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About this series
Gods at War
Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart
When you hear the word idol… you probably picture those big stone figures that people worshipped centuries ago. But did you know that - while most people don’t bow down to man-made statues anymore - we all worship something? In this series, our guest teacher Kyle Idleman reveals the subtle nature of idolatry and just how rampant it is in our lives - oftentimes without us even realizing it! He unpacks the ways we’ve put money, pleasure, achievements, careers… even our families, in place of God….And how we’ve allowed those false gods to satisfy, control and define us. Stay with us, as Kyle exposes the idols we’re holding on to … and challenges us to take radical steps to get back to worshipping the one true God.More from this series
CHIP: One of the things that I have done for years is when I get done on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, depending on when I speak, it never worked for me. I don’t think it’s bad, but it never worked for me to go to the back of the room and have people kind of file by, because I really, it was hand shake, hand shake, hand shake. And either, “Great job,” or dirty look. You know?
KYLE: Right, right.
CHIP: …depending on… And so, I tended to stay just up front. And the people who really wanted to talk, they would always come up. And I would have the best and deepest conversations. And sometimes, you know, I’ll hang out twenty, thirty, forty minutes and…but I probably learned the most and realized where God was working in people’s lives. And thanks to your generosity of your time, I thought, You know, people have listened to this series, or gotten most of it, and I thought, What a great time to pause, and say, “Okay, Kyle, thanks for being our teacher. Would you now be a bit more our pastor?” Could we talk about, yes, it’s great to know that the core is idols. It’s great to know other stuff is symptoms. And when you start talking about the god of pleasure and entertainment and sex and power and money, I mean, we are all just ducking, you know? Like, yeah, yeah, that’s me. And I don’t want to get where we are just having some conversation where, like, oh yeah, we all struggle with this, so we give each other a pass. I think this is a really serious topic that has such potential for breakthrough. And so, anyway, first, thanks for coming back and being with us. And before I tell you maybe where this series spoke to me, could I be so bold to say, in your season of life right now, what are the idols that are sort of vetting for or trying to get in, the competition to remove Jesus’ place in your own heart and life?
KYLE: You know, I would echo what you said about needing each other to point some things out. You listen to a series like this and you might be able to identify some of that for yourself, but the reality is that throughout Scripture, I’m thinking of the Old Testament prophets, that God would often use a prophet to point out to His people, “Here are idols.” Oftentimes, those idols were such a part of the culture they were in that they didn’t recognize them as such. They were just part of their life. And so, a prophet was needed to come in and say, “This is an idol. You don’t see it that way, but that’s what it is.” And so, I think we need that for each other. I have had that for myself in recent months. In fact, you did this for me over a call a month or two ago. I was talking to you about just this season where I was struggling finding the time that I needed to spend to prepare spiritually for a series on spiritual warfare. So, you came and you preached at our church on spiritual warfare and you and I were talking before that series. And I said, “You know, I feel like I’m neglecting some things right now. I’ve been so busy and we’ve got this series coming up and I’m not, I’m not prayed up the way I need to be prayed up. And I have been so, so busy with a demanding schedule and trying to take care of things.” And as you, as I talked to you about it, Chip, I thought you were going to be pretty compassionate and empathetic to me, with me. I thought you would say, “Oh, I know what that’s like. That can be so hard.” I believe what you said was, “Oh, Kyle, that is so foolish.” I think that was your quote to me. And I thought as soon as you said it, He is so right.
KYLE: Like, it is so foolish to think that I can replace the power of God with productivity. That if I just stay busy enough over here, that it will make up for the lack of priority I am making in my relationship with God. And so, that was really helpful to me. That was a significant moment for me. And I recognized I needed to repent of the idolatry of achievement, production, where I put my hope and my confidence in what I am able to point to at the end of the day, rather than in my connection to Jesus. And I recognize that this is the way I am wired. And I think there are plenty of people this way, certainly plenty of men this way…
KYLE: …where if I go home at the end of a long day, and I need to have the grass mowed, or I could go for a walk with my wife, I am always going to be drawn to mowing the grass. It’s not because I like mowing the grass more, I don’t.
