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Book Review – Idols of the Heart


Book Review – Idols of the Heart

I read a lot of books . . . and by a lot I mean about 70 to 80 books a year. So what I’m about to say comes from many years of immersing myself in all sort of books (almost exclusively non-fiction).   Every once in a while a book comes a long that captures my attention in the first chapter. These are rare gems. Even rarer are the scarce books that accomplish this same effect in the introduction. Idols of the Heart distinguishes itself as the only book I have read that has gripped my heart before I ever made it to the introduction. In her Note for the Second Edition, Fitzpatrick expressed the cry of my heart with these simple words,

He knows my weakness: the weakness of my love, the weakness of my mind, the weakness of my determination to love Him more than all else. And yet he loves me because of the work His Son has done for me in justifying me and calling me beautiful . . . even though I fall so far short of His perfect standard, embodied in His law as expressed in the Ten Commandments.

This is what motivates me to live want to live a life worthy of Christ. This is what drives the desire within me that cries out with the hymn writer, “Search all my thoughts, the secret springs, the motives that control the chambers where polluted things hold empire o’er my soul” (Frank Bottome, 1823-1894, Search Me O God, My Actions Try).

By re-releasing Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick has taken a good book written fifteen years ago and made it a great book by infusing it with more of the gospel. When you take any topic  . . anything, and add more of God’s grace toward sinners, it instantly becomes phenomenal. . . and that is what this book is. It’s phenomenal!

Elyse Fitzpatrick’s purpose in writing this book is to cause the reader to come face to face with their idols and forsake them for the love and glory of God. A God who is merciful and who has purchase a people for Himself by placing their (our) vile sin upon the back of His Son in exchange for His perfect law-keeping record. Confronting these idols however can only be done when the reader realizes that he is in desperate need of a foreign righteousness that has fulfilled all of the law’s demands. It is in understanding that need, that the reader can then begin to identify (with the help of God) the motives that control the hidden chambers of his heart where those hideous and wretched idols camp out. It is here that Fitzpatrick is most helpful.

Using examples of people from scripture, Fitzpatrick carefully unpacks their experience to demonstrate that they were much like we are. They have many of the same fears, inordinate loves, and sins that cling so closely to us.  After retelling their experiences, she moves on to identifying the idol that captured the affections of their heart. She does this with a precision and depth of insight which comes from her experience as a Biblical Counselor. She then turns the reader to Christ in order to see that our only hope is found in the one whom we have so carelessly sinned against. Time and time again, with each chapter, Fitzpatrick revealed to me areas in my life that are in serious need of a profound and scandalous grace.

I am very grateful for this book. In the short time that I spent with it, God used it time and time again to first reflect His perfect righteousness to me and then to reflect my sinfulness to me. It reminded me once again to “implore the help of grace”  as Augustine puts it, and then to drive me back to the cross for that grace.

This is a book that you are going to want to pick up as soon as possible and read a couple times this year. It is also a book that you will want to order a few extra copies of to give away to those who are mourning their sin and want to understand the root cause of their habitual sin so that they can have victory through the glorious gospel of Christ.


If you would like to order a copy of Idols of the Heart you can find it on Amazon by clicking on this link.

P&R Publishers also provides this free Study Guide to Idols of the Heart

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from P&R Publishing in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the Author

EPElyse Fitzpatrick counsels with the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship and is a frequent retreat and conference speaker. Fitzpatrick coauthored Women Helping Women, a 1998 Gold Medallion finalist; Love to Eat, Hate to Eat; Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety; and Uncommon Vessels: A Program for Developing Godly Eating Habits. She and her husband, Philip, have three adult children and two grandchildren.




18 thoughts on “Book Review – Idols of the Heart

  1. In the short time I have been a Christian Aaron no one has influenced me more than Elyse. I’m so happy that you did this review. Elyse makes me cry every time and in good ways because she helps me cut though my excuses for sin, imerses me in gospel and reminds me of what Christ has done.. God not only forgives me for my past (sexually abused, turned sex addict followed by multiple abortions and just all around ugliness) but also on top of that looks at me with Jesus’s life? Wow! I can’t say anything else but wow!

    • I agree Jen, there is so much to wonder at in the gospel. You will find this book to be much like her others in this sense but unlike her others in the main topic that she is addressing. Keep reading Jen!

  2. Marie Pizzi

    I love this review Aaron! I looked on Amazon a d it said they don’t have copies available yet but they do of the first printing. Do you know when it will be available?

