Book Review: Idols of the Heart

idols of the heart 

It’s what I have decided to refer to as “The Perfect Storm”.  It started with a nagging feeling for several weeks.  Then, my pastor preached a sermon from Zephaniah.  Yes, it was time to face it.  I had/have a problem with idolatry.  The Sunday of the convicting Zephaniah sermon, I came home and pulled the book, Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone off my shelf and dusted off the cover.  It’s written by Elyse Fitzpatrick.  Her writing is always spot on, and her teaching is sound.  I purchased this book a while back when I realized that I really liked her as an author, but as I do with so many books, I bought it and then shelved it while reading another book and forgot about it.  But as my pastor was preaching on the various types of idolatry we harbor in our hearts, all the while condemning others whose idolatry is more obvious, I remembered this book, and knew that it was time to face the music, and allow Elyse to once again, with the great help of the Holy Spirit, guide me through the process of getting rid of the idols in my own heart.

Elyse begins the book with a staggering statistic.

 

Seventy-six percent of Americans polled consider themselves completely true to the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” –Exodus 20:3

 

And to be truthful, just a few short weeks ago, I might have been in that 76 percent.  But Elyse goes on to explain to us…

 

Idols aren’t just stone statues.  No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God.   Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need.

 

Jesus said that the primary love in your heart has to be centered on God.  Anything less than that is idolatry.

 

And conviction sets in…I am a habitual person.  If I wake up at 6:00 am for a few mornings, I will continue waking up that early until something drastic stops my routine, such as a sickness.  If I have a sweet treat after dinner for a few nights in a row, I’ll have a tendency to do that every night simply out of habit.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  Because I am a very habitual person, I set up routines easily and quickly.  This is great with homeschooling and house cleaning, but it can be terrible when we’re talking idolatry.  Remember that nagging feeling that I talked about earlier?  Well, that started because I had realized that every time I sat down, I had to check my phone-email, facebook, my favorite blogs.  But it was every single time I had a spare moment.  Because of that, I was missing out on moments when I could have been interacting with my kids, stealing a few minutes to read my Bible or a thought-provoking book, or even simply meditating on God’s goodness and character.  Yes, I knew that my phone, as wonderful a tool as it is, had become an idol in my heart.  It’ funny how God works things out, but at exactly that time, we had been going over our data usage on our plan.  We don’t have internet at our house, so we use our data plan on our phones any time we need internet, and you can rack up data quickly that way, especially when you’re watching Magic School Bus videos to go with your Science curriculum.  Anyway, we had to shut the data completely off of our phones.  As much as I hated it, I knew how desperately I needed it.  I needed something drastic to break my habits and set me on the right track to freeing myself from this form of idolatry.  Since then, I have worked on resetting my mind and establishing some ground rules for myself, such as a schedule of when I can get online and when I can’t, and I’m praying that God will help me to keep technology in its rightful place.

The really funny thing is that I thought that was my main area of idolatry.  Little did I know that there are many more areas of idolatry that I never even considered.  I love the song, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. My favorite part of this song is the very last verse which says,

 

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above!

 

I love this verse because it’s so true.  As Elyse Fitzpatrick puts it, our hearts have a natural bent to “manufacture gods.”  We are prone to wander.  And only God can truly keep us.

 

Without the work of God’s Spirit, we’ll worship everything, rather anything, but God.  He must work, then, to incline our hearts to worship Him.

 

One of my favorite parts of this book (there are several) is when the author says, “Incorrect thinking about God’s character breeds idolatry.” I think this is what plagues America right now more than anything.  We want to think of God as only loving, not as just and jealous.  We think wrongly of His perfect character, because we want to make Him more like us.  That’s wrong and that sets up idolatrous thoughts and desires.  As Elyse says,

“We must be careful to worship God as He has presented Himself in Scripture….If we worship a god who is anything less than this, or other than this, we’re not worshiping the God of the Bible.  We are worshiping a god of our creation….We want the comfort of a loving god without the demands of a holy god.”

 

There are many forms of idolatry, and many of these forms are not golden calves and little statues of Buddha.  We tend to serve the god of fear, the god of our reputation, the god of being liked, the god of money.  It goes on and on.  These gods are deceptive and sly.  They sneak in the back door of our minds and they have taken hold before we realize it.  In Idols of the Heart, Elyse says that we must get rid of these idols, but we must first, rely completely on God.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, our efforts are futile.  We need to pray daily (maybe even minute by minute) that God will help us to tear down these idols in our hearts.  We must replace these idols with God’s Word, memorizing and hiding it in our hearts.  We must remember that pleasing God is better than any pleasures that the world has to offer.

 

This is another book that I could go on and on about.  I have highlighted something on almost every page.  This book has been one of those lasting impact books.  I’ll read this one again and probably again.  Elyse uses scripture after scripture to back up her writing, and she puts it in a way that is thought-provoking.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone.  I know that my heart is changing because of the things the Holy Spirit brought to light while reading this book, as part of my “Perfect Storm”.

 

We’ll always battle against our sin nature, and our obedience won’t be perfected until heaven,

But the focus of our lives should be evidenced in a growing joy in obedience and submission.

 

I am well aware that this battle of idolatry is far from over, as sin is something I’ll always struggle with, but I do pray that my life is marked by a growing joy in obedience and submission, because a life used for the glory of God is a life fulfilled and a life lived with no regrets.

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