Sequels are usually not nearly as good as the original film or book in a series. Most sequels fail to live up to the greatness of the original story because they are trying to recreate the magic that happened the first time rather than building on the story. They try to go through the same plot progression as the first story, the characters end getting into the same trouble, and the whole point of the movie is simply to redo the first one under a different title.
Do you know that we can do that in our lives too? It’s good to look back at our past with fond memories. But there are countless dangers that come with idolizing our past.
Idolizing the Past Creates a Bad Sequel
Some sequels, like those in The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, are successful because they are a continuation of the story. Each book builds on the last book. The drama and plot keeps moving forward in such a way that without the later books the first book would not have a proper ending.
Bad sequels, however, have a circular plot line where the same things happens in the sequel with the hope that the audience will feel the same way they felt the original time they read the first book or watched the first movie in the series. These sequels are always a flop because recreating the past never works out.
The same thing happens when we idolize our past. We love what happened so much, we want to live it again, but in the process we just recreate an inauthentic life. I think we often do this out of a lack of faith in God. We doubt that he has a good plan for us in the future, so we just want to cling to our past, idolizing it in the process.
Idols always let us down because they are a horrible replacement for what our hearts really need – God himself. 1 John 5:21 in the ESV states, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” In the NLT it says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”
All idols, including the idol of the past, are so damaging because they replace God in our hearts. When we idolize our past, we start worshiping our previous experiences rather than God.
Idolizing the Past Robs Us of Loving God in the Present
In our Christian walk, it’s all too easy to fall into this circular pursuit seen in bad sequels. We experience God in some amazing way, he moves powerfully through us, but instead of moving on in the story, we get stuck.
When we idolize the past, we don’t want to see what is ahead. We try to freeze time and in the process we freeze our growth with God. When we idolize our past, we begin to worship the experiences rather than the God who wants us to love him in the present. With each attempt to recreate the magic, our life grows that much staler because we are so committed to recreating what is now our god.
The Solution to Idolizing the Past Is Worshiping God Authentically, Without Past Experiences in Mind
When our focus, however, moves away from the experience and back onto God, we then have the freedom to look forward, no longer being obsessed with the glory days of the past.
The massive crowds may not be a part of the pages ahead, the success in ministry may not be the same, the friendships could be less rich, the fandom might not be as wild, but when we move forward with God, we will have what is most important – an authentic walk with God.
Even if the rest of our life is not nearly as thrilling as the past was, when we move forward with God, we are sure to avoid a fake life where time has kept moving but we haven’t. Joy doesn’t stem from an “exciting” life. Joy in the Lord causes an exciting life. Lasting joy comes from God, not experiences . . . . those never last. Idolizing our past life robs us of living to the fullest because it severs us from our true Life.
There’s a reason churches with orange carpet from the 1970s and who still use overhead projectors are going backwards in attendance each year. And contrary to what modern church growth strategists would say, it’s not because technology and hip music are the keys to church growth.
Churches stop growing numerically when they stop growing spiritually. Sadly, it’s all too common for a church to have explosive growth, and decades later the church is a handful of people trying to do the same stuff they were doing when the explosive growth happened. They got stuck in the moment because they started idolizing the experience of explosive growth rather than worshiping the God who caused the growth.
When we are connected to God and doing his will, even if our current days are not as sexy as our previous seasons, our joy will always continue to increase the more deeply our hearts drink of God’s mercy, which are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Idolizing the Past Will Get You Left Behind Like a Pharisee
The Pharisees’ demise was that they could not embrace the beauty ahead. All they could do was cling to the past. They didn’t want God to change the old ways. They didn’t want Jesus to establish a new covenant. All they wanted was to cling to the good old days.
Their commitment to the past is what killed their hearts. They stopped worshipping God and started worshipping their own past experiences. So God moved the story forward without them, and instead of joining him to see the beautiful progression of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, they got stuck and missed the pleasure that could have been theirs (Luke 7:30). They feared that everything good God had done in Israel’s rich history would be lost. But God was not starting a new story. He was simply building on the story he started “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1).
Likewise, when God wants us to move on, he’s not saying what happened in the past was not important to what he plans to do in the future. God just wants to keep his story moving forward, adding more amazing chapters to those he’s already written. Don’t ruin the book God is writing in your life because you are so obsessed with the first few chapters.
To cling to the past, hoping to recreate it in the future, is to miss God’s plan for you in the present. We must guard our hearts from idolizing the past so we can enjoy all that the Lord has planned.