Book Review: Breaking the Idols of Your Heart: How to Navigate the Temptations of Life (Dan B. Allender, Tremper Longman III)

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Title: Breaking the Idols of Your Heart: How to Navigate the Temptations of Life
Author: Dan B. Allender, Tremper Longman III
Date Read: August 24 to 30, 2015
Rating: ★★★
We all want to know our lives matter. So did the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. He invested time and energy in every activity he could think of that might bring meaning and purpose to his life but found only disappointment, frustration, hopelessness. In our thirst for significance we, like the Teacher, give our lives–our time, talents, strength, heart–to anything we think will give us worth and purpose: Power. Relationships. Money. Pleasure. Work. But worshiping these idols has a high cost–and still doesn’t bring the fulfillment we long for. In Breaking the Idols of Your Heart Dan Allender and Tremper Longman illuminate for us the Teacher’s warnings and, after all his activities, his final radiant conclusion: Meaning and purpose come only when God is truly the center of our life and the object of our hope. Using a compelling fictional narrative at the start of each chapter to encourage reflection on our own life and the lives of family and friends, the authors lead us through Ecclesiastes to help us recognize and exchange cheap pursuits for the only One worth pursuing. Ecclesiastes is not an easy book to read, because transferring our worship from money, power and fame to God is not an easy road to travel. But as the Teacher discovered and wrote down for us, it leads to one conclusion: life lived abundantly, in freedom, hope, purpose, meaning.
My thoughts: 

The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It’s one of the books that I’ve meditated on for my Quiet Time last year and if I were to summarize the message of the entire book, it’s “Life is meaningless without God”. I may sound a broken record here but my experience with God tells me that there is no other way to live a satisfying and fulfilled life but to live for Christ. But my own journey  also tells me that living this life for Christ is far from easy. Along the way, God will allow us to experience a lot of trials and sufferings, including disappointments and frustrations here and there, to test us and purify our faith and motives for serving Him. And sometimes, because of my own stubbornness and pride, I refuse to allow God to help me get through these trials and sufferings and choose to trust on my own abilities and effort instead. And sometimes, because of my stubbornness, I choose to compromise and disobey God. It is because of these compromises and disobedience that my heart becomes hardened and callous that I became too insensitive to God’s warning and calling to keep away from the road to destruction.

It is because of this reason that I decided to buy and read this book. I realized that my heart is starting to get hardened because of the idols that I have set up in my heart. It was so hard that I need to ask God to break it for me so that I will be able to get out from the trap of idolatry. The title has really got my attention and I thought that it is the book that I needed to read at the moment. I want to understand or know what idols of the heart that I need to avoid or destroy as early as possible.

I’m glad that the author has discussed these different idols in the context of the book of Ecclesiastes. The book has been helpful in providing me a deeper insight and new perspective on the message of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes that ‘everything is meaningless and chasing after the wind under the sun’:

  • control will always slip out of grasp
  • relationships will always disappoint
  • work will leave us frustrated
  • pleasure is always fleeting
  • wisdom is never an  adequate guide
  • spirituality usually gives in to legalism
  • life ends in decay and death

The above-mentioned reality of life in this world can be frustrating but the book also offers an alternative perspective – that is to view life through above-the-sun perspective. In order to have an above-the-sun perspective, we need to submit our will and desire to God and allow Him to accomplish His pleasing and perfect will for us. We need to renounce these former idols and allow Christ to redeem our hearts. With this perspective, all aspects of our earthly life will have a new and everlasting significance;

  • control leads to surrender to God’s will
  • relationships lead to trust in God’s love
  • work leads to laboring for God’s kingdom
  • pleasure leads to a hunger for Christ’s coming
  • wisdom leads to a humble curiosity to know God
  • spirituality leads to embracing God’s wild heart
  • life leads to a joyous celebration of death and resurrection.

This book is indeed helpful for those who want to understand and know how to protect their hearts from the danger of chasing the things offered by this world.

Favorite Quotes

It’s the paradox of the Gospel: Strength is found in weakness, control is found in dependency, power is found in surrender. 

Above the sun,  we find wisdom in the Word – and the Word is first of all a person, Jesus Christ. Wisdom, in other words, is a relationship.

The trouble is, for many people, religion becomes a way for people to cope with life without actually knowing God.

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