May 22, 2024

Idols of the heart

By Oloo Laurine

Book title: The Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone

Author: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

It is easy to judge Buddhists for their erected gods and wonder how lame and insane they are.

We read stories of the Israelites creating the golden calf just after God delivered them from Egypt and in our heads go… “How insensitive were they? Who worships a calf?”

Whenever the word idol is mentioned, we think of images that are clearly visible and we picture people bowing down and worshiping the images. While this could be true, idolatry is not limited to such.
In her book, “The Idols of the heart,” Elyse seeks to help readers to understand that idols are more than just the images. An idol is anything we value more than we value God.

She addresses the pervasive issue of idolatry in the lives of Christians, exploring how various desires and longings can take precedence over our relationship with God.

As a seasoned theologian and biblical counselor, Elyse combines theological depth with practical insights to guide readers through a process of self-reflection, which leads to repentance.

The book begins by establishing a solid theological foundation, explaining the nature of idolatry and its roots in the human heart. Fitzpatrick skillfully guides readers through the process of self-examination, helping them identify the subtle and not-so-subtle idols that often go unnoticed.

She brings clarity to the concept of idolatry, demonstrating that it goes beyond physical objects and can manifest in the form of attitudes, desires and misplaced priorities.

The book is grounded in a biblical perspective, drawing on Scripture to identify the subtle ways in which we can replace God the Creator with created things in our hearts.

Fitzpatrick contends that true transformation comes when we recognize and confront these idols, redirecting our affections toward God alone.

In one of the chapters, she insists that when we are unaware or misinformed about God’s jealous desireto be the sole focus of our worship, then we will be more susceptible to worshipping gods of our own making. We have to see God for who he is through the pages of the scripture in order that we may begin to love him, trust him and worship him in truth.

One of the strengths of this book is its balance between sound theology and personal application. Fitzpatrick doesn’t just diagnose the problem but provides practical steps and biblical truths to help readers overcome idolatrous patterns in their lives. In a very compassionate yet convicting way, she offers biblical solutions and insights on how to cultivate a heart that longs for God alone.

The book encourages readers to engage in honest self-reflection and provides guidance on how to uproot idols and replace them with a genuine, God-centered love. This has been achieved through reflection questions at the end of every chapter and prayers in between the main chapters.

The author acknowledges the struggles readers may face in confronting their idols while pointing them toward the grace and power of God for transformation. This blend of empathy and exhortation makes the book engaging and relevant to individuals at various stages of their spiritual journey.

Reading this book, I could identify with the biblical characters that she listed. My fears were illuminated. I was reminded of a few weeks ago when we were having a book study with my friends and one of the questions was, “What are your fears about marriage?” All our answers showed a sense of idolatry. My fear was, “What if I don’t get children?” This shows how much I value children. I felt Rachel’s desiresand pain.

The author understands our fears and insecurities, why we hold on to the things we do, how we can be overly emotional about life and children, and what lengths we’ll go to achieve happiness. But the biggest encouragement was the reminder that we can only find our greatest joy and satisfaction in God alone; not the children, not the good marriage or the good job. All those are good but they do not satisfy our hearts. Only God is able to satisfy our deepest longings.

She writes, “Learning to take great delight and joy in God is the strongest deterrent to idolatry.”

I heartily recommend this book to any woman or man who desires to make God their neverending joy and great delight.

Oloo Laurine is an enthusiastic reader who is currently engaged as an apprentice with I-Serve Africa, a Kenyan organisation that promotes faithful Bible teaching and servant leadership.

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