I want to first begin by giving an account of Jesus Christ's Imprint that is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 by Paul to the church of Thessalonica: "v2) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, v3) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, v4) knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. v5) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. v6) And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, v7) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. v8) For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. v9) For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, v10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He
raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come."
|City of Thessalonica|
Here's just a little cultural background on the city of Thessalonica for those who aren't familiar with it. It was a major city in Macedonia that became an important trade route in the Roman Empire during this time frame. The culture was undoubtedly pagan and downright immoral. And for those who claimed the resurrected Christ as their Lord and Savior, there was alot of persecution, some severe, that they had to contend with because of their belief. Paul didn't want to see these new believers get discouraged nor did he want to see them be deceived while they lived out their faith in this dark culture. So he wrote letters to keep them focused on the gospel message. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to a group of new believers in Thessalonica. It becomes very clear and evident that the Thessalonians held a very special place in Paul's heart. He uses such passionate and strong phrases throughout the passages like, "we were torn away from you in person, not in heart," and "we long to see you." Paul really had such a significant, powerful message to share with a group of people who had come to mean a great deal to him in a short amount of time. The words that Paul wrote could be compared to the time he spent with the Thessalonians to the equivalence of a short-term mission trip. Sadly, however, this particular “mission trip” abruptly ended with rioting by unbelievers who forced Paul and his companions out of town. The amount of time may have been short, but the impact of this particular ministry was huge. Though Paul was physically in another part of Greece, his love for the Thessalonians and his desire to see them grow spiritually weighed heavy on his heart.
The Apostle Peter’s letter was written to the “exiles,” those believers facing persecution far greater than any of us have ever seen, or may ever see. These Christians were living under a tyrannical government far worse than any bureaucrat in a D.C. office. Yet Peter graciously instructed believers to live honorably among others in 1 Peter 2:11-17. " Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, v12) having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. v13) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, v14) or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. v15) For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men v16) as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. v17) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." The “others” refer to those who are not “in Christ.” In biblical times when the word idol was mentioned it was typically one made of stone, wood or sometimes precious metals. While these are still very real types of idols in other parts of the world today, an idol can be any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion and anything or anyone that we hold in higher regard than God. So you see, ANYTHING that's deemed more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart, thoughts and imagination more than God, or anything that you seek after to give you what only God can give you is really an idol. Some may argue that their "obsessions" aren't being deemed above God or they don't think they're putting their "obsessions" above God. Well, I would beg to differ and by the end of this post, you will find my reasons for this differing opinion.
C.S. Lewis makes the claim, in The Problem of Pain, that the greater potential something has for good, the greater potential it has for bad. I thought this was a good way to lead into this post. So let's start off by a getting a good, sound understanding of what idolatry actually is before we continue. In the online dictionary, it's described as such:
1. idol worshipping, fetishism;
2. adoration, adulation, hero worship, apotheosis, exaltation, glorification, idolizing, deification.
3. excessive admiration or devotion.
4. great devotion or reverence.
So what about the Scriptures? What do THEY say idolatry is from God's perspective? Well, let's take a look. Image-worship or divine honor that is paid to any created object. CREATED OBJECT. This means not only a physical object, but anything that has been or can be created. In Romans 1:21-25, Paul describes the origins of idolatry and then in Romans 1:28, he says, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;" Men forsook God and because of that, they sank deep into the pit of ignorance and moral corruption and decay. In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as being of a heathen origin, and also as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with those heathen nations. There are many varying forms of idolatry, some of them are, fetishism, the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc. nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature. Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of perceived living heroes. Here are just some of the Biblical references to idolatry:
1 Samuel 15:23, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
Ezekiel 8:5-6, "Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance. v6) Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.”
Psalm 97:7, "Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods."
Exodus 20:3-4, "“You shall have no other gods before Me. v4) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;"
1 Peter 4:3, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime[a] in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries."
1 Corinthians 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."
Just to name a few! God takes idolatry VERY seriously! And so should we!
In Genesis 31:19 we find the first place idolatry was alluded to when Rachel stole her father's teraphim. The teraphim were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban's progenitors "on the other side of the river in old time" Joshua 24:2. The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of EVERY form. In the New Testament, the term idolatry is used to designate covetousness. These references are found in Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Colossians 3:5; and Ephesians 5:5. Idolatry has a broad range, now doesn't it?! So much so that God emphasizes it's destructive ways more than once!