KYLE: It’s because I mow the grass and then I can point to it and say, “Look what I did. I mowed the grass today.” If I go for a walk with my wife, I don’t really have something to show for it. I went for a walk with my wife, but the grass still needs to be mowed. And yet, there’s no question that connecting to my wife is more important…
KYLE: …than mowing the grass. And so, that is an example of how the idolatry of, or the idol of production or achievement can be very deceiving. It’s not that mowing the grass or doing the work of a ministry is bad, it’s that it’s not what’s best. And if I am missing out on a more important connection, you know, first and foremost with God then I’ve missed the point altogether. So, I think in this season, you know, I have needed to repent of getting that out of order in my life.
CHIP: Well, thanks for sharing. I don’t remember saying that, so it must have been the Holy Spirit. Because it sounds so insensitive, but so like me, at times. So…
KYLE: I think it may be recorded. So…
CHIP: Yeah, please don’t send it to me. I’ll trust that there was a gentleness that it came with. But…
KYLE: For sure. I felt, I felt cared for.
CHIP: Oh no, my, you know, I, really want us to share like this, because I’m not sure there’s any series or of anything I have read that is more convicting. I’ll just put it that way. And um since you were honest, I’ll tell you the – where I got hit most clearly, what do you mean it’s not enough that God’s number one? And in my mind, I’m thinking, like, My wife, Theresa, in no way wants to be number one. And by that I mean, like, “Well, honey, you’re number one, but Susie is number two in Chicago and Judy is number three in San Antonio and Betty is number four.” You know? And um… God does not want to be number one. He wants to be all. He wants to be on the throne. And really, you talk about, um that God is jealous, or He is zealous for us. Could-could you help us understand what is behind that that is super good?
KYLE: You know, I really like your synonym that you used there of zealous. I don’t think I used that in the book, but that’s a really helpful synonym. You know, we tend to think of “jealous” as kind of a junior high emotion, you know, that is closely related to immaturity and insecurity. And so, when we read in the Scripture that God is a jealous God, we assume that that indicts Him as somehow insecure. And yet, it really is an indication of just how loving He is, how much He is drawn to that kind of connection with us. And I do think we understand that in the context of a romantic relationship, right? Like, if you had that conversation with your wife and you said, “Hey, here, you’re number but here’s number two, number three, number four.” And she’s like, “Well, okay, that’s fine. As long as I’m number one.” Like, that would show that she doesn’t love you as much as you thought she did, right? Like, you want her to be jealous.
KYLE: You would want her to have that kind of desire and for that affection and intimacy and for your heart. And so, we see that with, we see that with God’s love towards us. His jealously reveals how deep His love is for us. And then the irony is that when we get this right, when He is our one and only, it’s how every other relationship in our life will best operate. In other words, when I say, “Hey, God is number one and there is no number two,” then it might feel like I am not properly prioritizing, you know, my marriage or my relationship with my kids. But I am the best husband, I am the best father when God is in His right place. If you look at the Ten Commandments, which is where we read this language of God being a jealous God, the first two of the Ten Commandments are specifically about idolatry. “You shall worship the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before you.” They are both about idolatry. And you think, well, why are those the first two?
And I think those are the first two because if you have those two right, then all the others tend to line up. You know? The image that I use is the image of if you are buttoning a shirt and you get the top button right, then the others just kind of fall into place. If you get the top one wrong, then you’re going to have a hard time with every other one. And I think that’s true for us when it comes to putting God in His right place as the one and only. If we get that right, all these other relationships line up. If we get it wrong, then none of them fit the way that they should. And so, the beauty of this is that it’s not just what God desires, it’s what is best for us, because it’s how He has made us. And so, learning to say, “Okay, God, I want You to be my one and only. I want my life, my heart, my prayers, my money, my affection to reflect that.” And then to discover that in doing it, you have become much more who your wife or your spouse longs for you to be, or your children long for you to be. It properly aligns all these other things. But, look, what I do, I think a lot of us do is that we will spend all kinds of time working on, like that marriage relationship. Let’s go back to that.
KYLE: And I have these challenges and struggles in my marriage, and so I’m going to read these books, I’m going to go to counseling. And that’s all good, that’s all fine. But you would be amazed at how much healthier your marriage would be if you, if you stopped doing some of that and you took that kind of energy and you put it into putting God in His right place. And it’s surprising. Like, you feel like, well, the way you get healthier over here is by going to this conference and listening to these podcasts and trying to, you know, better communications And, yet, nothing can substitute for having that right relationship with God. It’s amazing how the other buttons just start to line up.