  3. Dahlia Rich

    This looks like an awesome book and fabulous too! One of the struggles I have is with my jealousy. Not the good kind of jealousy that God has for us but the bad kind like follow you around, checking your email and facebook, suspecting every girl of trying to steal him kind of jealousy. There has to be an idol there somewhere right? It’s so hard! I just can’t seem to let go of it! Even though I have no reason to be suspicious. Zero!

    • Hello Dahlia, I’m not so sure if Jealousy itself is an idol but you will want to examine that more by digging deeper into your heart. You can do this by asking yourself what it is that you love so much that jealousy rises up to protect it. Elyse Fitzpatrick addresses jealousy a little but not in depth in this book. The first that I can remember was on page 23 when describing Rachel and the jealousy in her heart against Leah. She wanted the favored position which having children would have given her. There is much to say about this but I suggest getting the book and reading it. You will gain much more from that than from my reply. Another place is on page 106. She lists it as an affection of the heart as identified by James in James 3.14. Likewise on page 140 in the footnotes she uses Gal 5.16 -21 to identify jealousy as a motivating factor for sinful behavior. In putting off the acts of the flesh (such as jealousy) we are to put on the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5.22-23). Finally she used it in are positive sense to describe God’s righteous jealousy to be the sole object of our worship. I don’t remember where that was in the book.

      Regardless of this not being a long treatment of jealousy specifically, I am sure the book will help you to identify the root cause of the jealousy, which is likely an idol of some sort that is being placed above God in your affections. I was surprised myself to find many of these idols lurking below the surface in my own heart. The key now is bringing them to the light so that they will be exposed and rooted out by God’s grace.

      • Dahlia Rich

        Thanks for replying AJ. Yes it is definitely an idol somewhere within my desires. Thanks for always pointing us back to Jesus and His grace in all your posts. I love it! I don’t comment often but still appreciate your blog.

  4. Michael Pope

    This book looks good to me which surprises me because I have heard that the author is an advocate of cheap grace. Do you have any thoughts on that? Your review made it sounds like she is not but other people I have read make it sound like she might be. In the quote you quoted she refers to God’s law as his “perfect standard” which is not language I would expect from a cheap grace advocate who views God’s law as arbitrary and optional because it’s covered under grace.

    • Michael, absolutely not. I think anyone who charges Elyse Fitzpatrick with being an advocate of cheap grace has never read her books or has a low degree of reading comprehension ability. If anything she emphasizes that the incredible grace we have received was very costly. She does not consider obedience to be optional either. Instead she teaches the classic reformed position on obedience. In chapter 3 she deals with the proper use of the law and this is perhaps what makes some people nervous; especially those who really want to use the law as the empowering vehicle for obedience. In here she frames our obedience in the context of a response born from gratitude. She has a very good understanding on the proper relationship between law and gospel and how they work together (the law driving us to the cross) in the life of the Christian.

  5. Rebekah

    I can’t wait to read this book. We are going to use it as a study in our marriage class for church. I am just getting giddy thinking about it!!

  6. K.Byrd

    Thanks for the review. Been looking forward to this book being redone.

  7. Lenette

    Looks so good! Water for my weary ex-Catholic soul!

  8. Oh my goodness this sounds just perfect for this season of my life! Why is God insisting on bringing these things up over and over? I guess I need His grace more than ever lol!

  9. Maureen

    I purchased the 2001 edition back in August, 2015, and just getting to read it now. What am I missing in the new updated edition? It doesn’t seem to be sold on Amazon yet! Thanks! (By the way I’m only on page 24 and it is excellent, as all of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s books are!)

    • Hello Maureen, The new release is infused with more gospel. She talks a little about it in this interview,

      I think the gist of the book is the same, but as her own theology has tightened up over the years she re-write it to reflect her better understanding of the gospel. You can’t go wrong with either edition but the new release is closer to the Elyse Fitzpatrick that we enjoy today.

  10. J.C. Travino

    Now this is a book I can get into. Lately God has been convincing me and convicting me of my sin. It is all idolatry and I am at the middle of all my idols. Thanks A and J! This is good.

  11. I agree j.C. Our idolatry clings so closely to us. This is why I love the gospel so much!

  12. Garret

    I have the old copy but want to read the update. Amazon was out of stock last I checked. I think it wasn’t much more through P&R if wanting it sooner.

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