This topic has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. I’ve been doing a lot of study on the centrality of the Gospel and God’s grace in our lives and how we need to make Christ ultimate within our hearts, our lives, and our homes.
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And this had led me to a lot of thought on what it is that I do hold dear in my life. What are the things that I constantly put first in my life…even above God?!
How easy is it in my day to put other things as more important than God? And that my friends, is what we call creating an idol in our hearts.
What is an Idol?
Often when we talk about idols, we think of the Old Testament version of idols. Of worshipping false gods and bowing down to calfs made of gold.
But in our modern society, we still have plenty of idols that we worship, even if they are not made of gold and we don’t have shrines for them set up in our homes.
Lately I’ve been reading a fantastic book on the subject called Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone by Elyse Fitzpatrick and in it she gives a very good definition for what idols are:
“Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need.” – Idols of the Heart, page 23
So basically, whenever we place something more important in our lives than God, I’ve created an idol out of that thing. Even if this doesn’t happen consciously. With my lips I may acknowledge God as most important in my life, but in my heart, in my attitude, in my thoughts am I placing other things as more important?
Are you willing to sin in order to obtain something you desire? Or on the flip side, do you sin when you don’t get something you want or something doesn’t go the way you think it should?
“If you’re willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don’t get what you want, then your desire has taken God’s place and you’re functioning as an idolater”- Idols of the Heart, page 25
How This Plays Out in Our Lives
A lesson in marriage
For most of us, we want a healthy happy marriage. This desire in itself is not bad. In fact, God encourages us to be close to our husbands, to be of one flesh, to be united, and to flourish together within the marriage covenant. Desiring a close and passionate marriage is a beautiful thing to desire and work towards.
So let’s say that our friend Jane just read a blog post or listened to a podcast about marriage and she is fired up and excited to put energy and passion back into her marriage. So she sets out with a goal this week to love and appreciate her husband more. Maybe she stops by the store and picks up some candles to help set the mood, she puts the kids down to bed early and makes his favorite meal. She’s anticipating the moment he walks in the door to see all the love and care she’s put into creating a special night for them…because she desires a close and loving marriage.
But he walks in the door, after being stuck in traffic, he hasn’t eaten in hours, and he’s just plain tired. He grunts a hello to Jane, doesn’t acknowledge the beautiful table she’s set or the effort she’s put into it, and slouches into the living room to turn the TV on.
Instantly her love and excitement for that night evaporates and she’s foaming at the mouth. She heads to the living room to “confront” him. After a bout of yelling and screaming (from both Jane and her husband), she runs off to her bedroom to pout, withdraw, sulk, and decides that her husband now deserves the silent treatment for a good three days or so.
Right here, Jane has made an idol out of her marriage and having this perfect night. Her desire initially wasn’t bad or sinful. But when she sinned as a result of not getting the night she had planned on, then she is making an idol out of what she thinks she deserves.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s really easy to respond as Jane did and often, we do end of responding this way or with something similar.
But being able to recognize these sinful feelings and desires helps us to be able to see the root problem. We can then start to move God back to the forefront of our thoughts, actions, and our heart!
Here’s what Elyse says about a situation like this:
“I’m not saying that it is wrong to make nice dinners for your husband, exercise properly, or work diligently. If motivated by love of God and others, each of these things can be good. But these actions become sinful when you do them primarily to satisfy your desires instead of to please God. The only holy reason for doing any good it the love of God and others.”- Idols of the Heart, page 25
How This Impacts Our Homemaking
This all ties back to what I often blog about: How can we establish Gospel-Centered homes and help our family to focus on God more and more? It’s important to talk about this concept of idols because we need to be constantly evaluating our own hearts and to focus on this verse:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40
Can you honestly say that you love God with your entire heart? With your entire soul and that your mind is completely devoted to him? That you wake in the morning, thinking of God, loving him, having your every thought and motive focused on him?
No, I don’t think any of us can say we truly do this because none of us will be perfect in this life.
Sin and struggles cloud our hearts, but we are still called to strive for this. Sure, we will stumble and fall along the way. But Lord willing, as we strive day by day, year by year, the overall trajectory of our lives will point to knowing God and loving him more and more each day with our heart, soul, and mind!
So we must be diligent about rooting out sin from our lives. Identifying those areas in which we make things more important than God himself. The areas in which we love this world and the things in it more than we love our creator. We strive to work on that so we can love God with our hearts, soul, and minds.
And if you are a wife or mom, then we also have the powerful opportunity to teach our kids and be an example to our husbands when we are diligent about working on this.
When we actively seek to root out sin from our hearts, even when it feels like a painfully slow process, and when we strive to make God the center and the prize of our lives, then we are being the best witness we can be to our families…and out into the world!
Book of the Week:
Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Can you guess what this week’s book is? You guessed it! Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I have always appreciated her writing because she writes very practically and straight to the heart. She is strong in the Bible and isn’t afraid to back down from what it says, but she also has a grace and an openness in her writing that makes it very easy to connect with. The tagline of the book is Learning to Long for God Alone. And that’s really what Elyse helps you to do. This is a bit of an older book, written in 2001 and I had heard about it for ages before I finally made myself read it. And I wished I had done it sooner! So if you still have yet to read it, I want to encourage you to move it to the top of your reading list.