Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Truth about Idols - sermon from 4/26/2015

1 Corinthians 10:14-22 – The truth about Idols

Therefore, my beloved, FLEE from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

SKIP TO v. 20

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Hear a parable:

Four brothers of the Royal Family of India decided to leave home to receive special training that would enable them to return to their beloved homeland with unique abilities. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what each had learned.

“I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but the bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it!”

“I,” said the second, “learned how to grow the same creature’s skin and hair – IF there is flesh on its bones.”

The third said, “I can create its limbs if I have flesh, skin, and hair.”

“And I,” concluded the fourth, “have learned how to give LIFE to that creature if its form is complete.”

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their various abilities.

As fate would have it, they found the bone of a lion. And just as advertised, the first added flesh to the bone; the second grew hide and hair; the third gave it matching limbs; and the fourth gave the lion LIFE.

Shaking its mane as it rose to its feet, the ferocious beast pounced on his creators, killing them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

The moral of the story??? Regardless the best of intentions, we often CREATE the things that ultimately destroy us!

Though We DREAM of success and pursue things we believe will lead us to fulfillment, those things often have a way of threatening the well-being of our families.

When we pursue ANYTHING that rivals our devotion to God, we sabotage our happiness and jeopardize everything of importance.

That is the essence of idolatry – bowing to gods of our own making that cannot satisfy and that ultimately destroy us. Anything… ANYTHING that receives the priority that belongs to God… THAT, is your idol.

In his book, Your Father Loves You, J. I. Packer talks about modern-day idolatry and says, “What other gods could we have besides the Lord??? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly natured gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For US there are the great gods of Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described in the Bible as the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” Sports, career, and hobby are also gods for some. Indeed the list of false gods is endless, for anything that one builds his life around – is his god.”

Are you guilty of Idolatry? People routinely worship at the altars of materialism, entertainment, and sensuality, but when they are confronted by the second commandment which condemns idol worship, they try to exonerate themselves by saying “that doesn’t apply to us anymore…” “We are under GRACE now.”

But if your life is centered on anything other than God, you are guilty of idolatry.

What is the object of YOUR affections? Where does the majority of your time go? On WHAT do you spend the greatest amount of resources? And are those things challenging your obedience to God - competing for control of your life? Have you told the Lord “I want to serve you - but THESE THINGS are off limits?”

This was Paul’s concern for the Corinthians. They had begun taking certain liberties that compromised their faith. Little things, not evil in and of themselves, had begun to compete for their affection and loyalty. What began as a small thing - grew in importance until it challenged their faithfulness.

And the same thing may be happening to some of you. Maybe YOU’VE allowed little things to become too important? Over time you have given them more priority than your relationship with God. You were once so faithful. You once felt so passionate about the things of God, but not anymore… now you are JUST ... TOO … BUSY. You get defensive when someone asks you where you’ve been.

YOU, my friend, are following the path of idolatry.

Paul was concerned for the people of Corinth – concerned that they had drifted. In order to awaken them, he does three things:

1. First, He calls it what it is. Notice v. 14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Idolatry is dangerously deceptive and seductive. It appeals to our flesh – to our senses. So out of deep concern, as a spiritual father watching his children going astray, he commands “FLEE from idolatry.” “GET AWAY from those things that are challenging your commitment to God!”

Great advice – which sadly often falls on deaf ears.

As a pastor I have seen it hundreds of times. People treat the Bible like some sort of SPIRITUAL BUFFET – where they get to pick the parts they WANT – and leave off the rest.

When I preach about God calling to MEN to be the spiritual leaders of their homes – to be devoted husbands and fathers, faithfully serving God, living the life every day - not just Sunday – they look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language… or they call it my “opinion.”

If I preach a sermon on the dangers of sex outside of marriage or the importance of modesty, young people and their parents look at me like I’m some sort of radical trying to start a cult or something.

If I tell people to read their bibles and pray, to stop being hypocrites, to be faithful to church – they think I’m just too negative.

It’s hard to convince people of the danger of their behavior when they are doing it every day and are absolutely convinced they can have Christianity on THEIR OWN terms.

So when Paul commands God’s people to “FLEE idolatry,” we automatically assume “he is talking to someone else.” “Since I don’t serve any idols this doesn’t apply to me.”

Idolatry is so much more than simply burning incense and bowing to a statue. A person can be guilty of idolatry whenever their job is more important than obedience – when their house and physical possessions keep them from tithing, when sports and hobbies are allowed to compete with the time God has set apart for worship. “But preacher, you don’t understand!” Yes I DO – I understand that you are trying to make yourself feel better about it. When we take a little exception here, commit a little disobedience there, we shouldn’t be surprised where that leads or get angry when the Bible addresses it.

