Imagination Study – Defining ourselves by our Idols

This week, we discussed a speech I heard back at Jubilee ’99 in Pittsburgh given by David Bestwick-Satterlee titled, “A Dangerous Faith.” It was a really good discussion. I’ll include some quotes from that speech below:

If we don’t look to God for our identity, we will instead look to something else in the creation and we will worship it. If we turn from God, we will turn to something else because we have to. We need a god in our lives. And if we don’t choose to worship the true God, we will worship a false god instead. Our fundamental religious nature will never let us do otherwise. And these false gods that we worship, these gods that we look to for our identity, are what the Bible calls “idols.”

As we look to God for our identity, we are shaped by God and we become, in every way, the people that God intended. Likewise, when we look to an idol for answers of identity, we are shaped by that idol. And soon, that idol begins to create an entire framework of understanding that begins to answer our questions about every area of our lives. We call this system of answers an “ideology,” which comes from the word “idol.” These ideologies begin to shape every bit of who we are.

The reality is that, for the vast majority of work going on in America, the one true God has little voice among the many gods battling for your allegiance. And it is not just the gods of work that threaten us. It is the gods that we bow to personally. The gods of popularity, comfort, self-fulfillment. These gods are already hard at work trying to persuade you to bow to them.

Idols are insidious. They entice us by promising something that they can’t deliver and then, instead of serving us, they begin to demand service from us. Pretty soon, you can’t even remember how you got swallowed up. And by then you have a mortgage and a mound of debt and a vision of who you are that demands all of who you are. And at work, you have trouble seeing God as relevant at all. All you can do is keep plodding ahead, serving your false god and holding on to a promise that we begin to believe will never come and so we give up on believing in promises at all. Pretty soon, we don’t even look human anymore. We look like consumers.

Here’s the thing—and here is why the stories of Israel are so important to us. Do you think the people who burned their kids in the hands of those idols didn’t believe in Yahweh anymore? They probably still believed at one level or another. They probably still went to the temple to make their sacrifices. They still went to church. But they had so bought the idols in the world around them, they had so accommodated to them, that they couldn’t even see the inconsistencies anymore.

You see, there is a hard truth here and if there is one thing I want you to take away, it would be this. The life that the world is promising you, that life you have always been told you deserve? That life is a lie.

Imagine if we drew a line around the walls of this room, just a simple pencil line, and that line represented the history of the world… Wherever we are in that history, at best your life is a tiny dot. What is your life worth? What is this pursuit of your comfort and the pursuit of things worth? Is it worth wasting your life? Is it worth having your life mean nothing in the bigger picture that God has always intended for you? All that will be remembered of you will be those pieces of your life done in service to God. What would you like to leave on that line?

2 thoughts on “Imagination Study – Defining ourselves by our Idols”

  1. Cynthia says:

    Hi. I’m very glad to find your blog. Just want share something about imagination.
    Recently, I was privileged to attend a lecture by Prof James Huston (founder of Regent College). He mentioned integrating reason and imagination to make our Christian faith more personal. He said that imagination is seeing things you never saw. Reality is in the foreground, imagination is the background which enhances your foreground. And when asked how do we intgegrate reason with imagination, he said we must not see it as something technical– like a 3-step to integration or the manual on integration.
    What he said got me thinking about the lack of imagination in my own Christian life. But my mind would invariably be asking again how do I do it?
    Any comments?

  2. Seth Daire says:


    Thanks for writing, and for sharing about the lecture.

    Seeing things we’ve never seen is part of imagination, though I wouldn’t limit it to that. Here are some other definitions:

    I agree with Huston that it’s not a formula. I see both reason and imagination as essential to our Christian faith. Faith and hope, by their nature, require imagination. Hebrews 11:1-3 says: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

    When I look at reality, I don’t always see true reality. For instance, I have often placed limitations on myself, and told myself what I am and am not capable of. If I fail many times, does that mean I am destined to fail in the future? Reason could be used to say Yes or No, depending on what arguments I use. When I use my imagination, I can see that my future doesn’t have to be a repeat of my past, that it’s possible to overcome and be who I didn’t think I could be.

    As far as developing imagination, that depends. Generally-speaking, do things that stir the imagination. Read books that have stories and imagery. The Bible has lots of both. Any type of creative pursuit can help (such as a class), as can things that expand our horizons and help us look at the world a new way. It really depends where you are at in your life.

    Feel free to write back:)

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