Our Idols and Their Illusions
Posted on 01/11/2015 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
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TREES OF THE FIELD
You shall go out with joy
And be let forth with peace
And the mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There'll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the fields
Will clap, will clap their hands
And all the trees of the fields
will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
While you go out with joy
RIVER OF LIFE
I've got a river of life flowing out of me!
Makes the lame to walk, and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free!
I've got a river of life flowing out of me!
Spring up, O well, within my soul!
Spring up, O well, and make me whole!
Spring up, O well, and give to me
That life abundantly.
NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES
Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.
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Okay, so we had a lot of reading in some unpleasant parts of the Old Testament. And my first thought was that I probably wouldn't say much about those passages. But it turns out quite the opposite is true.
In Ezekiel chapter 20, God had brought the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt, and He had told them to not defile themselves with the idols of Egypt. But, as they continued to do over and over and over again, they rebelled against God.
In verse 24, He says that their eyes were fixed upon their fathers' idols, and verse 25 says that God turned them over to unjust laws, as He pronounced them "unclean" because they sacrificed their infants to those idols.
Does that sound the least bit familiar? And I'm not just talking about Israel or about something from the distant past.
If this were today, maybe we could recognize some of the things that might be our idols: my desires and dreams, my freedom to "love who I want to love," and my freedom to persue false riches (also called material gain). My attachment to convenience. My craving to have a way out of unwanted responsibilities, or an escape from the unwanted results of my actions.
If this were today, maybe we could acknowledge that, because we worship these idols, we sacrifice our infants to them.
More babies have been murdered in sacrifice to our gods than died at the hands of Hitler. Or Stalin. Or Mao. Combined. In fact, we have murdered six times more people than the three of those mass murderers put together, all on the altar of our false gods.
According to one study, the top reason for abortion is that the mother just doesn't feel ready for a baby.
The second one is that the mother doesn't believe God will provide for the child.
The third reason is that the mother just doesn't want any more children.
All these reasons are fantasies. They are merely thoughts in the head. And so we sacrifice our children on the altar of our mental idols.
And this includes those who claim to follow Christ. In fact, according to one study, 69% of women who have abortions claim to be Christians. Just like God's chosen people sacrificed their children to idols, so we in the Church are still doing today.
We mourn the millions upon millions who have been murdered at the hands of wicked men. And rightly so. But the self-appointed priests and missionaries for the gods of our age have scared or shamed many of us into either turning a blind eye or even giving a thumbs up to the precious blood we are spilling every single day on the altars of the idols of our sin-sick minds.
For every 1,000 babies born, 234 babies are aborted.
That's 1.2 million per year.
3,288 per day.
137 every hour.
1 precious, innocent, helpless child every 26 seconds.
There were 4 child sacrifices made while I read all those statistics to you. 12 since I started talking.
Sacrificed to our mental idols of convenience. Of ambition. Of self-image. Of fantasies or fears about the future. Of memories of the past.
These gods aren't even real. They are just ideas in the head. But we endow them with the power to define our reality. And in doing so, we fall asleep to what really matters, and to what is truly real, and, most importantly, we fall asleep to God and to the sanctity of His Life.
Even if that means we sacrifice our infants to those idols. And as a result, God pronounces us unclean. And He turns us over to be destroyed.
And if this Scripture passage were about today, maybe we could notice the hand of God's blessing and protection lifting, as He turns us over to our enemies both within and without, because of His proclamation that we have made ourselves unclean.
And in verse 30, God says, "Shall I be inquired of by you? I will not." God no longer responded to their requests for protection and prosperity, because of where their idolotry led them to be.
If you read these chapters, then you already know that it gets pretty ugly. In fact, God says that He was against His people, and that He would draw His sword out of its sheath and would cut off both the righteous and the wicked, as His sword goes out against all flesh.
And maybe we can recognize this today, as the results of our sins as a country and as a people of the Earth affect both wicked and righteous alike.
