Most have worshiped idols of some sort. For many Christians it’s a battle to erase them from our lives. Many years ago, I remember sitting in church surrounded by idols. I was drawn to them; instead of a personal God. We can make idols out of anything. For me it was anything hunting or fishing and then the things that almost cost me my life. Some worship money, Hollywood, cars, sports, and even the environment.
The Bible is full of folk worshiping rocks and statues. I have a problem with people who talk to inanimate objects. They just aren’t right-it doesn’t make sense. Then there are those who inflict pain upon themselves in order to experience (they think) what Jesus suffered. I am sure they hurt, but one thing they miss is the anguish Jesus suffered under the weight of mankind’s sin. These folk are making themselves idols.
As a young man, I was semi-religious. I wore three “religious” medallions on a chain. I was “protected” from anything and everything. Seriously speaking, it was no more than carrying a rabbit’s foot in my pocket. Instead of calling out to God personally, I would rub the medallions as if a genie would pop out and cure my woes-idolatry at its finest! They were useless; except I got thirty bucks as scrap after I knew better.
The Bible says in Ps. 115:4-7,” Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.” Some ask if God is any different. We can let Scripture respond.
God is not made of silver, gold or wood. “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king…” (Jer. 10:10). He has a mouth as I have heard His sweet voice in my darkest hours (Mk. 1:11). God has eyes and sees all, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Ch. 16:9). Scripture is replete with examples of God’s hearing. Ps. 17:6, “I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.” God certainly has hands and feet as crucifixion requires them. Lastly, God has a nose and can smell. “For we (the saved) are unto God a sweet savour of Christ…” (2 Co. 2:15). I cannot imagine the smell of a rotting carcass becoming a pleasant aroma, yet the stench of sinners, saved by Christ, is a sweet savor to God. Glory to God!
In 1802, Thomas Jefferson mailed his reply to the Danbury Baptist Association which has etched an imaginary chasm between church and state. He reassured them the national government would not be permitted to establish a recognized religion. In this letter, the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” has been grafted into legal proceedings. For decades, many have misconstrued this as the eradication of a religious world-view and the relegated America’s first liberty—the freedom of religion—to the pew and restricted it from public view. They denounce any overt recognition of Jesus Christ. They must remove crosses from public grounds. The bully public school teams from praying openly on the field.
The same separation between church and state in the political theater parallels the misconception in believer’s lives, separation of church and life. Remember, the church is not a place you go to worship. You are the church, and your body is the temple. Many believers have dual standards of general life and worship. Some have called it the difference between the secular and the sacred. God-honoring worship is a must in the church but in my car, anything goes. One should be more conscientious of their dress on Sunday, but the rest of the week modesty is a non-issue. Of course, my thoughts should be focused and filtered during worship, but the rest of my life blissfully follows my fantasies.
Solomon sifted through the same decisions even in his day.
And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come (2 Chronicles 8:11).
We must ask Solomon, “Why did you feel this move was necessary?” If there is something in our life which must be shielded from God’s view, then isn’t there a conflict of interests?
This compartmental philosophy of living is a lie of the devil which weakens the believer’s resolve. If a believer is “on duty” for an hour or two on Sunday yet they are “off duty” the rest of the week, then they must ask themselves, “Does their life fulfill the command, ‘Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord’ (Colossians 3:23)?”
There is no such thing as a separation of sacred and secular in your life. Live fully for Christ, and you can avoid the conflict of interests.
Zeal is defined as “passionate ardor in the pursuit of any thing…an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object” (Webster 1828). Several years ago, a conductor by the name of Eugene Ormandy dislocated his shoulder while passionately conducting the Philadelphia orchestra. Ormandy displayed zeal in his pursuit of musical excellence. Although there is a “zeal of God…not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) that is to be avoided, there is a kind of zeal for God that should be manifest in the life of every Christian. Our aim in being zealous for God should be a desire to have our focus so much on pleasing God and advancing His glory that it becomes the one thing we live for.
In Numbers 25, we see the sinister plan of Balaam in action. Since he could not curse the Israelites openly, he cursed them secretly by introducing immorality and idolatry into the camp. The Bible says that “the people began to commit whoredoms with the daughters of Moab…and bowed down to their gods” (v. 1-2). The people descended into the moral compromise of fornication and idolatry. The sin of the people brought God’s judgment upon them. God commanded the rebel leaders to be hung and for the followers of Baal to be slain. In verse 6, the sin of the people culminated in a brazen and open act of sin by one of the men and a Midianitish woman. This so stirred a priest by the name of Phinehas to action that he slew the offenders. Because of the zeal of Phinehas, the people were saved from further judgment. The Lord praised Phinehas because “he was zealous for my sake among them, and I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy” (v. 11). Verse 13 says that Phinehas “made an atonement for the people” and was rewarded with an everlasting priesthood.
