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I realized as I read your longings that we need to begin with a few weeks of review, which is good for all of us. I am so thankful for the women who have journeyed with us and are willing to continue on as mentors. I know both they and their stories will encourage you.


Let me begin by giving you a glimpse into my own dark murky soul:

Wasn’t I a warm and caring boss? I never yelled or made unreasonable demands. So why was it that I couldn’t keep a good administrative assistant? Why didn’t they appreciate what they had? The work was meaningful, the travel exciting, the pay good, and the boss encouraging! So what was the matter?

Since it took a good year for my assistant to learn the complexities of the position, I would only hire someone who expressed a fervent desire to work in the ministry long term. So it was frustrating when after just two or three years, she had a change of heart about being long term and resigned. When my fourth administrative assistant resigned, I lamented to my friend Jan Silvious, expecting a sympathetic ear. Instead, she arched an eyebrow, peered at me through her funky rhinestone glasses, and said:

“Dee – this seems to be a pattern in your life.”

What? Was she implying that I was the problem?

We need help to see ourselves as we really are. We can look in a mirror several times a day and not be shocked, but then someone hands us a photograph.

Whoa! I have to change my hair…lose weight…

In the same way, I needed help to see what kind of a boss I really was. My deep idol was control, and my near sin was manipulation. Frankly, I was vaguely aware of my near sin and completely blind to my deep idol — but God, through the body of Christ, His Word, and His Spirit helped me see. Though it was painful, when I finally saw my “stone,” my calcifying tumor, I wanted it out. And though the surgery was hard, my color is coming back, and I am experiencing a radical difference in my relationships. No longer blocked, His spring of life-giving water is flowing, turning my burning wasteland into a lush meadow.


One of the rich promises Jesus spoke was: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” So why is it that that some believers in Jesus Christ are set free from besetting sins, and others remain mud-bound? Each group seems to know the Lord, each group wants to change, but only one does. Though the mud-bound group is weary of repeating their failures and weary of wilderness wanderings, they are stuck. In despair, they cry:

I don’t want to be so irritable, but I can’t seem to change.

I’ve been in counseling for years about forgiving my father, but bitterness clings to me like an icy shawl.

I’ve tried so many times to lose weight and keep it off – it’s hopeless!

Discouragement can lead to settling for a mediocre Christian life with occasional picnics in the desert. But that is not God’s heart for us! The salvation He promises is not only for the next life, but also for this life – not only to free us from the guilt of sin, but from the power of sin.

Medical doctor and esteemed London pastor Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was convinced that the primary cause of so many Christians being perpetually in the doldrums was due to the fact that they did not understand the double power of the gospel to save. Rock of Ages puts it like this:

Be of sin the double cure

Cleanse me from its’ guilt and pow’r  (If someone can give us a great link to this traditional song or a contemporary version, please do!)

Being released from the penalty (the guilt) of sin in instantaneous, happening the moment we respond to God’s gentle call and to the payment Christ made for us at the cross. Being released from the power of sin is gradual, but it is a sure promise from God. Both are works of the Holy Spirit, and if you are born again, then He will continue a good work in you. For some it happens faster, for they learn how to cooperate with Him, and how to differentiate between the near sin and the root problem.

There are treacherous stones lurking beneath the deep waters of our souls – stones that have stymied our journey and cut us to pieces. But God’s light is shining down into the deep dark waters revealing the Scylla that have shipwrecked lives. In response, many of us are crying out to the Stonecutter, asking Him to remove the stones. And He’s doing it. An amazing excitement is rippling out, the joy so characteristic of revival. What are these stones? Though this may surprise you, the word used throughout Scripture to describe our main heart problem is:


Many of us have missed this in the past because we thought of idolatry as “Old Testament,” relating not to us, but to the Israelites who were forever being led astray, turning from the God who rescued them to the worship of statues of stone or cows of gold. We think, How crazy was that? Or we look at the little statue of Buddha surrounded by rotting apples and oranges at the nail salon and are mystified. We don’t identify with this kind of worship at all.