1 Peter 2:12, "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation."
The word “conduct” appears thirteen times in the Bible, and eight of those times are in Peter’s letters. So I would venture to say it’s safe to assume, Peter cared about how our conduct was viewed by outsiders. Yes, by outsiders! The "outsiders" that are all around us watching our every move. watching what we do, how we behave, listening to what we say and how we say it. Those "outsiders" who don't have the light of the Lord within them but could if we'd conduct ourselves more Christ-like even if hiding behind a computer screen, tablet, cell phone or any other digital device. It's really our conduct anyway that people first look at and observe when we claim our Faith along with our words depending on the situation we're in at any given moment. Because there are so many forms of idolatry, I'm only choosing the social media for this post because as you will see, the idol worship of social media often leads to others. Much like a gateway drug leads to a heavier addiction into the hardcore drugs, so to can the social media be a gateway to other idol worship, or other hardcore obsessions/addictions.
Why am I focusing on social media? Because IT focuses on the "ME" and not the Kingdom of God. Not ALL people get hooked, if you will, but they are the minority. Social media has become the new drug of this age. It's sadly turned into the ME-dia of ISOLATION and has put a barrier up in the lines of communications. The REAL TIME communications. You know, like conversations and face to face contact?! There really isn't anything SOCIAL about "Social ME-dia" anyway. It doesn't REALLY connect you to anyone. Rather, it DISCONNECTS you from everyone ELSE in the real-time sense of the word. A connection is a personal thing. A real thing. It feeds off of reality and being and sharing the same AIR SPACE. So is it REALLY social? Not if you're honest with yourself.
Let me first say that I do not, will not, nor have I ever, had a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace, Tumblr, Reddit, or any other format deemed, and categorized under, Social ME-dia. First of all, I'm not a follower. I never have been. I remember as a young, impressionable girl, my mother would always tell us girls that it was better to LEAD than to follow and I took that to heart. Literally. I was never the one to follow all the fads, the newest crazes or the next fleeting fancy. Then again, I'm one of those people who listens to the WORDS that someone CHOOSES to speak and takes them at face value!!! Always! Anyway, aside from that, the main reason was that I saw quite a bit of spiritual danger in it when MySpace first hit the ground and began to take off. In combination with "chat rooms" and instant messengers, well, I could see where this would and COULD take a society. It was the GATEWAY to the drug of this decade for certain. The IDEA intrigued me at first. A way of expression, a way of artistic flair, and maybe even a way to connect with like-minded individuals. But that's all it was for me. Intrigue. It was almost like the "forbidden fruit" syndrome. Only I didn't take the bite of the deadly fruit. Why? I know myself. That's why. That's the simple answer. This blog is the closest thing to anything I've done on social media and this was solely directed and led by God Almighty. I finally obeyed. And to be clear, I was even a little skeptical doing this until I realized what impact being a vessel, a willing vessel, of Jesus could be for someone who happened upon the truths passed on from the Lord God. The Lord spoke it clearly and so I obliged.....and obeyed.
I sort of have an addictive personality to some degree, (but one that is definitely controlled now after some valuable lessons I've had to learn the hard way), a curious, inquisitive mind and an ongoing relationship with rejection! Those, in combination, could be a very deadly concoction for me if I were to have given in to my own desires and intrigue. In this area, it took everything out of me to not join in the reindeer games! I knew beforehand how dangerous this was going to be for people, for society, me included, and I was tested on my self control. Through prayer and obedience, I never gave into it though. I found out years ago just how damaging that combo can be for ME so in order to stay in close proximity of Jesus, and in order for Him to guide my steps, He had to teach me to let go of everything and learn to control myself. He knows me. He knows what I've struggled with in the days gone by. He's reminded me many times when that little "demon" wanted to tempt me into starting an account with MySpace, that I COULDN'T because it would hurt me instead of HELP me. The Lord won EVERY SINGLE TIME! I wanted to share that with you because, even though I'm writing on this subject without ever having joined the "craze," I am the outsider looking in at all the worldly upheaval this kind of "socializing ME-dia" has caused a whole generation! As a Christian, I feel I should point out some dangers.....
