The more that I try to live the Christian life the more I am confronted with my need for Christ. I am graciously shown the person and work of Christ and this thrills my soul. As a result I want to remove idols that undermine my satisfied delight in Christ.
In recent years we have been helped to this end by various teachers pointing out ‘functional saviors’. For example, Jerry Bridges defines functional saviors in the following way:
Sometimes we look to other things to satisfy and fulfill us—to ‘save’ us. These ‘functional saviors’ can be any object of dependence we embrace that isn’t God. They become the source of our identity, security, and significance because we hold an idolatrous affection for them in our hearts. They preoccupy our minds and consume our time and resources. They make us feel good and somehow even make us feel righteous. Whether we realize it or not, they control us, and we worship them. (Bridges & Bevington, The Bookends of the Christian Life), p. 72
Likewise Tim Keller has done a terrific job in his recent book Counterfeit Gods identifying and dismantling these idols. One thing that I like about Keller is that he shows that these idols oftentimes are not bad things but rather good things that we have sinfully made ultimate things.
They Cannot Deliver
To our shame and disappointment, these functional saviors may promise a lot, and we may hope for big returns, but at the end of the day, they are flat out unable to deliver the ultimate need. The reality of this is that this ultimate need is really is an intensely spiritual need anchored in approval before God and characterized by delight in him.
So we find ourselves walking around with broken pots that we have made. These leaking pots testify that we have forgotten God and sought to replace him with things of our own creation:
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2.11-13)
Hi, My Name is ‘Erik’ and I have a Problem
The first step, (as our AA & NA friends would tell us) is to admit we have a problem. If we are living and breathing then we are creating idols and ascribing them with glory, ability, and strength. We are regularly and shamefully finding ourselves slouching back into the default position of our fallenness, which is to lean upon, to trust in, pursue approval in and seek deliverance in things that cannot do the job.
Once Again, Google’s Got You Covered
I know this is the case for me and I’m on the hunt. This is why I enjoy the writings from guys like Keller & Bridges as well as the older guys like John Owen & Jonathan Edwards. However, I would like to bring in a further aid which you may have not considered. I’d like to appeal to Google for help in identifying your functional saviors. Or at least helping you to train your eye to see what they look like.
For most of us Google is in our in box, maybe even our documents, and most certainly on our web pages. They know us. They know what we like, what we talk about, what we search for, what we repeatedly go after, and how we answer questions in life.
In reality, Google may know you better than you know yourself.
In trying to see patterns in my life and the various saviors that are being promoted, I have started paying attention to the ads on the various pages. I noticed recently that fitness, finances, book publishing, good eating, church growth, speed reading, blog promotion, parenting, and life insurance were all promoted to me and for me. There was a need and they were to be my functional savior. All I have to do is pay attention and I could learn something about the idols in my own life and those in my culture. At a minimum I learn more about the advertisements and characteristics of these saviors.
So as you find yourself more convicted over sin and idolatry let Google instruct you a bit, even to train you to more readily spot these counterfeit gods so that you might cling more fervently and joyfully to the real one.
Can you ‘P.S.’ a blog post?
ps: As an additional help. In Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshear’s book Vintage Jesus they provide the following list to help identify these functional saviors:
1. What am I most afraid of?
2. What do I long for most passionately?
3. Where do I run for comfort?
4. What do I complain about the most?
5. What angers me most?
6. What makes me happiest?
7. How do I explain myself to other people?
8. What has caused me to be angry with God?
9. What do I brag about?
10. What do I want to have more than anything else?
11. What do I sacrifice the most for in my life?
12. If I could change one thing in my life what would that be?
13. Whose approval am I seeking?
14. What do I want to control/master?
15. What comfort do I treasure the most?