This week I got beat up by my idol. I stubbed my toe, broke my nose and limped away pathetically. Right now, it still hurts like the dickens.
You might think I’ve got a little stone god in my house with more arms and eyes than humanly possible. You might think I tripped over it during a midnight run to the fridge and smacked my nose on the coffee table on the way down. Or, you might think Carrie Underwood stopped by to club me repeatedly with a brick-filled Versace hand bag.
But, reality is stranger than fiction. I got beat up by an idol of my own making, without even knowing I had made it. I can’t see it, smell it, hear it, or touch it. But it is real. And it’s got to go.
The short version is that I made a presentation at work and it wasn’t well received by the one person I needed to persuade – the person whose opinion I valued most in that situation. In fact, rather than persuading him, I made him angry, angry enough to berate me in the meeting.
I responded calmly enough, and we worked through it, making progress over the next day.
But, despite behaving professionally on the outside, I was withering with self-doubt and insecurity on the inside. Am I a loser? Am I incompetent? Am I clueless? This may never happen to you, but I’m an average man trying to be significant in the world. And the thing I fear most of all in life is being useless – not having enough competence in something, anything, to make a meaningful contribution to the people around me.
And that fear can be just plain dangerous.
Tim Keller, a pastor and author from New York City, teaches that both blessing and hardship are tests that reveal the idols of your heart. These tests show us – despite what we say we believe – what we’re really depending on to feel significant, secure, important, happy, or loved. This situation showed me that too much of my sense of significance and security rests on my belief in my own competence. It revealed that I’m depending on my own competence as my functional savior, despite my profession of faith in Christ.
Physician, Heal Thyself
The trouble is that even though I know all this, I can’t help myself. I can’t tell myself to stop clinging that idol. My mind and will are powerless because it’s got a hold on my heart. My head says, “Just stop depending on that idol; you know it’ll never give you permanent satisfaction.” But my idol says, “Oh, you can’t be free. You are mine and you know it.” Just as Saruman, the White Wizard in The Lord of the Rings, had a hold on Théoden, the King of Rohan, my idol won’t let me go. I need a deliverer.
It’s Sunday Morning
And so, in an hour I’m going to church. I go to worship my Deliverer. I go to confess the idol of my heart – my functional savior. I go find grace to help in the time of need. I go to be delivered from my own creation. I go to hear the gospel and be reminded who my real Savior is.
God has given me His Son, His Spirit and His Church that I might experience a free, satisfying and significant life. But, I’m an average guy, and just like Jesus’ first twelve disciples, I’ll be nagged with fear and doubt for a long, long time. My need for a Deliverer won’t be a one-time deal. I’ll need a weekly reminder, a weekly course correction, a weekly re-orientation toward Jesus (at least). And no doubt, over time I’ll discover even more idols in my heart.
So, I’ll keep going to my Deliver. He’ll keep dressing my wounds and reminding me that He already purchased my freedom.
Three Hours Later…
As I worshiped and confessed, I found the grace I needed. Jesus said,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners… – Luke 4:18
Yes, Lord Jesus. Your word is enough.