Idols of the Heart
Hello everyone, this is Samantha Shorey here to share with you one of the many things I’ve learned in the Fellows program this year. I have had the opportunity and the blessing to read many godly, thought-provoking books, articles, and essays over the last several months. One article in particular that struck me was written by Biblical counselor David Powlison entitled “Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair.” The title was intriguing to me because I’ve always been interested in the topic of modern day idols, especially in regard to the Biblical prospective in finding freedom from them. I also enjoyed the classic Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. There’s an interesting place known as “Vanity Fair” mentioned in the book and the thought of finding a connection between it and idols of the heart intrigued me. The article begins with a few deep, penetrating, questions defining idols: (35)
- Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear, and delight?
- Who or what rules my behavior, the Lord, or a substitute? What serves as my motivation?
I had a working definition of what I believed an idol to be, but never considered the “motivation” aspect. We can be motivated by many things: fear, pride, greed, jealously, etc. and they often work in conjunction with each other. (For example, I may struggle with the “fear of man” or the idol of pleasing those around me, which oddly enough results in a simultaneous struggle with jealousy because someone else seems to have more approval than I do.) Powlison also explains that idols are often fluid, waxing and waning depending on our circumstances and season of life. Contrary to the title of the article, idols are both internal (of the heart) and external (from our social environment such as from media, peers, advertisements, etc.) Idols may vary from person to person, however we are all battling competing affections for our hearts, “…No man can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24)
As a Biblical Counselor, Powlison brings our attention to the major differences between secular wisdom and Biblical wisdom, specifically regarding the causes of idols and how we can be free from them. Secular thought would offer that we are helpless victims of our circumstances and upbringing, thus taking the blame away from the individual.
On the other hand, the Bible teaches that anything taking the place of God in our hearts and minds is sin that must be repented of and conquered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible states in many places that as Christians, we are no longer bound to idols (John 8:36, Romans 6:6, 11). The Lord provides ways to strengthen, encourage, and transform us into His image through the Word of God, prayer, sermons, accountability, and other spiritual blessings. Of course some people may be predisposed to certain struggles and sin patterns due to upbringing, temperament, and many other factors, but the hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we are no longer bound to them; we must not live as if they control us for we have died to sin! (Romans 6:14) This approach to idolatry, though taking the Christian low in the recognition of his sin, truly provides hope for the Christian because God has promised to sanctify His children and complete His work in their lives. (Philippians 1:6)
In conclusion, only the Biblical model can offer real, lasting change for us in the battle against idolatry since it alone relies upon the power of Christ for sinners. In His kindness, God does not leave us to ourselves but has given us His Spirit to help and comfort us. (John 14:16, 18) Thank God that we don’t have to be stuck in a cycle of failure and shame! Christ offers us freedom to deliver us from all sin. I pray that we receive this gift of His Grace.