True Worship and Idols of the Heart
In a recent conversation with a friend, I confessed, “my heart is burdened by idols that I have made in my life of people, family, leaders, needs and of many things that I convince myself are “good” but actually- they draw me away from the Love of Christ.” I exhaled. I knew that idols were sin, and substitutes for God’s love. That is what we have learned that idols are- things that we worship more than God. They are the situation or person that draws our hearts in. They are what we feel that we need most for peace, joy, love, security, sometimes even for our heart’s survival.
Then, realizing the magnitude of my sin, I tried to justify myself and pull back a bit, so I added enthusiastically, “I have always been a good worshiper!” That’s right. I complimented myself. (Some part of my heart wanted to survive the conversation) We are silly hearts, are we? But my friend did not notice. She was immersed in her own deep thoughts on the subject and very kind as well.
She nodded in sweet agreement saying
“That’s right. An idol, according to Tim Keller is anything “more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”
As we sat and continued in a fascinating conversation exploring worship and idols of the heart, I realized that we all need deep honesty with one another about this subject as friends and Christians so that we can move forward with and grow. We can read books and attend studies because learning never stops but we need accountability as well. Right now, I am giving thanks to God for the precious friends that He has placed in my life that appear at just the right moments. They are like miracles that generously answer calls from my heart.
John 4:23-24 –-But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Afterward, I realized that being a good worshiper is nothing to boast about unless you have cleared your heart of idols because the same hearts that love so deeply also tend to desire outcomes from love. Longing does not preclude mortal need. Re-reading John 4:23-24, I realize that the call is for True Worship, rather than good worship. We are to worship in spirit and in truth. This is a link to a wonderful commentary on John 4:32-24.
“Whatsoever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to be rid our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately or immoderately upon them.” John Flavel
Clearly, idols interfere with good worship, with True Worship. A simple way to define an idol is to try to live without the coveted thing, condition, person or need and discover your heart’s reaction. The hearts that are structured with the idols of worldly purpose in worship will tend to desire an outcome looks like “works” and achievement. Hearts that are structured by idols of ambition in worship might desire the outcome that looks like rising in stature or self-promotion. There so many idols in our hearts that cause us to fall away from the True Worship of God. Life is filled with constant temptations to look elsewhere and to believe that love will come to us from everything and everyone but God, Himself. I know, like so many of you, I have lived for a while and been tempted to love and be drawn into the idols of this world.
“Where God is at the center of things, worship inevitably follows. Where there is no spirit of worship, there God has been dethroned and displaced.” Sinclair Ferguson
Even now, my heart becomes burdened by idols because we are all mortals on a journey with God. Each day we look up and lift our hearts to God. Like David in the Psalms, we search our hearts and ask God to review them. If He sees any offense, help us. Show us. Help us to be Good Worshippers.
Psalm 139:23 -“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”
I confessed the idol that was most current on my heart to my friend. Alright, I confess the top three. When we are able to see what is false, it is the beginning of transformation. I had been praying about it for many weeks and asked God for help in releasing these idols. I knew that I needed to let go. At one point when I was praying, I saw the image of balloons in the sky with long strings that I was holding onto. I asked the Lord, “shall I let go?” What I loved and wanted deeply to worship and hold onto was symbolically in the balloons. Like a child with a dream in the balloons, I was holding on. The Lord said, “Let go. Cut the string.” So, I did.
“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” A. W. Tozer
Then I prayed that God would take the child-heart that needed the false dream and bring her into His Arms, bring her Home into His Love so that all would be healed and restored. From the vantage point of being With God, we don’t need to hold on to an idol. We have everything. Nothing true can be lost.
We are in the arms of God. Our hearts are filled with Grace. Idols are washed by the precious Blood of Christ. His Holy Spirit cleanses us of every untrue thing, every untrue thought and calls us home to Him. We run as His Beloveds to the Altar of God.
“What God says is best, indeed is best, though all men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loveth Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him: Shame, depart, thou art an enemy to my salvation.” John Bunyan
The way that the Heart turns to Jesus Christ and asks for His Love is transformative. We can know Him in an instant. We can turn to His Face and His Heart in Prayer.
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.” Martin Luther
We need to decide who and what we are worshipping. Sometimes we slip, especially in the times that we are in and can begin to believe that something other than God can “save” us or be our Savior. That is false worship. We are creating idols in our hearts. Day by day, we feed these idols without realizing how easily it become our “new normal”. We need to cling to and confide in God. We confide in God when we pray and when we trust in Him. Confiding means to have confidence in Him!
When I become aware of idols arising in my own heart (again), I pray for constant renewal and intervention by the Holy Spirit to heal, teach and bring me directly to the Loving Altar of Christ- releasing all idols that might hinder True Worship and confident Faith in our Miraculous God. Would you like to join me in that prayer?
There are some wonderful resources about idols of the heart that I would like to list. Here are some recommended Books for you to consider.
Remember, this is a lifelong journey. It is for True Worshippers. That is all of us! We pray, we live, we love, we confess, we repent, we praise, we surge forward, we glorify God. We walk together by helping one another lovingly, honestly and with the nobility of seeing Jesus as the cause that precedes all action.
“Saints are described as fearing the name of God; they are reverent worshippers; they stand in awe of the Lord’s authority; they are afraid of offending Him; they feel their own nothingness in the sight of the Infinite One.” Charles Spurgeon
© 2020 Linda Willows
Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller
Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, revised and updated by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Gods at War: Defeating the Idols by Kyle Idleman
Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young