Everyone worships something. And when we stop worshiping God the way we ought, we immediately put something else in His place. We stop trusting Him like we once did. Trivial things grow in importance.

So Paul calls it what it is… “Idolatry”, plain and simple. And the only appropriate action to take is to “flee from it!” Whatever it is that is competing for first place in your life, get away from it…

2. After Calling it what it is, He clarifies what it is in vv. 16-21. He clarifies a couple of things:

First, he wants Christians to know that Idolatry is inconsistent with who we claim to be. We LOVE being God’s people. Because of our union with Christ, we share in his death and life. We have fellowship with God through His Son. Our sins are forgiven. The peace of God fills our hearts. We have new life and new purpose! PRAISE THE LORD!

BUT We cannot serve God – and at the same time serve other things. We cannot neatly compartmentalize our lives where we serve Him on Sunday, but all the other days belong to our idols.

We come to church and sing “I surrender all,” without giving a single thought to what those words mean. We pray, we fellowship, we hug necks and shake hands… we work very hard to present the picture of what a Christian is supposed to be – but as soon as we hit that door, we pick up our idols and take them with us. Hypocrites who play the part well…

And secondly he wants us to stop putting such an “innocent spin” on evil – anything that rivals the Lord is demonic. At the root of those things that are competing for your time, your affection, your obedience – is the devil! Satan doesn’t want you listening to the Lord…living for Him…loving Him. No! He wants you to believe that you can have all the benefits of being a Christian without the commitment. He wants you to believe that going PART OF THE WAY is just as good as ALL the way – that you can slap the name of Jesus on something, and make it alright. He wants you to think that you don’t have to surrender to God in order to be blessed – that “you can have Christianity YOUR way and be just fine.” – It’s a lie, and the devil is behind it.

A few years ago, I knew a man who met with what most would call “an untimely death.” He was about 50. He didn’t have a pastor, was told he had terminal cancer, so I tried, as best as I could to get involved in his life and help his family. I got to meet the man and share Christ with him three days before he died. We had a long conversation. I was able to explain the gospel to him. Whether he truly believed, I don’t know, but I was able to say at his funeral that I had talked to him about the Lord.

He left behind a wife and a daughter who was about 26 years old. They were understandably devastated. They didn’t have a church, so I would check on them from time to time. The man had provided for his family financially. He had no debt, a good amount of savings, and insurance, so that, in his absence, they would be financially secure... at least that was the plan.

I told them about the Lord. How that Jesus would not only give them a home in heaven, but that He would comfort them in their loss and give them wisdom for navigating through all the hard stuff of life AFTER death.

Several months went by and I got a call from the man’s wife. She and her daughter were in financial straits already, and if something didn’t happen, they were going to lose their house.

Come to find out, they were so devastated by his passing that they would grasp anything that offered comfort. They started seeing a “psychic” who told them she could get them in touch with their deceased loved one. Over time, this huckster took everything they had, and though they were in ruins they still believed this woman had special powers.

And she DID have "special powers." Satanic powers.

Now, before you look down on these foolish, misguided souls, I want you to take an honest look at the things that are drawing YOU away from God. Are they not equally demonic? The devil will do whatever it takes to challenge your commitment to God – whatever it is, at its root - is Satan. Quit trying to dress it up and make it sweet and innocent.

3. And then third, after calling it what it is and clarifying what it is, he Condemns what it is in verse 22, “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” Two powerful points are being made here:

First, God takes the backseat to no one. He is a “jealous God.” We are told in His Word that we cannot serve God and idols. He shares His throne with no one. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and material things.” In the Old Testament, Elijah made it perfectly clear when he asked, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” You can’t do both. A similar challenge was issued by Joshua, who, after telling the people that they could not serve God with a divided heart, said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve – but as for me and my house, WE will serve the Lord.”

God is issuing that same challenge to YOU today. For far too long you have been trying to follow the Lord with a divided heart. You want to be forgiven… you want a home in heaven… but you also want the things of the world. God wants you to know that He will not relinquish first place in your life to anyone or anything. It is either going to be HIM or your idol. Not both. What will it be?

THEN Paul impresses upon us the truth that we are NOT the exception to the rules, when he says, “Are we stronger than He?” Do we really think that our situation will be different? Do we really think we know better for us than God?

Ask yourself, right now, WHAT is challenging your faithfulness to Him? WHAT is competing for first place in your life? Possessions? Positions? Pleasure?

Call it what it is – It is Idolatry, plain and simple.

Clarify what it is – It is inconsistent with who you claim to be and no matter how innocent it seems, it is competing for first place in your life.

And Condemn what it is – “Lord, I understand that you will not share the throne of my heart with anyone. Forgive me for thinking I was the exception to the rule. I lay these things down, willingly, because I want nothing in my life challenging my love and devotion to You.”

Is THAT your prayer today?