This is a photo I took on our trip to Greece this summer and it holds some great significance for me.
I'll let you in on that in a bit, but this is actually Delphi, a large archaeological sight of an ancient temple complex in the valley of Phocis. According to ancient beliefs, Zeus had declared this area to be the center of his "Grandmother Earth" and it is the site where Apollo had slain the Python, or dragon, in order to protect earth from being destroyed.
The complex was huge because it was there that the "Oracle of Delphi" resided, who was sought by thousands of pilgrims for wisdom in making decisions or receiving the answers to life problems. People would come here and basically camp out while waiting for their turn to see the Oracle.
Delphi was also the location for the ancient Pythian Games, somewhat similar to the Olympic games, which along with it's other attractions, made Delphi known as the center of the world.
In my last post, I talked about the idea of idols and how it's easy for us to see idols such as these elaborate tributes to mythological gods as unsettling and a bit ridiculous.
It's less obvious for us to recognize our own idols that can keep us from worshiping the God we know to be real and true. Even after we do identify some areas that we tend to put our trust in over God, what do we do about them? That is where I have been a little stumped.
To recap, here are some great questions to ask when trying to identify what idols you may have:
1. What would cause me significant distress if I either lost it or had to give it up?
2. What do I think I have to have in order to be truly happy? Can I be happy without it?
3. What do my thoughts turn to when I am quiet and still? What do I daydream about?
4. Where do I get my significance and self-worth from?
I recently heard a pastor say that he often has people come to him asking if a particular behavior is sinful for them to participate in.
Some are obvious but some are in that grey area that isn't specifically addressed in Scripture. He had a great answer, "Are you willing to give it up for a period of time, like 3 months or even 6 months? If not, I would say it's a problem." This would also be a great test in weeding out possible idols.
This goes along with a question that I have been trying to train myself to ask, "What is my behavior telling me about my heart."
If I find myself responding negatively when something is threatened or doesn't play out the way I want it to, it may reveal what I am putting way too much importance in or am desperate for.
Ok, so what if I do see that there are some things in my life that I quite possibly desire even more than God himself, if I'm really honest? What do I do then? Do I give them up cold turkey like I have tried to do with sugar? That sure didn't seem to work. Or do I just simply stop trying to please people or worry about how much they may like me? That's a hard one to overcome.
That is where I felt like my last blog post left off, and quite honestly, I didn't have a lot of good answers.
So, I went looking for some. What I found has been really helpful.
I listened to a podcast by Ben Stuart about identifying idols. He went through a lot of information similar to what I have already written about, but then added some hope at the end. He said that it doesn't work to just try to give up these things that have overtaken our affection for God. We need to replace them. We replace them with the One that is worthy and the One that really does work to fill the need we are trying to fill. We desire after God. That's it. When we do this one thing, we slowly see how all of the things we turned to in order to fill us and to satisfy our deepest longings come up so empty.
This is what happened at Delphi.
Our tour guide told us all about how much the people loved to come and worship at the temple of Apollo and how it had become such an important site for them. They thought the Oracle was just who they needed to turn to for help. They thought they needed to sacrifice themselves, their family's comfort, and so many of their possessions at the altar of the false god. They traveled in intense heat and even participated in rigorous competitions in order to please their god.
But what our guide told us next was the clincher for me. She said that as soon as Christianity came to the area, the people stopped coming and the temple at Delphi started to decay. One older woman in our group seemed disgusted by this, but my heart rejoiced. Hearing that made me see that the people had found something better.
As Paul had traveled through this very area, proclaiming the truth of Christ, the people slowly turned to God and no longer needed the Oracle, the festivities, or the false sacrifices. They had replaced their idol. That gave me a lot of hope because I can do that!
I can (1) repent of the way I have worshiped other things, (3) ask God to help me to set my desire only on Him, (3) pray for strength as I am tempted to turn to those idols again and again (and maybe even again).
Paul helps us how to deal with this in Philippians 4.
He says that as we focus on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and praiseworthy, that we will be able to handle anything life throws at us, even the temptation to turn to other things for help. He said that belief in Christ is what gives us that strength to do all these things (Phil. 4:8-13).
That's where the Greeks started way back then, and that's where we need to start as well. Blessings to you as we are both rerooted in Christ!