But Ezekiel says we have “idols of the heart.” Rather than bowing down to statues, we bow down to money, or to marriage, or to food, or to success… making things under the sun our gods. They become our identity and our source of fulfillment.  Even though we love God, there are others things in our heart of hearts we think we must have to be fulfilled.

Why is it that a study on idolatry can set us free when other approaches have failed?


So often we have failed to conquer a besetting sin because we have attacked the symptoms of our sin instead of the root problem. Alcoholics Anonymous knows that there is no hope for deliverance until an alcoholic sees and names his root problem. As long as she denies her alcoholism and instead tries to overcome the symptoms it creates, such as a bad temper, or frequent accidents, or absenteeism at work, she will not have victory. She must come to the point where she can stand up before a group and admit, “Hi – my name is Jane, and I am an alcoholic.” Managing symptoms does not work. The beast inside must be slain.

In the same way, unless we as believers identify the root problem that leads to a multitude of surface sins, we are doomed to failure. Though our surface sins are many, there are three categories that cover most of the deep idols that lead to these surface sins. They are:

  • Control/power
  • Affirmation/approval
  • Comfort/security [7]

Why does understanding our root problem free us when other plans fail? Consider. Someone with the deep idol of comfort/security may want to overcome over-eating, over-spending, or over-sleeping. She sets new resolutions, for she wants to lose weight, to be free of debt, or to get out of bed and start her day with the Lord. The usual approach is to attack the near sin: “I’ll get a better diet, a better budget, or a better alarm clock.” But her DEEP idol of comfort will CRY OUT when he is restricted. He will tell her lies: Just one potato chip… just window shop…  just a little more sleep… He is crouching at the door, waiting for her to open it a crack, and when she does, he barrels in, slipping his chains around her.

She must open her eyes to the beast, the liar, the stone god within her heart. He promises relief but delivers bondage. Eventually, as those chains tighten, she gives up, saying, in the language of addicts:

It’s no use!

I love foreign gods,

and I must go after them.

Jeremiah 2:25 (NIV)


Seeing your “stone,” the beast within, is half the battle. It will take time for our hearts are deceptive, like deep dark waters. All we can see at first is the painful consequences of our “stone.” But begin now to ask God to help you see your root problem, the deep idol that is more important to you than Him, that is causing you to bear rotten fruit.

Before the Holy Spirit can begin His work of setting you free from the power of sin, you must be “born again,” you must be freed from the penalty of sin. Watch this testimony from Chrissie Zepf, a young woman who was born again through the ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.


**If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, please go here to download the Redeemer App from iTunes: Link
Open the app and go to “Stories of Renewal” to find the video mentioned above.


1. Read the above and answer:

A. What are two different works of the Holy Spirit mentioned above?

B. What comments do you have on Chrissie’s story?

C. I (Dee) gave you a teaser into my story. How did the body of Christ help me see what I could not see?

D. List the three primary deep heart idols. Give an example of bad fruit each might produce.

E. What else stood out to you and why?

Tuesday – Friday

2. (Don’t answer if you are just beginning) If you have been on this journey, what is one specific way you are being set free from the power of sin? What helped you the most and what would you say to the women just beginning?

3. If you are just beginning — what do you think might be the deep heart idol that is causing the bad fruit of the near sin in your life? (Don’t worry if you can’t see it yet — but begin to ask God to show you.) Spend time begin still before Him, asking HIm to search you — and to show you how He could be what this idol could never be. (Idols cannot be removed — only replaced.)

4. As you read testimonies from mentors above, their answers to question 2, what resonates with you and why?

Listen to Tim Keller’s Free Message: Removing Idols of the Heart and do the corresponding Bible study:

5. Read Colossians 3:5-11

A. What do you learn about idolatry from verse 5?

B. In verse 10, when we are told to put on the new self, what do you learn about the new self?

I have noticed that the women who are most diligent in renewing their mind through the study are the ones who are experiencing the most victory.

