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Devotional: Idols and False Gods

by Leigh Ann Dilley on March 09, 2023

Idols and false gods have been around from the beginning of Biblical history and haven’t changed much. Idolatry begins when we think we know better than God. We choose to do things our own way and disobey God, setting our hearts on something other than Him.

Timothy Keller is the author of Counterfeit Gods. He also is the host of the podcast "Gospel in Life." He says we have more counterfeit gods than we realize. There are layers of them in every nook and cranny of our hearts. Keller says there are “deep idols” within the heart beneath the more concrete and visible “surface idols” that we serve.  Surface idols are things such as money, image, a spouse, or maybe your children — any person or thing through which our deep idols seek fulfillment. For example, a deep idol for money can be either the need to overspend or the need to over-save. The spender surface idol may be the need to run in certain social circles or a need to make themselves beautiful and attractive. The surface idol for the saver may be a control mechanism or a desire for security. Either way, the worship of money can enslave and distort lives.

Idols not only need to be removed, but they also need to be replaced. Replaced with God Himself. Belief in God is not enough. It takes an encounter with the living God Himself, similar to Jacob who wrestled with God all night long. In the end, Jacob would not let the wrestler — God — go until He blessed Jacob. That is because, in the end, nothing else matters but the blessing of God.

God did not intend for us to put Him on a shelf to be pulled out when everything else failed. He meant to be our savior. He wants to bless us!  

To extricate an idol, you must identify the deep needs of the heart. To name those idols, consider the following:

  • What do you think about most often?
  • What demands your attention? 
  • Examine where you spend most of your money. 
  • What dreams are you living for? 

Consider your unanswered prayers and what frustrates you. Where might you have uncontrollable emotions? What do you think is necessary in your life, but is not? Does it mean more to you than God?

Keller says you cannot get relief simply by figuring out what your idols are intellectually. You have to get the peace that Jesus offers, and that only comes as you practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, corporate worship, and meditation. All types of spiritual disciplines are worship. Worship is the final way to replace the idols of your heart because it puts Jesus where he should be, on the throne of our hearts. It takes time, so be patient.

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