Home > Books & Reading, Christianity, Thoughts > Personal thoughts on Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods

Personal thoughts on Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods

I recently published a book review on Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, but wanted to write a post that is a bit more personal in nature. I left off with this:

To dethrone any and all other idols apart from God, Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross must be real. The heart of the matter can be summed up in this question:

What is operating in place of Jesus Christ as your real, functional salvation and Savior?

It is a question that Christians should not neglect to ask themselves every single day.

The cynic in me struggles with this. God knows how much I am very much a doubting Thomas, plagued with questions like:

  • “Jesus, were you real?”
  • “Are you really coming back?”
  • “How come you haven’t done anything for so long?”
  • “Can the compilation of what people claim to be Your word (the Bible) really be trusted?”

I’ve come to the realization that I am the very least, a Jew. (Yeah, go ahead and make a Sammy Davis, Jr. joke now.) I believe wholeheartedly in the Old Testament. But the more I think about it, the more the Old Testament constantly points back to Jesus. (The Book of Matthew is a great book for discovering how the Old Testament continuously points to Jesus.)

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?”
They said to Him, “The son of David.”
He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying,

‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET”‘?”

If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”
No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. ~ Matthew 22:41-46

A puzzling question to me as well.

So the basic hurdle that I am confronted with is whether I believe fully in Jesus Christ, who he is, and his purpose for being born on earth–his existence as fully human and fully God; that he is the Son of God, born to a virgin, lived, died on a cross bearing God’s wrath for the sins of humankind, was buried, and rose again three days later. If I accept this (and I do), then I also accept that the triune God alone is worthy of worship, leading me to adhere to the following commandment:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ~Matthew 22:37

This is not in conflict with the first commandment God issues (located in Exodus and Deuteronomy):

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.  ~Exodus 20:2-3 & Deuteronomy 5:6-7

Jesus reiterates that God must take the primary place in our heart, soul, and mind. He is to be the only One people worship. He must constantly occupy our daydreams and imaginations even. I quoted this passage from Keller’s book in my previous post but it strikes and convicts me so that I feel compelled to repost it:

Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about? Do you develop potential scenarios about career advancement? Or material goods such as a dream home? Or a relationship with a particular person? One or two daydreams are no [sic] an indication of idolatry. Ask, rather, what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?

If I’m honest, I must admit God does not constantly occupy my thoughts as He should. I also frequently fail to follow this directive from the apostle Paul as listed in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

How often do I dwell on the things that are false, dishonorable, wrong, impure, ugly, and bad repute, full of mediocrity and worthy of condemnation!

As a result, I’ve instantly created an idol. Keller writes:

Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God.

In my previous post, I listed all the idols Keller identifies. While I’ve struggled with many of those idols at one time or another, these are the main idols that currently dethrone God in my life:

  • Relational idols: codependency, “fatal attractions,” living your life through your children.
  • Religious idols: Moralism and legalism, idolatry of success and gifts, religion as a pretext for abuse of power.
  • Cultural idols: Radical individualism (typical in the West, making an idol out of individual happiness at the expense of community); shame cultures that make an idol out of family and clan at the expense of individual rights.
  • Deep idols: Motivational drives and temperaments made into absolutes
    • Power idolatry: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if I have power and influence over others
    • Approval idolatry: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if I am loved and respected by _________
    • Comfort idolatry: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if I have this kind of pleasure experience or a particular quality of life
    • Control idolatry: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of ___________

These are simply the general references. If curiosity has driven you to get a more detailed understanding of the idols in my life, feel free to browse through some of the previous posts on this blog. Many of them are not that hard to identify.

But again, the question I began with begs an answer:

What is operating in place of Jesus Christ as your real, functional salvation and Savior?

Unfortunately, the answer for me is “too much.” My challenge as a doubting Thomas (or a doubting Kass, if you will) is this:

Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. … We want to love Christ so much more that we are not enslaved by our attachments.

I am thankful that Keller provides an answer and encouragement. First, the answer:

This takes what are called “the spiritual disciplines,” such as private prayer, corporate worship, and meditation. The disciplines takes cognitive knowledge and make it a life-shaping reality in our hearts and imaginations. Spiritual disciplines are basically forms of worship, and it is worship that is the final way to replace the idols of your heart.

Then encouragement:

Be patient. I believe this process will take our entire lives. … Mature Christians are not people who have completely hit the bedrock. I do not believe that is possible in this life. Rather, they are people who know how to keep drilling and are getting closer and closer.

May the Lord give me the fortitude and grace to keep drilling to dethrone all false gods and grow closer to Him.

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