Before I go on, this post is for the OBSESSED and not the casual user. Social ME-dia can be used for the good IF it's used properly, with good intentions and isn't an obsession. I will caution here, IF you KNOW something like this would cause you to stumble, then you should steer clear of it period! If it begins to cause you to stumble, then leave it behind, deactivate yourself. I know some, although very FEW, who don't obsess over it, and use it rarely from time to time. I am not claiming ALL social media is bad or an obsession because in moderation, it all can be used for the good. The key word here is MODERATION. But it CAN be bad. It can BECOME an obsession and a bad thing. More often than not, it has already reached a level of obsession in your life that you may not even be aware of. If you are like me, MODERATION doesn't apply because to someone who has an addictive personality to ANY degree, or for that someone who lacks self control altogether, it's like an alcoholic saying they can drink in moderation. It DOESN'T work that way! This is when you should take notice of your "socializing ME-dia" habits and look at it honestly in the form of a question: Does this glorify God or has it actually already BECOME my god? Do I spend more time checking my status, feeds, likes and comments more than I spend doing things in the Kingdom or spending time in His word? Do I spend time constantly looking at my phone seeing what's going on in everyone else's life, while missing out on having a life of my own? Compared with many other potential idols, technology, in and of itself, has the greater idolatrous potential; not only because it can become an idol itself, but it can also serve as an enabler of other idols.
Let me point out the types of people who become tech obsessed with Facebook and see if you fall into any of these categories. Those with low self esteem so they post a gazillion "selfies" for affirmation of their beauty. They always need affirmed of something or they don't feel accepted or liked. The Fashionista's so they post "fashion selfies" of their new outfits, their outfit/shoes/purse of the day, or in outfits that many would consider inappropriate, all so that they’ll get more "likes" and their beauty will be affirmed. The Attention Seekers so they are often the ones posting things that are mainly for laughs or shock value. Anything for ATTENTION. The more they make jokes or shock, the more attention they will receive. The Rejected so they will do whatever they can to BECOME accepted by posting interesting, humorous, fun stuff. Depending on their audience. The Chameleon so they will post or comment or like based on the person they are viewing at the time. They tend to become like the other "friends" at any given moment. The Coveters so they secretly stalk others to see what they have, where they're going, who they're with, what they do. They're so jealous of others yet aren't content with what they have themselves. The Lonely ones so they try to fill that void with as many "friends" as they can get to validate their own existence. The Money-Status so they always "share" their newest high end purchases, showing all kinds of pictures of their "beautiful" THINGS they own, bragging about getting the newest technology when what they had was perfectly good enough! The Boyfriend/Girlfriend poster so they post all about how "in love" they are, how "happy" they are, always about one thing mainly, THEM. The Influenced so they follow the "crowd" and never really showing or embracing their own identity. The Intelligent/Knowledgeable so they often argue with alot of facts and challenge other people's intelligence to determine their worth and purpose rather than the one true God. The Men/women lovers so they troll all the "most beautiful/handsome" sexes and fulfill the lust of the eyes and heart also being validated of worthiness because it becomes a challenge to "like" or "friend" them. The Competitor so they see how many "friends" they can get and compete with others to get more. They will also poke fun of someone who has less which elevates their self worth and popularity in their own eyes. The competitor is usually combative and is always in competition with their "friends" for comments and so on. Oh the list goes on and on but you get the point.
|The "ME" in ME-dia|
1) Materialism – This is when we worship our stuff, our THINGS. It’s important to many people to have the newest clothes or the coolest gadgets or the top technology. Often this leads to debt, and even can lead some people to fall victim to a spending addiction. Stuff feeds our desire to acquire as many things as we can and at any cost, taking our focus off God.
2) Ego – We worship our own egos. Yes, that's right! Our own EGOS. This is also where the obsession with social ME-dia manifests itself. The worship of our own egos usually presents itself to look like an obsession with education or career. Anything that WE pat ourselves on the back with a self-centered love of ourselves. We think that the more successful we are in our career or the more education we have, the better. Career and educational status feed our ego and take our focus off God.
3) Mankind – This can take many forms, from idolizing celebrities to idolizing the scientific achievements of humanity. Some idolize their Pastors, people in authority, and of the opposite sex. This worship of mankind gives us the illusion that we’re the lords of our world and that we have no need for God.
4) Indulgence – This sort of worship generally takes the form of overeating, drug abuse, alcoholism, shopping, sex, sports, gambling and can even take on the opposite form, which is completely abstaining from certain things, including those mentioned above. It can also show up as obsession with exercise.
