Stephen Speaks, the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS, recently shared with me a chart he developed based on material from Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
On the left hand side four broad categories of idols are listed: comfort, approval, control, and power. These idols are at the root of our sinful choices, feelings, and words. Along the top six categories unpack the idols in their practical outworking in our lives.
These idols so often go unrecognized in our lives because they masquerade as good qualities in our hearts and lives. Someone with an idol of comfort can often present themselves as a laidback, easygoing person. Likewise, someone with an idol of control can come across as very competent. In each case, the idolatry tends to be hidden by the genuine good character trait(s) that we can possess when enslaved by the idol.
The next column shows the price we are willing to pay to serve our false god. Those worshipping power are willing to bear enormous burdens and responsibilities to get their lust fulfilled. Those who long for approval will tend to sacrifice independence if only they are accepted by others.
The third column is the inverse of the second - what is it that we most fear when we are ruled by these idols? What do we not want to happen? This column can be most helpful in identifying which idol(s) has captured your heart.
The fourth and fifth columns speak to how our idolatries affect us and other people. What are the emotional manifestations that we will struggle with, and how will others be impacted by our functional idolatry? The person living for control will typically be filled with anxiety, and will make others feel condemned. The person living for the approval of man will be filled with fear and cowardice, and will make others feel smothered. In neither case will we actually get what we want, either in relation to ourselves or others.
The final column of the chart depicts the gospel reality that each idol counterfeits. Our idols promise us what only can be found through faith in Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Recognizing this truth day by day, moment by moment, moves us from idolatry to repentance and trust in God’s mercy.
Spend time meditating on your own life in relation to this chart, and pray that the Lord would expose and root up the idols of your heart.