CHIP: You know, for that person who goes, “I didn’t hear much of this series and you keep talking about first place or right place, and could someone, like, in, like, everyday language tell me, ‘Alright, He’s my all, He’s my first,’ what does that practically look like? Uh I mean you know The Christian term is that He is the Lord of your life, but how does that look in everyday life, Kyle?
KYLE: Well, for me, what helps me identify whether or not this is true is asking myself a series of questions. And really, these questions can help identify what may be replacing God in this way. So, for example, if I have had an especially difficult day, that is a really good opportunity for me to get a better perspective on what is most – who or what is most important in my life. In other words, where I’m going to go for comfort, where I’m going to go to be strengthened is going to reveal who or what is on the throne of my heart. So, you know, for example, if I have had an especially difficult day and, yeah, I go home and I lay on the couch, which I can do! And, you know, spend two hours watching Netflix as a way to feel better, that tells me something. If I go home and what makes me feel better, you know, gives me comfort is comfort food and I get some of the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and eat half a gallon with a spoon out of the carton, like, that tells me something that I’m looking to food to bring some comfort to my soul. If I go home and I put that on my wife and my expectation is, “Hey, your job is to make me feel better. I’ve had a really difficult day. Why don’t you make me happy? I thought you were supposed to make me happy.” That’s going to not be any good for my marriage, it’s going to put all kinds of pressure on her. And so, you know, a question like that begins to reveal where my heart is. And it points me to where it should be. So, you know, what if instead on my way home from work after a long day, you know, I listen to worship music, and I sing along with those worship songs, and I put God in His right place, and I begin to worship Him and I am reminded where my help comes from, and I find comfort from Him then I discover that, a deeper comfort. And, yet, I have to work at that. Like, that doesn’t…
KYLE: …that doesn’t come naturally. But I think those are the moments where you choose, you have this path of, okay, am I going to find that over here or am I going to look to Him for those things? And throughout the day, there are a number of those revealing moments where we can see a little bit more clearly whether or not He is our primary pursuit.
CHIP: And you, over and over, I love, you kept coming back to you refused in the teaching and in the book to let us move into external behaviors. It wasn’t just, okay, stop doing this; start doing that. Stop going to the refrigerator, just only one glass of wine, or never do that. You know? Because all those things were sort of behavior modification, you know, the passage – Proverbs 4:23 – that you quote there. It says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it,” your heart, “flow the issues of life.” And this really is about the tenderness of a relationship of our, you know, that, the Great Command, to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And I think sometimes we think, Well, I think I’m doing that, but it’s really a battle. And what you described is indicators that tell me maybe I’m not… you know, maybe I’m really not. And I think if I was, as a pastor for over thirty-five years, looking at how people have responded in the last eighteen to twenty-four months to not being able to go places to their opinions about vaccines and masks to what is opened or what is closed or what people ought to do. The level of anger and conflict and criticism.
KYLE: Yeah. I think what you’re seeing is people panicking over their gods being destroyed. I think, you know, when you put your hope in politics, economy, medicine, science, and suddenly that doesn’t hold up, there’s a sense of panic to that, because this is what you were leaning on. This is where you were putting your weight so that you could keep moving forward. It’s what you put your hope in.
KYLE: And I, you know, you see people acting somewhat irrationally over their different opinions on this, but I believe it’s because of this…
KYLE: …that their idols are being exposed and it’s scary. I mean, and fear, you know, fear causes us to respond that way. Um... You know, I would say that, for me, I have felt that this understanding is what finally really helped me break free, not from, like, pride and selfishness, but from lust. I would say that, you know, as a young man, I worked really hard at what I would call the best practices of fighting against lust, right? Like, I have read different books and had good accountability partners and I had filters on my phone, I had gone through the different studies. And, yeah, I had put in, I had put in the time to try to address this struggle with habit change. And it would work for a while, but not for long. Like, you just never – and I never, it never seemed to offer real freedom. And then I began to understand lust as idolatry, that I am choosing, I am choosing this over finding satisfaction, finding what I really longed for in my relationship with God, and that when I give into that, what am I really doing except essentially, you know, entering into a modern day, pagan temple…
KYLE: …and trying to find satisfaction through a false god. And so, yeah, for such a long time, what was presented to me within the Church and within Christianity was, hey, you know, resist lust and this is how you do it.
