Counterfeit Gods is a book written by Timothy Keller. Tim is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Counterfeit Gods talks about the empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the Only Hope that matters. It focuses on the idols we (human beings) have in our hearts that hinder us from acknowledging God as the only person who can give us the satisfaction we yearn for, and not just that but it further gives detailed information on how to identify, uproot and replace these idols.
The author defines an idol as anything more important to a person than God, anything that absorbs his/her heart and imagination more than God, anything one seeks to give him/her what only God can give.
Tim uses illustrations of a number of characters in the Bible who had hidden idols in their lives before they discerned, identified, uprooted and replaced them with the one true God. He talks of Jacob, describing his life as empty. He never had his father’s love, ran away from home to avoid his brother’s wrath, he certainly had no sense of God’s love and care. Then he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and all the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed on Rachel (his idol).
He talks of Naaman, whose success, wealth and power, hindered him from believing Elisha’s instruction to go and dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, and how it took the intervention of his servant for him to be convinced. He further talks of Zacchaeus whose idol was greed and money, and Nebuchadnezzar who idolized status and power. Finally, he talks about Jonah who beheld the love for his own nation and failed to have compassion on the people of Nineveh.
How do we identify idols in our lives?
‘Your religion is what you do with your solitude’ said Archbishop William Temple. In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there’s nothing else demanding your attention. What do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart? Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money. Jesus said, ‘’ where your treasure is, there is your heart also.’’ Mathew 6:21.
What stood out for me in the book was chapter 6 where Tim dwells on the story of Jonah and the mission given to him by God and how his story connects to Christ. Jonah had to leave his comfort zone and his safety to go to Nineveh where he could face rejection and death. On the other hand, Christ left His comfort in heaven and actually died on the cross. Jonah was thrown in a terrible storm by sailors and the sea became calm, in the same way when the disciples woke Jesus up during a terrible storm, he calmed the sea.
The only difference is that whereas Jonah was merely thrown into the sea and later rescued by a fish, Jesus on the cross, however, was thrown into the ultimate storm – facing the divine justice and punishment that we deserve for our wrongdoing.
He says, ‘When I struggle with my idols I think of Jesus, voluntarily bowing his head into that ultimate storm, taking it on frontally, for me.’ While we may be wondering on where to draw the line of loving the good things we have like family, jobs, spouses, pleasure and so on, Tim says, ‘the solution is not to love good things less, but to love the Best thing more.’
I highly recommend this book to every Christian. It will help us discern, identify, uproot and replace the idols in their lives, with the only one – God who can satisfy their cravings. Counterfeit Gods points to Scripture to help root them out, turns to the Cross to find forgiveness and points to the gospel as the power to find ultimate freedom from them.
Anna Daisy Ojera has written this book review. Anna Daisy is an apprentice based in GracePoint Church, Kikuyu where she helps in the children’s ministry.