MANY OF YOU ARE JUST BEGINNING WITH US
ENCOURAGED BY THE STORIES OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SET FREE
YOU LONG TO BE SET FREE AS WELL
FREE FROM ANXIETY
FREE FROM BEING OVERWEIGHT
FREE FROM BESETTING SINS
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.
THE NEAR SIN VERSUS THE DEEP IDOL
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
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?
ATTACKING THE ROOT PROBLEM
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:
- Comfort/security 
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)
DISCOVERING THE BEAST WITHIN
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.
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,” 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.
 Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1965) p. 12 & pp. 54-55.
 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.