Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Idols of Our Hearts

A couple of days ago I blogged about David Powlison's X-Ray Questions. There are 35 questions total, designed to unmask the idols of our hearts. Idolatry is real. You may not bow down to idols made of wood and stone, but there are things you worship, hope for, and put your trust in that are not the one true God. These things are idols.

The Bible has a lot to say about idolatry. In fact, idolatry is the chief sin of God's people, and, by far, that which the Old Testament prophets railed against. (Some, today, would have you believe the primary thrust of the prophetic message was against injustice. Not so. Injustice is a byproduct of idolatry. The prophets were after the people's idols.) From God's perspective, it's far better for you to die young than live to a ripe old age as an idolator. Our idols are the revolving door by which evil and wickedness enter this world. Our idols must die.

David Powlison writes, "human life is exhaustively God-relational." In other words, everything we do is related to God either positively or negatively. "Human beings either love God--or despise him and love something else. We take refuge in God--or flee from him and find refuge in something else. We set our hopes in God--or we turn from him and hope in something else. We fear God--or we ignore him and fear something else." That "something else" is our idol(s). You cannot change until you understand that everything you do is either directed toward God or your idol, your God-substitute.

"By seeing the God-relatedness of all motivation, you see that what is wrong with us calls for a God-related solution: the grace, peace, power, and presence of Jesus Christ." The process by which we correct our idolatry is a person: Jesus Christ. Only Jesus, with his gospel of grace, can change you at the level of desire and motivation, where your idols have taken refuge. This is a long process because it is a relationship, a marriage of sorts. Victory is won not all at once, but progressively, as you choose to relate to God through Jesus in the tiny and tempting moments of life, rather than relating to your idol through sinful desire.

Go back through the X-Ray Questions and uncover your idols. Reflect on how you relate to those idols. What happened in that moment when you decided to turn to pornography? Why did you choose to eat too much? What were you really looking for when you gossiped about your friend? Learn to walk back your sin and discover that moment when you decided to turn to your idol. It's a difficult process, but you have to reflect on it. Find that moment when you chose to relate to the idol, the God-substitute, rather than God. When you have found that moment, you can be prepared for the next time, and you can learn to choose the true God rather than your idol. And in that moment when you cry out to Jesus instead of your idol, he is there. Always. He will strengthen you. His grace will teach you to cry out to the living God and to abandon the idols of your heart.

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