As I wrote yesterday and the day before, we just finished camp and my mind is still marinating with thoughts about idolatry (the teaching theme of our camp). In speaking about idolatry it is too easy to think about the idols that other people worship – he worships his money, she worships her health, they worship their kids, etc. – and completely miss the hidden idols of our own lives.
So how do we find the hidden idols of our own lives? I have found Kyle Idleman’s counsel to be very helpful.
I was talking to a friend of mine who is a cardiologist. He was telling me about a procedure called an arteriogram that is used to diagnose how healthy a heart is. Here’s how it works: He injects a dye into the bloodstream, then an X-ray is taken of the arteries to locate any blockage. Once they locate a blockage, he will insert a stent through the patient’s leg and open up the blood vessel.
But what is interesting is that frequently a heart problem goes undetected and undiagnosed for years. No arteriogram is done for them. Why? Because the symptoms don’t seem relevant. A patient may face insomnia, back pain, a loss of appetite, anxiety, vision problems, and other challenges. But the patient seeks medical help to treat the symptoms. They think they have a sleeping issue or a back pain issue or a vision issue., when the truth is it’s a heart issue…until that is addressed, the patient isn’t going to get better.
From there, Idleman goes on to ask a series of questions in hopes to give his readers a “spiritual arteriogram” to help them see past the symptoms of their sins, shortcomings, failures, and dissatisfactions and get to the heart issues – their idols. He explains, “Think of these questions as dye being injected into your bloodstream that will help reveal and locate some problem areas…”
What disappoints you? “Disproportionate disappointment reveals that we have placed intense hope and longing in something other than God.”
What do you complain about the most? “”This question is similar to the last, but we’re looking at the outside this time – what you express. This might be a good time to get an objective opinion. Ask someone close to you about your typical complaints.”
Where do you make financial sacrifices? “”Where your money goes shows what god is winning your heart. So take a look at your bank statement and credit card bills, and pretend that you are examining the spending habits of a perfect stranger to find out what is most important to them.”
What worries you? “Whatever it is that wakes you – or for that matter keeps you up – has the potential to be an idol.”
Where is your sanctuary? “Where do you go when you are hurting?…Where we go says a lot about who we are. The “high ground” we seek reveals the geography of our values.”
What infuriates you? “Maybe your quick temper reveals the oldest idols of them all – the god of me.”
What are you dreams? “If nightmares are revealing, so are daydreams – the places we choose for our imagination to go…Aspirations are fine, but the question is why you aspire to those things. Is your motivation to give God glory or is your motivation your own glory, fame, and fortune?” (Taken from Idleman’s excellent book gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart, p. 36-40.)
So, my friends, fellow Pilgrims on the way, I encourage you to ask these questions to your own heart and answer them with brutal honesty. Just because we don’t see or acknowledge our idols, doesn’t mean they don’t own us. As those who have been bought by the blood of Christ, may we, by God’s grace, search the depths of our hearts to rip, smash, crush, and destroy any idols that own our affections and demand for our obedience and love. May we follow the counsel of this excellent song:
Rise from your knees, stop worshiping
The splinters of broken gods, turn and see your King
There is one God over all kings and rulers
And He reigns alone
Our obedience to idols is disobedience to Christ. We cannot serve two masters. Identify your idols and choose whom you will worship.