The Commandments - 2. No Other Gods

Posted on 07/06/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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KING OF KINGS

King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!

Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!
Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!


BLESS THE LORD

I will bless the Lord at all times
I will bless the Lord at all times
His praise shall continually
be in my mouth


TO HIM WHO SITS ON THE THRONE

To him who sits on the throne
and unto the Lamb
To him who sits on the throne
and unto the Lamb

Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever
Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever


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Today, I'd like for us to continue our series on the Commandments. We've already covered the foundation for them all, which is love, and we've talked about loving God with all we are, and about loving our neighbor as ourself.

And today's topic, the second Commandment, I have titled, "No Other Gods."

Let's read from Exodus chapter 20, verses 2 through 6.

Exodus 20:2-6 (NKJV)

2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 "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;
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 upon 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.


Now, we all know that we're not supposed to worship any other gods. And at first glance, most of us would say we've got that one down. We have no idols of false gods in our homes, so it's impossible for us to bow down and worship them. But consider the following admonition in Philippians 3:17 through 19.

Philippians 3:17-19 (NKJV)

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

Now, I seriously doubt Paul was talking about people who had idols in their homes in the shape of their belly, to which they would burn incense and bow in worship. And I don't think he was talking about Buddhists; after all, the big-bellied Buddha didn't exist at that time. Although, you could argue that today's fat Buddha is the result of the belly god, since it was developed for those of us in countries that make gluttony, even in the Church, a daily practice.

Proverbs 23:20 (KMV) says this: "Do not be among heavy drinkers of wine, or among excessive eaters of meat." For the most part, we preach against the first one to the extreme, but pretend the second one isn't even there. And I know first hand that if you suggest someone could prevent or even reverse most if not all of their chronic illnesses by ceasing to eat meat and cheese for every single meal, not centering their breakfast, lunch, and dinner around flesh, they often react as though I've just said something highly offensive.

But just like it's easy to drink enough wine to practice alcoholism while the Bible never even suggests you shouldn't drink too much water, so it's also easy to eat enough flesh to practice gluttony while the Bible never warns against eating too much rice and vegetables.

Sadly, we're raised in a society that unknowingly practices gluttony, and we think it's perfectly fine. And we get fat, or have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, alzheimer's, chron's, or some other disease that's often caused or made worse by the way we eat.

No, this message isn't about diet. I'm just leading up to a point. And that point is that, just as we can starve ourselves trying to lose weight and still be practicing gluttony, it's easier to worship another god than we tend to think.

The god of rich foods. The god of entertainment. The god of comfort. The god of our self image. The god of our plans for the future. The god of our self loathing. The god of religion. The god of denomination. The god of self-preservation and survival. And even the god of self-denial and holiness.

Pretty much anything can become a god. And it's pretty certain that we all have practiced idolatry. And most of us still do.

But how can we know if we've made something into a god? Verse five starts with these words:

"You shall not bow down to them nor serve them."

Providing for your family is, in itself, not only a good thing to do, but it's something the Bible says you're worse than an unbeliever if you DON'T do it. Or won't do it. But if you bow down to that providing, and you serve that providing, then for you, you might want to consider whether it has become a god.

Here's a good one. Have you ever been tempted to say, even if you wouldn't have worded it like this at all, "I know the Bible says such-and-such, BUT..." And you follow that "but" with noble-sounding excuses for not obeying what God has delivered through the Scriptures.

"I just don't have time to have times of devotion with my family. God knows how hard I work, and how tired I am when I get home."

There just might be another god in your life.

"Praying and worshiping God? I do that on Sundays at church. But I don't really have time to do that on a daily basis. I have a lot of responsibilities. God understands."

Perhaps you just might share a god with Martha.

"Well, I spend that time with God every day. I make myself read the Bible and pray. I know I have to, so I do it, and because of what I do, I'm right with God."

You might be okay there. Or you might have a more subtle and sneaky god of religion, paying homage to what you do for or with God, instead of truly worshiping God Himself.

And the god of pride often comes in there. That's the root of the gods people make out of denominations and doctrines. There's one denomination that teaches that they are the Bride of Christ, while the people in other Christian denominations are only the "friend" of the Bridegroom.

So the stories we come up with in our heads are often other gods. My understanding of Scripture can be a god. What I do in God's name can be a god. What I DON'T do can be a god. My knowledge ABOUT God can be a god.

And, my obsessing over whether there are hidden gods in my life can also become a god.


Verse five says: "You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God."


Let's consider a married couple. The wife generally doesn't have a problem with the husband going to work every day and coming back in the evening. But if he spends excessive amounts of time there, or even if that's all the talks and thinks about while he's at home with her, that becomes a problem. He's putting his job where his wife should be.

Is the fact he provides earthly needs a bad thing? No. But when he's with his wife, especially during times of intimacy, he needs to be there with her completely. And, here's another hot topic, he needs to be there FOR her completely, not thinking of the fact that he wants something from her, usually sex, which can cause the wife to feel as though sex is more important to him that SHE is.

Do you see the paralells there? We tend to elevate our responsibilities to the status of gods, allowing them to create space between us and our intimate communion with God. Or our desire for healing, or something else we want from God. Or the increased level of spirituality we believe we'll achieve if we spend time with God. We let all these things create a space between us and Him.

Last week we talked about how "deep calls unto deep." That "deep" is beyond what we do or don't do. It's beyond what we want from God. It's beyond what we think we're required to do or not do. It's beyond our understanding of Scripture or doctrine.

