Top Quotes on Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

Top Quotes on Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

As many of you know, this year I’ve committed to reading/listening to as much of Timothy J. Keller as possible (click here to learn more about the books I’m reading/listening to and why).

I likely won’t do this for every Keller book I read/listen to, but Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters was so incredibly rich, that for personal learning purposes, I wanted to revisit the book and pull out the quotes that punched me in the face. On a few of them, I’ll add some commentary.

Caveat: Since I listened to the book, instead of reading it, the following quotes might not match the exact wording, punctuation and phrasing in the book.

  • “The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.”
  • An idol is something we cannot live without. We must have it. Therefore it drives us to break rules we once honored to harm others, even ourselves, in order to get it.”
  • “Anything in life can serve as an idol, or a counterfeit god.”
  • “Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”
  • “An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
  • “If I have that, then I will feel like my life has meaning. Then I’ll know I have value. And I’ll feel significant and secure.”
    • The “that” which he is referring to are the idols in our lives.
  • “The Bible uses three basic metaphors to talk about how people relate to the idols of their hearts: they love idols, trust idols and obey idols.”
  • “God should be our true spouse, but when we desire and delight in other things other than God, we commit spiritual adultery.”
  • “Idols give us a sense of being in control and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares: What do we fear the most? What if we lost it would make life not worth living?”
  • “Idols control us since we feel like we must have them or life is meaningless.”
  • “Whatever controls us is our Lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by the people he or she wants to please. We do not control ourselves, we are controlled by the lord of our lives.”
  • “The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one, the living God….he’s the only one who if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and if you fail him, can truly forgive you.”
  • “The most painful times in our lives are times in which our Isaacs, or idols, are being threatened or removed.”
  • “You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
  • “No person, not even the best one, can give your soul all it needs…this cosmic disappointment and disillusionment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things in which we set our hopes. When you finally realize this, there are four things you can do: You can blame the things that are disappointing you and try to move on to better ones (that’s the way of continued idolatry and spiritual addiction), you can blame yourself and beat yourself (that’s the way of self loathing and shame), you can blame the world (that’s how you get hard, cynical and empty), or you can reorient the entire focus of your life on God.
  • “Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they’re guilty of it. Therefore, we should all begin with the working hypothesis that this could easily be a problem for me. If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it’s not a problem for them.”
  • “Have we received more of God’s revelation, truth and grace than the Old Testament believers, or less? Are we more debtors to grace than they were, or less? Did Jesus tithe his life and blood to save us, or did he give it all? Tithing is a minimum standard for Christian believers. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position of giving less of our income than those who had so much less of an understanding of what God did to save them.”
    • Wow…what reasoning regarding giving and tithing.
  • “Counterfeit gods come in structures…sin in our hearts affects our basic motivational drives. Some people are strongly motivated by influence and power, while others are motivated by approval or appreciation. Some want emotional and physical comfort more than anything else. Others want security and the control of their environment. People with the deep idol of power do not mind being unpopular to gain influence. People who are most motivated by approval are the opposite. They’ll gladly lose power and control as long as everyone thinks well of them. Each deep idol, power, approval, comfort or control, generates a different set of fears and hopes. Surface idols are things like money, spouse, children, through which our deep idols seek fulfillment. We’re often superficial in the analysis of our idol structures, for example money can be a surface idol that serves to satisfy more foundational influences. Some people want lots of money as a way to control their world and life, and such people usually don’t spend much money and they live very modestly. They keep it all safely saved and invested so that they can feel completely safe in the world. Others want money for access to social circles and to make themselves beautiful and attractive. These people do spend their money on themselves in lavish ways. Other people want money because it gives them so much power over others. In every case, money functions as an idol, and yet because of various deep idols it results in very different patterns of behavior. The person using money to serve a deep idol of control will often feel superior to others and use money to obtain power or social approval. In every case however, money idolatry slaves and distorts lives.”
    • Wow…just wow…the insight in this paragraph is killer.
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Daniel Im
My name is Daniel Sangi Im and I am the Director of Church Multiplication for New Churches and LifeWay Christian Resources. I serve as a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. I am also the co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer.