So many of you have written, saying,
“It is so helpful to see the sin beneath my sin.”
Ezekiel, whom Jesus quoted when talking to Nicodemus in John 3,
calls the sin beneath the sin, a “heart idol.”
You cannot see heart idols, but you can see the bad fruit they produce.
When anything bad comes out of your mouth or life, it is because
you are looking to a heart idol to rescue you.
Tim Keller has given three primary categories of heart idols which Leslie Vernick has diagrammed with this chart:
But when we
do not look to Him,
do not run to Him,
we run to something else to meet that soul need.
When a good gift becomes a god in our heart, then we do not just desire it, but demand it.
The rich fool in Luke looked to build bigger barns to feel secure.
We may look to food to be our comfort.
Or the praise of man for love and affirmation.
But these are all lies that may help momentarily but then will turn and cut us to pieces.
WE DON’T TRUST JESUS AND HIS LOVE.
I’ve been reading Abba’s Child and it’s giving me a heart wound.
How often I, as Brennan Manning puts it, play the imposter,
wanting people to think well of me, looking to the idol of approval,
instead of to Jesus.
The other day I told a lie so quickly it astonished me,
wanting to cover that up about myself, to look better than I am.
A white lie, I told myself.
“Imposter,” His Spirit said.
“Don’t you know you are already loved just as you are?”
Manning asks: “Do you believe Jesus likes you — not just that He loves you because theologically He has to?”
Do I believe He is tender toward me, despite all my stuff?
That is key to being delivered from our idols.
He referred to an incident in Israel’s history when God’s people were grumbling and God sent poisonous snakes. He told Moses to lift up a serpent in the wilderness. Those who looked at that serpent were rescued.
In the same way, Jesus said, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15) The Greek word for “believe,” (pisteuon) means “exercise faith in, trust in.” Let us learn what this means so we may be rescued not only from the penalty of sin, but also, from the power of sin.
Let your heart be prepared for this Sabbath day and this week with this:
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
2. Read John 3:14-15. What illustration is given to Nicodemus?
3. Read Numbers 21:4-9.
A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?
B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears?
C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?
D. What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)
E. What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?
Watch this re-enactment of the Samaritan woman.
4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been?
5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?
This is true not only in salvation, but each day:
And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too,
for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.
Colossians 2:6 (TLB)
6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.
The movie, Chariots of Fire, told the story of two men who had a gift for running. One man, Harold Abrahams, according to the movie, made it his idol, saying, “I have to win to justify my existence.” The other Eric Liddell, didn’t have to win. He didn’t even have to run — but when he ran, he felt God’s pleasure. When he began to feel God’s pleasure, he threw his head back. He was known for this for it was such a strange way to run, people wondered if he would trip. I see it as looking to Jesus, as drawing on the power within, Christ in Him, the hope of glory. Whether he won or not, he felt God’s pleasure. Therefore he was able to overcome the temptation of envy or discouragement which plagued Harold Abrahams. Christ was his life. This is a photo of the actual Eric Liddell running. And then, I have the clip from Chariots of Fire.
We often fail to understand and believe that the gospel has the power to deliver us from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. I have a dear friend whose prayer request for the year is that she would see the “risen-ness of Christ” as she trusts Him with various challenges in her life. (She got it from Abba’s Child) Instead of running to her idols, she wants to come to Jesus and find His risen life in her to be sufficient. She memorizes and can go back to the Word at those times, speaking to her soul. She also is keeping a “one thousand gifts” pad to keep herself thankful, instead of grumbling as the Israelites did before God sent snakes. I remember that our own Rebecca when faced with changing her eating habits, turned to reading edifying books that taught of intimacy with God. They are replacing their idols by “looking” to Jesus. I often remember what Rebecca said, “It wasn’t a quick fix — but He came to me slowly.” The Israelites, in Numbers 21:4 “became impatient.” May God help us to wait upon Him that we may rise up on wings like eagles.
7. Read Colossians 3:1-4 and write down instructions that will help you look to Jesus instead of to your idols.
Thursday-Friday: Free sermon
I have a classic Keller sermon on overcoming idols of the heart. It is free. You may have heard it before, but because this is such a huge problem for everyman, listen again. Then share your comments.
8. What’s your take-a-way and why?