May 30, 2020 – The Greatest Command

Read Matthew 22

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37 
 
Christianity more often than not looks at conduct as negative. These are the things that you can’t do. As long as we do not commit adultery or murder, or steal, we are pleasing God.  We look at the commandments and notice that they say, “Thou shalt not.”  As long as we agree with the “shalt not,” we are safe from God’s judgment.
 
But Christianity is not negative. It is true that God reveals sin to us, but the greatest sin is a lack of love for God. Jesus gave us the greatest commandment: we should “love the Lord God with ALL of our heart, soul and mind.”  The word “all” makes this exclusive. When we give all of our heart to the Lord, there is no part left for the things of this world. By loving the Lord exclusively, we are also rejecting idolatry and covetousness.
 
Idolatry and covetousness are really about a competitive love that raises some thing or some one to a position that God alone should hold. It causes us to look to that thing or that person to meet our needs instead of God. That thing brings us the joy. That thing gives us our peace or makes us happy. All of those ideas are the root of idolatry.
 
What would it look like if we were able to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind? All other loves would have to come out of that love. We would love our wives or husbands because we know that in doing so, we would be showing more love to Christ. We would love our material possessions simply because they were gifts from God. We would love people because they are all made in the image of God. Because God loves them, we love those that He loves. Our love for God would not lessen our love for others. It would actually magnify that love because in loving those people, we would be showing more love to our Father.
 
In the same thought, our Lord gave us the second command, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39) The second command is conditioned upon the first. The key to loving others is loving the Lord. The most important thing is to keep the most important thing in the most important place. 
 

Colossians 1:18  says, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” In ALL THINGS, HE must have the preeminence. That word simply means, “first place.” When the first thing is in the first place, then the rest fall into the correct order. Idolatry is non existent when God is in the first place.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: Winning an argument is about who is right. When we seek to be right, we seek preeminence in a situation. It is always right to take a stand for what God says is right because that is about His preeminence not mine. Consider a disagreement you have had with someone lately. If your disagreement was about God’s Word, and about something you knew was truth, then you were seeking God to be preeminent. But if your argument was about your opinion, then you may have been seeking to have your way become more important than their way, and may have been seeking to be preeminent in what you believe. 

 



May 29, 2020 – Flee from Idolatry

Read 1 Corinthians 10

“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 

 

When we look at the etymology of “idolatry,” we see that it comes from the word for service, latriea. The word always deals with service for God, except when it is connected to this word for idol. Since it normally deals with service for God, it is also translated worship. In this case, it means to “serve an image.” The author implores his reader to flee, to escape by flight. Idolatry then is a tool that Satan uses to get our eyes off the Lord and onto the things of this world. He puts enticements before us to direct our passions to the things that we see in this world. 
 
Notice that in the context we are told that there is no temptation taken us but such as is common to man. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) 
 
Idolatry is a temptation that comes our way. But God has made a way to escape that temptation. The next verse shows us the way to escape, “flee from idolatry.” 
 
It also seems to imply that all sin, all temptation has at its base the worship of an idol. Something that has come into our lives becomes more important to us than God. That temptation then causes us to lie, steal, or to commit adultery. The sins come from some idol that we must flee from. 
 
For instance, if we commit adultery, the cause was not simply lust, it was some god, (small g) that Satan placed before us. It might be a desire to be loved, or a desire to have worth or value. It might simply mean a worship of beauty, but sin begins with a desire, and that desire takes the place of the love that God commands from His children with all of our heart, soul and mind. In other words, God’s love is exclusive and must become more important than any passion on this earth. Whenever we love something,  some feeling, or some condition more than we love the Lord, it has become an idol of the heart. 
 
1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” The most dangerous condition for a child of God is when we see ourselves with a maturity that makes us believe that we can’t fall. The ones most prone to fall are the ones who fail to see their ability to fall. Pride in our own strength causes us to become careless in our relationship with God. The exhortation is to “take heed,” to be alert and knowledgeable concerning our weakness, and our need for God’s strength. 
 

