Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Determining Our Idols - X-Ray Questions

Last week’s sermon focused on answering two questions:

(1) What is our fundamental problem as human beings?
(2) How does the gospel, rightly understood and embraced, address that fundamental problem?
Our fundamental problem as human beings is not that we desire evil things. Rather, our fundamental problem is that we over desire—we inordinately desire (i.e., “epithūmia”)—good things. The Bible’s predominate mode of describing this inordinate desire is idolatry, taking a good thing—often a legitimate, positive, God-approved thing—and turning it into an ultimate thing. Whatever we give our hearts to, whatever we turn into our lives (i.e., “My kids are my life. . . My job is my life. . . Sexual gratification is my life.”) becomes our functional god. This god, or more often, these gods, express themselves visibly in what we say and do, but behind our words and deed are our motivations. Determining our motivations is the first step towards dethroning the idols in our lives.

David Powlison, “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair’”

The deep question of motivation is not “What is motivating me?” The final question is, “Who is the master of this pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior?” In the biblical view, we are religious, inevitably bound to one god or another. People do not have needs. We have masters, lords, gods, be they oneself, other people, valued objects, Satan. The metaphor of an idolatrous heart and society capture the fact that human motivation bears an automatic relationship to God: Who, other than the true God, is my god?

Powlison, in his book Seeing with New Eyes, offers thirty-five “x-ray questions” to “aid in discerning the patterns of a person’s motivation”:

The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in the hearts. These questions reveal “functional gods,” what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations.
I’ve attached a copy of those questions to this post in the hope that you will use them to examine yourself. Powlison’s introduction and commentary on the x-ray questions alone is worth the cost of the book.

X-Ray Questions (pdf)
Seeing with New Eyes

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