“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Augustine
“Man’s heart is a perpetual idol factory.” John Calvin
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” Martin Luther
What Is an Idol?
An idol, then, is anything you look to for ultimate happiness, identity and meaning in life other than God. Idols make promises but fail to deliver the ultimate satisfaction that can only come from the sources of happiness and meaning in life- God himself.
How Do You Identify an Idol?
David Powlison says we should ask: Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear, and delight?
The Power of Idols
Idols make empty promises to deliver heart satisfaction (happiness, identity and meaning) but leave us empty and enslaved to their temptation and deception. Not all idols are evil in themselves. This means anything can become an idol, including good things, such as career, family, achievement, independence, a political cause, material possessions, certain people in dependence upon you, power and influence, physical attractiveness, romance, human approval, financial security, your place in a particular social circle or institution.
Take a few minutes to review the resource on the Knowledge of God’s Righteousness.
“Life only has meaning/I only have worth if… ___________________”
• I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
• I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
• I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry)
• I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
• I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
• I work in a profession that is prestigious and respected. (Position idolatry)
• I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
• People are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
• Someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
• This one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
• A particular social grouping, race or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
• My children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
• I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
• I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
• I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
• I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
• I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
• I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
The Importance of Discerning Idols
Idols are the deeper patterns of “the flesh” that we must discern beneath our behavioral sins. Idolatrous desires for performance, provision, popularity and are roots of the flesh that can continue to control our lives even as religious people.
How Do You Identify Idols?
Root motivations of pride, anger, despair, and fear may still be shaping our behavior because transformation must take place at the level of the heart.
- Identify the idols that impact your heart and shape both your attitudes and your behavior.
- Go back to the chart above and confess to God the deception and temptation that the idol is causing in your heart.
- Repent of that idol and apply the gospel truth to your heart.
- Remind yourself to look to the Holy Spirit to speak truth to your heart and to respond properly when you are tempted to live in anxiety, anger, pride, fear or despair.
- Praise God that Christ has freed you from measuring your worth in value based on what you do, what you have, what others think of you, or what you can control.
Luke 10: 38-42
Martha’s idolatry expressed itself in her distraction, distraught disposition and her demanding spirit. Jesus deals with her tenderly, with truthfulness and invites her to treasure listening to his Word as her highest priority. This is a picture of repentance and faith and the engagement Jesus gives us by identifying our heart idols and inviting us to turn from those idols and turn to him for happiness, identity and meaning in life. Loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind means that we orient our lives to receive his love and to love him back. Loving God involves God-centered living.
Begin to set aside regular time daily to cultivate intimacy with God (soul care) and prioritize the Sabbath to regularly discover what it means to “find your rest in him.”