X-Ray Questions to Test the Motivations of the Heart
(taken from David Powlison’s book, “Seeing With New Eyes”)
Hebrews 4:11-13 & Jer. 17:7-10
These questions help us identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in our hearts. As Christians, we profess that God controls all things, and works everything to his glory and our ultimate well being. We profess that God is our rock and refuge, a very present help in whatever troubles we face. We profess to worship him, trust him, love him, and obey him. But in the moment – or hour, day, season, of anxiety, we live as if we need to control all things. What we profess and what we trust in times of trouble often do not match. A hypocritical faith professes, sings, and prays one way, but trusts something else when push comes to shove. Thankfully, God’s grace reorients us, purifies us, and turns us back to our Lord. The God we profess and the God we turn to for comfort are the same.
1. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security? This is the question that Psalms invites. These psalms dig out your false trusts, your escapism’s that substitute for the Lord. Psalm 23, 27, 31, 46. Over half of the Psalms address this question.
2. What or whom do you trust? Where do you place life-directing, life-anchoring trust? In other people? In your abilities or achievements? In your church? In your possessions? In medical care? (Prov. 3:5; 11:28; 12:15; Psalm 23, 103 and 131)
3. Who are your human role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be? Your “idol” or “hero” reveals you. They embody the image to which you aspire. (Romans 8:29; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” = The Apostle Paul
4. What would make you feel rich, secure, and prosperous? What must you get to make life sing? The Bible often uses the metaphor of treasure or song to describe God. (Prov. 3:13-18; 8:10-21; Matt. 6:19-21; 13:45-46; Luke 16:10-15; 1 Peter 1:2-7).
5. How do you define victory and success? Some people live and die based on the performance of a local sports team, the financial bottom line of their company, their grade point average, or their physical appearance. (Rom. 8:37-39; Rev. 2:7; Psalms 96-99)
6. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? And also the greatest pain and misery? Whatever calculation you make in your mind reveals what you live for. (Matt. 5:3-11; Psalm 1, 35; Jer. 17:7-8; Luke 6:27-42)
7. What do you pray for? Of all the things to ask for, what do you concentrate on? Prayer is about desire; we ask for what we want. Do your prayers, or lack of, reflect the desires of God or of the flesh and the world? (James 4:3; Luke 18:9-14)
8. Where do you bank your hopes? This question is future oriented. People energetically sacrifice to attain what they hope for. People in despair have had hopes dashed. What were those shattered hopes? (1 Peter 1:13; 1 Tim. 6:17)
9. What do you organize your life around? This question is meant to reveal whether you have made the gifts of God supreme or God the errand boy of your desires. (Isa. 1:29-30; 50:10-11; Jer. 2:13; 17:13; Matt. 4:4; 5:6; John 4:32-34; 6:25-69).
10. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? What can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful? This question reveals self-righteousness, or living through your children, or hopes on getting the right kind of spouse. (Phil. 1:6; 2:13; 3:3-11; 4:13; Psalm 49:13).
11. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning? (Ecclesiastes 2 & 12).
12. How do you define and weigh success or failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation? God intends to renew your conscience by which you evaluate yourself and others. If you approach life “in your own understanding” or “in your own eyes,” you will live as a fool. (1 Cor. 10:24-27; Prov. 3:5; Judges 21:25)
13. Whose coming into political power would make everything better? Many people increasingly invest hopes in political power (Matt. 6:10).
14. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to? This question reveals the motivational pattern of angry, aggrieved, self-righteous, self-pitying people. Our culture of entitlement reinforces the flesh’s instincts and habits.
“I deserve _________”! (1 Cor. 9; Rom. 5:6-10; Ps. 103:10.)
15. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities? Notice what you and others choose to do. It is a signpost to the heart’s loyalties. (Prov. 1:16; 10:4; 23:19-21; 24:33).