Counterfeit Gods





“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).

I’m slowly reading Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, and I want to share some of his insights with you. Part of our calling as Christians is to worship God together. The chief enemy of this worship is idolatry. Keller calls it “taking some incomplete joy of this world and building your entire life on it” (page xiii). Here are some other helpful quotes from the introduction:

  • “We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life” (page xix).
  • “What is an idol? It is anything more important to you that God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (page xix).
  • “An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought” (page xx).
  • “The Bible uses three basic metaphors to describe how people relate to the idols of their hearts. They love idols, trust idols, and obey idols” (page xxiii).
  • “The way forward, out of despair, is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one” (page xxvi).
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Keller lists many potential idols in his introduction. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • Beauty
  • Power
  • Money
  • Achievement
  • Body image
  • Career
  • Wealth
  • Prestige
  • Romantic relationships
  • Possessions
  • Family
  • Success
  • Athletics
  • Children
  • Critical acclaim
  • Social standing
  • Peer approval
  • Competence and skill
  • Comfortable circumstances
  • Political or social causes
  • Morality and virtue
  • Success in Christian ministry
  • Fixing other people
  • Sex
  • Patriotism
  • Appearance
  • Health and fitness
  • Technology
  • Progress
  • Freedom
  • Self-discovery
  • Hard work
  • Personal fulfilment
  • Self-expression

One of our most central practices as fellow Christians is daily shaking the idols off our heals so we can move forward in our worship of the one true God together. Let’s ask ourselves:

  • What incomplete worldly joy am I tempted to build my life upon?
  • What good thing am I wrongly expecting to satisfy my deepest needs and hopes?
  • What is more important to me than God?
  • What absorbs my heart and imagination more than God?
  • What do I seek to give me what only God can give?
  • What controls my heart so much that I am willing to give most of my passion, energy, and resources to without a second thought?
  • What idols am I loving, trusting, and obeying?

Let’s have the courage to repent of our idolatry, even if it makes us go against the grain of our culture. Imagine how it would reinvigorate our Christian life together! Imagine how it would transform our weekly gathered worship!

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