Sunday, May 5, 2013

Idols of the Heart

I just came to the shocking discovery that I have an idol in my heart. There is a situation in a family member’s life that I have wept over, prayed over, fasted over and lost sleep over. I’m not saying it’s wrong to weep, pray, fast or even lose sleep over a situation that needs God’s attention, but I caught myself in the middle of a thought that jarred my spirit: “My life would be perfect, if only [this situation was different]” I’ll spare you the unnecessary details.

I didn’t instantly recognize that thought as idolatry, but I did realize that it was an unhealthy thought. I began to journal furiously, trying to get to the root of it. I realized that this thought was not just about me loving this family member and wanting what's best for him, but that it revealed a problem in me. Every now and then I almost get a glimpse of deliverance, but the minute it begins to come into focus, I find myself frantic, desperately pleading for God to intervene in my family member’s life.

It’s like there are two voices in my head. One is offering deliverance and peace. The other saying, “You’re just using Psalm 46:10 and Romans 8:28 as a cop out. You’re shirking your responsibility. You can never be happy because this is all your fault.”

One day, when I complained to my dear, sweet spiritual mentor that I felt I had done everything wrong in this situation, she said to me, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION…!” I knew in my spirit that this was a message from God to me.

Then I read a little book by Timothy Keller called, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. It was a free download for Kindle and I really like the author, so I got it and began reading it. Here’s a portion of what I read:
In Christianity, the moment we believe, God says, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’ Or take Romans 8:1, which says, ‘Therefore there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, “You are my son whom I love, with you I am well pleased."

The very next day, a friend posted a quote on facebook from, you guessed it, Timothy Keller. I had no idea this friend was reading a Tim Keller book and he had no idea that I was either. Here’s the quote my friend posted:
Each day Jesus says to us, ‘You are my beloved child. I am well pleased in you. Now live that way.’ Satan, on the other hand says, ‘Look at you. Look at the condition of your circumstances. Look how poorly you’re living. There is no way you are God’s beloved child.’ Which voice are you going to believe?
This evening the conviction went even deeper, revealing my idol. When I began to suspect that I had made this family member and his situation an idol, I started researching idols of the heart. Guess who has studied and written volumes about idols of the heart. Yep, Tim Keller.

Here’s what he says, “Why do we lie, or fail to love or break our promises, or live selfishly?” In my case, why am I depressed, sluggish and jealous? Why do I eat to comfort myself?  “…there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy,” (My life would be perfect if only…) “something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change (and even to self understanding) is therefore to identify the idols of the heart.”

Idols of the heart start out as good things! My family member who I have lost so much sleep over is an incredibly valuable person to God. I know that God wants much more for him than he is allowing God to give him. But I have become obsessed with him and his situation. I struggle to hear the voice of God over the condemning one that shouts accusations at me about this situation. God has clearly told me to be still and know that He is God. He has impressed Romans 8:28 on my heart that all things work together for good for those who are called and who love God. I know that there are many more factors involved than me. Yet, even after quoting those verses and others, I hear the shouts that I am responsible for this situation and that I cannot truly be happy until it changes. The guilt and regret begin to suffocate the very Word of God in my heart.

What is happening here? I am exchanging the truth of God for a lie! According to Romans 1:25, that is idolatry. When I choose to believe the voice of the enemy over the voice of God, I am committing idolatry, a violation of the very first of the Ten Commandments.

Keller goes on to list a whole slew of categories of idolatry, one of them being Family Idolatry. His example goes like this: “Life only has meaning if my [family members] are happy and happy with me.” Sounds very similar to, “My life would be perfect if only my family member’s situation were different.”

Wow, unbeknownst to him, my heart has made this dear, precious family member an idol. God forgive me. Deliver me, I pray. Just maybe if I can truly let go, and place him in Our Father’s very capable hands, God will be more free to work in his life. Lord, help me do that.


  1. Good stuff! I can definitely relate. Have you read the book "Gods at War" by Kyle Idleman? It is about this same topic and such a great read!

  2. Thanks Morgan, Sounds like a good book--I'll check it out!


I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!