Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ten Commandments Series - Part 3 False gods


There is a right way and a wrong way to get anything – including the things God wants us to have …

Some of the greatest temptations come not from the devil trying to make us bad but rather from our own attempts to get what we feel we should have.

Many times we are tempted with a sense of entitlement. This is the reason why most people feel justified in their sin. It’s an “I’m doing this because” or “I deserve it” or “It’s mine” kind of justification.

Sometimes the devil tries to make us fail and at other times he tries to make us succeed. However, he is powerless to do either without our help.

These truths are mirrored in the account of the temptations of Christ. “The devil took Jesus to an exceedingly high mountain, (Matthew 4:8), and showed Him all of the kingdoms of this world and their glory.”

Matthew 4

9 And the tempter said to Jesus, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ’You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’"

I was 14 years old the first time I remember seeing a person do something wrong for what they said was the right reason. I was working hauling hay for a guy who was 19 years old and admittedly the wildest boy I knew. My mom didn’t like me being around him because he was so unpredictable. I’m going to call him Bill instead of using his real name because 15 years later he and I had both changed and I became his pastor and he often still watches me preach online. And, I have never shared this story with anyone, including him, but perhaps he will remember it, or maybe not. Nonetheless, it was a singular moment frozen in time for me … we all have them.

I always remember being a deep thinker. I hardly allow a moment to go by in my life which I am not analyzing to see what wisdom or understanding I can squeeze from it. I don’t always follow the wisdom I glean from these moments but I do catalogue it and am able to vividly replay it over and over in my mind. That summer day holds just such a memorable molten moment for me.

Bill, as I’ll call him, owned a 1955 Buick 2 door hardtop with a 322 cubic inch V-8 that turned out a whopping 236 horsepower. Buick boasted it to be the fastest model on the market, series for series. My dad had owned one just like it in 1959 and 1960 when we lived on Peyton Street, just off Homestead, right down the road from Houston Gardens Elementary in east Houston, where I went to 1st grade. That year I rode with my dad from Houston all the way to Plattsburg, NY in an emergency run to help his little sister who was about to deliver her 3rd child when her Air Force husband was killed in a car wreck. Man that car would run! I’ve got some other memories of that car I think about on occasion.

Well, Bill did have a wild nature and living with his sister he was void of any parental oversight as well. He was a strong and good looking boy, intelligent but quick tempered and a bit of a smart-aleck. We broke off hauling hay for lunch that day and hopped in the Buick for a fast ride to the only store in Corley, Texas - population - maybe 50. The whole store was only 20’ by 30’ and stacked high with food and supplies the owner thought the little country community might need. The coke box was on the back wall, hidden from view of the cash register and lunch meat counter.

When we walked in Bill told the owner that we wanted two thick bologna and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise, and then we proceeded back to the coke box. Bill pulled out an RC Cola for himself, opened it quickly, looked to see if he was hidden from the owner’s view and drank it like he was pouring it down a hole. He then put the bottle in the case of empties which always sat beside the coke box, got out two more, opened them and handed me one. He noticed the look on my face and said: I’m not going to pay for that first one because I was in here yesterday and he overcharged me for lunch. I’m just making up for it.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. All of the sudden I felt challenged to make a judgment. Was this right or was this wrong? I mean, if the man overcharged Bill why not simply even the odds by taking something from the store. My thoughts demanded attention and decision. I felt, like at other times before and since, that whatever I decided was going to last me a lifetime. That’s not the kind of decision I could make in 10 seconds while standing at a coke box waiting to get accused of stealing. I decided that I would have to chew on this one a while to come up with the right answer. Like I told you earlier, I am by nature a deep thinker. To give you a little insight into how much I like to think: my oldest grandson gave me a riddle to think on over a year ago and although I haven’t had the time to devote to figuring it out, I still won’t let him give me the answer – I want to save it to think about when I get some time … I like to think.

Well I finally made a decision in the coke box incident. Without a doubt:

· It is wrong to do something wrong because you were done wrong

and even bigger than that – I decided:

· It is wrong to knowingly do wrong even if you know your wrong will accomplish something right

It’s wrong to do bad to accomplish good. The good you accomplish will always have a bad shadow over it. I decided that there just had to be a better way, even if it cost more or even if some things don’t ever get fixed.

Now you might think, “Everybody knows these things!”, but you would be mistaken. Many people live their lives justifying their behavior because they feel some sense of entitlement to do whatever they need to do in order to get whatever they feel they deserve. And it is sad to say that they often surround themselves with friends who agree with them and often, in their minds, they even imagine that God agrees with them.

The devil tempted Jesus to do just that; to get what He deserved the quick and easy way – a shortcut to success without all the paperwork – all of the kingdoms of the world and all their glory … it is what Jesus wanted and what He deserved and all Jesus had to do to get it was … just do a little wrong. Certainly God would understand …

Oh come on now – Jesus was out in the wilderness by Himself – who was going to know how He got what was rightfully His anyway. There was nobody there to tell on Him and really, who would care anyway. Wouldn’t He make a better king than all the other kings who were in place? What was the downside … it’s not like Jesus was going to continue worshipping or listening to satan – all He had to do was bow just this once and from here on out He could do whatever He wanted … and besides that – nails hurt and people don’t like Me anyway! Surely God understands – can’t you see - we both get what we want and nobody has to get hurt. I can’t imagine God being against the devil losing all of those kingdoms … what kind of God would want His Son to be crucified anyway if He didn’t have to be? Who would want to serve a God like that?

That’s just not the picture of “my god”. “My god” wouldn’t be that way

Well, this is the problem – it may not be the picture of “your god” but the picture of your god might not be an accurate portrait of the one and only, true and living, ever faithful “Almighty God”, Ruler of heaven and earth, Supreme Creator of the Universe. Only God can paint that picture.

Don’t work on your own or with others to create and fashion an image, even if it is a mental image, of a god who agrees with your notions, your morals or your standards of life. Rather, fashion yourself to agree with Him, Almighty God. Don’t paint your own picture of God and:

Refuse to create an image of God for yourself.

Hence, our Commandment for the Day: The Second Commandment

Exodus 20

4 "You shall not fashion for yourself any graven image, or 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;

5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

I would venture to imagine that your spouse would not want you to be carrying around a picture of another man or woman in your wallet, or even in your head, thinking they were better looking, more desirable or wishing you could be with them – neither will God put up with it. He is a jealous God!

Love Him and keep His commandments …

There is no justification for continuing in sin!

Even though every one of us has sinned and God is yet willing to show each one His mercy. Today, if you will not harden your heart, allow the Holy Spirit to mercifully convict you of sin – repent – and commit to living a life pleasing to Him.

Don’t allow anyone to fashion a false god for you to serve.

There is only one God, worship no other!