Posts tagged ‘idolatry’

Wishing For Living Idols

First of all, the seed of an idea that the Lord planted in my mind for this post came from hearing a short portion of a Sunday sermon from last week by Pastor Scott Hagan from Real Life Church in Sacramento. Not only is he spot on, but we graduated from high school together, so he must be cool, too! 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭4-6‬ NKJV)

Idolatry. Perhaps no other sin is as universally condemned in Scripture as idol worship. A curse came with making something with men’s hands and worshipping it. No matter the quality of the workmanship, and how fervently you hope and dance and cut yourself and worship, that idol will never be the Living God. It just won’t happen.

But that is precisely what is going on right now with the gay “marriage” debate. People are using logic, law, and doing everything in their power to make same-sex marriages a reality. But the truth is, that no matter how many marches, and court decisions and laws that human beings pass, it will never be a REAL marriage. Here’s why. 

and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭5‬ NKJV)

God made this principle clear in Genesis, and jesus quoted it here in Matthew. He made the principle clear. Man joined to wife equals one flesh. But just to make sure we don’t miss it, Jesus says this in the very next verse. 

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭6‬ NKJV)

Did you catch that? The husband and wife don’t join themselves together, nor does a minister join them. God is the one who makes the two of them one flesh as husband and wife! No matter how people hope and pray and litigate and legislate, anything other than this has not been joined together by God and is therefore not a marriage. And my opinion and your opinion have no bearing on the matter! To teach otherwise is to make a God in our own image, and have Him do what we wish Him to do. But that amounts to idolatry, and brings a curse instead of the desired blessing!

So what are we to do? We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). And know this; you cannot speak a lie in the love. God is love, and He cannot lie. Satan is the father of lies, and has no love in him. In fact, the most spiritually dangerous thing we could ever do is to speak a lie and attribute it to God! No, the most loving thing we can do is to tell the truth about same-sex marriage with as much love and compassion as we can. But it must be grounded in truth! 

We must show our love by proclamation of the truth laid down by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭9-10‬ NKJV)

But we are to do so humbly and in love, knowing that we all have besetting sins which we all fight on a daily basis. We must tell of the power of God to deliver anyone from the grip of the strongest sin! Our faith and our message must rest, not on human wisdom, but on the delivering power of God. That’s why Paul goes on to say this:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭11‬ NKJV) 

We must hold out this message of hope and deliverance to anyone and everyone who will listen, homosexual, heterosexual, or anyone else! Without altering the Word of God or lowering His standards, we must tell the world that Christ came to save sinners, so that qualifies each of us for His salvation. We are not judging anyone. We are letting them know that God has already judged everyone, including them, and that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭8-9‬ NKJV) 

When this is our message, we will be the God honoring, Christ exalting, Gospel spreading, disciple making, and people loving Church that we are commissioned to be in this World! 

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Chasing the Bulls

The pursuit of happiness.
For many, the pursuit of happiness means one thing — the pursuit of wealth. After all, isn’t that the American dream? We want to be better off financially than the previous generation was. We want to have a house that is paid for, two cars, 3.2 kids, a dog, and a flat screen TV. But there is a question that needs to be asked. Just because that is the “American Dream”, is it necessarily God’s dream for us? We need to examine what the Bible says about this dream, and see if it lines up with what God desires for us. And while there is nothing inherently sinful about having money, it does come with some serious warnings. Like fire, it can be beneficial, but used in the wrong context, it can kill and destroy us and those we love.

There are two dangers, from what I can see, in pursuing wealth — idolatry and covetousness. But there are also two remedies — contentment and gratitude. Lets see what the Bible says about it.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Want to get ahead, and have great gain in life? Great! There is your key to success — godliness and contentment. The Greek word for contentment here indicates satisfaction with what one has. The Stoic philosophers liked contentment because it indicated self sufficiency. But for the Christian, contentment reflects Christ’s sufficiency. We are secure in the knowledge that as we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, (Matthew 6;33), that our God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). Our lives are completely in His hands, and contentment reflects a trust that God knows what He is doing.

But some folks are driven no constantly attain more and gather up wealth for themselves. What follows is that money, which is supposed to be a useful servant, becomes a tyrannical master. Eventually, money, or mammon, becomes our God. We think about new wealth strategies day and night and constantly need to have the latest and greatest. Money becomes an idol.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Timothy 6:9, 10 NKJV)

Again, you may be either blessed or cursed with riches. But a conscious effort must be made to make sure the servant doesn’t become the master. Jesus put it this way:

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

You see, Jesus didn’t say it was difficult to serve God and money. He didn’t even say it requires great skill.

    He said it is impossible!

Knowing that, why would any of us mock God and act as though Jesus was mistaken on this point?

So how do you know if you have crossed over into the pursuit of mammon instead of the worship of God? Well, what would happen if God took it all away? Or better yet, if He told you to give it all away? Could you release it, since it belongs to Him anyway? Those are hard questions that deserve much thought and self examination. Please don’t go over them lightly.

Down in the financial district around Wall Street in New York City, there is a large metal statue of a running bull. For some, it would symbolize a profitable, or “bull” market. In one way, perhaps unintentionally, that state is a warning to those who would worship wealth. Just like the golden calf that the Israelites built at Mount Sinai was an idol that caused death and destruction of lives, covetousness changes money into an idol that destroys us spiritually. And like the bull statue illustrates, it will turn on us without mercy and run us over and leave us behind.

