Gods at War Student Edition: The battle for your heart that will define your life

Gods at War Student Edition: The battle for your heart that will define your life

by Kyle Idleman

ISBN: 9780310742531

Publisher Zondervan

Published in Religion & Spirituality

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Book Description

In this student edition of Gods at War, Kyle Idleman helps us recognize there are false gods at war within each of us, and they battle for the place of glory and control in our lives. What keeps us from truly following Jesus Christ is that our hearts are pursuing something or someone else like money or popularity.

While these pursuits may not be the ¿graven images¿ of old, they are in fact modern day idols. Behind the sin you¿re struggling with, the fear you¿re dealing with, the lack of purpose you¿re living with is a false god that is winning the war for your heart.


Sample Chapter

idolatry is the issue

Imagine a man who has been coughing constantly. This coughkeeps him up half of the night and interrupts any conversation hehas that lasts more than a minute. The cough is so unrelenting thathe goes to the doctor.

The doctor runs some tests.

Lung cancer.

Now imagine the doctor knows how tough the news will be tohandle. So he doesn't tell his patient about the cancer. Instead, hewrites a prescription for some strong cough medicine and tells theman that he should feel better soon. The man is delighted with thisprognosis. And sure enough, he sleeps much better that night. Thecough syrup seems to have solved his problem.

Meanwhile, very quietly, the cancer eats away at his body. Atmy church, I talk to people every week who are "coughing."











They come to me and share their struggles.

They unload their frustrations.

They express their discouragement.

They display their hurts.

They confess their sins.

When I talk to people, they point to what they believe is theproblem. In their minds, they've nailed it. They can't stop coughing.But here's what I've discovered: They're talking about a symptomrather than the true illness—the true issue—which is alwaysidolatry.

CASE STUDY 1: No Big Deal

She's a young woman who grew up in our church. Her familywants me to meet and talk with her. They're concerned becauseshe's about to move in with her boyfriend, who isn't a Christian.This ought to be a fun one.

I call her twice and leave messages, but she doesn't return mycall. The third time she picks up. She knows why I'm calling andtries to laugh it off.

"I can't believe my parents are making such a big deal out ofthis," she says with a nervous laugh. I can picture her rolling hereyes. In her mind this whole thing is a "mild cough" and nothingto worry about.

"Well, I appreciate your talking to me for a few minutes.But I have to ask, do you think it's possible that you've got thisbackward?"

"What do you mean?"

"That instead of making a big deal out of nothing, it could bethat you're making nothing out of a big deal?"

More nervous laughter. "It's not a big deal," she says again.

"Do you mind my telling you why I think it is?"

She sighs deeply and proceeds to give me her prediction of allthe reasons she thinks I'll produce.

I interrupt her with a question. "Have you thought about howmuch moving in together is going to cost you?"

"You mean the cost of the apartment?"

"No, I'm not necessarily talking about money. I mean the wayyour family feels about it, and the pressure you're getting fromthem. That's a kind of price, right?"

"Yeah, I guess it is, but that's their problem."

"And what is this going to cost your future marriage?"

"I don't even know if we're going to get married," she responds.

"I'm not necessarily talking about your getting married to him,because statistically speaking, you most likely won't."

She understands what I'm getting at, but I push it a bit further."How much is this going to cost your future husband? What pricewill he have to pay for this decision?" She has to stop and considerthat one.

I continue to count the ways that this decision is a big deal,because it's costing her more than she knows.

"So here's what I suggest. If you're willing to pay a price, thenthis must be pretty important to you. It must be a fairly big deal ifyou're willing to go through all of this."

I take her silence for reflection, and I finally get to my point."When I see the sacrifices you are willing to make, and the factthat you are willing to ignore what God has to say about all this, itseems to me that you've turned this relationship into a god."

"What do you mean by that?"

"A god is what we sacrifice for and what we pursue. From whereI sit, you have God on one side saying one thing, and your boyfriendon the other side saying something else. And you're choosingyour boyfriend over God. The Bible calls that idolatry, and it'sactually a pretty big deal."

No nervous laughter this time. "I've never thought about it likethat," she says.

CASE STUDY 2: The Secret Struggle

He comes in maybe five or ten minutes late.

He had asked if we could talk for a few minutes, and I suggestedmeeting for coffee. But he wanted to meet someplace "alittle more private." So we decided on my office. He arrives andpauses in the doorway, as if still not sure he wants to keep thisappointment.

"Come on in." I smile and motion toward a seat.

He answers my smile with a very brief one. He sits, and hisbody language is all about reluctance. He wraps his arms aroundeach other, lightly massaging his right elbow. He hasn't told mewhat this meeting is about, but I know. The conversation I'm aboutto have has become very familiar.

I ask him a few mundane questions about his life, where he'sfrom, anything to break the ice and create a more relaxed setting.

When we've done that for a couple of minutes, he finallybroaches his subject. I can tell it takes all the courage he can summonto release his long-held secret.

"I ... um ... I think I'm addicted to pornography, or something,"he stammers.

He looks at his shoes.

"Okay. Well, you're not the first person to walk in here, sit inthat seat, and say those words. How long has this been a struggle?"

He tells his story, starting when he was twelve years old andsaw certain images with the guys. Pictures that disturbed him atfirst. Pictures that lodged in his mind, that wouldn't go away, thatstarted calling to him. Pictures he can perfectly visualize all theseyears later. He talks about his hatred of the Internet. He describesthe web as if it were his mortal enemy.

"It's so easy," he says. "Any kind of picture, any kind of videois at your fingertips. Just like that. Instant gratification, wheneveryou feel the slightest urge."

He speaks with the weary tones of a slave, of a prisoner who hasgiven up on escape plans.

"What am I supposed to do," he says, "unplug the computer?I'm dependent on the Internet like everyone else. I need it foreverything. Even if I just used my smartphone, I can pull up thoseimages there. Turn on the television, and there are a million suggestions.Am I supposed to just watch the Disney Channel?"

He says he had no idea what pornography would do to his life,particularly his relationships. He seems to understand, at least tosome degree, how it has changed the way he views and interactswith women.

"Thing is," he says, "you think it's just an itch. That's all. Anitch. But it never goes away, and you have to scratch. Well, youhave to scratch harder and deeper as time goes by. You know whatI mean?"

"I know."

There is silence. I'm sure he's expecting me to give the sameadvice he's heard for so many years: Put a filter on your Internetbrowser. Find an accountability partner. Redirect your eyes. Allhelpful suggestions, but I know he's tried them all multiple times.Otherwise he wouldn't be sitting in front of me.

What I know is that there is an idol that must be dethroned,and until that happens he will suffer. He won't enjoy intimacy inrelationships. He will struggle to have any real connection withGod.

"You think what you have is a lust problem, but what you reallyhave is a worship problem. The question you have to answer eachday is, Will I worship God or will I worship sex?"

He doesn't verbalize it, but the expression on his face says, "I'venever thought about it like that."

What Lies Beneath

Idolatry isn't just one of many sins. It's the one great sin that allothers come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggleyou're dealing with, eventually you'll find a false god underneath.Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightfulplace, you will not have victory.

Idolatry isn't an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty,overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outerlayers, and you might never see it. But scratch a little beneath thesurface, and you begin to see that it's always there. There are a hundredmillion different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

That's why, when Moses stood on Mount Sinai and receivedthe Ten Commandments from God, the first one was, "I am theLord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land ofslavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2–3).

When God issued this command during the time of Moses,the people were familiar with a lot of other gods. God's people hadspent more than four hundred years in Egypt as slaves. Egypt wascrowded with gods. They had taken over the neighborhood—literally.The Egyptians had local gods for every district. Egypt wasthe Baskin-Robbins of gods. You could pick and choose the flavorsyou wanted.

The Bible has a different standard. When we hear God say,"You will have no other gods before me," we think of it as a hierarchy:God is always in first place. But there are no places. God isn'tinterested in competing against others or being first among many.

God will not be part of any hierarchy.

He wasn't saying "before me" as in "ahead of me." A betterunderstanding of the Hebrew word translated "before me" is "inmy presence."

God declines to step inside the octagon; he is the ultimatefighting champion. He is not interested in competing in a realityTV show; he is the ultimate reality. Life doesn't work properlyuntil every other "contestant" sitting around the boardroom ofyour heart is fired.

There are no partial gods, no honorary gods, no interim gods,no assistants to the regional gods.

God isn't saying this because he is insecure, but because it's theway of truth in this universe. Only one God created it. Only oneGod designed it, and only one God knows how it works. He is theonly God who can help us, direct us, satisfy us, save us.

As the events unfold in Exodus 20, the one true God has had itwith the imitation and substitute gods. So God tells the nation ofIsrael to break up the band of gods. Send them packing. All othergod activity is cancelled. He makes sure the people understandthat he is the one and only. He is the Lord God.

You may be thinking, Thanks for the history lesson, but thatwas a long time ago. Today, the problem doesn't appear to be thatpeople worship many gods; it's that they don't worship any god.

Yet my guess is that our list of gods is longer than theirs. Justbecause we call them by different names doesn't change what theyare. We may not have the god of knowledge, the god of agriculture,the god of sex, or the god of the hunt. But we do have GPAs, cars,pornography, and sports. If it walks like an idol, and quacks likean idol, it's probably ...

You can call it a cough instead of calling it cancer, but thatdoesn't make it any less deadly.

Idol Makeover

One of our problems in identifying today's gods is that their identitiesnot only lack the usual trappings of religion; they are alsothings that often aren't even wrong. Is God against pleasure? Sex?Money? Popularity?

