Thirteen Questions on Discerning Idols (from Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven, by Puritan Pastor David Clarkson)
- What do you most highly value?
- What do you think about by default?
- What is your highest goal?
- To what or whom are you most committed?
- Who or what do you love the most?
- Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
- Who or what do you fear the most?
- Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
- Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
- Who or what do you most delight in, your greatest joy and treasure?
- Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
- To whom or for what are you most thankful?
- For whom or what great purpose do you work?
Fifteen questions from Tim Keller on uncovering idolatry in your life
- What are you most afraid of?
- What do you long for most passionately
- Where do you run for comfort? Anger?
- What do you complain about most?
- What angers you most?
- What makes you happiest?
- How do you define yourself to people?
- What has caused you to be angry with God?
- What do you brag about?
- What one thing do you want the most
- What do you sacrifice for? (sacrifice = worship)
- If you change one thing in your life, what would it be?
- Who’s approval are you seeking? Is it anyone other than Jesus?
- What do you want to control or master?
- What comfort do you treasure the most?
David Powlison listed a similar set of eleven diagnostic questions in his book Seeing With New Eyes:
- What do I worry about most?
- What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
- What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
- What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
- What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
- What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
- What do I lead with in conversations?
- Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
- What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
- What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
- What is my hope for the future?
A great resource on the idols that we create to meet our deepest cravings is Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters, by Timothy Keller (Dutton, 2009)
Tim Lane and Paul Tripp utilized Powlison’s list of “X-Ray Questions” in their book How People Change. Here is their list.
Another great resource is this sermon by Beau Hughes, Denton Campus Pastor and Elder at The Village Church, entitled Deep Idols.