By Pastor Scott Thomas
David Powlison, in his book, Seeing with New Eyes (P & R Publishing, 2003) examines human motivation—why we do what we do by listing 35 questions that are practical, theological, psychological, motivational and convicting. (pg. 132-40)
By asking these questions, pastors can discover hidden (and not so hidden) idols in their hearts. I am deeply concerned about the spiritual health of pastors more than ever. We verbalize all of the right things about gospel-centrality and we mentally ascent to worshipping God whole-heartedly. Yet, functionally we bow before the gods of knowledge, achievement, success, creativity and prestige.
Tim Keller said:
“Remember, your career didn’t die for your sins. Neither did your marriage. It’s hard not to slip into idolatry if your marriage is good. But Jesus has to be your King, your Savior. Now you don’t love your wife less. But you love Jesus more. Jesus is the only Savior who can help you when your heart is breaking” (2009 The Gospel Coalition conference).
A pastor’s functional savior can easily be his success—however he defines it. We know something or someone is a savior to us if it gives us worth, value, identity, peace, satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment. Only the gospel can provide this for us. Salvation, satisfaction, significance and pleasure is ultimately only found in Jesus and He will relentlessly pursue us to make that a reality in our hearts.
John Calvin wrote in the Institutes,
“The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”
Examine the following questions and ponder your heart for the existent idols and then crush the idols of our heart before they crush you.
35 X-Ray Questions for the Heart
What do you love? Hate?
What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for?
What desires do you serve and obey?
What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?
Where do you bank your hopes?
What do you fear?
What do you not want?
What do you tend to worry about?
What do you feel like doing?
What do you think you need?
What are your ‘felt needs’?
What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?
What makes you tick?
What sun does your planet revolve around?
What do you organize your life around?
Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, and security?
What or whom do you trust?
Whose performance matters?
On whose shoulders does the well being of your world rest?
Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?
Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts?
From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection?
Whose value system do you measure yourself against?
In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?
Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?
On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile?
What gives your life meaning?
How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?
What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?
What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight?
The greatest pain or misery?
Whose coming into political power would make everything better?
Whose victory or success would make your life happy?
How do you define victory and success?
What do you see as your rights?
What do you feel entitled to?
In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed?
When you are pressured, where do you turn?
What do you think about?
What are your escapes?
What do you escape from?
What do you want to get out of life?
What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?
What do you pray for?
What do you think about most often?
What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?
What do you talk about?
What is important to you?
What attitudes do you communicate?
How do you spend your time?
What are your priorities?
What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams?
What do your night dreams revolve around?
What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?
What are your idols and false gods?
In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes?
What do you turn to or seek?
Where do you take refuge?
How do you live for yourself?
How do you live as a slave of the devil?
How do you implicitly say, “If only…” (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?
What instinctively seems and feels right to you?
What are your opinions, the things you feel true?
Where do you find your identity?
How do you define who you are?