Week after week, I sit with people who know what their idols are, but seem incapable of eliminating them. I know I worship relationships, but I don’t know how to get rid of that. I know I care too much about how I’m perceived, but how do I stop myself from being crushed when I look like a fool? I know I’ve got to stop looking at porn, but when I get the urge I can’t stop myself. It’s a conversation I have time and time again, and in almost every circumstance there is a principle missing from the discussion. And that principle may be the most important thing we need to know if we’re going to battle with the idols in our lives.
The principle is this: idols are never passively eliminated. Idols are not controlled. Idols are not managed. Idols are not ignored.
Idols must be killed.
We need to aggressively and actively rip them from our lives if we wish to defeat them and live with Christ as the source of our security, value, identity, and love.
But for some reason, we think idols just need to be managed, or more accurately, ignored. If we just avoid intentionally seeking them, if we ignore them, we convince ourselves they will go away. They don’t. What they do is wait until we’re at our weakest and then they come looking for us. Actually it’s our hearts that go searching for them in our weakness when we no longer have the strength to ignore them. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like these idols come searching for us, and we seldom defeat them, because after all, it’s in our weakness that this story is set. But what else can we do? So we set about telling ourselves to be stronger the next time we find ourselves drawn in their direction. We resolve to ensure it never happens again. We make commitments to ourselves and to others. All the while we’re fighting like fools.
No battle is won by allowing your opponent to choose the battle field. The field is one of the most crucial aspects of any battle. Setting the stage is of the utmost importance, and yet because we think battling idols is passive, we just sit back and let our enemy choose when and where the battle will take place.
Wars are won by those who dictate the battle field. Victory is only possible when we force our opponent into battle when we are at our strongest. We have to fight intentionally, on our schedule. Don’t wait for the fight to come to you when you are weak and unprepared.
Here is where you find out if you truly want to change. You have to aggressively rip out the idol; ensure it cannot succeed. If you are worshiping relationships, say no to the next five people who ask you out, especially if you think they might be the one. Eliminate any chance of finding value in relationships. If you are worshiping how you are perceived, intentionally make a fool of yourself twice a week in front of the people whose opinions matter most to you. Destroy your ability to manage your image. If you are worshiping porn, eliminate every electronic device in your life, even if it means you lose your job. Crush the possibility of slipping up.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve gone too far. Let me leave you with a passage I read recently. It’s a quote from Jesus himself,
Mark 9:43-45 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
I don’t believe Jesus is calling us to destroy our bodies, but I do believe He’s calling us to aggressively, not passively, attack the idols that will destroy us. Don’t wait for it to bring the battle to you. You bring the battle to it. Rip it out and make sure it can’t come back.