When we come into a situation where we are tempted to sin, we find the idol that we are serving and we flee. God has given us a way to escape, but it is up to us to take it, and to take it immediately.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: Fleeing implies an urgency and a quick response. We get into trouble when we take this lightly and simply allow a small idol to get our attention now and again. Instead of fleeing, we play with our thoughts and desires. We keep them around and go to them when we have free time. A small disregard to a lust will give Satan a way to gain access to our hearts. At some point that lack of immediate escape, causes us, by delay to encounter a lust that will cause us to fall. The exercise  for today is simply, “take heed.”
 


May 28, 2020 – Serving an Idol

Read 1 Timothy 2

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” Exodus 20:5 

 

God’s instructions are not to make an idol, not to bow down to the idol and not to serve the idol. We think of the idols of our day. They are a lot different from the idols of that day. We make many idols that are lot more complicated and powerful than the idols that they had. Their idols could not speak. Our idols can talk and sing, and dance. Their idols couldn’t hear. Many of our idols use voice commands to change their behavior. Their idols couldn’t think but some of our idols have an artificial intelligence that can direct and guide us. They can even tell us which roads to take to get where we want to go.
 
The idols of the Old Testament had no power. They couldn’t change anything around the worshipper, but our idols have 400 horsepower. They can help us to move from one point to another on land, in a field, and on water.
 
How can we end up serving something that we create? We make it to serve us, and yet, we find that we begin to serve the idol rather than having the idol serve us.
 
We have to work to pay for the idol. That causes us to limit our freedom so we can get money to have the idol. The idol makes us maintain it. It takes our time and money to keep it shiny and polished. An idol requires us to fix it when it breaks. When we want the idol and it is not available because a part is not working, it frustrates us and changes our emotions from joy to anger.
 
The greatest problem with an idol is that it takes the time that we reserved for the Lord and gives it to the idol so that the idol can give us the joy we seek. The problem is that we place it before the Lord. The idol seems to want to be loved, and it seems to want preeminence in our thinking. We can’t stop thinking about it when it works and when it is broken. 
 
The Lord commanded in Deuteronomy 11:13, “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,”
 
The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be. The thing we give the most to is the thing that we will love the most. How much is your idol costing you? That will really tell you what it is in your life that you love the most.
 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: It might be a good exercise to look at your bank statement or your checking register and see what you spend the most money on. It is also a good drill to ask yourself what you spend the most time doing. When you evaluate your time and money, you then begin to calculate if there is something that you have put before the Lord.

 



May 27, 2020 – The Created Idol

Read Isaiah 44

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:” Exodus 20:4 

 

The word idol in the Old Testament comes from a word that means to roll. The Lexicon says that it means a log. Since the primary source of rolling in the Old Testament was a log, this word came to be understood  as a shapeless object made from a log. It will look as good as its creator makes it look. A craftsman would make this log into an image of a man, an animal, or a some other earthly object.
 
It is actually comical. It is only as powerful as what it is made from. This is made from a piece of wood.
 
“He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: 17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.” Isaiah 44:16-17
 
He takes part of the tree and makes a fire. He is warmed with the flames and then uses the heat to roast flesh and cooks his meal. Then he takes the remainder of the tree and makes a god. By definition, if you create it, it can’t be the creator. If you are the one who decides what to do with the tree, then it can’t be guiding you, you are guiding it. It is not determining what will happen to you. You are determining what will happen to it. 
 
This is the problem of an idol. It has no power! Whenever you set up a god on this earth, it has to, at some point, let you down. You can’t trust anything that is on this earth because it can’t last. It will not help you live, when it is dead. It can’t help heal you if it is decaying. It can’t give you joy or peace. It can’t give anything. 
 