If you have wealth, make sure you are also rich toward God, willing to share, and eager to serve God, not mammon. Are you poor? Don’t think that covetousness cannot consume you as well. Rest in God, and trust in His loving care for you. Serve Him fully, and with an eye single to His glory. Walk in godliness.
And be content.

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Don’t Miss Dinner

One of my favorite sayings is, “Call me anything you want, but don’t call me late for supper!” Shared meals are very special, and they were especially so in the ancient Near Eastern cultures. With that in mind, Jesus took the opportunity while reclining at a meal to illustrate the Kingdom of God. I think it would be beneficial to take a look at Luke and draw some lessons for ourselves from the text.

When one of those who reclined at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “The one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God is blessed! ” Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. At the time of the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ (Luke 14:15-17 HCSB)

Jesus sets the stage for the parable by describing a large banquet for which invitations had already been sent. What is implied here is that the invitations had been accepted by those to whom they had been sent. To back out on such an invitation was considered a sign of disrespect and showed that the host’s feelings were not a priority for the guest. One by one, the servants come back with a list of excuses instead of a list of guests.

“But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’ “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’ (Luke 14:18-20)

What are represented here are responses of those who had previously accepted the invitation, but had other things come up that they considered a higher priority. There is a warning here for those of us who have committed to following Jesus but have let other things get in the way of our service to God. And these things are not what we might assume them to be. They aren’t sex, drugs, and rock and roll. They are not lying, killing and cheating. Let’s take a closer look, and in so doing remind ourselves to keep these things from hindering our spiritual service.

“The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’ (Luke 14:18b)

The recently purchased field represents possessions, or our “stuff” becoming more important than spiritual matters. Notice, Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to own a field. He is saying that the things we possess should never take precedence over the things of God. And yet how many, in pursuit of worldly wealth, forfeit their souls?

For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self? (Luke 9:25 ASV)

Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ (Luke 14:19 NASB)

A yoke of oxen were used in the daily tasks of making a living. As such, they represent our work or career. Again, Jesus is not saying that we should not work to support our families. But when career growth and advancement takes a priority over our spiritual advancement and growth, then it has become an idol and has put God in second place in our lives. The same could be said of someone who keeps their faith under wraps because it might hurt their promotion potential if people thought they were an on fire Christian. While employment is a legitimate need, the Lord’s work must come first.

Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ (Luke 14:20 NASB)

This statement represents relationships with friends and family. As before, we cannot let fear of rejection by those who are close to us keep us from obeying God. This can be the most difficult to overcome, but in the end, it is our relationship with God that will matter most in eternity. When we are strong and unashamed in our walk with God, then those same friends and relatives are the ones who may be drawn to Christ by our example.

In the end, each of these things, possessions, professions, and relationships are not evil in and of themselves. But when they, or anything else, become more important than obeying God, then they are idols. They very things that started off as blessings become the things that condemn us. So I would encourage all of of us to evaluate ourselves and see if any of these has becomes an idol for us, and adjust our lives to out God first in all things. And if you have not come to Christ because your fear what you might have to give up, or are afraid it will cost you a job or a relationship, put eternity first, come to Christ in obedient faith, and don’t let anything keep you out of the Kingdom!

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Turn Upside Down

Have you ever wondered why people in Australia don’t realize that they are upside down?

Seriously though, our society has been exposed and desensitized to upside down thinking that it is now perceived as “normal” instead of wrong. In Acts, Paul and Silas encountered a crowd at Thessalonica that was upside down in its thinking.

5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious,took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things (Acts 17:5-8 NKJV)

They were accused of turning the world upside down because they advocated worship of a power higher than the human government. But in reality, the only way to keep human governments from becoming tyrannical is for there to be a higher power for them to answer to, and to have individual rights endowed by our Creator instead of the state. But the question that arises is this. Is there a point at which national pride becomes idolatry?

I submit to you that this happens when we substitute being salt and light for “my country, right or wrong.” When the first question out of our mouths is “is it legal” instead of “is it right” then we are on the slippery slope from being a nation whose God is the Lord to moral relativism and idolatry. We must not allow societal norms to dictate what is right and wrong.

God said it this way through the prophet Isaiah:

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!

22 Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,
Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink,
23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away justice from the righteous man!

(Isaiah 5:20-23)

Does this sound like a description of our nation? If we cease to proclaim God’s standard of righteousness so that we won’t offend anyone, we betray our nation and their blood will be on our hands at the judgment! Are we any less idolatrous when we chant “USA, USA, USA” when our country is guilty of so many national sins that the Philippians in Acts 16 who were shouting for two hours “great is Artemis of the Ephesians”? It is okay to love your country, but it is not okay to make that country an object of worship. For those who shout “USA, USA, USA”; would you be as publicly vocal in shouting “Jesus is Lord”, “Christ is Risen” or “repent and obey the Gospel”?

While we are happy to support our society and our government when they do that which is right, we are obligated by our Master and Lord to withhold that support when those same institutions do what is evil in His sight!

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13)

We cannot follow the east road to destruction, but must follow the narrow way (the high way) to life. Love dictates that we also point others to that way as well. It’s time to get off of broad way and onto the highway! It’s time to shout “Hey USA, Jesus is Lord. Hey USA, Christ is Risen. Hey USA, repent and obey the Gospel!”

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