“True Worship and Idols of the Heart”, from L.Willows (Glorify God, Confidence in God, Grace)


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

Suggested Resources:
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

“Drawn to Worship” from L.Willows (Heart Renew, True Worshipers, Quotes, Prayer)

These times stretch our hearts and minds to explore what we think that we knew, what we felt that we already did – and to review with depth how we each in these new circumstances can worship well, pray with more depth, and love more boldly.

Because most are confined to their homes, we are exploring the ways that we worship. Many, have churches that have shifted to online streaming of Sunday services, fellowship and Bible Studies. Our experiences of gathering to worship with one another and the joys of our choirs and music ministries have shifted to experiences from our homes. Others that were not connected to a church may be longing for a connection to a worshipping fellowship at precisely this time. The news is good, there are resources growing every day for people to connect.

More importantly, we are encouraged to learn to worship well from wherever we are. It is God’s Calling to us as His People.


Worship is the act of paying homage to God. The expression of respect is reverential. In scripture, it often refers to a bowing down, a falling to the ground- with the heart experience of acknowledging the Presence of God. (Matthew 2:11, Matthew 14:33, Revelation 7:11).

Last night, I attended my Covenant Fellowship Group online. Our Pastor, Tom Holliday ( of Alexandria Presbyterian Church) said something that gripped my attention. He offered, “God wants your heart. We don’t notice our true spiritual temperature- what is really going on in our hearts. Stop paying attention to what we are paying attention to. Life is temporal. Don’t ask for this world.”

Our hearts need to awaken to where they belong first. What and who we worship in life. What do we value most? We pay homage to what we worship. He asked us- “Where are our hearts? Where have all of our hearts been?”

We have a chance to rivet our lives and the attention of our hearts to a first cause- Our Creator.

We are instructed to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

John 4:24 –God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

In the now of our times, we are each experiencing drastic changes in how we live daily life. There are sacrifices, losses, separations from loved ones and circumstances before each of us that we never imagined that we would be facing. All of us are living in what feels like “upside down times”. It feels like things, parts of life, people and beloved ways of life have been torn away from us. But in many cases, we have a unique opportunity to take a new “heart view” of what we may have been holding tightly onto, even putting before our worship of God.

We don’t realize that we made idols out of much of what we “loved so much” in this world, all the activity, pursuits, the outbound reaches that started to occupy our hearts. There is no fault in these things, but perhaps we need to reorder or prioritize what and who we worship. 

Do we worship Truth above all else? What is Truth according to Scripture?

John 14:6 –Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 17:17 –Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

True Worshipers

True worshipers see Jesus. They look to the Lord as the way, the truth, and the life.

When we, as children of the Light long to know Him more deeply, we need to take honest assessments of our hearts and even use this as a time of encouragement because much that has been removed from our lives in the form of activities and worldly pursuits offers a chance to detach from heart idols. We may feel the loss but be encouraged knowing that in turning our hearts to Christ, in worship, and in truth- there is a great treasure to find and a Kingdom that waits to be discovered.

Deuteronomy 31:8 -It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

1 Chronicles 29:11 –Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

Quotes on Worship

William Temple — “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.”

Chuck Swindoll –“To be used of God. Is there anything more encouraging, more fulfilling? Perhaps not, but there is something more basic: to meet with God. To linger in His presence, to shut out the noise of the city and, in quietness, give Him the praise He deserves. Before we engage ourselves in His work, let’s meet Him in His Word… in prayer… in worship”

Jonathan Edwards — “A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness.”

Henry Ward Beecher — “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.”

Erwin Lutzer — “If we haven’t learned to be worshippers it doesn’t really matter how well we do anything else. Worship changes us or it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience.”

Prayer ~ True Worshipers

Lift my heart into Your Holy Presence at this moment, in this hour.
Let me be a true worshiper, bring me to You.
Sanctify this ground that I kneel upon, purify my heart, my mind, my soul.
Help me to live and breathe the sweetened airs of Your Holy Spirit
and live the joy of Your renewal and revival here and now.
Be the birth of the fullness of deep grace in me,
Capture my heart and my life with Your Powerful love.
Make me into your servant
so that your Spirit pours love into this world and demonstrates
Your Mercy and Your Peace.
Keep me in Your Grasp and protect those that I love both near and far.
I praise You for walking before us each and for preparing the Way.
May we each see your Glory. May we live for You,
and be drawn to the altar of Your Living Holy Kingdom.

In Christ’s Name

© 2020 Linda Willows