So it is with our idols. We don’t call them idols, but there are many things that we choose to use for peace and joy on this earth. A new car can give you joy for a period of time. It looks good and smells good and feels new. But it won’t stay new. Nothing on earth can ever truly satisfy including: a television show, a house, a car, a job, a toy or a hobby.  
 
The word dumb and idol are used together in a passage, “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.”  1 Corinthians 12:2 
 

This means that the idol can’t speak. It can’t see. It can’t think, and it can’t guide. An idol is foolish and therefore, it is foolish to trust in an idol.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: We need to take some time and consider what we are trusting in for our peace and joy. Some trust in their bank account, in their job, or in their inheritance. Those things can be taken from us as quickly as they are given. A virus can steal away all that we have worked for. The fool puts the things that we have created ahead of the one who created us. Are there gods in our lives that we have not recognized, but who control our emotions and our passions?

 



May 26, 2020 – The Idol of Works for Salvation

Read John 2

“But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,” John 2:24 

 

Timothy Keller in his book “Every Good Endeavor” shares an interesting observation that was made by Martin Luther.  Martin Luther stated,

“The first commandment commands: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods,’ which means: ‘Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust, and faith on Me alone, and on no one else.’ All those who do not at all trust God and His favor, grace and good will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this Commandment and practice real idolatry. If we do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false god…”
 
The key to salvation is trust. That trust is based on the reality that He is God alone and there is no other. All our faith and hope must be in the one and only source of hope. A man who trusts his own works is saying in himself that he is able to be trusted and is worthy of faith in his own merit. That is the definition of idolatry. It is putting another in the place of God, and giving that other the power to enact the miracle of reconciliation. We read in John 2:25, “And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”
 

We look at the verse for today and we acknowledge that Jesus could not commit Himself to man. The word used is pisteuo which is the word “I believe.” Jesus did not believe, or put His trust in man because He knew what was in man. Putting ones trust in good works is foolish because it is placing our faith in one who is not faith worthy. Jesus did not believe in man, nor can we put our faith in man for our salvation. Our faith just rests in Jesus alone.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: It is tempting to see our goodness as impressing God, Even that thought is idolatrous because it brings God down to our level. Idolatry is trusting anything for our eternal life that is not the work of God Himself. All believers must put their trust in God alone. If you are trusting in anything other than Christ, whether it is baptism, communion, or church attendance, it is the same as idolatry.  

 



May 25, 2020 – What is an Idol?

Read Exodus 20

“Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 26:1 

                

God’s first command states that we should have no other god before Him. We are not to make any image or likeness to anything on this earth and bow down to it. When we think of an idol, most people think of a great music player or singer, or they think of a small statue in Africa. Idols are far more common that we realize and they consume just about every aspect of American life. 
 
Martin Luther defined idolatry as looking to some created thing to give you what only God can give. If this is an accurate depiction of an idol, then even the world in its unbelief is looking at things to give them what God can give. Therefore, even though they are atheists, not believing in a God, they still have gods. French philosopher Luc Ferry, also an unbeliever, argued that everyone seeks “some way to face life with confidence and to face death without fear or regret.” 
 
Idols are fairly common, and can even exist in the American home, seeking the American dream. Honestly, they can even exist in the homes and hearts of those who profess faith in Christ.  Paul stated in Colossians 3:5, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”
 
If covetousness is idolatry then many believers struggle with this idol. They have a strong desire to have more and more and seem to live life for the next new thing that they can own and play with. That is what makes the American dream so lucrative for those with new innovations. The new is always better than the old. The motivation that sells that new thing is covetousness. 
 
Covetousness is cited along with inordinate affections, evil concupiscence. Really, then, the problem is not outward worship. The problem is an inner heart problem that sees greater pleasure in a thing than it sees in the presence of God. We desire presents more than the Presence. 
 
This week, we are going to look at what the Bible has to say about this subject. Based upon what Paul is saying, covetousness is really breaking two commands, the first and the last. We break the first command by setting up gods for which we have a greater desire than the one true God. Secondly, we covet those things that our neighbor possesses and desire that they would belong to us. The first and last are reserved for God Himself, and yet, the first and last commandment are perhaps the two that we break most often. 
 
We can readily understand our idols by what we think about and what we dream about. We have a great desire to have more and place those thoughts in our minds and escape to those thoughts when we have a need for comfort and solace in our lives. 
 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: One exercise is to think of some idol that you have set up in your mind and place a value on it. What can that idol give you that the Lord cannot? What is the cost of that idol, and what is the benefit gained and lost?

 



May 23, 2020 – The Mystery of Iniquity

Read 2 Thessalonians 2

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7 

 

Yesterday we looked at the mystery of the church, that those who were far off, are brought near. Today we look at the opposite, those who are near, are brought far by the lawless one.
 

Paul writes that the mystery of iniquity was already at work in his day. The lawless one is described in this passage:

  • He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God. V. 4
  • His coming is after the working of Satan
  • He comes with power
  • He comes with signs and lying wonders
  • He uses the deception of unrighteousness
  • His desire is to cause men to perish
  • He will be destroyed by the Spirit of the mouth of the Lord at His coming

 

If the mystery of iniquity was already at work in the time of Paul, then we can rest assured that it is alive and well in our day. Many of the people on this earth are controlled by the Devil. They oppose all that is good and right. They desire people to reject God and they are very deceitful in their message. Their message is usually one about caring for the physical body that will perish, and neglecting the Spirit and Soul that are eternal.
 
This mystery is important because Satan knows that he has a very short time. We don’t necessarily see the deception today because it is that subtle. The best deception is the one that deceives the most people. We read in Matthew 24:24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
 

It will not be possible because the elect will be taken out of this world. But if they were here, they could be deceived. That implies that with the deception that is in the world today, even Christians can be deceived. The deception is that subtle. We need to be alert to the mystery of iniquity. It is all encompassing in our world.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: We need to be prepared for that deception. We need to take a careful look to see if we have been deceived in thinking that there is no harm in…  We need to be looking intently for false teachers who will accept error in the name of caring for one another. 

This past week has been about mysteries. The mysteries are hidden from this world, but they are not hidden from us. The Holy Spirit has revealed what is happening in this world that will prepare it for the coming of Christ.

 



May 22, 2020 – The Mystery of the Church

Read 1 John 3

“Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:” Ephesians 3:4-6

 

This is the mystery that probably affects us the most in the church. The church was not known in the Old Testament. It wasn’t until Paul was given this new revelation that it was understood by the first members of the church. Paul makes it clear that this was not revealed to the prophets. It wasn’t even revealed to the holy apostles. This revelation wasn’t given to Peter, James, or John. It was first revealed to Paul. 
 
The key is that the Lord was taking a people from among the Gentiles and bringing them together with the Jewish believers to form a new thing, a body without a wall of separation. For well over a thousand years, the Jews and the Gentiles were separated having nothing in common. They didn’t share a god, a morality, or even laws. The Gentiles were dogs to the Jews, and from the historical treatment of the Jewish people, they were considered dogs or less than dogs to the Gentiles as well.
 
God performed an incredible miracle in bringing those who felt a hatred for one another into a relationship that showed the love of Christ. The world definitely sat back and took notice of the love that Paul had toward the Gentile believers, and the love that they had for not only Paul but for all of the Jews who were brothers in Christ.
 
Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” He was showing a change that was about to take place. Those who were on opposite sides of the spectrum of faith, would be brought together and would show to the world that the enemy could love the ones who hated them. 
 
So it continues today. Those who were afar off are made nigh. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13) 
 
This is not just a mystery to the world, it is a miracle. We could forgive those who would do us harm. We could care for those who care for no one. We would love those simply because they have come to Christ. 
 