6. What was the first of Martin Luther’s treatises? (All of life is _________________.)

7. Keller says we err in how we think of repentance. Explain.


Ruben: Feast of Simon The Pharisee

8. The deeper our repentance, the deeper our joy. How is this illustrated by the story Keller told from Luke 7:36-50. (Find all you can.)

9. Keller told a story of 16 year old Debbie. What was his point?

10. What do you think is your “functional trust?”

So many of you have come on desiring to lose weight.  I want to encourage you to get on a healthy eating plan, whether it is Weight Watchers or one from A Woman of Moderation or Setting Captives Free. The program needs to be healthy, and I suggest something that you can do for life. But unless you identify your deep heart idol, any victory will be temporary. In addition, each of must grow in our love for Jesus so that we allow Him to be what our idol can never be. Rebecca is one who has successfully lost weight through identifying her deep heart idol of Comfort. Keller talks about the combustion cycle of repentance and faith. It isn’t enough to repent, we must trust Christ to be there for us. This is what Rebecca wrote:

I was afraid. I thought, “If I give up overeating at night before bed, then what will satisfy me?

She feared God would just let her sit in her pain.

What helped Rebecca overcome her fear? Rebecca desperately needed to see the positive side of this intimate metaphor. This can be seen both through the gospel and through the many passages that sing about our Bridegroom’s love for us.

When Dee’s study turned to God’s love and faithfulness, as seen so clearly in Christ going to the cross for me, they fed my hope that God might really be there for me if I turned from my idol. Scriptures like “I will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over a bride,”[1] helped me to walk away from my idol and into His arms.

In reality I am just beginning to experience His sweetness in intimacy, to taste Him loving me deeply and passionately. I am starting to see that the whole of life is a dance He is leading me through from the warm sun shining on my face to the warm covering He wraps around my shoulders in times of distress.

11. Do you have a comment on Rebecca’s testimony?

12. Keller gives three points to being set free at the close of his sermon. Explain each.


13. What is your take-a-way and why?
14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free.

[2] Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1965) p. 12 & pp. 54-55.

[7] Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has identified these categories and gives credit to the teaching he received at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Leave a Comment

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  1. Sisters, Dee has another session today so pray. It was WONDERFUL this morning. I looked around and I could see it on the women’s faces-they were intently listening-some were teary eyed-I think they are getting it-God is moving! 🙂

    1. Yeah!

      1. Will be looking forward to hearing about it 🙂

  2. 14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free.


    I confess that i have been turning to other things for comfort please forgive me, and help me that when i am tempted to do these things that you would remind me that you are there watching and that you want to comfort me. Help me with the sucking of my thumb and thank you that i have been set free from masturbation

    I love you Jesus!

  3. My take away would be the picture at the beginning with the women having her arms stretched out and smiling although i picture myself on the top of a mountain on a rock and my arms stretched out wide and shouting I AM FREE!

  4. 13. What is your take-a-way and why?

    Susan helped me identify my approval idol, based on something that happened to me this week. Whenever I am criticized even slightly, I tend to react very strongly. I tend to shy back from doing things from fear of even slight disapproval. One of my recent crises was rejection by a family member. I am still stinging so much that I think of it every day, often bringing me close to tears, even though it happened a few months ago. I think this approval idol may be what I need to consciously tackle with my attention and prayer. I think it is very deep.

    14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free.

    Father, I am sorry for trusting in the approval of others more than in your approval. I am sorry that I am functionally putting other people higher in my estimation than You, that my fear of their disapproval drives my life. Thank you that you have given your life for me and that you love me with an everlasting love. Your approval is all I need. Take away the attractive power of needing approval of others. Teach me to understand in practical ways in my life what it means to put Your approval first. Teach me to pursue Your approval because I am Your beloved.

    1. Diane, This was beautiful. Amen.

    2. Love your beautiful prayer, Diane. Praying it with you!

  5. Take-away: I’m overwhelmed so will try to simplify. The repentance/freedom cycle is particularly compelling to me — and I have been in it constantly. I see idols showing up in my postings here. I think I could “camp” on this topic for a few new weeks — too many layers.

