Hands up to the sky breaking free from handcuffs

Breaking Free from Subtle Idols in Our Hearts

When you realize you are desperate for something, recognize that thing is likely an idol. You can make anything an idol. Even good gifts from God.

An idol can be

  • A person—ourselves, our husbands, our children, a president, a pastor, a boss, a friend, an actor, a singer, etc…
  • A concept—happiness, romance, marriage, fame, power, popularity, beauty, control, a promotion, lust, porn, a false religion, etc…
  • A thing—money, a fancy house, being a certain weight/size, jewelry, possessions, cars, surgery, drugs, alcohol, etc…

An idol is an unhealthy addiction. It is something you look to for your security, identity, purpose, and ultimate fulfillment other than the Lord.

We are all prone to creating idols in our hearts. In our culture, we don’t even realize what we are doing because we don’t go to a shrine and bow down and offer sacrifices.

But we actually do bow down and sacrifice to our more subtle idols. We sacrifice time, energy, relationships, family, God, and anything we think we need to in order to get what we want most.

We can have many idols in our hearts at the same time.

4 signs of idolatry

  • Desperation “I HAVE to have this thing in my life or my life is worthless!”
  • Extreme fear of losing the idol, “If I lost my husband/my child/my beauty/this house/my money, my life would be over. I would just want to kill myself.”
  • Willingness to do anything, including sin, to get or keep the idol.
  • Depression because you don’t have what you want most or because you have it but it is never enough.

Results of idolatry

When you trust idols you are not trusting God. And when you don’t trust God, the results include:

  • pride, self-righteousness
  • fear, anxiety, worry
  • bitterness, resentment, malice, jealousy
  • disappointment, despair, desperation, depression, loneliness suicidal thoughts/attempts
  • control, disrespect, selfishness
  • harming others, grieving God, harming ourselves
  • broken fellowship with God, unanswered prayers, spiritual powerlessness, dysfunctional relationships

But you don’t have to be a slave to a lifeless idol that can’t save you! Jesus can set you free from the power of idolatry! PRAISE GOD!

10 Steps to Tear Out Idols in Your Heart

  1. Study God’s character and attributes. Get to know who He is and stand in total awe of Him. He alone is good. He IS love. He is life. He is perfect. There is nothing evil in Him at all. He is the Creator. He is the Judge. He is the Savior and He alone is worthy to be worshipped as King of kings and Lord of lords.
  2. Humble yourself. Study your place in the universe according to Scripture. Recognize God is infinitely higher, holier, more powerful, and He is sovereign. You are not God. You are not the Holy Spirit. You are small and weak next to God. You need Him. Die to your old self and old desires. Receive your new identity in Christ and live in that, not your old self.
  3. Bow yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and purposely exalt Him alone to the throne of your life. Decide you will live to love and honor Him. Seek His will and His glory. Seek His presence passionately knowing He is the Greatest Treasure in the Universe. Lay down your idols before Him and invite Him to do what is ultimately best. Be willing to mentally/emotionally let go of the idols. Hold them loosely and hold onto God tightly.
  4. Don’t feed your desire for your idols. For example, if your idol is romance, you may not be able to read romantic novels or watch romantic movies if you end up feeling dissatisfied with your life afterward. Remind yourself, “This thing can’t ultimately satisfy me. Only Jesus can give me Living Water. Everything else is a broken cistern that can’t satisfy.”
  5. Nourish your soul with time in God’s Word and prayer daily. Guard that time zealously. Come to God for a two-way relationship. Sit at His feet and receive His goodness, love, and fellowship. Rejoice in His presence. Taste how good He is. Ask God to help you desire Him far above anything else.
  6. Confess any sin you notice immediately and repent. Don’t let it fester and brew and get worse. As we get rid of sinful thoughts quickly, we are much more sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings, loving reminders, and even gracious rebukes.
  7. Be aware of the red flags/triggers that you are falling for an idol and take your thoughts captive for Christ right away. Turn from the desire for the idol and purposely set your hope and faith in Christ alone. If you see you are getting resentful because your husband isn’t doing something you wanted him to do, remind yourself that your ultimate security and faith is in Jesus, not in a person. Remind yourself to seek your contentment and satisfaction in Christ above all else.
  8. Sing songs of praise to God and speak His Word and promises out loud often. This is spiritual warfare and your weapons are praise, prayer, worship, and the Word of the Lord. You don’t have power against the enemy on your own. But the Lord sure does!
  9. Read what God’s Word says about idols and those who worship them and what happened to the Israelites and other nations who worshipped idols. Remind yourself that idolatry is one of the most heinous and egregious sins people can commit against the Lord. It feels like adultery to Him.
  10. Ask God to help you hate idolatry as much as He does. Ask Him to help you see your motives clearly so you can catch any wrong thinking right away and take your thoughts captive for Christ. Ask Him to help you be aware of what you are thinking. 

