Wouldn't it be wonderful if people could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy. In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.
Sande describes our problem patterns as the progression of an idol (see also this).
An idol, as we have seen, is any desire that has grown into a consuming demand that rules our heart; it is something we think we must have to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. To put it another way, it is something we love, fear, or trust.
Love, fear, trust—these are words of worship! Jesus commands us to love God, fear God, and trust God and God alone (Matthew 22:37; Luke 12:4-5; John 14:1). Any time we long for something apart from God, fear something more than God, or trust in something other than God to make us happy, fulfilled, or secure, we are engaging in the worship of false gods. As a result, we deserve the judgment and wrath of the true God.
Here is the process Sande proposes that we use to examine our life, in order to progressively expose the idols that rule our hearts and be delivered from them.
- Prayerfully ask yourself the "X-ray" questions listed previously [see the article], which will help you discern the desires that have come to rule your heart.
- Keep track of your discoveries in a journal so that you can identify patterns and steadily go after specific idols.
- Pray daily that God would rob your idols of their influence in your life by making you miserable whenever you give in to them.
- Describe your idols to your spouse and an accountability partner, and ask them to pray for you and lovingly confront you when they see signs that the idol is still controlling you.
- Realize that idols are masters of change and disguise. As soon as you gain a victory over a particular sinful desire, your idol is likely to reappear in a related form, with a redirected desire and more subtle means of attracting your attention.
- If you are dealing with an idol that is difficult to identify or conquer, go to your pastor or some other spiritually mature advisor, and seek his or her counsel and support.
- Most of all, ask God to replace your idols with a growing love for Him and a consuming desire to worship Him and Him alone.