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Sermon 2-15-09
Exodus 20:3 - Idolatry

Audio Sermon

Idolatry

You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)

Today’s Scripture couldn’t be more clear. The statement, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” means exactly what it says. We are to worship God and Him alone. There are no other so-called “gods,” and to give our devotion, our first priority in life, to anything or anyone other than our Lord, is to break God’s simple and clear command to put Him first. But in reality, that command is broken all the time. Dwight L. Moody said, “Whatever you love more than God is your idol.” And there are plenty of idols in this world.

When you look into most of the cultures of this “modern” world, you might think, “What’s all this about? There’s no need to worry about idolatry anymore. It’s gone! Idolatry is ancient history. Earlier, more primitive cultures were rampant with idolatrous worship, but not anymore. We’re cultured now, modern, scientific in our approach. Idolatry is long gone. A thing of the past.”

But it’s not. While it is true that idolatry appears to be on the decline, it is still widespread in many parts of the world. People do go to temples of various kinds dedicated to false “gods” and sit in some sort of “lotus” position, focus on a statue, picture or some other object and give it adoration. But more subtle and widespread is the worship of some apparently worthy cause. Many follow it or them, give money, invest time and attention, but sadly, don't invite God to be part of it. He IS interested in what concerns you, and He intends to be involved in what matters to humanity. He is your Creator, after all. As He said when He was here on earth – “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). If you go to Him with your concerns, He will help you with them. But idolatry is inevitable when you leave Him out of your life.

Have you ever really WATCHED the faces of the audience at a modern musical concert? It got a big boost that started with entertainers in the 1930’s and 40’s, like Frank Sinatra, who sang, “I’ll Do It My Way,” suggesting subliminally to a generation of adoring listeners that doing life “My Way” is better than doing it God’s way. There was a feeling of freedom in all that happened, which is reflected in the songs and lifestyles that persist in music to this day. Adoring fans have screamed, fainted and gradually or suddenly entered morally questionable lifestyles, after delightedly thinking about their “idols” and watching them on stage.

And it’s not only music. There are whole areas of life in which ordinary people, who, because of their extraordinary God-given talent, reach some level of “stardom,” and are loved avidly by thousands and perhaps millions of adoring fans. And this is a pattern that has occurred over-and-over throughout history, since the beginning of time. Military conquerors like Alexander the Great of Macedonia, have been literally worshipped by their followers. Before “rock” and “movie stars” were worshipped, members of the so-called “royalty,” from the Pharaohs of Egypt to the Emperor of Ethiopia, to the Kings of Europe, to the rulers of a thousand empires were thought to be simply better than other people. Through the centuries, uncounted millions of parents and wives have sent their sons and husbands into battle, and the young men themselves have marched boldly into the jaws of death because they BELIEVED in their leaders to the extent that they would die for them.

But perhaps the best way to actually SEE the idolatry that exists within the hearts of humanity is to consider the outrage, the anger that comes when one of their “idols” has fallen. A few days ago, one of the “stars” of American Baseball, Alex Rodriguez, went from being a “hero” to being thought of as a “cheater” because of his admission to using performance-enhancing steroids. Another baseball hero, Barry Bonds, is perhaps on his way to prison, if it is proved he lied about using banned substances. The renowned soccer (football) player, David Beckham, has caused concern to many, not because he has the same last name as mine, but because he first left his team in England to play for a team in the U.S., and now he is trying to leave that team to play for AC Milan, in Italy. The fans become angry when their “idol” deserts them to play for somebody else. Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has gone from hero to “goat” in the blink of an eye. People want to have FAITH, to BELIEVE in their idols. They want their heroes to be larger than life, but the love, the blind devotion can quickly turn to hatred when the idol is shown to be just as human as the rest of us.

Bicycle racing has become a popular international sport in the last hundred or so years, but the number of participants who have been disqualified or banned at least temporarily from the sport has been growing. Floyd Landis, once considered by many to be the successor of Lance Armstrong, actually won the prestigious Le Tour de France, but then was stripped of his title because of the substances he apparently used in order to win the race. His former fans are still angry at him. All such followers feel betrayed and the way they feel sounds very much like the anger of someone betrayed by an unfaithful spouse.

The Word of God teaches us the importance of faith in places such as Hebrews 11:1, where it says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In Habakkuk 2:4, the Lord through the prophet said, “The righteous will live by his faith.” Jesus said to the woman in Luke 7:50, “Your faith has saved you.” The Apostle Peter said, in Acts 15:9, that God “made no distinction between us (the Jews) and them (the Gentiles), cleansing their hearts by faith.” There are innumerable statements like those in Scripture, but this isn’t faith in a military commander, a political ruler, a singer, movie star or athlete, or even faith in faith itself - it’s faith in the LORD that is needed by this world. He alone is worthy of our trust.

In a statement by Paul the Apostle about the need for “faith,” he compared faith in the Lord to keeping religious “law.” Here’s what he said: “a man (or a woman) is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus... we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the... Law…” (Galatians 2:16). Only One Person kept the Law of God – Jesus Christ – who “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). To be “justified” by God is to be made “just as if” you never sinned, which actually happens when you place your faith in the Lord.

In mankind there is a desperate, God-given need for faith. You can see it in those who mistakenly “worship” people, organizations or things. Only faith in the Lord will satisfy you. Blaise Pascal said, “Men (tend to) render to the creature that honor which is due only to the Creator.” It's true, but thankfully it’s also true that “Jesus (is) the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He gives what the world cannot give. When we entrust our hearts and lives to the Lord, we find ourselves no longer looking to “other gods,” as in today’s Scripture, but instead we find the beginnings of trust in Him who is faithful. Let’s trust in Him now.

Dear Lord, we entrust our hearts and our lives to You. We confess that we have looked to people for our needs instead placing our faith in You. We confess our sin and we trust in You now. Thank You for forgiving us and healing our lives. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

www.FirstChurchOnTheNet.org
www.FridayStudy.org
Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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