You see, we tend to get it all completely backwards. We try to fit God in, trying to add Him on to our jobs, our relationships, our thoughts and feelings. But for God to fully be in the place that is rightfully His in our life, He must be in the very center of all those things. He must be WHY we do what we do.

1st Corinthians 10:31 says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Of could you could rightly say that you should seek to show God's glory to the world around you in all things. But this doesn't say "whatever you do that others will see," but "whatever you do." Everything. Even the things that won't necessarily glorify God in the eyes of others, because no one else will ever see it.

I believe you could also say it this way: "Whether you're eating, drinking, going to work, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, reading a book, going for a walk, thinking about something or someone, or whatever you say or do, let it be an act of love; an act of worship; as you are present with the presence of God, and as you and He, in intimate union, do or say that thing together."

Not because you want something from Him. Not because you feel more spiritual. Not because it adds to your self image. Not because it makes you look better in the eyes of others.

But because you're saying, thinking, or doing it with Him. In gratitude. Without even the slightest hint of complaining. In peace. In joy. In Love.

And when you are fully present, letting go of your attachments to changing everything, or finding problems everywhere, or trying to protect your image of yourself, or focusing on your imagined future; and you are just there with God, as Ephesians 2:16 says, "seated with Christ in heavenly places," not "off somewhere in the sky" heavenly, but heavenly in its nature; when you are there and then, which is here and now for you, then the worldly ambitions and stresses and worries and cares, and the self-centered focus we tend to have, they all fade away. And all that's left is God. Everywhere and in everything.

And whether you're pressing keys on a computer keyboard, or wiping a soapy cloth against a dirty dish, or spending time with your husband or wife, or your kids, or you're by yourself, you are doing those things as an act of worship, with a quality that comes not from some fleshly standard, but from a joy that comes from acting from a foundation of peace with God.

So if you watch the game, it is an act of intimacy with God. If you are changing a flat tire, it is a beautiful act of intimate worship with God. All for His glory. All in the deep peace and joy of the life and love that He is giving you now.

And all the other gods start to fall away. The more you live like this, the more they disolve.

And if God leads you to take what would seem like violent action, like what righteous men have done throughout Scripture, tearing down idols and utterly destroying them, then you will do so from that foundation of deep peace and stillness. Maybe such a thing would be to burn some books, or smash a TV.

But whatever it is, if there is some action God leads you to take, remember that He will not stand off to the side and send you out to do it. Rather, He's right there with you, and it is an act of peace and love. Which obviously means you won't be hurting someone or vandalizing their property.

And for the most part, the gods in your life will bow their knees, as your attention is brought away from focusing on them as separate things that are in your life IN ADDITION to God; rather, as things in your life come and go, you experience them from a heavenly place, a deep place, a place in which you and God are experiencing them together.

And you know, the things in our lives that seem so big, are often relatively quite small. The mortgage payment you think you won't be able to make; you will begin to see it as just a thing. As you work, it is a beautiful thing you do with God. As you open that bill, it is a beautiful thing you do with God. As you either prepare to move or see the money for your house payment come from some place you didn't expect, it is a beautiful thing you do with God.

It's not about me. It's not about mine. It's not about this or that. It's not about our memories or our imagined future. It's not about our stories. It's not about our getting everything right.

Instead, God is God in and of everything. And when you look at nature, you see God. When you open that collection notice, you see God. When someone dear to you leaves this Earth, you mourn in His arms, and you see God.

And the only way to know what this means is to experience it. Your mind has ideas about what this means. But just like you can't know how it feels to be in romantic love until you experience it, so you can't know what it means for God to truly be at the center of, all throughout, and the sacred beautifier of everything in your life until you experience it.

So this week, starting today, starting this moment, practice this: take your eyes off your past and future, your life story, your perceived problems, your worries and fears (which tend to be about the future); and bring your attention back to the present moment, and where you are right now. And know that God is right there with you, completely filling your body, making all things beautiful.

You have no real reason to complain. To be judgmental. To seek your own way. Or to give importance to any other thing. If anything has true beauty, it is God in it that makes it so. If anything is worthy of praise, it is God in it that makes it so.

Think of it this way: some people see everything in life as a source of fear. Is there fear in a mountain? No, but if you are filled with fear, then you see fear in the mountain. And if you are filled with God and your attention is on the present moment and that place where God is one with you, then you will see Him and His beauty, majesty, and glory in all things. All situations. All events. Even things the enemy has meant for evil, God is in the middle of it turning it into something good, as He promises us in Romans 8:28. It's not that it WILL some day work out for good, but RIGHT NOW, God is already in it, and as evil as it might appear, in the center of that thing, there is glory, beauty, and the majesty of God's Love.

And that thing has no power over you. For you have No Other Gods.


Let's go ahead and close today's service with a time of prayer and ministry. And you're all invited to make your way to the front as we spend some time reflecting on what the Spirit might be speaking to us today.

Whever you need to go, you're dismissed. If you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way into the room up the steps to your left when you're done here, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for some fellowship.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us, or if you're listening outside of Second Life or at another time, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastors' Offices link, and contact us there.

Come, and let's give God the place He deserves in all things.


Lord, thank you for speaking to us today. Thank you for making all things beautiful, all things new. I ask that these words would not be lost as we go about our lives, but that they would take deep root and they would bear good fruit in our lives.

And we ask these things in Jesus' beautiful name.