The most egregious sin in the Bible is not homosexuality, adultery, greed, or failure to serve on a church committee. It is idolatry.
We evangelicals like to think that are much more sanctified than the Israelites of old-- who seemed to thrown themselves down before every stone statue that came their way.
But the truth is: evangelicals are just as idol prone as our forefathers were. The following are a few prevalent forms of idolatry that may be found in the church today:
1. Evan-jelly-fish: A faith that has no spine is no faith at all. If you're not willing to stand up for biblical doctrine, acknowledge Christ's supremacy, or affirm the authority of His law, then you're bowing to the god of toleration and moderation. Such a faith has been so overrun by postmodernism that it is Christian in name only.
2. Christi-tainment: Neil Postman's classic book "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" continues to be prophetic in our day, especially in our churches. Worship that is driven by fun, amusements, and showmanship plagues the evangelical world. Choosing a church on the basis of its music or youth group events, rather than its focus on Christ & His word, is much like making an offering on an alter of entertainment.
3. Superstition: Symbols have their place. A cross necklace can be something that proclaims who you are. A sticker on your car can identify where you stand in your beliefs. But such things can also become objects of worship. When we impute divine power to them, depend more on a trinket than we do prayer, or trust it as "God's channel of help" we've essentially created a golden calf.
4. Cult of Personality: Protestantism has always eschewed popery --kissing rings, thinking he is the head of the church, etc. Unfortunately, it is still alive an well in Prot circles in the form of celebrity pastors. While honoring good teachers is good, infatuations can be overboard. Leader worship breeds discontent with "ordinary," everyday clergy and "groupies" can follow certain charismatic fellows more than they do Christ.
5. Biblical Mutts: Christians must biblical thoroughbreds. If you mix breeds by mingling beliefs from other faiths or philosophies, you're rejecting the God of Scripture and forming a new religion. It is idolatrous to claim to be a Christian and believe in abortion, homosexuality, Marxism, Buddhist meditation, alternative means of salvation, etc.
The Israelites' idolatry was rarely ever a complete rejection of the Lord. They typically provoked the Lord by blending their faith with the pagan customs of the surrounding nations.
Heroin and drug use are the number one problems facing our area today. Reports of their destruction come out daily and drug related deaths are skyrocketing.
But users and their families should know that deliverance is possible. There is a way to escape the cult of addiction and religion of substance abuse. It is by turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning to worship the true and living God.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the answer to addiction is found in a twelve step program, a stint at a recovery facility, or better law enforcement tactics. But the ultimate solution is not in behavioral modification, educational programs, or conditioning. The only real and lasting remedy is wholesale religious conversion.
While we can be thankful for the existence of such programs we must recognize that something deeper is at stake. Addiction, at its most fundamental level, is a cult. It is primarily a religious issue having to do with servitude and worship.
The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to something else. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug becomes your master. It once served you; it relieved your pain or gave you a little pleasure. But now it rules you. You have come to feel that you cannot live without it. You crave it, throw your money at it, and give it an absurd amount of attention.
It has become your religion.
It is deeper than mere appetite. It is a matter of faith. For the drug has become the object of trust: It is relied upon for happiness. It promises to save, fulfill, and relieve your pains. You believe in it and rely upon it as the only hope of satisfaction.
The worship is further seen in that the addict can’t bring himself to stop. Addicts will try to stop, but they can’t. The drug has become an idol to whom they are religiously devoted. It is the dominant force in their life.
If an addict is to be helped, he must acknowledge that he does not have a drug problem per se. He must admit that he has a faith problem. It is not so much about what is injected, smoked, or swallowed as much as it is about what is worshiped, adored, and served.
Thus, the road to recovery (i.e. redemption) lies in religious conversion. It is by repentance and turning to the one who is the one and only living God. The one who offers true life and eternal salvation.
All in all, the cleansing of the veins and clearing of the mind begins with a cleansing of the heart and clarity on the issue of idolatry.
In future articles we will explore more of the religious nature of addiction and how the Christian faith provides a means of escape. In the meantime, addicts (and affected loved ones) can explore the recovery helps that Hopewell offers at hopewellashland.com.
Matt Timmons, Pastor
[The above article was submitted to the newspapers in Ashland as a means of combating the rising heroin problem in our area. For help with addiction recovery please contact Matt or visit hopewellashland.com]
"If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." Mal 2:2 ESV
Blasphemy is one of the worst possible sins in the Bible. Another passage in the Bible tells us that cursing God was a capital offense. It was punishable by death.
As we see from this verse, failure to honor God’s name results in a direct curse from God. It even says that the blessings God gives will be turned into a curse. We may think of the quail that the Lord gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were failing to give honor to God as the one who had just saved them out of Egypt and they did not recognize his power to sustain. So he gave them quail. But the quail, thought it was a blessing, it was also a curse—it turned into a plague.
