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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Idols of the Heart" (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

TITLE: Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, Revised and Updated
AUTHOR: Elyse Fitzpatrick
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 2016, (240 pages).

We all have idols, whether we are aware of it or not. Scripture has made it very clear about the dangers of idolatry. The Old Testament warns Israel and the people of God through the Ten Commandments and the many prophetic warnings. The New Testament reiterates the need for believers to keep ourselves from idols. Reformers such as John Calvin had said that the human heart is essentially an "idol making factory." The issue has also led many modern authors to repeat the warning for our generation. Tim Keller did it through "Counterfeit Gods." Kyle Idleman uses "Gods at War" to warn us about those gods that battle against us. Popular pastor Pete Wilson reminds us that idols mainly offer "Empty Promises." Ted and Kristin Kluck exposes the "Household Gods" in our families.  In this book, author and conference speaker, Elyse Fitzpatrick chimes in with an updated edition to repeat the same warnings, so that we can learn to long for God alone. At the heart of her book is this: What does it take to long for God and God alone?

Her Answer: Identify the idols of our heart and to make sure they do not usurp God.

First things first, identification. In 1998, she did a twelve-day tour to see the gods of East Asia. She noticed the many temples of worship and used them as a metaphor for our own spiritual temples and idols. This is not a modern problem. It happened way back in the Old Testament. In the story of Rachel's gods in Gen 31, she notes how Rachel felt weak, afraid, and insecure that she had to had to steal the gods from her old place even as she leaves with her husband for a new location. Her decision to take the idols is simply because she wanted a god who could give her anything she wanted. Such an attitude can be applied to modern living in the way singles wish for a godly husbands or mothers wanting children; or parents desiring their children to excel academically. We think that such gods can bless us. Unfortunately, what they are doing is creating divided allegiance in us. We become worried and find it hard to think, to meditate, to remember, and to trust God. Fitzpatrick shows us the deeper meaning of what it means to have no other gods before God Almighty.

Second, we learn to ask ourselves on what or who is our first importance. Where is our treasure? To what extent are we ready to obey the Ten Commandments? Thankfully, we have help. In the Spirit, we can ask God to show us that these gods are useless. Only God is faithful. For God knows our hearts. He knows our deepest needs. He desires us to follow Him and to trust that He will provide. The Spirit not only helps us to identify the idols, He even enables us to fight them. Think of how God helped Daniel and his friends. Remember Augustine, that great man of learning who is able to conclude that the ultimate need for all of us is to rest in God. In fighting the idols, we are on the way to know our own hearts.

Third, we are then able to pursue God, unhindered by the clutches of these idols. We cultivate thoughts of God. We gradually learn to pursue God for who He is rather than for what we need. Our obedience move from reluctance to willingness. We reach the great threshold of spiritual turnaround when we honestly deny ourselves. The author also provides a weekly schedule to crush our idols. We learn about progressive sanctification as a threefold process: Put off the old; Renew ourselves; Put on the new. We also deal with the inner emotions such as anger, fear, theft, hurts, and worry. All of these are symptoms of a idolatrous heart.

I am thankful for books like this to remind us that we are more vulnerable than we think. Often, there are people who have believed for many years, and yet feel unfulfilled and anxious about life. While they want to do good, they find it hard to let go of their daily spiritual struggles. What Fitzpatrick has done for us is to give us a simple plan of identifying the gods. Seek the help of our one True God. Let God empower us to put off the old; to be transformed inside; to put on the new; and then to apply specific actions so that we can pursue God for who God is.

Idoltary is not going away anytime soon. As long as there are humans, temptations lurk at every corner. One of the most powerful temptations is the pursuit of success. When this becomes the overwhelming concern, it is easy for a success-infatuated person to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. Christians are also susceptible to such things. If we want to long for God, to desire God for who He is, and to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, dealing with our idols is not an option. It is a necessary action or series of actions.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of P&R Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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