Discerning our Functional Gods The list of “X-ray questions” in this chapter provides aid in discerning the patterns of a person’s motivation. The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their hearts. These questions reveal “functional gods,” what or who actually controls particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations. Note that “functional gods” in a particular situation often stand diametrically opposed to the “professed God.” Consider when you become anxious, preoccupied, and filled with fretful concern. Something happened, and you can’t get it off your mind. Now something else is happening —you’re consumed with it. Your mind turns over and over what will happen tomorrow, chewing on every possible contingency. As the sin of worry tightens its unpleasant hold on your soul, perhaps you jump for some escapist quick fix: raid the icebox, watch TV, masturbate, read a novel, go shopping, drink a beer, play a game. Or perhaps you mobilize to seize control: make a string of phone calls, work all night, build a faction of supporters, clean your house, get mad. Why is all this going on? As a Christian you profess that God controls all things, and works everything to His glory and your ultimate well-being. You profess that God is your rock and refuge, a very present help in whatever troubles you face. You profess to worship Him, trust Him, love Him, obey Him. But in that moment—or hour, day, season—of anxiety, you live as if you needed to control all things. You live as if something—money, someone’s approval, a “successful” sermon, your grade on an exam, good health, avoiding conflict, getting your way—matters more than trusting and loving God. You live as if some temporary good feeling could provide you refuge, as if your actions could make the world right. Your functional god competes with your professed God. Unbelievers are wholly owned by ungodly motives—their functional gods. Yet true believers are often severely compromised, distracted, and divided by our functional gods as well. Thankfully, grace reorients us, purifies us, and turns us back to our Lord. Grace makes our professed God and functional God one and the same
Pastor Timothy J. Atkins
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Pastor, Teacher, Discipler, and Follower of Jesus.