The human heart has a powerful way of taking anything and turning it into the “most important thing.” We have this uncanny ability to take anything that gives us significance, security, comfort, safety, and fulfillment, and begin to fully trust in that thing as if it is more important than the air we breathe. This is idolatry. For most people, the subject of idolatry conjures up pictures of a “primitive people bowing down before statures.” But idolatry happens in the heart. In his latest book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines idolatry like this:
“An idol is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”
In a sermon titled “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven,” English Puritan Pastor David Clarkson (1621-1686) gave thirteen pointers to help his listeners identify the idols of their hearts. This past weekend Kenny Stokes framed those points as questions as he preached at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
- What do you most highly value?
- What do you think about by default?
- What is your hightest goal?
- To what or whom are you most commited?
- Who or what do you love the most?
- Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
- Who or what do you fear the most?
- Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
- Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
- Who or what do you most delight in, your greatest joy and treasure?
- Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
- To whom or for what are you most thankful?
- For whom or what great purpose do you work?
As Christians it is important to daily search our own sinful hearts for idolatry. As Christians our answer to each of these questions should have Christ, in some sense, as the highest treasure – our most beautiful longing. But answering these questions will most likely reveal the darkness of our own hearts – which in turn – will humble us to see the glory of God’s grace. Searching the depths of the human heart can be a painful exercise because it reveals how sick we really are. But there is good news. Our Savior Jesus said:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I found these questions very helpful. I encourage you to listen to or read the whole sermon here.