Monday, July 9, 2012

God Doesn't Fit Your Image

Exodus 20:5 “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.”

At first glance, the second commandment is very straightforward - there is to be no trace of idolatry, period. Americans may call it religious diversity, multiculturalism, and pluralism - but God calls it wickedness. Whether it’s one of the hundreds of Hindu gods, a Buddha statue, or a crucifix - humanity has no business bowing down or praying to a statue.

Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were created in the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” How silly it is when a man, created in God’s own image, makes a carved or engraved image and worships it!

God makes fun of this kind of behavior in the words of Isaiah 44. Listen to His ridicule in verses 14-18 (NLT):
He cuts down cedars;
   he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
   to be nourished by the rain.
Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
   With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
   and makes himself a god to worship!
He makes an idol
   and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
   and to keep himself warm.
   He says, ‘Ah, that fire feels good.’
Then he takes what’s left
   and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
   worshiping and praying to it.
‘Rescue me!’ he says.
   ‘You are my god!’
Such stupidity and ignorance!
   Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
   Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.”
No matter what the culture, no matter what the religion - God hates idolatry!

Now, most believers would agree wholeheartedly with this! They would never allow an idol into their home! Many of them even go to the extreme of avoiding Chinese restaurants so they would never have to see a statue of Buddha! But not so fast - the spiritual side of the second commandment is just as straightforward.

You see, the second commandment isn’t only referring to pagan idolatry. It was intended to apply to the worship of Yahweh as well! Listen to what God said in Deuteronomy 4:15-16: “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when YAHWEH spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure...”

Do you see it? God didn’t appear in a physical shape on Mt. Sinai because He knew that if He did, Israel would begin to make images of Him to worship! God made sure that the Israelites would never be able to reduce Him to a man-made object. To prevent this, God revealed Himself in glory that appeared like fire and smoke. This is an important point to remember - God’s glory can never be duplicated by human effort!

So how does this apply to us? It shows us how much God hates it when we worship Him in our own way! Just like the Israelites were prohibited from worshiping Yahweh through idolatry (a command that they ignored in Exodus 32), we cannot use our own programs, systems and traditions to worship God.

What do I mean by that? We can’t hold onto our denominational by-laws, our church programs and schedules, and our crowd-pleasing tactics and completely ignore what God’s Word says. When we religiously follow our own ways of approaching God in worship while ignoring what God says - that becomes a form of idolatry! We take our “image” of what church should be (feeding the poor, lively music, inspirational messages) and make it into “God”! When has that ever worked?

Jesus is just offended at this as He is at a polytheist sacrificing to Zeus! Listen to what He has to say about our man-made rituals and programs: Mark 7:8-9 “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’”

So you have two options.
One - you can hold on to the idolatry of denominationalism and church tradition. If you’re going to stay here, know this: you’re standing in direct opposition to God!
Two - You can let go of empty tradition and meaningless worship and embrace the true glory of the Creator!
You can’t do both. When you hold the traditions of men to be sacred, you are laying aside the commandments of God. True worship must be biblical - not merely inspirational!

John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (worship based on the Word, not tradition).

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