“Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.”
– Tim Keller
I’d rather keep this a secret, but experience has taught me better. I confess that I have found myself frequently (much too frequently) scanning the Stats page of this blog. At first, it was out of mere curiosity. I would casually scan through the numbers, graphs and maps and not think much about it. But before I knew it, I was hooked. Now it has become my first stop every time I log in. Keeping track of the number of views on my posts has become a private obsession. This has not been without consequences. I realized that I had even begun to sub-consciously craft topics that are more likely to attract attention and generate more traffic to the site. Yes, I know all about Search Engine Optimization and other technical-sounding marketing terms. I am also aware that the point of blogging publicly is to be read by the public, so anything that attracts more readers is essentially a positive thing, right?
But it’s never really that simple nor that straightforward. You see, the problem is that, as John Calvin aptly puts it, “the human heart is an idol factory,” and mine is no exception. The following are just some of the ways I have found myself idolizing this blogging thing. Please note that my blogging idolatry is really just a ministry idolatry. In whatever capacity you serve the local church, the following are probably ways in which your idolatry shows itself:
1. A SOURCE OF ATTENTION
The first thing that has revealed the idolatry in my heart, through blogging, has been the attention that this blog has been receiving. When I began writing, I was content with having just five readers per day (or per post). But as the blog became more popular and the visits increased, I found myself wanting more. My heart would be crushed if the numbers began to drop. I would even deliberately post whatever I could find in my past archives to keep people interested, to keep them coming. I wasn’t so much concerned with edifying the Body as I was concerned that the Body was noticing me. Before I knew it, every new post was a subtle cry for attention. I might as well have titled each post, “Hey, look at Me!” I had begun to live off the attention of my readers rather than the attention of my Creator. The more attention I got, the better I felt about myself.
2. A SOURCE OF AFFIRMATION
The next thing that this blogging experience has revealed is that it has become a source of affirmation. Now, there are many ways through which God affirms us, and using the compliments of friends and other readers of this blog is one of these many ways. However, when it gets to a point where I deliberately draw the attention of certain people to this blog just so that they can compliment me and shower me with praises, idolatry has already set it. With time, I find myself living off the compliments, publishing posts in order to feed my ego and lift my own spirits. Often signing “for the fame of His name” at the end of each post in an attempt to mask the fact that the fame I am really seeking, is my own.
3. A SOURCE OF ASSURANCE
My blogging is just one of the many ways through which I get to express my beliefs about the things that matter. Through these public posts, people get to know my theology; what I think about God, salvation and the Christian walk in general. It matters to me that I get things right, that I do not post heresies or spark unnecessary controversies. Furthermore, it matters to me that I do not unnecessarily disagree with some of the big and respectable names in evangelicalism, such as John Piper, Albert Mohler, R. C. Sproul and the likes. This is often a good concern. It is always wise to temper our own understanding and interpretations of the Word of God with that of other more mature biblical scholars in the church. But when the need to be politically correct surpasses the need to be biblically faithful, idolatry has already set in. It means that I am no longer preaching by faith, but by consensus. And as long as my doctrine is ‘sound’, I delude myself into thinking that my life doesn’t need to be. My readers only see what I present to them. They think I am deep, and that I am serious about my faith. That’s all that matters, right?
MAINTAINING A GOSPEL PARADIGM
While attention, affirmation and assurance are often inevitable consequences of faithfully preaching the Gospel, they can easily become the primary focus of my faithful preaching. The logic is painfully simple: Since I got noticed when I wrote like this, I will be writing like this every time I need to get noticed. Since I was affirmed and got linked to when I published a certain kind of post, I will be posting similar posts when I need similar affirmation. It is a subtle paradigm shift. Yet, it is a fatal shift.
That is why I need to always revisit and remind myself of the Gospel daily. I need to keep reminding myself why I do what I do. Why I am a Christian. I need to keep reminding myself that I am a product of God’s Grace, and so is everything else that I enjoy as a benefit of my salvation, including my gift of teaching through writing. I need to keep reminding myself daily that true growth begins and continues in admitting immaturity, true holiness begins and continues admitting sinfulness, and true worship begins and continues in admitting idolatry. I am not even sure how much idolatry is mixed up with the writing of this very post. But I continue to write, confident that God has forgiven my idolatry, and will continue to reveal it daily, so that it can be mortified daily, until I get home.