1 John 2:16, "For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world."
That’s the heart of idolatry, things that the self lusts after. It’s giving in to things that feed our own fleshly desires instead of letting God align our desires with His. In the case of the golden calf, the Israelites gave into self-lust for security. Instead of trusting in God for their security, they decided to trust their security to a non-living statue that their eyes could see. Idolatry often times comes from a desire to control our own circumstances. The problem with idolatry, however, is that it really isn't in our control. No matter how much we want to think that our "idol" allows us some amount of control over our life, when it becomes an idol (and sometimes it does), it’s no longer under our control. It’s controlling US. When anything is in control of US, then it's an idol.
While doing my research for this post, I stumbled upon something by Tim Challies that I would like to share on this topic. He said, "[Technology] certainly delivers on its promise, allowing us to live longer and cleaner and healthier and more comfortable lives. But because it is so effective in meeting our needs, it can easily begin to replace the one true God. We begin to think that it is the doctor or surgeon who heals us rather than the God who gives men wisdom to understand the inner workings of the human body. We begin to think that it is the mobile phone company that provides us with the blessing of communication rather than God’s grace enabling families to stay in touch over long distances. We easily assume that technology has the power to grant us the benefits we desire, and we forget the Author of technology and the true purpose of our technologies—bringing glory to him. Technology becomes an idol when we start to believe that humanity’s hope, humanity’s future, will be found in more and better technology. It becomes an idol when we place greater hope in technology than in God and when we measure human progress, not by the state of our hearts, but by new innovations in technology…We can make an idol of technology as we flip through the weekly advertisements, looking for something, anything, that will make our lives just a little bit better and fill the void in our hearts."
Nobody talks to eachother any more. Or they do way less of it. Texting and Facebook has replaced so much human interaction that the new generation doesn't even know how to have a conversation in person! It's sad. At first it was truly frightening how this took off and how quickly everyone got so sucked into it's vacuum without even batting an eyelash. Now? Now it's just sad. The amount of time wasted on that ME-centered site is almost embarrassing. I sat one day, alone in a corner at a popular eatery around lunchtime, and decided to people watch more than have lunch myself. As the place began to fill up, I started to see more and more faces looking DOWN. Some were pulling out tablets, some had laptops and most of the remaining people had their phones out. Not everyone, but the majority. What hit my heart the most was that approximately 80% of these people were WITH someone sitting right there beside them or across from them!! I sat back in shock at how everyone was so immersed into their "tech gadgets" and not talking to eachother or spending time together. After all, they were out to lunch together. They were together but not together. They weren't speaking, and if they were, it was in brief shortened sentences. This is not healthy relationship building. There was a family of 5 not too far from myself and the mom and two of the kids were on their phones doing something, dad was gadget free, and the other one, who was around 16 had his notebook out. The dad, I observed eating quietly, occasionally glancing up and around, but rarely did any of his family members engage with him. I felt a sadness. Is this what life is coming to? Is this what family and relationships have become? The more I looked around, the more the answer appeared to be YES.
The enemy sure took this Social ME-dia to the far end of the dark side! He saw how it would feed on people's obsessions or addictions. He saw how it would be used and abused. He saw a way to make everyone's life a little more accessible. He found a way for the deviants to find their "fix" of choice, for theft, identity theft, home invasions, rape, perversions, pornography, child trolls, bullies, predators and he saw a way to break down the family unit even further than he did with his other devices. This has really become a tool of Satan for the most part. He's opened up so many forbidden channels through this media format that has tempted otherwise decent people to enter in through a door that only leads to darkness and emptiness. When the evil side is too easily accessible to everyone, it drops down people's guards and they become more and more conditioned to what's out there. Things don't always appear to be bad in the beginning but watch out! It's a subtle snare made to reel you in until you're hooked. The lines are being blurred and they have been for some time now. Christians of all levels, wouldn't openly and honestly say that they were an idolater. Yet many believers today are, in fact, blatant idol worshipers. I believe part of our disconnect and blatant denial of our own idolatry is rooted in the fact that we seldom, if ever, think about the sin of idolatry, either because we're ignorant of its nature or still think of it as nothing more than worshiping carved images of old. But the truth is, idolatry is a very serious and frequent violation of God’s truth and love. Its allure, however, has become so sophisticated and subtle in our day and age that we tend to dismiss it, rationalize it, or even embrace it in ignorant bliss for lack of clear understanding and honest evaluation.
