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Sermon response Q: How do I know when I’m making my family an idol?

January 11, 2010

The concept of idols of the heart has been – in a word – rocking some people in our church for the last two weeks.  I’ve gotten at least a dozen emails, text messages, phone calls, and conversations including questions about identifying idols of the heart.  Most of them can be summed up like this question that is verbatim copied/pasted from a message from a Bridger…

How do you know when you’re making your family an idol?…When my “job” is my family and when what you want for them is to know Jesus and glorify Him…how do you know when it’s taking over the place where God should be?

Here’s my response…

Dear ___________,

This is so tough because The Bible says the human heart with indwelling sin is “deceitful” to us. At every turn when we examine ourselves, the sin in us is working against us to trick us into thinking one of two things usually…

1) I’m fine. What I’m doing is OK, isn’t sin, and that preacher/friend/book/song/verse is “just too radical”. Our hearts will try and justify themselves against the Spirit’s conviction and you’ll find yourself thinking things like – “I work hard; I deserve to be able to ________!”

2) I stand in guilt, am condemned, and should despair. Instead of conviction our hearts will declare condemnation.  It will deceive you by condemning you and you’ll find yourself saying things to yourself like “Man, he’s right. Look at how gross, ugly, and sinful you are. You’ll never be loved and used by God.”

One of the key themes in my personal spiritual life this year is understanding that in the gospel I am simultaneously RIGHTEOUS and SINFUL. If your heart says #1 up there, it’s contrary to the gospel declaration that you’re sinful. If your heart says #2 up there, it’s contrary to the gospel declaration that you’re righteous because of Jesus.

OK, I’m getting somewhere with this I promise : )

Once you enter into the tricky waters of examining your heart for sin/idolatry with those two gospel principles in mind and on guard against both of the above pitfalls, I think these are the questions to ask yourself…

1) Would my life feel purposeless without my family?

2) Could I still rejoice if my family were taken from me?

3) If I lost my family would I experience the deep, deep sadness of having lost something beautiful, precious, and great or the inconsolable despair of having lost the ultimate foundation and source of happiness in my life?

4) Am I able to be happy when things are out of whack in my family? Is that even possible for me?

Please keep in mind, those are Josh Howerton questions and not Jesus questions found in Scripture. Each of them is founded upon a Biblical principle of who God should be to us, but they’re my best shot at the questions I’d ask myself if I were struggling with discerning this idol.

Hope this helps, ____________. I’m struggling along with you.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Shoopman permalink
    January 12, 2010 10:04 am

    I can’t help but wonder if we could apply the same principle in another direction. To learn how to identify a counterfeit $100 bill, agents are trained to know fully the $100 bill – others will stand out in contrast.

    Could we then pose similar questions about our relationship with Jesus? Would my life feel without purpose without Jesus? Am I “empty” or lonely when I do not spend time in prayer or God’s word?

    Just a thought…

  2. January 13, 2010 2:06 pm

    Gentlemen, this is really, really good stuff!

    Scott, looking at it from this perspective was extremely helpful, but I must confess I ended up having to take it a step further! Posing those questions about Jesus definitely gave me warning flags that there were areas I was looking towards idols in place of God, however I was still having difficulty pin-pointing what exactly I was looking towards. I used the same idea of backing into it from that angle but applied it to the following Josh had posted:

    An “idol” is anything created that we look to for something only the Creator can give. Happiness, security, hope, identity, comfort.

    I began asking (very honestly), questions like, “Is Jesus what makes me happy?” “Is Scripture/prayer (etc.) where I seek comfort….find my hope…(.etc.)” The combination of all the questions y’all posted, plus these, with lots of prayer started revealing some patterns!

    Now the task is seeing these patterns through the gospel…TOUGH stuff…but ultimately I believe good!

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