These things are not immoral. They are morally neutral—andsometimes even commendable— until they become somethingelse. It could be friendships or the pursuit of getting into yourdream college. It could be a worthy cause. You could even be feedingthe hungry and healing the sick. All of those are good things.

The problem is that the instant something takes the place ofGod, the moment it becomes an end in itself rather than somethingto lay at God's throne, it becomes an idol. When someoneor something replaces the Lord God in the position of glory in ourlives, then that person or thing by definition has become our god.

So to identify some gods, look at what you are chasing. Anotherway to identify the gods at war in your life is to look at what youcreate.

Remember your commandments. First: no other gods.

Second: no making other gods to worship.

The profound wisdom of that second commandment is thatanything in the world can be hammered into an idol, and thereforecan be a false god. It's DIY idolatry: choose from our handyassortment of gods, mix and match, create your own.

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on MountSinai, the people waiting below whined because it was taking solong. Moses had left his brother, Aaron, in charge, and the peoplebegan clamoring for a god to lead them. They gathered everyone'sgold, put it on the fire, and made a golden calf to worship. A littlebit ironic, don't you think? The very moment God was tellingMoses about having no other gods before him, the people weredown below rigging up a god.

Later in the Bible is a reflection on what these people did: "Thepeople made a calf at Mount Sinai; they bowed before an imagemade of gold. They traded their glorious God for a statue of agrass-eating bull" (Psalm 106:19–20, NLT).

That's not a good trade. They traded the Creator God for a godof their own creation.

Are we really any different? We replace God with statues of ourown creation.

The latest smartphone technology that keeps us from feelingleft out.

Clothes that get us into the right clique.

Grades that push us higher up the class rankings.

A team that wins the championship.

A body that is toned and fit.

We work hard at molding and creating our golden calves.

I already hear what you're thinking: "You could say that aboutanything. You could take any issue, anything someone devoted anythingto, and make it out to be idolatry."


Anything at all can become an idol once it becomes a substitutefor God in our lives.

To describe the concept more clearly, anything that becomesthe purpose or driving force of your life probably points back toidolatry of some kind. Think about what you have pursued andcreated, and ask yourself, Why?

If you have "hot button" issues that tend to get you upset, why?

If you plan to go shopping this weekend even though you havea closetful of clothes, why?

If you spend countless hours fixing up your car and redecoratingyour room, why?

To think of these things as forms of idolatry, we need to usenew imagery. Discard the idea of golden cows and multi-armedfigurines. Even, just for a moment, strip away the whole idea ofidolatry as an item on a ten-point list of don'ts.

This next exercise may seem a bit weird, but stick with me. Iwant you to reimagine idolatry as a tree.

See it in your mind: one of those great oak trees that seemolder than time itself, one with impressive branches reaching outin every direction. And down below the surface, deep roots dig inand anchor it into place.

Imagine this tree of idolatry with many branches, each withsomething tied to it.

From one of the branches dangles a pot of gold.

Another branch grows entertainment all kinds. Xboxes (or,if you prefer, a PS4), tablets, computers, and every kind of technologyimaginable seem to sprout from a different section of thatbranch.

Another branch widens into a flat, round ending, and whenyou move closer, you can see that it is really a mirror that showsan idealized reflection of yourself.

Yet another branch is carved with beautiful craftsmanship. Youfollow its sinuous lines and realize it is the image of two humanfigures, entwined in a sensuous embrace.

One branch has, as fruit, different sets of keys—one set to asports car, another to your own apartment after graduation.

Quite a peculiar tree. It has many other branches, each onewith a curious item attached to it.

Here's the point: Idolatry is the tree from which our sins andstruggles grow. Idolatry is always the issue. It's the trunk of thetree, and all other problems are just branches.


the battlegroundof the gods

How would you feel if your entire Internet search history wasposted for the world to see?

That's what America Online did. Remember this company?It's still around. But when the World Wide Web began to intertwinethe earth, it was the first big search engine. Then a numberof years ago, America Online released, to the public, the Internetsearch history of 650,000 of its network users. The company wastrying to demonstrate its vast reach among consumers.

So if you typed "NFL football scores" into a browser window,it was now a matter of public record.

Already you're saying, "What were they thinking?" But thefact is, AOL had taken certain precautions. No real names wereused—only user numbers. So it wasn't Bob down the street, but ananonymous "User #545354," who was checking to see if the GreenBay Packers won.

The problem was that the precautions weren't strong enough.The New York Times quickly demonstrated how it was possible toselect a user number and put a name to it.

How could they do that? It was actually pretty simple. Let's sayUser #545354 searched for "transmission problems 2002 ChevyCamaro." This wouldn't tell us much on its own, but AOL alsorevealed thousands of other searches by the same user. Givenenough information it wasn't too difficult to look at the searchesand match them up to a specific person.


Excerpted from "Gods at War Student Edition: The battle for your heart that will define your life" by Kyle Idleman. Copyright © 2013 by Kyle Idleman. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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