    Praying that the “brand new” people here will hang in here, learn about and experience His grace and freedom (and not give up if starting the study seems overwhelming)

    1. Renee, So good. I can identify!

      The layers and idols remind me of that pop up toy where they can pop up out of the blue, yet what God is teaching me is I don’t need to hit them with a hammer-as I become more intimate with Him-as I feast on Him in scripture-his attributes; his love, his power-He begins to melt the stones away-He causes me to desire to repent and turn, and He is trustworthy with the pain-it is a process. I am learning to trust Him with these idols because it can be overwhelming just to get a taste of how deceptive and wicked our hearts are. I am so thankful He is the one who does the stonecutting-I am way too much of a wimp-and if I tried to do it the stones would just get bigger. 😉

  6. This is a picture of my sister-in-law, Mary Kay. It may only be a few weeks for her to live now, as the last two days, she has forgotten how to swallow liquids. My brother, Dennis won’t leave her side, day and night, weeping. Please pray for them, that she may go to her Heavenly Father peacefully and Dennis can get through it all, with the power of God lifting him up. This is torture.

    1. Oh dear God of ALL comfort, We pray for this precious family as they get closer to the day when Mary Kay will be in your arms. Thank you, Abba, for Joyce’s selfless love and faithful to all of her family and for Dennis’ faithfulness to his wife. Thank you for Mary Kay’s love for you. Please sustain each of them with your strength and your comfort. Father, we lift up Dennis right now. Comfort him, give him peace and hope of living with You and with other loved ones forever. Please, Lord, I beg you to surround him with an awareness of your love. Lord, help Mary Kay to “let go” and in your perfect time be free from the suffering of this world, no more tears, no more pain, and the joy of seeing you face to face. God, only you can reach into the depth of the pain and provide what they need to get through this. We think of Jesus who was separated from His Father and wept at the death of His friend. Thank you for taking the sin and pain of the world on yourself so that we can have hope. Throughout this pain, please make their hope come alive and give them strength to continue to honor you and Mary Kay now, so that they will look back at these last days with her on earth as a time of sweetness.

      Father, please give Joyce the sleep she needs to be refreshed for each day, and help Kendra to see that in addition to this being a time of overwhelming pain, it’s also a time of rejoicing for a life well lived. Thank you for the close relationship between Joyce and Mary Kay; thank you that you are the author of families and relationships. Through their exhaustion and sorrow, may they rest in and be blessed by your peace.
      In Jesus’ Name.

      Love you and praying for you and your family Joyce. May God strengthen you, prepare you, and honor your obedience.

    2. Father, I also pray that everything Joyce learned through the God of All Comfort study (and others) would be fresh in her heart and mind now. Please bring to her mind EXACTLY what you would have her know in this very difficult situation.

    3. Oh Joyce I have been praying for you and your precious brother Dennis. I understand exactly what it is like to be at the side of one who is dying and you have to say good-bye. Thank God we have the hope of again seeing our loved ones who belong to Christ.

      Holy Father, wrap your arms of comfort around Dennis as he is spending these last days with his precious Mary Kay. Comfort him with your truth that because Mary Kay belongs to Jesus and he also, he does not have to weep as one who has no hope. A part of Dennis is being torn away from him. Thank you for his faithful sister Joyce who is being your mouth, hands, and feet as she ministers. Thank you for using Dee to teach us how to be ministers of comfort to each other here and in our local spheres of influence. Your word tells us that the world will know we are the disciples of Jesus by the love we show one another. In the name of our Blessed Redeemer Amen.

    4. Oh Joyce, Praying for you all-wish I could hug you.

      Lord, Thank you for Mary Kay and how you blessed Dennis and Mary Kay with such a beautiful marriage. Oh Lord, thank you that you are weeping with this family-Lord you are so close to the broken hearted, and we ask you to be that warm shawl around their shoulders comforting Dennis and Joyce right now. Lord you know better than us, but we ask that you would extend your great mercy and take Mary Kay home soon. In Jesus name, amen..