The most important thing is to remember that you are to be a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2)

So you yield all of yourself, your will, your desires, your dreams, your plans, your time, your future, etc… to the Lord. And you seek Him, His will, His desires, His plans, His glory, and His purposes with all that you have and all that you are, trusting Him to do what is best in light of eternity.

Scripture about Idolatry

  • You shall have no other gods before me. Ex. 20:3 (the greatest commandment)
  • Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Col. 3:5
  • Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. Jonah 2:8
  • All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Isa. 44:9
  • Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Cor. 10:14

Related

A prayer to overcome idolatry and set Christ firmly on the throne of our hearts.

The Idol of Happiness

I Was SURE I Would Never Make My Husband an Idol – a guest post

My Secret Idol (a wife with an unbelieving husband’s idol is her husband’s salvation)

For more information, here is a post by a wife who realized her husband was her idol:

For baby steps on how to put Christ on the throne of your heart and not idolize your husband but have a healthy relationship with him, please check out my book, The Peaceful Wife.

To see how to stop idolizing your children, check out chapter 7 of The Peaceful Mom.

18 thoughts to “Breaking Free from Subtle Idols in Our Hearts”

  1. I receive every single word, I wanna be free from this nasty thing FOR GOOD, I know Jesus is doing it! It must be the #1 problem which spirals down n down n down into a pit of endless destruction! SO THANKFUL FOR JESUS!!!!

    1. Jaimie N Mills,

      Praising God that He can set us free from this junk and snare! Jesus is so very good. May we taste and see that He alone can satisfy our souls.

      Much love!

  2. My life used to be filled with idols, until I realized that I was miserable, and my life was a complete mess. I would never want to go back to that time in my life, but I am so grateful for the journey with God.

    1. jeannieremyministries,

      My life was filled with many idols, too. And I had no idea! But what a miserable way to live. Whew! Miserable for me, my husband, our kids, and everyone around me. Not to mention how grieved God’s heart was.

      Like you, I never want to go back to that dark place. PRAISE GOD for His willingness and ability to deliver us from the pit and set us on the Solid Rock of Christ.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Much love!

    1. Martha M,

      If you feel overwhelmed by this. Take just a bite at a time.

      It’s challenging because your thinking about God is very skewed right now.

      I believe the best first step is to study a bit about who God really is. Write down the characteristics you learn. Decide to believe that the Bible is true, not your experience or feelings.

      Start with this post..

      Maybe even listen to some podcasts by Wayne Grudem on the Attributes of God. Scroll down til you get to that part.

      Write down what you see that you have believed about God subconsciously. Maybe things like:
      – He’s not really good.
      – He’s small and wimpy.
      – He doesn’t care about me.
      – He can’t help me.
      – He won’t help me.
      – He doesn’t love me.
      – I have to handle everything myself.
      – I can’t trust God.
      – God has evil motives.
      – The only person I can trust is myself.

      Then write out what the Bible actually says about who God is. You may need to spend some serious time on each of the following points. And you can look up scripture about it. Let me know if you need help with how to do that. <3

      Examples of what you might write down after reading scripture about God's character:

      - God alone is good. There is no person who is good, not even one. Not even me.
      - I am not God. God is God. I do not have all power. God does.
      - God is not like my earthly dad. My earthly dad messed up in X, Y, and Z ways. But my heavenly Father is completely perfect, holy, and good. I need to separate my understanding of God from my feelings for my earthly dad. I need a new much more accurate picture of God.
      - God is big and powerful. I am small and wimpy. I have had those two things reversed in my head since I was a little girl because of my childish misunderstandings and pain I experienced as a girl.
      - God absolutely cares about me. All I have to do is look at the cross and see what Jesus did for me. He paid my massive sin debt on the cross in my place so that I could be free from hell and free from every condemnation and so that I could have a right relationship with God. Not because I am so awesome or perfect. I am not. I have nothing good in me in my own sinful nature. But God did this for me because He is love and because He is so awesome. And He offers me all of the goodness of Jesus. He offers to pay for my huge debt and give me Jesus' massive surplus spiritually. Wow!
      - God promises that He can and will help me if I trust Him and yield to His Lordship. He says that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. He promises to use anything that happens in my life, good or bad, for my ultimate good and His glory. He is faithful. I just haven't been seeing Him properly to notice this. But I am going to taste and see that He is good. And I am going to let Him help me build a correct picture of God in my mind and heart. And I am going to build my life on His Word and the Solid Rock of Christ from now on.
      - God will help me if I will humble myself and acknowledge that I need Him and want His help.
      - My shoulders are too weak to handle carrying the weight that only God can carry. Jesus says to come to Him if I am weary and He will give me rest. I am going to let Him carry the heavy weight now. It is okay for me to lay it down. I am not actually holding up the universe. I am exhausting myself trying to play God. He is holding it up. And I can come sit and rest at His feet and He will not let it all fall apart.
      I don't have to handle everything myself. I have the Word of God and thousands of promises that are mine if I am in Christ.
      - I can trust God. I have been afraid to because I have a really skewed picture of God. The messed up picture I have of Him is evil. It's a terrible god. I can't trust that god. But the real God of the Bible, I can trust.
      - God doesn't have evil motives toward me. If He did, He would never have sent the Bible and Jesus and provided for me all of the spiritual blessings of heaven. Satan is the one who has evil motives toward me who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. I have gotten my picture of Satan and God mixed up, most likely. Satan wants me to hate God and not trust God because he knows it will grieve God's heart. Satan loves for me to follow his path of pride and self. He knows it will destroy me. He knows I have been going down his path and he wants to scare me into thinking God will hurt me when it is really him who wants to hurt me.
      - No human is worthy of all of my trust. Certainly not myself. I have been trusting myself and it has made me and everyone around me miserable. The beginning of wisdom is when I don't lean on my own understanding but I acknowledge God in all my ways and He promises to direct my paths and straighten my paths when I trust Him. His wisdom is infinitely higher than mine. It doesn't make sense to me yet, but it will as I allow God to heal me and transform my thinking.

      As you get to know who God really is and you let Him help you tear out the lies that are holding you captive, His love and truth melt away your fears and you will have the courage to do this.

      Much love!

  3. A SAMPLE PRAYER INVITING GOD TO HELP ME TEAR OUT THE IDOLS AND YIELD CONTROL TO HIM ALONE

    Lord,
    I acknowledge that I have exalted other things in my life above You. I have desired earthly things (people, ideas, or material things) more than I desired You. This is not right. In fact, it is a betrayal of Your love and it grieves Your heart deeply when I flirt with the world and become enthralled with lesser things and leave my First Love.

    Help me to see my motives clearly. Let me hate idolatry as much as You do. Help me to see as soon as my heart begins to wander from Your love and goodness. I want to see You more and more. I want to know and love You more and desire You above all else. If I have no appetite for You and the things of God, I am spiritually sick. I have sin in my heart that has to go. Help me get rid of anything that is shoving You out of my life. Help me have a voracious appetite for You, alone!

    I choose today to lay down all of myself in absolute surrender to Your leading. You know best. I do not. You have all wisdom. I do not. You are outside of time and space. I am not. You are sovereign and all-knowing. I am not. You are all-powerful. I am not. You are deity. I am not.

    You alone are worthy of all of my love, heart, mind, soul, and strength. You alone are worthy of my obedience and my greatest passion and desire.

    I lay down my will, my desires, my plans, my wisdom, my future, my body, my possessions, my relationships, my family, my career, my health, my soul, and all that I have on the altar before You in total devotion. I consecrate myself to You. I am for Your holy use alone.

    My purpose is to live for Your will, Your plans, Your glory, Your purposes, and to bring You joy! I want to build my life on Your Word, Your love, and Your truth alone. Anything that is not of You has to go. Help me to see how evil anything that isn’t in alignment with You really is. Help me to be repulsed by everything You call sin.

    I want to know who You really are. I want all of my skewed thinking to go. I want to be enthralled and captivated by Your incredible love for me. Help me shut every door I have opened to the enemy. Help me have the strength and ability to choose You and to reject the world.

    I don’t want to miss out on any of You, Your presence, and Your goodness. I don’t want to miss out on any of Your good plans for me to make me more like Jesus and to make me fruitful for Your kingdom. I open my heart and life up for You to do anything and everything You want to do in and through me for Your glory.

    Amen!