So it behooves us to recognize how circumspect we should be when it comes to honoring God’s name and giving him the reverence he is due.
When we think of blasphemy, we typically think of taking God’s name in vain. This is the most direct form. Using God’s name as an expletive not only empties it of its infinite value, but it also uses that which is holy for profane purposes. This is also true of the diminished forms of God’s name, such as “omg” or “gosh” (God) or “geez” (Jesus).
But we must also recognize that God’s name stands for anything which is associated with God himself. So it is not just his names, but his word, worship, attributes, & works.
For instance, when a child draws a picture, you do not criticize the work and say it looks nothing like what he/she was trying to depict. Why? Because you know that you might make that child cry. The criticism of the art is an insult to the artist himself.
The same is true when it comes to God's name. When we disparage anything connected to God (like the weather or some providence He brings our way), it is a criticism of God himself.
So we must be careful to recognize the depths of the third commandment. Did you grumble at the weather this morning? The Lord produced the ice and it is one of his marvelous works. Are you not engaged in the songs you sing or giving attention to the word? That is God's worship & God's word and that flippancy is a form of blasphemy.
I remember one time in Seminary we had a break between classes. A few of us headed to the men’s room. Just as we opened the door, three guys were heading out. We were all chatting in our respective groups, and we almost collided when the door opened. I cried out, “Holy cow!” It just popped out of my mouth as a natural reaction to the close encounter. A terribly awkward silence immediately followed. It was then awkwardly broken by one student saying, “Yes, you have to watch out for those sacred bovine.”
My irreverent use of God’s most grand attribute was certainly brought home.
As we come to our time of confession this morning, let us take to heart the ways we have blasphemed God. Whether it be in the profanities we have uttered, disrespect we have shown, or irreverent attitudes we my have had towards God’s person and work, let us confess them and ask that God hold back the curses he has threatened for it.
You have pledged that you will not hold him guiltless who takes your name in vain. Lord, we confess that we have been a blasphemous people in that we have failed to honor you and uphold your majesty. We admit that have not treated the reading & preaching of your word with the highest esteem.
We acknowledge that we have not been as engaged as we should be. We have let our minds wander in prayer, we have been flippant when approaching the Communion Table, we have spent little time glorifying you and meditating on the wonder of your being.
Our Lord our God, we admit that we have not reverenced you as we ought and we beg your pardon.
Forgive us for having the heart of Esau, who would profane his birthright by selling it for a pot of porridge. Give us grace to overcome the sacrilege of the Israelites who treated the sacred Ark of the Covenant as a superstitious toy. Let us be freed from the attitude of Paul, who kicked against the goads and ignored the testimony of the saints.
Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. This points out the importance of sound exposition of Scripture and the necessity of attending to it as much as possible.
I firmly believe that one of the main reasons Christians in America have such paltry faith is because they despise preaching. They rather have small groups and individual reading plans. They want fellowship times and movie discussions. They will watch a DVD series on any topic and will form classes for women, men, children, divorcee's, alcoholic recovery, etc.
These may have their place, but they do not compare to sitting under a minster who will faithfully preach the gospel and expound Scripture. Speaking of the officer executing his authoritative duty of preaching, Paul said, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."
This beauty is one of the reasons I want churches to reinstate evening services. If people want to grow in Christ, then they should demand that the doors be opened for worship as frequently as possible so that they might sit and hear the truth proclaimed.
If we desire to grow in Christ and become strong in faith, let us see every opportunity to hear God speak and allow the Spirit to minister to our hearts. Let us love the pulpit with a great affection and gravitate to it as the fountain of life.
The following is the latest email I sent out regarding our upcoming Sunday evening services, which will start on Sunday March 6th. If you would like to get updates & hear what is happening, let me know.
I. Review: What is the 2nd commandment all about?
A. Opening Exercise:
Put the following two sentences on the board:
Discuss: What is the difference between them? What is the difference? Which one most accurately describes what we studied last time in the 2nd commandment?
The two differ in this way: The second view is much more limited, while the first view is much more permissive and allows many more things to be added to a worship service. For instance, according to the normative view you may not have a statue of Baal in your service because that is expressly forbidden in Scripture. But you could have a picture of Mary, drama, or an “inspirational video.”
Discuss: Why do people hold to the first view? What makes it appealing? Why do people hold to the second view?
B. Put the following sentence on the board:
Is it proper to speak of having a worship experience?
II. THE INFLUENCE OF PICTURES (i.e. media) ON WORSHIP & WORSHIPPERS
Why do we feel the need to “feel” something in church? Why are we not satisfied with the kind of worship God has instituted? A lot of this has to do with how we’ve been shaped by modern media forms, TV in particular. So, it is important to think for a few minutes on the influence of today’s media on our minds and our worship.
