Idols of the Heart

I have been reading back through an old, favorite article by David Powlison: “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair.’” Powlison published this in The Journal of Biblical Counseling in 1995 (you can read it now on the CCEF blog), and has since gone on to develop a lot of the ideas in several books. This seminal article, though, gives some great insights into idolatry that have been deeply formative on my understanding of human nature and preaching.

Below are just a few highlights:

“The last line of 1 John woos, then commands us: ‘Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21). In a 105-verse treatise on living in vital fellowship with Jesus, the Son of God, how on earth does that unexpected command merit being the final word?”

“If ‘idolatry’ is the characteristic and summary Old Testament word for our drift from God, then ‘desires’ is the characteristic and summary New Testament word for the same drift. Both are shorthand for the problem of human beings.”

“Idolatry is a problem of the heart, a metaphor for human lust, craving, yearning, and greedy demand.”

“The deep question of motivation is not ‘What is motivating me?’ The final question is, ‘Who is the master of this pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior?’ In the biblical view, we are religious, inevitably bound to one god or another. People do not have needs. We have masters, lords, gods.”

“Unconditional love says, ‘I love you just as you are.’ But the Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, ‘God accepts you just as Christ is.”

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