Read Exodus 32 and I Corinthians 10
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down the mountain, they gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses…we do not know what has become of him. Exodus 32:1
I heard a preacher once say, “What you are when you are by yourself is who you are. What you think in your private meditations defines you.”
I read that Brother Lawrence, a monk from the 1600’s, decided as a spiritual discipline to purify his personal thoughts to the point of total holiness. But the harder he worked to push out all impure thoughts and keep his mind focused on God, the more aggressively lewdness and maliciousness came into his brain.
I am very thankful that much of who I am is defined by the “authority” of those around me. I am who I am because of my church, my family, my friends. But there are times when I find myself free of many of these external authorities.
When Moses was gone from the Israelites, his authority went with him. Aaron was suppose to have taken up Moses’ authority, but some of the people decided to push against it. With little effort, Moses’ authority in Aaron collapsed and the result was an astonishing display of riotous and licentious idolatry.
I went to a Christian college where half a dozen young men from my church background were students. Especially when I was a youth, our church was our life. Our total community was our church. So when we went off to college, it was a radical change for us. The authority of the church was the memory of it, or the habits from it. Some of the young men from our church were the best of the spiritual best at college. They led the Bible studies, encouraged their room-mates, continued with their devotional lives. But the others were amazing. How they were not kicked out of this Bible college, was beyond me, but their womanizing, alcohol, marijuana, and generally lawless exploits were known to everybody.
We have a friend who taught English to adults in mainland China. He said when he was in the classroom, he never had more attentive, respectful students. But the moment he stepped out the door, these adults would be throwing paper balls at each other and standing up on their chairs. When he returned to the classroom he would slowly turn the door knob to give the class time to return to order before he would reenter.
Two seemingly contradictory thoughts:
#1 When we are in a place where external authority is not exerting itself upon us, our thoughts and inclinations do not always move in the way pleasing to our Lord and Savior. At such times we cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24 The Lord is very gracious. He knows we are but dust. He does deliver us. We recognize like the Apostle Paul, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” What a relief! Unlike what the preacher told me, my private thoughts do not have to define me. It’s the Lord Jesus who defines me, for He loved me and gave Himself for me and "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Rom 8:1
#2 When you are in a new place and thus the authority that had directed your life no longer has the same power over you; if your behavior becomes vile, you have no fear of the Lord within you and you need to get saved. You clearly do not believe in God or in His Beloved Son.
Question: Have I way overstated this dichotomy between people with bad behavior when others are not looking? Is person #1 so clearly a Believer and person #2 so clearly unregenerate?