Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Who Are We Worshiping?

Old Time Religion:
  • Step #1 – Locate a sculptor and commission a carving of an animal out of wood.
  • Step #2 – If you can afford it, have the sculpture covered with hammered gold.
  • Step #3 – Set up your newly created god in your house or on a hilltop.
  • Step #4 – Worship this god and make regular offerings to it.
  • Step #5 – Incur the wrath of God (You don't really have to do anything to make this happen, it will be a direct result of the previous steps)

This sounds pretty crazy in today's world, but this was a very common practice in times past.  However, this is one thing that really makes God angry.  The practice of worshiping idols is probably the most common trigger for God being really mad at His people.  Our God does not want to share you (See commandment #1, Exodus 20:3).

So why would somebody take something that is made by man, declare it a god and worship it?

The first reason is that the idol is something they can see.  We have the saying that, “seeing is believing”.  People are always more comfortable with something they can see than something they can't see.  Think about a time where you have tried to have a conversation from room-to-room where you can't see the other person – it feels awkward.  Normally, if it is going to be a real conversation, it will wander into the same room, so you can see each other.

The biggest advantage of an idol is that is doesn't demand much of us.  With an idol, it can be exactly the kind of god we want.  It won't tell us “no” at all, this god allows whatever we want.  We simply thank it for the good things that happen and when bad stuff happens you just give your idol more offerings to attempt to make it happy.

The relationship with this hand-crafted idol is straightforward and easy to understand.

What's not to love about this god?  Perhaps the fact that the idol isn't a god.  It has no power.  It is just a carved and decorated piece of wood.

Some people, though, are comfortable worshiping a powerless god.  In fact, they prefer this to a god that might put restrictions on their actions.

Today, people don't get a wooden idol carved, nor do they go to Wal-Mart and buy a molded plastic one – we consider ourselves too sophisticated for that, but they still create a god.  They create a god that does what they want and doesn't interfere in their lives.  This god isn't generally a physical object.  Typically, it is a god that is created in their minds and labeled “Jesus”.

This god they think up may bear little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible or God the Father.  This god is normally a pick-and-choose compilation of what attributes of the Lord we like, while all those other attributes get totally ignored.

This create-a-custom-god-in-your-mind isn't really a new phenomena.  Consider this scripture;

Repent and turn away from your idols; turn your faces away from all your abominations.  For when anyone from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who reside in Israel separates himself from Me, setting up idols in his heart and putting a sinful stumbling block before his face, then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me.  I, the Lord, will answer him Myself.  I will turn against that one and make him a sign and proverb; I will cut him off from among My people.  Then you will know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 14:6-8)

God wants us to worship Him and Him alone.  When we try to create a custom version of God, to meet our personal preferences, then we aren't worshiping the Creator, we are worshiping our own creation.

Whether we like it or are comfortable with it, the real God is nothing like us.  His purposes are not our purposes.  His job is not to make us happy.  We are incredibly insignificant compared to running a universe.  God is perfect and holy – up next to Him we are all filthy trash.  Our best efforts to accomplish anything are like an ant trying to stop the tides, but He is without limits.

Sometimes these ideas of who God is and what kind of relationship we should have with Him  conflict with what we believe or perhaps even with what we are being taught.  So, how do you know what is the true and correct vision of God?

There is only one true and authoritative source for this information.  It is God Himself.

God will reveal Himself through His word and His Spirit to any person that seeks Him.  But somehow, we have become lazy about this process and we attempt to delegate it to others.  We rely on our preachers and Christian authors to get them to do for us what God wants to do for us: to reveal His nature.

When we allow people to try to do God's job, then we are, at best, settling for a cheap imitation.  It is also possible that we are being lead totally off-track.  The scripture makes it clear that our world is full of those that claim to speak for God, but are not speaking for Him (Matthew 24:10).  All people are fallible.  God is the only one that knows exactly what you need for today, so no human can deliver that.  Even this document is tainted by my own imperfections and may be leading you away from God.

Our only positive way to learn about God is to seek Him, through His word as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  Anything else is subject to huge amounts of world influence.  While preaching, books and Bible studies have their place, nothing is a substitute for letting Him lead you through His holy and perfect word.

I see so many people that spend so much time “studying” the Bible.  They discuss, they answer questions, they read other people's interpretations, but they never let God reveal himself through His word.

Over the years, I have come to regard the Bible as being like a phone, it is a communication tool.  When we relax and let the Holy Spirit lead us through His word, then He reveals Himself in ways that cannot be explained by the words on the page.  We need to soak in the word, as in a hot-tub, just allowing ourselves to immerse into the wonder of who He is.  In this process, the lines between ourselves, the word and the Holy Spirit become blurred and He becomes all there is.

As we allow Him to reveal Himself, we can truly learn who He is.  We learn who we are and we learn how we fit together with and in Him.

In the course of my Christian life, I have had many beliefs that God has changed.  Even now, I am sure that God isn't done revealing Himself and I expect Iwill have other beliefs that He will change.  Throughout our lives, God reveals Himself.  He doesn't reveal Himself completely at one time, He does it gradually as we need and are ready for each new revelation.

As a consequence, different people will not know the same truths about God.  To a toddler that has never been told, the toilet looks like something fun to play in.  To a Christian, an area that God has not revealed Himself is open to some guesswork.  The real trick is to differentiate between those things that God has revealed as truth and everything else.  Every thing we “know” about God and our relationship with Him that wasn't revealed by Him is potentially wrong.

The point at which we accept that some friend, preacher or author has it all figured out, is the point where we may be in trouble.

I would never intentionally write anything in one of these articles that I do not believe is true.  However, you, as the reader should look at every word skeptically.  Everything that I say or is said by your favorite preacher or is written by your favorite author should always be filtered through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

It would be nice if God would fully and completely reveal Himself to every Christian right up front, but that isn't, apparently, part of His plan.  The more we seek Him, the more of Himself He reveals.  Along the way we must be aware that all human sources of information about Him are flawed.

All of the information we collect goes into forming the image we worship.  If we allow ourselves to be deceived (or participate in that deception for selfish reasons), we may find that we are worshiping an idol, instead of worshiping the One True God.  Jesus said that, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).  He is the truth, truth is not in the world.  Seek Him and let the truth be revealed.

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Lexington, Ky