Identifying our Functional Saviors
Living as disciples of Jesus means we will progressively surrender our ways to him. This is often more difficult than it seems, partly because of the obstacles we looked at in previous weeks.  In addition, we all have functional saviors, which are beneath-the-surface idols of the heart that, if left unchecked, will become our objects of worship. Jerry Bridges describes them this way:
“Sometimes we look to other things to satisfy and fulfill us—to ‘save’ us. These ‘functional saviors’ can be any object of dependence we embrace that isn’t God. They become the source of our identity, security, and significance because we hold an idolatrous affection for them in our hearts. They preoccupy our minds and consume our time and resources. They make us feel good and somehow even make us feel righteous. Whether we realize it or not, they control us, and we worship them.”
Who or what do you depend on more than God? These are the hidden idols that constantly vie for your devotion. You will constantly make sacrifices for them because they are what you prize the most. A person may have genuinely given her life to Jesus, but over time slipped back into trusting functional saviors. For this reason each of us must pay careful attention to the things in which we place our greatest faith. Where does your ultimate identity come from? Are you chasing glory, security, comfort, or some unreachable ideal? Scripture is clear that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). His mercies are new every morning and his steadfast love endures forever (Lamentations 3:23; Psalm 136:1). Yet because of our brokenness we all struggle with truly believing this. We begin to chase safety by establishing back up plans and hedging our bets. We find ourselves retreating instead of advancing forward in battle with the Lord. Security becomes our main priority, as we subtly shift our loyalty from the Living God who delights in our faith, to counterfeit gods who offer false safety.
So how should you deal with these crafty idols? The first thing is to identify what they are. Pastor Tim Keller is helpful here:
“A good way to discern this is how you respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes. If you ask for something that you don’t get, you may become sad and disappointed. Then you go on. Hey, life’s not over. Those are not your functional masters. But when you pray and work for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god. Like Jonah, you become angry enough to die.”
Paying attention to your emotions can be helpful. Do you get unreasonably angry when things don’t go your way? Are you overcome with sadness when a friend confronts you about something? Does the thought of a loved one going away, even for a short time, cause you great fear? Take these things to Jesus and ask him to help you understand what really may be going on. Remember, stepping into the light feels vulnerable, but it’s exactly where God needs you. It’s a part of his growth process. He is perfecting that which concerns you! (Psalm 138:8).
Respond to Each Question Below
Consider the following categories of “functional saviors.” Pray about each of them. What do you sense your functional saviors are? Respond with thoughts or convictions for each:
Relational Idols: Spouse, children, friends, or even enemies.
Religious Idols: Moralism or legalism.
Sexual Idols: Pornography or unrealistic ideals for physical beauty. An unhealthy interest in sexuality outside of marriage.
Political Idols: Making any political ideology THE answer.
Comfort Idols: Living for pleasure. Sacrificing all for a certain quality of life.
Approval Idols: People pleasing and the fear of man.
Other Idols: What else do you place ultimate value upon? 
 Surrender to Jesus is often stifled by spiritual consumerism and the mistaken belief that discipleship is for “super-Christians.”
 Bridges & Bevington, The Bookends of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 72.
 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The empty promises of money, sex, and power and the only hope that matters (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009), 169.
 Ibid., 203-204.