A.W. Tozer said, "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him." and also said, "An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand." Psalm 115:4-8 describes the lifeless, powerless idols of man’s design with this conclusion: “Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.” We all become like that which we worship. Either we will become a testament of the grace and truth of Christ or an empty shadow of a form of godliness without the power thereof. Facebook has made living life much like a carnival on display for everyone to see. Most of the topics are mundane, trivial, of little importance and surface. Rarely will you be able to engage in something more meaningful because, well, it really wasn't created for meaning.....anything. Facebook became a way for everyone to share snippets of bits and pieces of their lives in a few sentences or less. Or a few words or less.....it's so impersonal. Really. Without a doubt technology is idolatry for so many. Do you control it, and does it serve you? Or does it control you, and you serve it? Think about that for just a moment and reflect on how Facebook is managed into your daily life. In many ways, social ME-dia alienates others. Facebook was once just a tool to "reconnect, keep in touch and update pics" but it has turned into a weapon instead. Selfies included here! I've never seen a generation of people who took so many pictures of THEMSELVES as I'm seeing now. It's truly amazing at how self absorbed some people have become especially when technology has allowed it to happen so easily! Selfie refers to one thing, and one thing only.....the "ME."
Facebook has made people lazy too. They get most, if not all (for some people) of their information from feeds they receive, or information posted from others. They take that as the truth without ever confirming it or researching it or just questioning it. That really isn't where I would personally want to get all of my information from considering most are just being reposted to begin with from a chain of others. It's made people forgo phone calls, meeting for lunch, taking time with each other. It's made our youth focus way too much on themselves, and devoting too much time to the online world. A familiar sight for many of parents is teenagers checking in on Facebook on their smart phones or laptops at every chance they can get, becoming a process they'll painfully repeat at every opportunity throughout each and every single day. They habitually scrutinize or ‘face-stalk’ the profiles of others, check for responses to their own status updates or recent posts and chat with friends about the trivialities of life. Ah, but it isn't just the teenagers, now is it!? Is time THAT insignificant? Of course not! It's extremely valuable and precious. It's been given to us by God in order for His people to live to His praise and glory. LIVE not vegetate in cyberspace in a "fantasy" world.
|Time is a Gift from God|
Everyone knows the good things that a Christian can do with Facebook and as long as they are keeping themselves in check and aren't obsessing over it, then use it for His glory! This post isn't for those who can control their time on Facebook, nor for those who can control their words. The Social ME-dia Facebook has LITTLE accountability and that's another topic for another day! People tend to get a little more "brave" behind the guise of a screen while typing words than they would normally be face to face. For instance, there has ALWAYS been bullying. But now with this avenue, it's more vicious, more hostile, and way more prevalent. Should teenagers, young people, be allowed to FREELY use the social networking sites without accountability when they still aren't fully mature enough to KNOW what the ramifications are from the things they post, what they say, pictures they post? There is an age limit to a Facebook user of 13. THIRTEEN! They aren't mature enough to be responsible in their lives much less on the internet! Whatever you do on the internet, it's always safe to assume it will ALWAYS remain to be seen SOMEWHERE! FOREVER.
Like with most things, if you spread something too wide, it loses its depth: if you speak too often, your words will lose their influence; if you divide your time between 20-30 people a day, your relationships will plateau; if you confess to the world wide web, and receive no accountability. There is something to be respected in those who can, or eventually, recognize that they have a social media addiction and/or obsession and take a proactive approach against it, whether it's permanent action or a temporary one. They have realized something many people don't.....God is more important and He is the giver of time. We are responsible for what we do with that time that He's given us, and we're responsible for HOW we spend it each day with Him! We are living in an identity obsessed culture, one that places way too much emphasis on the outside and by doing that, it feeds the EGO. The EGO is nothing more than focusing only on yourself, placing more importance on YOU than what's really important. Nobody's identity should be dependent upon, or determined, by a social networking site that only caters to self love. Our identity is in Jesus Christ! We need to clearly understand what it means to have our identity firmly and consistently rooted in Christ, so we may then live out of that identity, being totally confident in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We need to know our position and the promised inheritance as children of God in order to live lives that are concerned to glorify God rather than ourselves or others.
The only way I know of to defeat idolatry is through regular self-checks and prayer. Stop and ask the Lord to check your heart, to check your life and show you anything in your life that has taken His place. Then repent and put God back in His rightful place.