Watch: Man v Book: video review of Amusing Ourselves to Death:
A group of us who are looking to start a weekly Sunday evening worship service. We are calling it The Evening Sacrifice and we hope to have our first service in March. We want to invite you to join us as we begin planning and preparing for it.
Some of our group are friends who are hindered from attending morning services due to work schedules. Others of us simply love the age old tradition of beginning and ending the Lord's Day in the worship of God, and we are eager to get back into it.
Right now we have about 35 people who are interested. This is a great core with which to start! But we are still seeking to build a solid core group and would like to add around 15-20 people.
Visit our website or email me for more information. And be sure to join our email list or follow the developments on Facebook
Great and precious are your promises, O God, and we thank you that you have chosen to extend those promises to poor sinners like us. Moreover, we praise you that you seal us in them by the powerful working your Spirit.
It is for this reason that we bow our heads now. We pray that we would, by faith, experience the full power of this sacrament. We pray that by these waters you would impress the reality of those promises upon our hearts and confirm us in them. We pray that each of us might be comforted by the gospel and be further assured that you are the Savior of sinners.
Most especially we pray for Dan as he undergoes this rite. We pray that the reality to which this points may enliven his soul and stir him up to greater obedience. We pray that this cleansing would be that which strengthens him in times of temptation, steadies him in seasons of doubt, and encourages him when he does stumble and fall into sin.
Yea, o God, we pray that his baptism would be constant reminder to him of the depth of your grace, mercy, and love.
And this we do ask in the strong name of Jesus; Amen.
Ordination is a doctrine that needs to be revived if we are going to see the church revived in our day. It is all but neglected because any old slub thinks he can do something for Jesus by becoming a campus parachurch worker or by jumping up in pulpit and "preaching." However, standing in a pulpit does not make one a preacher.
Preaching is an act only of the officially ordained (or licensed) man. In Romans 10:14-15 it says, "How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"
The preaching in this passage is done by someone who is officially "sent." The OT quote emphasizes this as it references an official messenger who has been given the special charge to go announce a victory.
Therefore, when a man is ordained, he assumes an office. He becomes God's ambassador with the specific charge of formally declaring God's message, which is the gospel. That is what preaching is: The official declaration of God's Word by the man who is distinctly appointed by God for this solemn affair.
In the ordination service the church publicly testifies that this particular man who they are ordaining has been raised up and equipped by God for that role. Then, as they lay hands on him, they formally recognize that God has invested him with the authority that specifically pertains to this office.
It is not until that has happened that he actually preaches. Anything that happens before that moment is not what is technically known as "preaching." This is why theologians have differentiated between preaching and exhortation. Preaching is what preachers do (that is, ordained men). Everyone else who speaks biblical truth exhorts his brethren (i.e. encourages or instructs).
This is not to say that what a non-ordained person says is not effective or that God cannot use this person to convert people or edify the church. It's just not technically preaching.
Why is it important to consider this? For one, we are required to sit under the preaching of God's word from week to week. Paul tells Timothy to "Preach the Word." As a result, the people to whom he is to preach are to submit themselves to that word. So when we gather together for worship, we are mandated to listen to the officially appointed man declare what God has to say.
What's the big deal? Isn't that what any non-ordained person does? The truth is that there is a large difference. It is one thing to hear a brother speak to us and teach us truth from the Scripture; it is another to hear someone who has the authority of the office preach.
Let me illustrate: Suppose you are driving down the highway and your speed exceeds the set speed limit. The person in the passenger seat can tell you that you are going too fast and need to slow down. That would be a useful exhortation. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast. Both said virtually the same thing, but they were vastly different as to their nature and power.
Secondly, understanding this doctrine will help us sift through the scads of men who wish to serve as pastor (funny, I almost said "who wish to play pastor", which is a blog in and of itself!). Men who do not have the skills required to preach ought not to preach. If they cannot speak well, put together a coherent message, or interpret Scripture with any sort of meaningful intelligence, they should not act in the capacity that requires them to do so.
Similarly, men who have not the theological acumen for this work ought to leave well enough alone. Men who are ordained ought to be thoroughly examined as to their knowledge and beliefs. We would not want any old schmo walking off to some foreign country to act as a representative of our country. We want someone who has some intelligence and expertise in his area of work to act in that capacity. Ought then we not to expect the same of those who will serve as God's ambassadors.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, after worship the congregation should be able to walk away saying, "I heard from God today." The words might have had the intonations of a man, but the message most certainly had the authority and weight of God's very word.
And when a man preaches, that's exactly what happens.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.