    5. Praying, Joyce…

    6. Praying, Joyce … I was privileged to watch my mother slip away Home with cancer four years ago. I was able to be in her home and care for her in the months preceding her death. It was a difficult experiene but also an honor and a sacred experience. God be with you and your family at this time.

  7. 14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free.

    Jesus, I’m getting a taste of how much you love me. Please forgive me for throwing your blood back in your face by trying to be self-sufficient, by working so hard to protect myself, and for fearing the disapproval of others. I’m overwhelmed by seeing the lengths of I have gone to in order to protect myself rather than finding my strength and protection in you. But thank you for showing me so that I can turn to you to receive Your strength and freedom. Thank for your your faithfulness to me during these last difficult years; thank you that I don’t and didn’t have to be free of sin for you to love me, give me strength, and work in areas of my life. Thank you for your timing, that you know when and how to convict me of sin and woo me back to you. Bind my wandering heart to you, Lord. I love you and want to be faithful. You know my weakness. Thank you that you won’t let me go.

    1. Yes Lord, I agree with Renee and Tammy in prayer for Dennis and Mary Kay and thank you for the strength you have given our family through out this long ordeal. I praise you so much for pulling us together in your love, for I can see many wonderful things that we have been blessed by you, in the last year and a half, from this dementia Mary Kay suffer’s from.

      I’m humbled by all of you sweet ladies that have carried us in your prayers all this time. Renee and Tammy, you understand pain and suffering and your love for Jesus is shining through…thank you so much for your prayers. Jesus, you do know our weakness’s and failures and still hold us close to you. I am praising you, God with every fiber of my being. I am in awe of you, and can’t wait untill we are all with you for all eternity, Lord! No more pain or sorrow or tears any more:)

  8. 13. What is your take-away and why?

    This is always the hardest question for me! There is so much good stuff going on this week. I think the passage in Colossians 3:5-11, particularly verse 10, that went along with the Keller sermon, became a little “radioactive” for me – as I saw that word “renewed”, and in the sidebar of my Bible it said also “renovated”. It opened up a whole new understanding for me. This also ties in with the above that Dee wrote that the gospel not only has the power to save us, but to FREE us from the power of sin in our lives. This is what I want to take-away from this week – I can be set free!

    So many really good, thoughtful comments by everyone, I wrote down many. What Elizabeth shared from Keller’s book, “Counterfeit Gods”, was helpful.

    14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting free.

    Heavenly Father, I confess to You and ask You to forgive me for being an idolater. There are so many things in my life that I make my identity, that I rely on to give me significance, meaning, and value. Good things that You have given to me, that I have turned into ultimate things and worship them, instead of You. Thank you for opening my eyes to see how I have made idols out of my children, needing them to give me love, significance, the comfort of their presence, making it hard for me to release them. I see that I get a huge need met for security through my mom and dad and that they are still in the home I grew up in, the place that was always my safe place from the world when I was growing up. It has been so painful to see that threatened, the thought of our home being sold, the thought of one day losing mom and dad. They have been my security, always there for me. I see now why I have struggled with being jealous and resentful of one family member, because I see her taking from me the attention, the praise, the approval and affirmation that I want for myself. Lord, unmasking these idols is hard and painful, but maybe not so hard as continuing to live enslaved to them. Thank you so much for choosing to make me Your child, and I pray for myself, and all the women here, that You, Jesus, will set us free from the idols – “If the Son sets you free, you will be free, indeed” – that is my prayer for all of us, to set us free from the power of sin. Oh Lord, be the Double Cure for us!
    In Jesus’ Name,

    1. Susan, Your prayer is eye-opening to me: “I see that I get a huge need met for security through my mom and dad and that they are still in the home I grew up in, the place that was always my safe place from the world when I was growing up.” This is so timely for me and will help me bring before the Lord my attachment to a place (and perhaps even decision to move) to let Him shine light, reveal idolatry.

