. But they became so numerous that the Egyptians began to feel threatened. So the Pharaoh enslaved them, conscripted them to hard labor, and killed their newborns. This familiar country, where they were living, became something dangerous.
A new thought struck us: sometimes the things that are the most familiar to us become the very things that enslave us. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, we don’t notice when the familiar starts to get dangerous: When we think we couldn’t survive if that boyfriend or girlfriend left us. When we begin a slide into workaholism because our sense of self is derived from our job success. When we become helicopter parents because we can’t be happy unless we’re engineering our kids’ happiness. Sometimes the familiar things in our lives that we cling to become the things that choke the life right out of us.
As Christians, we live inside a culture controlled by an enemy who, like the Israelites’ Pharaoh, tries to enslave us through our own propensity to sin. He will not let up on us in his greedy pursuit of our souls, and one of his favorite weapons is to get us snared in our own nets. When something in your life that’s meant to be healthy begins taking too much priority and driving you down a path of imbalance, there’s a chance you’ve begun following an idol instead of leaning on God.
But there’s good, good news. In Exodus 6:5, we read that God remembered His covenant (promise) to rescue Israel. He always moved on Israel’s behalf, and He will always move on our behalf. His covenant with us was made when Jesus went to the cross. 1 John 1:7 says that Jesus’ shed blood cleanses us from all sin, including our tendency to run to idols instead of Him. We have the daily help of the Holy Spirit who anoints us in our innermost being (1 John 2:20). This anointing is a cleansing, purifying, renewing flow of wisdom and strength, and it’s happening to us all the time! 24/7! While we’re not even aware of it! As Oswald Chambers says, “The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach… Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go?… The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus will feed the life of our Spirit”.
The ladies and I took heart. After all, we’re God’s children, which means we’ve inherited His promise of rescue. For all of us, the place of freedom is the place where the shed blood of Jesus meets the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we agree with His working. Like the Israelites, I see my freedom on the horizon, and I want to go out and meet it.