Counterfeit Gods

A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.

In his powerful book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller deals with the personal, cultural, intellectual, and vocational gods of our time and shows how idolatry is a central problem in our lives as it was in Biblical times, and how it underpins all of our sin problems.

As I have mentioned in reviews of other books by the same author, Keller is tremendously gifted in drawing out Scripture applications that speak to our times. His reasoning is always sound and Biblical, and his applications are particularly convicting and thought-provoking.

In the book, Keller looks at several episodes in the Bible that you might not have considered in light of idolatry before (Abraham, Jacob, Jonah, Zacchaeus) and gives practical ideas for how to discern the idols driving your own life and behavior. He distinguishes between surface idols and deep idols, pointing out that often what looks like the problem is just a symptom of a deeper problem.

Keller asks tough questions that require consideration.  Where do I look for my value, my sense of beauty, significance, and worth?  From where do I derive my sense of confidence, peace, security, and safety? When do I feel threatened or in despair?

From diagnosing our idols, Keller goes on to describe how to uproot them. You can’t effectively get rid of an idol through sheer willpower, you have to replace it entirely. He notes that “idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God…Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol.”

I particularly appreciated how Keller spent time developing his point about replacing idols with Christ through repentance and rejoicing:

To rejoice is to treasure a thing, to assess its value to you, to reflect on its beauty and importance until your heart rests in it and tastes the sweetness of it. Rejoicing is a way of praising God until the heart is sweetened and rested, and until it relaxes its grip on anything else it thinks that it needs.

Counterfeit Gods was such a helpful and insightful book; I would highly recommend it for personal or group study.  I’m probably going to add it to my list of top reads for this year.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

2 thoughts on “Counterfeit Gods

  1. Thanks for reviewing this – I’m going to add it to my reading list. I enjoyed his book, “The Prodigal God.” I’m betting I can already identify the things I am falsely looking towards for fulfillment (one of which is friendship, since I’ve lived here for 4-1/2 years and have yet to make a friend). It isn’t as if I haven’t tried. My best efforts never bear seed. I begin to wonder what exactly it is that God is trying to teach me and perhaps it is, indeed, that I am placing my longing for friends above my longing for God.

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