  9. 13. What is your take-a-way and why? I echo a lot of what every one has posted about recognizing their functional idol and have pages of notes from the Keller sermon. The 2 key things for me are You may fall into sin, but you are not being dominated by the flesh if you can see it and are disturbed by it. I know that I am in a battle, but I am not being overpowered by sin. #2 I have offended God who has shown me love and kindness, who has stretched out His hand to help me. I have thrown His blood in his face. A very powerful word picture.

  10. January 15, 2012…..

    13. What is your take-a-way and why? My takeaway from this week is the importance of the “understanding” of the gospel, why Jesus came, why He said the Holy Spirit could not come til He left and that is so we could be set free from bondage and we can’t set ourselves free without the help of the initial salvation experience, the Holy Spirit coming in to indwell us and help us to see that we “are” the righteousness of God” through Jesus Christ. And we must believe with all our heart. So many times I have asked myself the question, “with all the Bible studies you’ve studied why have you never become that new creature you are supposed to be. It’s a lifetime of repentance and we can lag on this or we can be quick to repent—that is up to us and our free will but as we understand more about how much He loves us and wants us to walk in liberty so we can serve him. May sound simple in a way but actually it is very hard because of the old man fighting the new man, lack of obedience, outside things that vie for our attention, and just life itself that we have no choice but to live. But God said in Deuteronomy 30:19 that He sets before us life and death and then He tells us, “Choose life.” When I waste time, “choose life” –when I feel sorry for myself and my health, “Choose life” –when I feel like someone has unjustly accused me—choose life!!! Choose life! Choose life! Choose life!!!

    14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free
    Father God, I repent for all the time I have wasted in my life doubting and disbelieving that I can overcome much more than I have already overcome through the cross. You sent your Son to set us free from sin and death and He bore those sins for us and you see us as righteous not because we deserve it but because you gave it to us freely as a gift. Jesus said He had to leave but when He did He would send us a helper.” Thank you Lord for the miracle of salvation. Lord, I ask you to strengthen me—and if it is your will, heal me. You know the areas that I struggle with such as doubting myself and what is worse doubting you. I have physical and emotional idols in my life and I repent of these things that hold me back from stepping out in faith once again and I know that as I drink the living water and seek first your kingdom I will once again taste that freedom. Amen

  11. 13. What is your take-a-way and why?

    It is SO important that I keep DAILY “appointments” of confession and communion with Christ to experience His Cleansing Power in my life…thank you Lord!

    14. Confess, give thanks, and petition concerning where you are in bondage and how you are getting set free.

    Stones…Control & Manipulation; Comfort & Security
    I must relinquish my agenda to Christ’s and place my Trust in Him, rather than man. He has provided and blessed many, many times throughout my life in unexpected and wonderful ways…why would I continue to want to take the wheel from His hands? What does this look like? Being fussy…complaining…whining…nagging, worrying. Lord, I repent right now of all that “junk” in my life. Please cleanse my heart and renew my mind, for Your glory and the temporal and eternal good of those who my life touches. Thank you for what you are going to do TODAY! I LOVE YOU!

  12. I actually get these updates every so often and follow what the subject matter is sometimes but never responded or never joined in this study. But for some reason today, it was different. So I am beginning at the top of the page and doing the questions.
    1. The 2 works of the Holy Spirit are being released from the penalty and power of sin
    2. When I listened to Chrisse’s story what I was thinking was that that’s the way I feel sometimes.
    but how can that be if I am a Christian.
    3. The body of christ ( I think in the form of Jan) helped you see that there was a negative pattern in your life.
    4. Three Primary Idols:

    control/power – example. wanting to control everything and everyone
    Affirmation/approval – being a people pleaser, will do anything for acceptance
    comfort/security – use whatever means to comfort, being insecure.

    The last one stood out to me more. I think because sometimes I feel insecure a lot but I didn’t think this list was a idolatry list at first. I thought a person needs affirmation more than approval but comfort/security stood out to me because I feel these are lacking in my life.