3 Ways to Identify and Tear Down the Idols in Your Life

how to tear down the idols in your life

Don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled with idols, in some way, shape or form. Food, drink, relationships, and self-image have for sure all taken turns on the throne of my heart and soul, through the years, and I can only hope there’s not a sneaky one vying for more control as we speak.

The term “idol” may sound a bit archaic when applying the notion to modern day life. When we think about idolatry, we might envision that Exodus story of the Israelites building that big, golden calf, or those prideful Babylonians building a tower to reach heaven. But one look around social media, or a casual examination of our own thought life and behaviors may inarguably shed light on some commonly un-recognized idols in our own lives. And unfortunately, the effects of these idols are just as insidious as any Old Testament statue.

Essentially, an idol is anything that takes priority over God, or God’s will, in our lives. Typically, when something takes idol-grade residence in our hearts, we find ourselves turning to the idol for emotional support, personal validation or to numb/distract us from pain or discomfort.

An obvious example would be phones/social media. Many people can’t even step foot out of bed without reaching for their phone to check their Insta likes, Gmail inbox or stock levels that’ve accumulated in the last seven hours. Other sneaky idols are less obvious. A source of romantic affection can become an idol, when taking an unhealthy amount of loyalty and attention away from our walk with the Lord. Our appearance can become an idol, when our self-worth hinges on a scale number or level of youthfulness.

The list goes on, but what’s most important to understand, is the innate dangers found in idolatry. Why is God so continually filled with rage when his people build and worship idols throughout Biblical history? Is it because he’s needy, jealous or insecure? Anyone who’s known Jesus for one nanosecond knows the answer is of course not. So then, what’s all the fuss about?

The number one reason God forbids, and loathes idols is because quite simply, they hinder our relationship with him. At their worst, they give birth to destructive behavior and some extreme cases, destroy our lives.  Here’s why:

#1 Idols Distance Us from God

The same grievous, protective feelings God emoted watching the Israelites bow to hand-made idols are just as fervent today. He hates idolatry because it keeps us from experiencing the peace, comfort, joy and freedom that is only found in complete surrender and intimacy with Jesus.

Sure, we may still experience levels of connection, smatterings of blessings and shreds of peace, but an idol will always hinder true, step-by-step friendship with God and communion with the Holy Spirit. So, if we’re addicted to online dating, or exercise, we might not have time to be in the Word, or sit still long enough to hear God’s voice, or take time to worship. Throw in an insatiable appetite for at least three episodes of whatever show or two hours of TikTok’ing, and there’s usually very little time to connect with the very source of our comfort, wisdom and strength.

Substitute in any idol, and we have the same result. Too much side-hustling, stock-market playing, or video-gaming will unavoidably eat up the headspace meant to be shared between you and the Lord. This imbalance doesn’t hurt God. It affects us. If Jesus is the source of our strength, joy and peace, our lives will become problematic when all our affection and time is spent elsewhere.


#2 Idols Numb the Wounds God Needs to Get At

A dependence on wine or a shopping addiction both render the same result. They numb or distract from pain and stress. Notice most idols, if not all, are not inherently “bad” objects or behaviors. Wine, in moderation is sanctioned in the Word. Wealth in the form of a nice home, nice clothes, or fun vacations can be considered true blessings from God. It’s when we look to these things for comfort, happiness, stability, and self-worth that we start to see problems. It’s when people, activities or possessions become a necessity, where it’s commonly difficult avoid or to say “no” that signals an idol.

When examining your own life for possible idols, remember idols don’t want to be found, and they can be easily justified and excused, especially when they’ve become culturally accepted. So what if we gain a little happiness taking 43 selfies a day, or enjoy that relaxing high (or at least the first couple dopamine hits) after that first (and second, and third) nightly glass of Spanish red? Could be worse, right? God wants us to be happy right?

No. God wants us to be healed. And if we continually seek solace, comfort bent at the feet of counterfeit gods, He’ll never get at the source of our restlessness, sadness, insecurity, and fear. No only likes to admit it, but our idols typically take the place of the only one willing and able to heal every last part of our heart, for good. But more on that later. On to number three…


#3: Idols Hinder Our Purpose

I believe the number one reason the enemy has worked so tirelessly at forming idols in our lives is because they always diminish our purpose. For example, if we’re making ourselves sick with a sugar or alcohol addiction, we’ll feel drained, mentally foggy and way less focused on our passions and pursuits. It’s hard to finish that novel, or be a present parent, when all we want to do is sleep.

If we’re obsessed with our outward appearance, serving the ever-elusive idol of perfectionism, we’ll be too exhausted and distracted to focus on that intercessory prayer ministry we’ve been itching to join. If money is our god, we’ll be way too busy obsessively researching stocks and checking our 401 K investment levels by the hour, to ever be the kind of present parents we’re striving to become.

Take some time to consider what activities, mindsets or behaviors might be hindering you from your dreams and goals. Chances are there may have to be some idol-ditching in order to move closer towards to your God-given purposes. Here’s how:

So…How Do We Recognize, and Remove Idols?

After searching our hearts for idols, the next step is naming and eradicating them. The destroying of idols was no small undertaking in Bible times. In 2 Kings 23:11-20 King Josiah tore down horse and chariot decorations in the Temple, broke the altars and images of false gods, and even killed the priests of the high places of false gods upon the altars and “burned men’s bones upon them.” Josiah put away those who were “workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.”

Sounds quite extreme but in my opinion, idol-slaying was easier in those days, when they took the form of physical elements. An addiction to porn sure is more difficult to spot than a 20,000-pound golden calf atop a hill.  And yet, our modern-day idols need to be removed with an equal amount of finality.

The only way to remove an idol without allowing return, is to give it to God, completely. This can take a lot of time, prayer, and an intentional re-dedication of the parts of your heart you’ve been keeping from Him. We need to repent, then focus more on what we’re gaining, than what we’re “giving up.” We’re now enjoying a closeness with our Father, and all the Holy Spirit peace, joy, and centeredness our souls have been longing for.

 Replace the Void with Him

I wish this wasn’t the case, but removing an idol from our lives, especially ones that’ve existed for years or decades, takes a bit of work, and discomfort.  We may feel a new, inexplicable restlessness, or dissatisfaction we can’t quite shake, with our idols now out of reach. The difficult, yet healing truth is, we need to sit in our brokenness, and lean on Jesus during this time.

If we ignore our pain or emotional distress, we’ll simply create a new idol to fill up the emptiness. The only way to neutralize the grip of our former idols is to lay our pain, brokenness, loneliness, anxiety, and yearning, at the feet of Jesus. We need to spend time in the Word, soaking up his promises and accepting His supernational comfort and peace. This could take weeks, months, and sometimes even years, but if we lay our idols at the feet of Jesus, daily, we will absolutely find freedom and victory.

Life is too precious and fleeting to waste on false gods. We only have one life, we only serve one God, and He’ll never rest until we’re fully His.

Sign up for my newsletter to receive my weekly blog and free e-book, “Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet.”




Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

You may also like...