  4. Hi April,
    Just last week I was praying and God showed me my idols. I was devastated when my father committed adultery and abandoned us. It absolutely ruined me. I was full of rage and depression for years. I was so devastated because having parents in a good marriage and having two loving involved parents were idols for me. When I came to that realization, I was finally able to find true peace and release sadness and anger that were stuck in me.

    The only person I should fully depend on and expect to do the right thing and be there for me is Christ. If I expect that from anyone else, it’s an idol that would destroy me.

    The only thing I should find my identity in is being a child of God. Anything else is an idol.

    Thanks for your post and this ministry.

    1. Nneka,

      Parents should be godly examples. They should have healthy marriages. That is a good thing.

      But you are exactly right that when we put our faith and hope and security in anything or anyone but Jesus, we get into serious trouble.
      And when we hold onto decades of bitterness and resentment we destroy ourselves.

      Even good things can be idols in our hearts if we want them more than we want Jesus.

      I’m so thankful that God can heal us and make up for areas where even our parents or husbands are lacking. He is a Good Father and a Faithful Bridegroom.

      Praise God that He has set you free!!!! I am celebrating with you!!!!!! <3 🎉❤️

    2. Nneka,

      Your revelation makes me think of this hymn, one of my favorites to sing at the top of my lungs in the car:

      My hope is built on nothing less
      Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
      I dare not trust the sweetest frame
      But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      All other ground is sinking sand
      When darkness veils his lovely face
      I rest on His unchanging grace
      In every high and stormy gale
      My anchor holds within the veil
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      All other ground is sinking sand
      My hope is built on nothing less
      Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
      When He shall come with trumpet sound
      O may I then in Him be found
      Dressed in His righteousness alone
      Faultless to stand before the throne
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      All other ground is sinking sand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      On Christ the solid rock I stand
      Whoa-oh, The Solid Rock
      All other ground is sinking san
      Source: LyricFind
      Songwriters: Edward Mote / William B. Bradbury
      The Solid Rock lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation

  5. What are your thoughts about the holiday Christmas which came from idol sun god worship? Does the creator approve of such a day in you eyes, you mentioned idols in our hearts and we all have idols we must deal with but you are an excellent writer

    1. Eliyah,

      Hello! Thank you for your question. We all do have to guard our hearts from idols. The human heart can turn anything (that is not Christ) into an idol.

      How a believer celebrates Christmas or if they celebrate Christmas is an important. There are many ways to make Christmas an idol:

      – We can make getting and giving gifts an idol.
      – We can make decorations an idol.
      – We can make an old pagan ritual the source of our motives and honor that in our hearts rather than the birth of Christ.
      – We can make time with family the most important thing.
      – We can make greed the most important thing.
      – We can make food the most important thing.
      – We can make tradition the most important thing in our hearts.

      I believe whether a Christian celebrates Christmas or not and how they celebrate it falls under Romans 14 kinds of things – personal convictions. We must examine our motives.

      If I am celebrating Christmas to honor pagan gods, that is a BIG problem. Obviously that could never honor God.
      If I am celebrating Christmas in ways that honor idols in my heart, that is a BIG problem, too.
      If I am celebrating Christmas with a heart full of gratitude for the arrival of Christ as Savior, that is honoring to the Lord.

      We celebrate Sunday because it was Resurrection Day. That is why we worship on Sunday as Christians. The day was named for pagan worship of the sun. I shouldn’t worship the sun on Sunday. But if I worship Christ on Sunday, that is honoring to the Lord. Even though I am worshipping on a day whose name honors a pagan god. Every day of the week and almost every month in our calendar are named for pagan gods.

      “Sunday comes from Old English “Sunnandæg,” which is derived from a Germanic interpretation of the Latin dies solis, “sun’s day.” Germanic and Norse mythology personify the sun as a goddess named Sunna or Sól.” http://www.livescience.com

      Our motives matter most to the Lord in these disputable matters. We can see that in Romans 14.

      If a Christian decides not to celebrate Christmas in order to honor the Lord and not be part of something that was a pagan holiday originally and that is their conviction, they are certainly free to abstain from doing anything to celebrate Christmas.
      If a Christian decides to celebrate Christmas in order to praise and thank God for sending Jesus to earth and they don’t have any idols in their hearts about it, that honors the Lord, as well.

      For more resources on Christmas, check out these posts.

    2. Romans 14:1-13
      Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

      5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

      10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

      “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
      ‘every knee will bow before me;
      every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]

      12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

      13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

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