I Thought I Was a Good god

In his book “12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You,” Tony Reinke adeptly explores spiritual struggles that use of our smart phones can potentially reveal and exacerbate in us if we are not careful. As I read through the book, I remember some moments of feeling convicted of my habits, and other moments of self-assurance that I knew the dangers Reinke was warning against and was doing a pretty good job of heeding them. To my dismay, however, I found myself in a bit of a slump one week, and I eventually traced it back to an increased-to-unhealthy use of my phone (and laptop) for professional networking on social media that had brought jealousy, pride, coveting, and insecurity to the surface.

I thought I knew myself so much better than that.

I thought I knew myself to be so much better than that.

I thought I knew whom I was committed to pursuing and serving.  

In Deuteronomy 13:3, Moses warns the Israelites about the ongoing temptation they might face (emphasis added):

“‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them.’”

What a curious incrimination, that we would be tempted to go after gods we have not even known. This tells me that we either think we know these other gods and have prematurely decided them to be worthy, we don’t know them but we’re willing to take a chance, or we don’t even know that these are the gods we are actually going after.

In any case, my struggles with pride and social media have shown me that I am just as prone as the Israelites to go after gods which I have not known. I thought I understood the praise of man to be a straightforward give-and-take god. I give people what they want and they praise me; it’s an enticing deal. But I quickly found it to be deceptive, misleading and altogether unsatisfying, despite its shiny, smiley exterior. It is dependent not only on my performance, but also on the moods, trends, expectations, engagement levels, and egos of others. It promised to give me a sense of fulfillment, but only left me feeling under constant pressure to perform more and more, with fulfillment always just out of reach. I didn’t know the praise of man was so empty and manipulative when I first started going after it. It was a god I had not known, and I fell for its allure, hook, line and sinker.

What is even more humbling is to realize that behind the god of the praise of man, is the god of my own self, and this, too, is a god which I have not known. Left to myself, I am a constant mix of competing needs and desires, and I never really know for sure which one will actually bring me satisfaction when met. If I’m busy with professional obligations, I feel guilty and frustrated I’m not as present with my family as I want. But if there’s nothing professional on the schedule, I feel restless “just being home” with my kids. Left to myself, I am a difficult god to know, much less serve, much less satisfy.

It is no wonder – or perhaps it is all the wonder in the world – that together with His warnings to not go after other gods whom they do not know, God would so proactively reveal Himself to Israel as the one True and Living God that they should always set their hearts to remember and worship.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.
- Deuteronomy 7:6-9 (emphasis added)

He reminds us that He is the God we know to be steadfast, faithful, and covenant-keeping in His unending love. It is in this amazing God that we have our secure identity as His treasured possession, not because of our performance but because of His love and grace. This is the God we know. And because we know Him, He is therefore the One we can trust with the weight of our lives, our hopes and our fears. Let us go after Him, and let us serve Him alone.