I just finished reading Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller, which is an excellent series of sermons-turned-book-chapters about idolatry. I'll post a review for the book next Friday. (This week I'm posting a review of God is Great, God is Good, which I promised would come two weeks ago.) But I wanted to do more than just review the book here, because idolatry is a core issue for all of us, and yet most of us don't even think about the idols that we worship. We think that sort of thing only happens in primitive cultures that aren't as technologically advanced and civilized as our own. And yet...
Love. Money. Power. Success. These are the four idols Tim Keller assails in his book. You could probably add to that list Fame, Pleasure, Attention, and so on and so forth; but the four that Keller addresses are as good a place as any to start.
An idol, he says, is something you can't live without. It's something that you can't stop thinking about, that you obsess over and would be devastated if you lost it. It's something by which you identify yourself. Without this thing, you would not be a complete person...or so you think. Idols promise what only God can deliver. Idols take up residence in a place that rightfully belongs to God--the throne of our hearts. Idols usurp the place of God, and steal the blessings that he longs to pour out onto our lives. They promise to give us so much, but they are nothing but thieves.
Destroying the idols in your life begins by naming them. Naming your idols means unmasking them, bringing them out into the light where they are exposed to the heat of the judgment of God. It means exposing them for what they really are. When you name your idols you come fully present to the reality that what sits on the throne of your heart is not Jesus. It is something that goes by another name, something that doesn't belong there.
I was walking into work yesterday thinking about the idols in my life. I wanted to name them, to expose them so that I could conquer them and put them back into their proper place. (So often an idol is a good thing that has been given primacy in your heart.) I thought about the things my heart desires when I get tired: lying on the couch, watching TV, relaxing, eating whatever food I want, drinking a Coke (or a Throwback Pepsi made with real sugar--mmmhmmm!), just taking it easy. Then it hit me: My idol is Ease! I want a life of ease, of comfort, of painless existence and the absence of hard work. Something clicked inside of me as soon as my idol had been named. I knew that Ease sat upon the throne of my heart--the seat that only Jesus Christ could rightfully claim as his own.
The thing about it is that Ease is not necessarily a bad thing. God has a different name for it: He calls it Rest, or Sabbath. Rest is my eternal destiny. Sabbath is ordained to occur once a week. But I want a lifestyle of Ease, devoid of difficulty and drudgery. So I let projects pile up. I procrastinate. Certain things don't get done in my never ending quest for Ease. But this is not the Rest that God wants to provide me. Ease comes with guilt, that nagging feeling that you should be doing something instead of nothing. Rest from God comes with the peace of mind that you have worked hard and the invitation to enjoy some recreation. As an idol, Ease sucks. As a gift from God, Rest is glorious.
What are your idols? What can you not imagine living without? What do you fixate on? What does your heart want most of all? Naming your idol is the first step in giving the throne of your heart back to Jesus Christ, the King of All Creation.