When dealing with sin and error in the lives of others, one usually responds in one of two wrong ways. Either they are “over-condemning” like the Pharisees or they are “over-tolerant” like the Corinthians. Phinehas was a man of zeal who knew when and how to take a stand for God. Phinehas stood for holiness and separation amid moral compromise and open sin. Phinehas was not taking on the role of a vigilante but was in sync with the will of God and was motivated by a sense of zeal for God’s name. Titus 2:5 makes it clear that the purpose that God has redeemed us is to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” It takes the courage of a man like Phinehas to stand for God amid moral compromise. God has called us to “come out from among them, and be…separate…and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). “…Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
Privacy. Generally speaking when we say that word it conjures up a positive emotion. Though all of us, to different degrees, enjoy the company of others we all can appreciate and enjoy our privacy. As Americans we treasure that right. We balk at the idea of “big brother”, aka, the government or any other governing agency having much, if anything, to do with our private lives. Interestingly, our friends across the pond in Europe are much more open to the idea of less privacy. I was at a conference this past week in which one of the speakers talked about the future of telemedicine and referenced some countries who are already experimenting with implanting chips into people’s bodies that would transmit back medical information, as well one’s financial purchases and physical activity levels, to a physician or other health agency. I’m sure most Americans would echo my thoughts of “keep that chip away from me!”
However, our reading today reminds us of the fact that we are already being observed and that truly nothing we do is hidden. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Of course here the reference is to God and the author of Hebrews reminds us that He sees every aspect of our lives. Not only does he see our outward actions but He sees the reason behind our actions down to our most intimate thoughts. For one who is living in sin or living a hypocritical life this verse should serve as a stark rebuttal that we cannot get away with sin. God knows. The end of the verse which says, “with whom we have to do” is a reference to us having to give an account to God for our lives.
Of course this truth can also be viewed in a very positive light. The last verse of the chapter reminds us that because He is intimately acquainted with our lives, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Our times of temptation and testing do not come as surprises to God. He knows what challenges we are facing each day and is encouraging us to come to our omniscient Father to find the grace and help we need.
The word praise is used eight times in these three Psalms this morning (Ps. 111-113). The question-who does this praise belong to? The answer-to Holy God. It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3). Every second of our lives is owed Him. We breath the air He made and drink His water. He made our planet habitable. He designed our bodies as unique organisms that fit perfectly in a world He created. Just the mention of these few things gives us enough to praise God for a lifetime; yet, praise is lacking in God’s people.
We would be wise to develop a system of praise. Certainly nothing mechanical and belaboring; but more spontaneous, sincere and from a heart of gratitude. Oft times, we sit under good preaching and hear something that strikes a chord. We think about praising God audibly, but we defer because we “feel” funny. In our private lives we need to be aware of our circumstances and surroundings and praise God more for all that He has done (Ps. 69:3). Starting at salvation is a good place to begin.
Our church was invited to Bible Baptist of Las Vegas for revival service. It was an evening I will never forget. We were toward the back. An altar call was given and folk were coming forward. As we stood with heads bowed and eyes closed, I was praying for those coming forward. All of a sudden, I was brought out of the spirit by a loud, howling man. I didn’t know what was taking place, but figured the pastor had it under control so I closed my eyes and started to pray again. The voice continued to boom, but his words were now understandable. He was yelling, “Praise the Lord, I got saved, I’m born-again….” I was happy knowing angels were rejoicing with us (Luke 15:10). There was only one problem. I did not realize I had drifted into the aisle. I could hear him running by the loud footsteps and it sounded like he was getting closer. I opened my eyes and saw what appeared to be a linebacker bearing down on me. I had to jump out of the way; otherwise, he would have hit me like a train. He continued this for about three more trips around the church. Like Saul, he was radically saved (Acts 9:3).
Turns out it was Pastor’s brother. He was a big and tough guy that just got arrested by the High Sheriff of Heaven! There was much praising that night. I remember after the service Pastor Pete seemed a little embarrassed. I assured him that that was one of the greatest manifestations of praise and worship I have ever witnessed. I only wished I could borrow him for a few Sundays!