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Getting to the Heart of Our Idolatry with X-Ray Questions


What are the idols in our lives that need revealed and destroyed? @mferrell

I have been slowly working through a book by a favorite author of mine, David Powlison called Seeing with New Eyes. One chapter in particular that has held my attention is chapter 7 called X-Ray Questions.

In the second section of his book, he defines chapter 7 as exploring what God says he sees when he looks at why we do what we do. Mr. Powlison is asking us the question, “Why? Why do we do what we do, think what we think, feel what we feel, say what we say?”


The purpose of these questions is to “discern the patterns of a person’s motivation.” They are to help us in discerning our functional gods. What are the idols in our lives that need revealed and destroyed?

What are the idols in our lives that need revealed and destroyed? Click to Tweet

The issue is we want to be God and live our lives as if we control everything. Or what about when we have those persons, relationships or situations in our lives that make us upset? They’re challenging that part of us that wants to be God. These functional Gods in our lives compete with the One True God, and we need to reveal them and tear them down. These questions will help us to discern what we’re putting our faith and trust in.

These are such a reminder to me of why we need to continually preach the gospel to ourselves.

In the book, each question has a deeper explanation, application and scripture references. I’m going to encourage you to pick up a copy of this book that will be a much-needed addition to your home library. (I’ve linked to a PDF copy of the questions at the bottom of the post in case you want to print them out)

“The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their heart. These questions reveal ‘functional gods,’ what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations.”

~ David Powlison, Seeing With New Eyes

X-Ray Questions:

1. What do you love? Hate?

2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue? What are your goals and expectations?

4. Where do you bank your hopes?

5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?

6. What do you feel like doing?

7. What do you think you need? What are your “felt needs”?

8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?

9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? Where do you find our garden of delight? What lights up your world? What really matters to you? What do you organize your life around?

10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

11. What or whom do you trust?

12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?

13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?

14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?

15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?

16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?

17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?

18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?

20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?

22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?

23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do? “What do you get out of doing that?”

24. What do you pray for?

25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively? What is your “mindset”?

26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?

27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?

29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?

30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge? Who is the savior, judge, controller, provider, protector in your world? Whom do you serve? What “voice” controls you?

31. How do you live for yourself?

32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?

33. How do you implicitly say, ‘If only…’ (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?

34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?

35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

X-Ray Questions PDF copy

*Above questions are taken from Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:30-31

“Either we will love and serve God, or we will love and serve our idols. Idols exist in our lives because we love them and invite them in. But once idols find a home, they are unruly and resist leaving. In fact, they change from being the servants of our desires to being our masters.”

~ Edward Welch, Blame it on the Brain



Related Links:

How to Be Perfectly Miserable

Podcast EP 31: The Supremacy of God