Captivation: the Power to Unseat Idols

The Threat of a Disordered Heart


Christian men are not only distracted; they are dis-attracted. More than apathy, idolatry is the problem handicapping the growth of men. Through a variety of subtle tactics Christian men are duped into over-estimating the value of finite goods. We are like bidders at an auction who get caught up in the proceedings and end up paying more for objects than they are worth. Thus, for example, a career becomes more than a paycheck and a way to serve Christ. A career becomes the bedrock of an identity, the only trustworthy path to self-fulfillment.  Sex, or exercise, or comfort, transforms from a limited pleasure to an unquenchable appetite. A little thing becomes the only thing, and men soon find themselves shackled by the chains of their own deep emotions. The problem is not outside of us; the problem is inside of us. This is what makes idolatry so difficult. Having opened wide the gates of the heart, we wake up to the realization that a counterfeit is on the throne, but that we have forfeited the very power that might have resisted him, our love.

How to Depose an Idol

Being captivated by the glory of Christ is the secret to mounting a coop against a false god. A lot of men may remember the difficult they felt trying to break up with a toxic girlfriend. The most efficient method of getting over a bad girlfriend is to meet a fantastic girl. Being gripped by something better is always the easiest way to let go of something bad. There is a religious lesson in this. No amount of willpower can shove an idol out of the heart. The reason for this is because the strength of an idol is love, that is, perceived goodness. If I live for success, why do I do this? The reason is because the very image of success captivates my heart. I don’t have to talk myself into wanting success. To see success is to love it, desire it, and to feel myself driven to pursue it. How then does one resist the mystical gravity of love? The key is to catch sight of something incomparably more lovely. If this new object is sufficiently glorious, the glue that has bound the heart to an idol will dissolve and a new seal, to a new object, will be formed. Such is the magic of captivation.

Questions for Small Groups/Self-Reflection

  1. What are the things right now that captivate your interest, attention, and focus?

  2. If someone else were to look at the evidence of how you spend your time, how you spend your money, and where you invest your attention, what would they conclude regarding the deepest desires of your heart? What would they say you are living for?

  3. How does the world of media, entertainment, advertising, university, or the workplace affect what captivates your interest and desire? How are you affected by the environment you are surrounded by?

  4. How can the first stanza of ‘When I Survey’ help us understand what it takes to change the deep loves and passions of our hearts?