Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Idols of the Heart

Whatever Rules Your Heart Drives Your Behavior. Romans 8:5 shows the key role that our desires play in the way that we live. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” [1]
When Christ is our greatest desire then everything else submits accordingly. When Christ is relegated to something less than first place in our lives that means another desire has taken His rightful place on the throne of our hearts. This desire will then dictate the direction of our lives in matters that are related to it. Our hearts will also then begin to wander away from God’s best for us because we no longer are living with Christ as our first love.  Scripture calls that an “idol of the heart.” We may not have physically bowed to a statue but in our hearts we have committed spiritual adultery and given our heart to another.
In our practical lives our struggles might look like one of the following scenarios:
You stand there looking at new shoes in the store window. Beautiful colors,  famous name brands, and high prices. Will you buy them or not? It depends. What is your greatest desire in that moment. If you find your value in your image, appearance, or opinions of others then you will probably buy them. In that moment it doesn’t really matter that your roommate is struggling financially and could use your help. It also doesn’t matter that you will have to put it on your credit card and pay extra on interest. Your choice will be relatively simple. It just depends on what desires are strongest in the moment.
You are considering a dating relationship with a person who is kind, generous, funny, and makes you feel important and valued. It feels good, but you know that they are not a Christian, and not interested in spiritual things. Do you date them knowing that it might be a step towards marriage? Here it is again, desires at war with each other. Which will win, your desire for the ways and the glory of God or your desire to feel loved, valued, and intimate. If God is your first love then you avoid getting romantically involved. If your desires for love, value, and intimacy are stronger, then you enter into a relationship that will damage your relationship with God, your ministry, and possibly others who follow your example.
            You have been offered a new ministry position. By most it would be considered a promotion. You will have more responsibility, visibility, and salary. It’s not in your area of giftedness or calling, but it would be a reward for how hard you have worked in the past. If you desire value, respect, security, and more control then you will accept the job. If Christ is your chief desire you will stay true to your calling and giftedness and politely refuse the offer trusting God to meet your needs as you work in a less visible position.
You are part of a staff meeting where your ministry is being evaluated. Several weaknesses are pointed out including your work ethic, your prayer life, and your lack of productivity. Those who are critiquing your work are not very diplomatic or sensitive as they speak to you, in front of others. This will be a clear picture of what your chief desires are. If you are desperate for respect, value, and security, then you will become defensive and likely start either blaming or criticizing others so that you look better.  If you are near to Christ and have your needs met through Him then you can stay relaxed and receive any thoughts they have because your joy and your value are not based on the opinion of others.
            You and another staff member or missionary of the opposite gender have a good relationship. You work well together. They make you feel smart and important. They have shared with you that their marriage is struggling. One day they communicate that they are interested in more than just a friendship with you. What do you do? If you are walking with God you will flee and do whatever is necessary to get help for your coworker. If you feel desperately alone, or desire to be “loved” above all else then you will turn your back on God, be drawn into a secret affair, and destroy your ministry.
            In the midst of your ministry and singleness what idol are you most vulnerable to? Is it your desire for companionship, freedom, value, control, contentment, or something else? Beware, these desires are not sinful if they are submitted to our desire for Christ, but once we allow them on the throne of our hearts it is spiritual rebellion and will only bring horrible consequences in our lives and ministries.
Examine your life. In those situations, when you are not like Christ, what desires have claimed the throne of your heart. In the next chapter we will look more at idols of the heart, and how this idea helps us understand how all of life are opportunities for worship.

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Ro 8:5.

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