I love the opening scene of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. After dodging a number of deadly booby-traps in a hidden temple, Jones finds the piece of history he has been looking for. As he stares at the golden idol sitting on a stone platform, he knows he can’t just grab it. If he does, some other ancient trap awaits him. So he takes out a bag meant to replace the weight of the idol. After removing a little sand from the bag and making a semi-educated guess, he carefully makes the switch. Jones is seemingly successful for a few seconds until the platform shifts, walls begin to crumble, and he is forced to flee from a giant boulder.
Jones’ idol switch is a helpful picture of what it means to identify and destroy idols in the Christian life. Idolatry is ascribing supreme worth to any created thing. Everything is created except for God. Therefore, Idolatry is worshipping anything other than God. Now, here’s where the Indiana Jones illustration breaks down (as all illustrations do). What’s needed to replace the idols in our hearts is not something of equal weight, but something greater. What is greater than the weight of idols? The weightiness of God’s glory.
Isaiah 44 shows us the weightiness of God’s glory and the foolishness of Idolatry. Verses 6-8 tell us that Yahweh is the King of Israel, the redeemer, the first and the last, and the solid rock. “Is there any God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (v.8) Verses 9-20 proceed to show just how foolish it is to seek satisfaction and redemption in anything other than the one true God. The one who does feeds on ashes with a deluded heart (v.20)
One helpful way to identify your idols is to ask yourself, “What makes me anxious and/or angry?” Evaluating anxiety and anger helps us get to the root of our idolatry because these are emotions we experience when we aren’t receiving something we want. If you’re anxious about a bigger income and a higher standard of living all the time, then you may idolize money or material things. If you get angry all the time when your schedule is interrupted and things don’t go your way, then you may idolize control. If a majority of your free time is spent in front of the T.V. then your idol may be comfort or entertainment. Prayerfully and humbly dig deep to find the things you treasure more than God.
Once you’ve sized up your idols, what’s next? Isaiah 44:3 gives us a hint: “I will pour out water on a thirsty land, and streams on dry ground..” This prophecy points us directly to Jesus who said in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” In the Gospel, Jesus stands before the platform of our hearts, removes our idols, and replaces them with the all-satisfying water of the Holy Spirit. Thomas Chalmers writes, “The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.” In other words, the best way to rid your heart of idols is to repent, fix your eyes on Jesus, and repeat.
Helpful Resources on Idolatry
–Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller (Book)
-Keller’s 20 Questions Toward Diagnosing Your Heart Idols (Blog Post)
–The Expulsive Power of A New Affection by Thomas Chalmers (Sermon PDF)
–The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Essay PDF)