Nav Night Message Series on Idolatry

Back in January I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Kyle Kozloski and the rest of the FSU Navigators staff team let me teach two Nav Night messages in back-to-back weeks on the same subject. During the Christmas holiday Kyle and I both took time to consider what topic I ought to teach. Earlier in the fall semester I’d told Kyle how I’d spent most of 2011 reading the Old Testament during my time alone with God each day, and that during that time it seemed as if every other day God had something to say to me about idolatry. Kyle called me up late in December and asked me to teach on the subject. I’d been leaning in that direction myself and eagerly accepted. And so began a crazy month of condensing an entire year’s worth of learning into two forty-minute talks.

You can listen to both messages online (embedded below) plus even more messages by me, other staff, and our student leaders on the FSU Navigators Podcast.

Message 1: Defining Idolatry

Message 2: The Idolatry of Self

When to Say What?

I wanted to teach a message series so badly because I wanted a new challenge. Before this I’d taught at Nav Night twelve times and led workshops at conferences and retreats four times, but never before had I ever taught consecutive weeks or a series of any kind. If I’m going to grow as a teacher I need to stretch myself from time to time.

My first challenge was to determine what I wanted the focus for each week to be. But in order to do that I needed to figure out how best to divide the source material I had to work with. And even that meant I needed to decide what was worth keeping in the mix and what wasn’t. But how could I tell the difference if I didn’t first know what the focus for each week was going to be? I might sound like I’m just trying to be funny but I really did manage to think myself into a circle more often than I want to admit.

I finally decided to leverage the fact that I had two weeks to work with. The first week I chose to give a straightforward biblical definition on the subject. Week two I built on that foundation by looking at a specific Old Testament example.

Too Good to Resist

There were all sorts of passages in the Old Testament I could have chosen to focus on in the second message, but I just had to teach Haggai. Call it the Holy Spirit, call it my never-ending desire to do the unexpected; I couldn’t say no. It was a perfect fit too. Not only does the book address a very real issue our culture is caught in today but it’s a short, relatively self-contained book. My fear in choosing a book like Jeremiah, pulling one selection here and another there, was that I’d spend half my time filling in the narrative hoping each student was able to keep up. But once you set up a little bit of the history behind Haggai it’s actually pretty easy to follow from there.


One of my primary sources was my journals. I went back through them–literally hundreds of pages–and found when I’d been most impacted by what I’d read that day about idolatry. What I found to be important at the time I tried to use as a guide for what I’d make important in these messages.

Bob Thune’s article, Every Sin is Idolatry, was very helpful. Thune directed my attention to the need for discussions about a person’s idols to take place within the context of our discipleship relationships. Since discipleship is what the Navigators major in I thought it was a necessary point to raise. He also quite succinctly put that when pride is your idol you’ve made yourself your own god, which I used as a summary thesis statement for the second message.

I used the article Suffering Does Not Rob You Of Joy—Idolatry Does by Tullian Tchividjian to shape out a major point of emphasis in the first message. He uses Job 1-2 to prove that when you have your identity rooted in something other than your stuff you’re able to react to suffering and loss in a God-honoring way, that any other kind of reaction likely points to an idol in your life. This is also where I stumbled across the quote by Paul Tripp that I used at the end of that talk. “How is your present disappointment, discouragement, or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?” I found it oddly convenient to come across an appropriate quote from Tripp since he’d spoken at a marriage conference in town just six weeks prior that many of our students and staff had attended.

The introductory challenge from my message on Haggai was adapted from a similar challenge Francis Chan gave in a message of his I watched a while back. It really resonated with me, especially since I’d been getting the kind of feedback he was describing. Often I wonder if anyone, myself included, really applies much of what we hear in a message we deem “great,” “convicting” or whatever other superlative we assign it. I really do hope someone comes to me later in the semester and tells me how they applied something I taught in one of these talks.

To get a strong foundational understand of the history leading up to and during the time of Haggai I read the appropriate volume of Holman’s Old Testament Commentary.

Last, the comparison between Luke 14:26 and the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet was lifted from a talk given by Donald Miller entitled Your Story and the Gospel of Jesus. He wasn’t making exactly the same point I was, but the allegory worked for both of us.

Obscure Reference

You can’t hear it very well in the recording, but approximately eight minutes into the second message I make the following statements, as if having a conversation with myself.

“Haggai? Who reads Haggai?!”
“Christians do.”

This was inspired by a tweet I’d read last spring by Erik Braun (who has since killed his Twitter account), pastor of Four Oaks Community Church.

What I’ll Remember

The reason this subject seemed to jump off the pages of my Bible as I read through the Old Testament last year is because God was revealing some serious idols in my life. Like I said toward the end of the first talk, idolatry is a love story. And when your lover breaks your heart it can be very difficult to get over. It was both cathartic and haunting to go back through my old journals. The man I saw in those pages was someone I didn’t recognize, full of confusion and bitterness and pain. God has brought me a long way. I’ve closed the book on some of those issues, others are still hounding me. It’s my sincere hope that something–anything–I said in these two messages helped prevent even just one person from going through what I did.

An unbelievably strong sense of dread came over me before the start of my second talk. It was all I could do not to come apart at the seams. I paced up and down the second floor of HCB all the way up through the middle of the last praise song before I started teaching. I always get a little nervous before something like this but this wasn’t nerves. I’ve never had that strong a sense of oppression leading up to teaching before.

Lots of friends who either were never Navs or who haven’t been active in a Nav ministry in years came out to support me. It was great having my newest roommate Peter in attendance at the second talk, both because he’s so busy as a film student and because I got to share one of my passions with him for the first time. To all of you who took time out of your busy lives to cheer me on you have my deepest gratitude. You humble me with your presence.


If you were at Nav Night when I gave these messages (or if you listen to them online) and would like to give feedback or ask questions you can do so in the comment section below.