Immediately, in the plan of God, the enemies of God’s plan and purpose are now the adopted family and they become brothers to those who are of the mystery of Christ.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: The words of a song read, “Let me see this world, dear Lord, as though I were looking through your eyes.” That is what we need for today. We need to look at people who have totally rejected all that we stand for and who reject our Lord, and we need to see them with His compassion, knowing that they who are afar off, can be made nigh if they would put their trust in Him.

 



May 21, 2020 – He was Fully Man

Read 1 Timothy 2

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”  1 Timothy 2:5 

 

Albert Einstein came up with a formula that was the start of atomic energy. E=MC2 means that energy is equal to mass times the coefficient of the speed of light squared. Simply put, it means that mass and energy have a corresponding relationship. In the Jeremiah 10:12 we read, “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wis­dom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”
 
All that you see in this universe is a product of the energy or power of God. Since God is all-powerful, He is able to create all things by the word of His power. Matter is a product of the power of God! When you consider the heavens, the work of his fingers, all the stars and all the creatures in heaven and earth, it is amazing that God would come to this earth and become a man.
 
John begins the first letter by sharing, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”  (1 John 1:1).
 
When John first met Jesus, it was not a question of whether he was a man. John knew he was a man. John writes, “We have heard him. We saw Him. We even touched Him.”  He was not a Spirit. John soon found that He was more than a man. He was the Son of God. God has come to this world in the flesh. He was able to walk and talk, to eat, to sleep like any other man. He was also able to die for the sin of mankind as a man, and  He was able to defeat death through the resurrection, and is now sitting with the Father as our great God.
 
“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 1:25
 
We all come from God and we are all answerable to that God. One of the greatest blessings, indeed one of the greatest mysteries is that we have the infinite God in heaven making intercession for us. Because He is a man, the Man Christ Jesus, He is able to fully comprehend what our testings feel like. We read that “he was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15b). Because He knows our flesh, He is able to make intercession.
 

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)  He succours, or brings help to those who have suffered being tempted. We have an high priest in the heavens who cares for us and mediates for us before our Father. 

 

 An Exercise to Increase my Faith: Take advantage of our intercessor! We have the privilege of coming before Him and asking Him for help. We need to apply that truth and daily ask for Him to come along side us when we have a need.
 


May 20, 2020 – The Great Mystery

Read 1 Timothy 3

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  1 Timothy 3:16 

 

This next mystery is truly a great mystery. We know that because God tells us that it is a great mystery. Once again, let me remind you that a mystery in the Bible is not a truth concealed, but a truth revealed. All of the mysteries in the New Testament are truths that were once hidden, but are now revealed. 
 
When we look at the mystery of godliness there are a number of important things that are revealed. The first is that God was manifest in the flesh. Immediately we come to an incomprehensible fact. No one can comprehend how God in the heavens, who created all things, could be manifest to us by coming to us in the flesh. Do we really understand that God was revealed to us as a man?
 
Man can’t comprehend the majesty of God, but John wrote in John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
 
As a man, we were able to see in Him the glory of the Father in heaven! When the disciples looked upon Him, they did not see the flaws and imperfections of flesh. They saw the glory of the only begotten of the Father. They could see that He was filled with grace and truth. 
 
The mystery also includes that God was justified in the Spirit. That means that God was declared righteous while He was in the flesh because of the Spirit that was fully God with the attributes or righteousness and truth.
 

He was seen of angels. He was preached unto the Gentiles. He was believed on in the world and He was received up into glory. There is not one of those thoughts that could be true of any man living today. This was the God Man. He was the man, Christ Jesus, the one mediator between God and man. The only reason that He can be the mediator between God and man is that He is God and Man. He can represent God as God and He can represent man as man.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: I have been very frustrated these past weeks, because church is not just something I do,  it is who I am. I have been about church for almost as long as I have been an adult.  God is working in my life in these past hours to reveal to me that I have to allow Him to work out His will in our church. God could change the circumstances if He wants. We have to know that He is in control. He is God, but He also became a man, and knows what it is like to be a man. The exercise is simply to put our complete trust in what He is doing one more time, this day.