Since the ARC Conference two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about idolatry in general, and the various idols in my own life. We tend to have a rather silly understanding of idols–pieces of wood or stone to which we bow down and worship. While these types of idols dominated the world of the Bible, the Scriptures also warn us to avoid the idols of our hearts. In other words, idolatry is not localized to wood and stone statues in ancient cultures; idolatry is in our hearts.
One of the most important things we can do to follow Jesus well is to rid ourselves of all idols. But because we have such a silly image of idolatry, we are not able to intelligently identify the idols of our hearts. David Powlison has written something called X-Ray Questions: Discerning Functional Gods in which he lists 35 questions to help you discover the idols of your heart. This is an excellent resource that I’ve been using to help me name my idols. It’s been both painful and fruitful, and I recommend it to everyone who reads this blog. I’ll post a few of the questions I found most helpful here.
1. What do you love? Hate?
This “first great commandment” questions searches you out–heart, soul, mind and might. There is no deeper question to ask of any person at any time. There is no deeper explanation for why you do what you do. Disordered loves hijack our hearts from our rightful Lord and Father.
2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for?
What desires do you serve and obey? This summarizes the internal operations of the desire-driven “flesh” in the New Testament epistles. “My will be done” and “I want ___________” are often quite accessible.
5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?
Sinful fears are inverted cravings. If I want to avoid something at all costs…I am ruled by a lustful fear.
9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? …What pipe dreams tantalize or terrify you? What do you organize your life around?
…We are meant to long supremely for the Lord Himself, for the Giver, not His gifts. The absence of blessings–rejection, vanity, reviling, illness, poverty–often is the crucible in which we learn to love God for who He is. In our idolatry we make gifts out as supreme goods, and make the Giver into the errand boy of our desires.
15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?
21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?
This question often nicely illuminates the motivational pattern of angry, aggrieved, self-righteous, self-pitying people. Our culture of entitlement reinforces the flesh’s instincts and habits.
These are just a few of the many questions that, if you answer them honestly, will uncover the deep motivations of your heart–the gods you worship and trust more than the one true God. Do yourself a favor and download the full document. Engage with the questions with brutal honesty. Uncovering your idols is the first step to dethroning them.