If marriage is an idol, how do you crush it? The truth is that as long as we live, we will wrestle with sin. That is the “already-but-not-yet” tension we find ourselves in. The gospel enters that space. But how?
When Jesus died, He died with the sin of the world—past, present, and future— on His shoulders. He died and took those sins to the grave. That means He took your idol, the one you’re struggling with right now, to the grave with Him. That is how you were justified at the moment you met Christ and that is how you are still “being saved” (1 Cor. 15:2)—being made more like Christ through sanctification. So whatever idol you are struggling with, ask Jesus to take it with Him, to kill it and to bury it in the grave.
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He rose, glorified, on the third day. And He came back and promised to leave believers with “an advocate [the Holy Spirit] who will never leave you” (John 14:16). So we not only acknowledge and crush our disoriented desires that dwell in us apart from the Spirit, but we replace them with more of the Holy Spirit. I would be remiss if I didn’t say this once more: Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He actually conquered death! How much more can He conquer that sin that is eating away at your life? You don’t have to live the rest of your life enslaved to that sin because Jesus did not stay in the grave!
Remember; an idol is not something that can be killed through behavior modification because the idol is the disease while our behaviors are merely the symptoms. To kill sin we must target the root (the disease). I think this part is what gets lost on a lot of believers because it is something we cannot physically fight or change. Instead, it is an Ephesians 6:12 battle; a battle that can only be fought supernaturally. And the supernatural remedy is Jesus.
Throughout the first half of Romans 8, Paul shows a concise depiction of how the gospel is lived out in the present-tense when he beautifully juxtaposes the flesh which leads to death, and the Spirit which leads to life. Later, in Romans 8:3, we are specifically told that Jesus condemned sin in the flesh so that we may now walk according to the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit. With this in mind, how do we walk in the Spirit and actively seek to crush the root idols in our hearts?
Put to death fleshly desires by the Spirit. Paul instructs believers to put to death the deeds of the body, and in doing so you will live. Note that the one piece of armor in Ephesians 6 that is used for killing is the sword, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). This is an offensive weapon unlike all the others listed in Ephesians 6. Use it.
Fix our mind on the things of the Spirit with the Word. Romans 8:6: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” We need to look up, get our eyes off ourselves and our own ability, and seek to have an eternal mindset. Once again, we cannot set our mind on the Spirit without looking to God’s Word.
Abide in Jesus. John 15:4-5 says this: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections.
Hear me on this: you cannot crush idols without abiding in Jesus. It isn’t going to happen on it’s own. Idols aren’t just going to die as time passes. Instead they will grow deeper roots over time if we aren’t combatting them with the Word of God. On the contrary, as we abide, God increasingly becomes the predominant affection of our hearts and the other things our hearts give affection and attention to are uprooted and replaced. Treasuring Christ, looking to Him, and depending on Him brings life and peace and freedom! We have a fruitful vine by which we might flourish and not wither because of the gospel. These are only some of the many reasons why the gospel, and the gospel alone, is the greatest story ever told and the lens through which we should approach every trial, temptation, and idolatry of our hearts.
The next time you find yourself struggling with questions like the one presented in this post, go back to the greatest story ever told, where Jesus gave Himself up as a ransom for many. This story wins every single time. This story is one everyone can relate to because Christ gave Himself for all. This story transcends space and time. This story changes us at our core! Because of this story, our desires and affections are now able to be stirred for God himself. Because of this story, we can truly be at peace and experience the freedom for which we were set free. We were made to find our greatest joy in this story. This gospel is our only hope, our treasure, and our light in the dark places. It is the sweet story of redemption.
A great theologian named Augustine famously penned this line which we believe sums up the essence of this post: “How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose . . . ! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure..”
For His name,
Kenzie and Leah, Well Leaders at Wells Branch Community Church