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Three Idols of the Heart

I wanted to pass some great heart-based wisdom.  This is from a kindred gospel-centric Spirits BLOG:


Here is what Scott wrote about 3 categories of idolatry of our own heart:

Basically every idol (and every sin) traces back to a self-salvation strategy, which replaces something only Jesus can ultimately provide adequately, with a counterfeit. Some examples include (thanks to Timothy Keller for inspiring these insights):

The certainty idol. Those who “worship and serve” the certainty idol are “nervous types” who are controlled by worry. They simply cannot handle when things are up in the air or seem to be at risk. They (we!) always carry anxiety about losing their health, their money, the spot-free condition of their home, or any other thing that gives them the illusion that they are in control of their universe. To address the certainty idol, we must do so with both “grace” and “truth:”

  • Truth: You will never feel secure (be “saved” from insecurity) by putting your hope in things that are uncertain. If you continue to put your hope in your health, your bank account, the well-being of your children, your GPA, you will remain an anxious person. You will either be horrified of losing control, or will fall into despair when you do lose control.
  • Grace: Jesus is the sovereign King of the universe. He knows your needs. He works all things (good and bad) for your good. Trust Him!

The success idol. Those who “worship and serve” the success idol are generally “achiever types” who don’t mind things being “up in the air” (unlike the certainty idol) as long as they win. They cannot deal with failure and are driven by the fear of it. They (we!) are enslaved by their ability (or lack thereof) to “measure up” to peers, to gain the leverage they desire—whether it be on the athletic field, in the classroom, at the office, or any other place. To address the success idol, again we must do so with both “grace” and “truth:”

  • Truth: Enough success will never be enough for you. (When Rockefeller was asked “How much is enough” he said, “One more dollar!”). You will be like Harold Abrams in Chariots of Fire, who ran, ran, and ran, but eventually realized he had no idea what he was running for.
  • Grace: Jesus has already lived the ultimately “successful” life on your behalf! You can now rest in the record He has provided for you in His life of perfect obedience. Your reputation is secure. You will win the ultimate prize because of what Jesus has accomplished in your place!

The relationship idol. Those who “worship and serve” the relationship idol are controlled by an inordinate longing for affection and/or approval. They (we!) don’t mind things being up in the air (unlike the certainty idol), and they don’t mind losing (unlike the success idol), as long as somebody is saying “I love you” to them.

  • Truth: Even your best relationships will be spoiled if you put them in front of your relationship with Jesus! You will become obsessive, with a false security that the love/approval of others will “save” you. Or you will become anxious and depressed when criticized.
  • Grace: Jesus is the lover of your soul. He delights in you and rejoices over you always! He is the one place where you are relationally secure at all times!

In summary, with respect to idols of the heart, the bottom line consists of the following:

We need to master the art of identifying of the heart. We especially need to do so with the people among whom we serve. Our messages should always be addressing the idols of the day with the grace and truth of Jesus (as exemplified above). We need to ask the diagnostic questions mentioned earlier in this section—both of ourselves and those under our care. Then, we need to target our teaching toward the healing of these idols.

Great words!