Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church nicknamed this deity exchange "soul idolatry." "Any good work done in the name of the Lord is fruitless unless it exposes the idols of the heart," he said. "Christian counseling must discern, expose, and ultimately destroy idols if it is to do any good thing". In other words, working in Christ's name is akin to doing nothing if the subject of idolatry is avoided - nothing - no thing worth doing. For the seed of all sin rests in idolatry (Romans 1).
That's quite a statement. No good thing? Well, if modern day idols are so pivotal, they sure breath an air of elusiveness - a shadow of evil that I can't quite wrap my mind around. So I've been studying.
Dr. Ted Tripp rocked my world by exposing the idols of childhood in Shepherding a Child's Heart. Francine Rivers brought me to tears over my own unbelief in Redeeming Love. And the Lord has continually whispered warnings against false gods throughout my days. But this message. This message from Tim Keller finally brought soul idolatry into focus.
I have been studying this subject too closely. Like those pictures on the back cover of a Highlight's Magazine for Children - where a close-up of a strawberry seed looks like Mt. Everest resting on the red sea - I've been wandering my wilderness arbitrarily inspecting roots when I couldn't even identify trees. I missed the big picture. Tim Keller's message widened my perspective.
Like a lover, idols of the heart woo, admire, and encourage. A spiritual lover draws you into another identity and a new reality.
Like a master, idols of the heart command. A spiritual master lies to you and gives you no choice but to say, "yes" to its unruly demands.
Like a savior, idols of the heart promise salvation. A spiritual savior requires sacrifice as payment for redemption.
The problem (or really the solution) is that there really is only one True Lover, one True Master, and one True Savior - Jesus Christ. When we erect idols in Christ's place, when we bow down to another lover, another master, or another savior, we attempt to cash in earthly treasure for heavenly promises. It really is the deity marketplace.
For example, spiritual lovers charm us with good things: love, acceptance, a place to call home. But when these good things become ultimate things we've robbed the Creator for His created. God offers ultimate Love, and we are satisfied with human passion. God offers ultimate approval and we settle for admiration. He offers the ultimate foundation, and we build our house on something, anything less.
It only gets worse. Not only do we reject abundant riches, we invest in penniless titles. Falling for false spiritual lovers makes us spiritual harlots. Serving false spiritual masters makes us spiritual slaves. And worshiping false spiritual saviors (small s!) makes us spiritual frauds.
I know. I know. Uplifting, right? But there is hope. Join me next week to look at idolatry from God's perspective. For now, let's look at the answers to some critical question:
- Which lover's admiration do I seek, encouragement do I hunt for, wooing do I heed?
- What master's pressure am I under, chains am I dragging, demands I am minding?
- Who am I looking to for salvation, for redemption, to receive my sacrifice?
My answers? This week's list. Seven (good and perfect...oh that's hard to swallow) idols of my own heart.
72. Spiritual lover #2 - Myself. I can do it! Like a toddler, I even thought I could recover from knee surgery by myself. My tears in the ER? Not from pain. But from the realization that I needed, really needed help.
73. Spiritual master #1 - Society (yet again). I obsessed over decorating my new home in record time. To satisfy whom? Clearly not the family I left in my wake.
74. Spiritual master #2 - Perfectionism. For months I didn't pick up a pen to write out of fear. I believed the lie that If I couldn't do it right, then I shouldn't do it at all.
75. Spiritual master #3 - Control. That false reality that I hold the reigns and direct my own path. I often forget that I hold only chains that dictate only my own destruction.
76. Spiritual savior #1 - Reputation. Oh god of reputation. If I sacrifice enough time do-ing your bidding, will you save me from public embarrassment?
77. Spiritual savior #2 - My husband. For years I lived in downright fear that he would die, and I would no longer be redeemed from my past.
Notes of Encouragement - Check out the newest release from Tenth Ave North: Hallelujah, we are free to struggle. We're not struggling to be free!
Listen to all the pretty things that take our hearts away.
Words of Affirmation - There seems to be a never-ending supply of books on modern day idolatry. Here a few popular titles:
- No Other Gods by Kelly Minter
- Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
- Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp (acompany this with Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman. She turns all his amazing theology into practical parenting)
- And my absolute favorite, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
May I Pray with You - Heavenly Father. You alone are the only true lover, master, and savior of our souls. We confess that we have turned your good things into ultimate things. We have exchanged The Creator for the created and worshiped at the feet of modern day idols. Forgive us, Lord. Turn our hearts back to The One who woos us, who frees us from our own chains, who already paid the sacrifice for my sin and redeemed me from hell. Thank You for opening our eyes to the Truth that sets us free. Help us to walk in faith as we seek Your face. Amen.