Let's think about your heart, and we'll do it by imagining a scenario. You're out for a hike on a beautiful spring day. You're delighted to hear running water, and sure enough, you come to a creek. But there's something wrong with this picture. You notice that someone has dumped trash into the stream—an ugly sight. There is refuse floating on the water. Judging by some of the empty soda cans, the trash has been there awhile. And there is an ugly film on top of the water.

You can't just leave the scene as you found it, because it would bother your conscience. So you stoop down and begin gathering the trash.

It actually takes several hours before you can begin to see a difference; it's amazing how much junk is there. You sit back, rest for a moment, and realize you'll have to keep returning each day until the site is truly clean. Well, that's okay; it's a project you'll be proud of.

Except that when you come back the next day, it's as if your work has been undone.

In fact there's more trash than before. Somehow the garbage bred overnight. You think about the unlikelihood of someone coming to this very spot to dump their garbage in the few hours while you were away, and you realize that something smells fishy—so to speak. So you begin to follow the creek upstream.

Sure enough, you come to a garbage dump that has been there for years. It's emptying into the passing creek. Your cleaning job only opened up a gap for more stuff to settle. You could go and clean every day, but it would just be like pushing a boulder up the hill and watching it roll back down again… .

If you want your creek to be clean, that means going directly to the source and dealing with what's there.

Think of your heart, as the Hebrews did, as the source from which your life flows—thoughts, emotions, actions.

How much of your life do you spend dealing with the visible garbage rather than what produces it? We all spend great amounts of time, money, energy, and frustration doing trash removal when something upstream is still dumping into the flow. Even the church focuses downstream too much. It's so much easier to pick up a little bit of trash. Dealing with what's upstream is a staggering commitment. But the [idols that vie for our affection] know the heart is the battlefield. It's where the war is won.

Taken from Gods at War by Kyle Idleman. Copyright © 2013 by Kyle Idleman. Used by permission of Zondervan. zondervan.com.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart
Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart
240 pp., 6.97
Buy Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart from Amazon