KYLE: And it tended to be habits, addressing habits. And, look, it’s not to say that there’s not a place for healthy habits. Of course, of course there are. But freedom, I mean, real freedom comes when we understand the deeper reality of what is happening, that I need to find this, and I can’t expect to find that from my wife, I can’t expect to find that before I was married, I can’t expect to find that in other relationships. That’s not where that’s going to be found. It’s going to be found in my relationship with God. And that broke free some things that no amount of hard work on habit change seemed to do. And so, I say that to encourage your listeners that when you hear something like “idolatry” it just, it might feel like a disconnect. Like, “Okay, no, I understand. But tell me the four things I need to do…”
KYLE: “…you know, to be free from this.” And I would say, “No, no, no. Look, really, this really is it. This really is more at the root of this. And it’s harder work and it takes time, but when you, when you really get this aligned rightly, you’ll find a much deeper freedom.”
CHIP: there’s a passage in 1 John where it talks about His commandments aren’t grievous unto us. And I remember, I’ll bet the first ten years I was a Christian, I said, “They may not be grievous to You; they are really grievous to me.” You know? I was in college and there was four girls to every guy and I was, I did not grow up as a Christian, and I was struggling. And the ah-ha moment, not to quote a book, but “ah-ha” was I was reading through Proverbs and it gives you all this wise counsel about sexual purity and why. And the lights came on. In my mind, God was on one side of the fence and I was on the other side of the fence. And He was keeping good stuff from me. And, man, I just, man, come on! You know? And everyone else was getting a lot of good stuff. And I wasn’t. And I remember, ya know it was like, “No, no, no, no. He’s on the same side of the fence with me, His arm is around my shoulder, and His is pointing out things on the other side of the fence that short-term, I want to protect you from. Let me walk with you and show you where that path ends. – idols will never deliver what they promise.”
KYLE: That’s right.
CHIP: And um so, thanks so much for helping us get underneath what is really going on in a lot of the everyday struggles that we have. And this is a hard one to ask, But I do want to just end with: What do you say to that person listening who just says, “I am so struggling, and my idol is a secret. And if I ever come clean, it feels so overwhelming and so devastating. I just don’t know how I could ever come clean with this one.”
KYLE: Yeah, well, I know this will be hard to hear for the person saying it, but… there is no easy or comfortable way to deal with an idol like that. The truth is, you have to shine light into a dark place. It will lose so much power over you the minute you drag that idol kicking and screaming into the light. You don’t have to announce it publicly, you don’t have to post it on social media, but you need to say something to somebody. You know, the Bible talks about this, that, you know, when we confess these things that we find healing. And that means that you need to sit down with a trusted brother in Christ or sister in Christ and you need to share that struggle. And I know there’s part of you that thinks that there is another way to do it, and you can figure it out on your own, but how long have you been saying that? It really does require… require repentance. Now, look, God’s grace is beautiful. Like, the enemy is the one telling you that you that you can’t do that…
KYLE: …and putting shame on you. That’s a lie. God’s grace will meet you there and freedom can be found, but it requires light. And so, my challenge to you would be ya know to find the twenty seconds of courage you need to destroy that idol.
KYLE: But there’s no easy way around it. I mean, I’ve been there. I know what that’s like. It’s hard to do. But you will not regret, you will not regret doing it.
CHIP: Well, Kyle, thanks for being with us. And if you didn’t catch these programs, let me encourage you to go to the website or the app and listen to them. Or even better yet, I’ve got a copy of the book in front of me, it’s Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for your Heart. Boy, you talk about reading through a book with your mate or with a bunch of guys or a few gals. It will be really life-changing. And thanks so much. And, Father, I just pray for each person listening to our voice that they would come to believe that You are so good and so kind and so powerful and so holy that the wisest and best thing, not tomorrow, but today, Lord, at this moment they could do, was to destroy the idols in their life, and to give You that place that only You deserve. You’re the Creator, the Maker of all that there is. Thank You for loving us so much. And we exalt You and praise You, in Jesus’ name, amen.