Empty Promises, Book Review

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing
by Pete Wilson

A preacher who tells the congregation that an idol is anything more important to us than God probably wouldn’t shock (or enlighten) anyone. Most of us have heard this before . . . countless times . . . in many different ways . . . in Sunday morning sermons, small group lessons, radio preacher segments, and more.emptypromises

So, we might shrug it off.  Is anything more important to me than God?  Nah.  Not me.  Yawn and start doodling on the back of the bulletin.

Pete Wilson, knowing our tendency to bored complacency on this issue, gives his own definition: “idolatry is when I look to something that does not have God’s power to give me what only God has the authority and power to give” (p. 5).  Ahh, now he has our attention.

Of course this isn’t about statues of stone or bronze.  Most likely, this is internal idolatry, a problem in our hearts.  It doesn’t have to be the idol of materialism (although it can be), or physical appearance (although that’s possible, too).  Wilson covers other potential idols that are more elusive and harder to identify, like power, religion and dreams.

He writes with vulnerability and a touch of humor, making it an easy and interesting read.  He’s also organized and challenging–including in each chapter some benchmarks to consider when deciding whether or not you struggle with this or that.

The most insightful moments of the book for me were actually quotes from commentaries  and other classic and modern writers like C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, and John Piper.  I don’t mind this.  It shows the breadth of Pete Wilson’s reading and his ability to present truth in an organized and challenging way.

This wasn’t a particularly life-changing book for me at the moment, but it has the potential to be so.  I did, however, discover some fresh descriptions and explanations that I’ve been thinking about even after finishing the book.  This is fitting since, as Wilson, says, “I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry.  Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis (p. 196).

That makes the book worth a re-read whenever we’re struck again by feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction, if only for the reminder that some longing won’t be fulfilled until heaven, but it is always fulfilled in Christ.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and 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.”

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