In chapter 23, God talks about the harlotry of Israel, and near the end of the chapter, He says that He will turn her lovers against her, and they will destroy her.
Well, that's a principle that has manifested over and over again. Just let idols take God's place -- and we know we have an idol when anything, including religious traditions, rituals, and even beliefs, distracts us from unbroken fellowship with God. And those things to which we build unholy attachments destroy us; they strip away true wealth, the true wealth that is found when the born again spirit is unhindered by clinging to the things of this earth.
When your pockets are full of fool's gold, you don't have room for true riches. And when your hands are holding tightly to a sinking chest full of earthly treasure, you will deprive your lungs of the fresh, clean air of Life.
Ezekiel 33:1-11 (NKJV)
1 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: 'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.'
7 "So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
10 "Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: 'Thus you say, "If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?"' 11 Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'
So this is a strong word to those God has appointed to be watchmen. And this doesn't just apply to pastors and teachers and preachers. No matter what role you may have been called to play, if you see that someone is about to be destroyed, but you look the other way and refuse to do whatever you can do to save them from being destroyed, doesn't this sound as though you just might share in the price of their blood?
And in verse eleven, God says, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live."
We don't always seem to share that same attitude. All too often, we are delighted when someone who is more obviously evil dies. We rejoiced when Hitler died. We threw parties when Bin Laden was killed. And when a seriel killer or child molestor is sentenced to death, we just might have a sense of deep pleasure.
And of course we are happy when the oppressed are set at liberty, and heaven rejoices at their salvation as well. But all too often, our natural sense of justice has been warped. And I say it's been warped, because while God is perfectly just, He has no pleasure whatsoever in the death of the wicked. Instead, His desire is that NONE should perish, but that they instead be delivered and cleansed and walk hand in hand with Him in everlasting joy.
So we've seen that the end result of worshiping idols is insanity, since we will go so far as to sacrifice our infants to false gods that don't even exist outside of our heads.
And we've heard the call to every single one of us that we love the sinner, and that we warn them of the eternal cost of sin, while pointing them to the One Who paid that price in their place.
Later in this chapter, we see that the reason Judah was destroyed was because they heard, but they did not do.
Isn't it easy, relatively speaking, to listen to someone talk about issues that require us to take action, but then we go home and fall back into our slumber?
The hypnotic rhythm of the mind's idols and attachments re-assert their position as the master of your soul, the provider of your needs, and the final authority on all things that "really matter."
And we can't demote them, because we think they are us. But they aren't.
You HAVE a mind. But you are not a mind. Things happened to you in the past. But you are not those things. You have roles you play and stories about those roles. But you are not those stories or those roles. You have plans for, or fears about, your future, but that future is really just thoughts in your head that may or may not ever become reality.
Most of what we call our "life" is really just fantasies in our heads, fantasies which have little if any tangible reality in the real world.
Right here and right now is the only place you can ever Live. And right here and right now, you don't have a job. You don't have bills to pay. You don't have food to eat, unless you're in the sound booth eating cookies.
You don't have relationship problems. You don't have time in the courtroom. You don't have a broken refrigerator. You don't have a disease.
Don't take my word for it. Look around you. Feel the Life, the Breath of God, in your hands. You are breathing right now, THAT is true. Your body is filled with life right now, that is also true. You're sitting in a chair. Your hands might be holding a Bible or something else, or they might just be resting in your lap. And this is reality right here and right now. This is Life.
And what would happen if you turned those hands toward heaven? And what would happen if you turned your attention away from the mind's compulsive fighting against what is, and you fully surrendered instead?
You know, there are only two things that ever happen in life: Things God does, and things God allows. That covers everything. There is nothing else.
And I realize that the mind likes to turn a statement like this into a problem. But it's a fact. And it's a fact concerning God, who is always, completely, and nothing other than, good.
The human mind wants to fight against what God does, or what God allows. But consider this: What does Romans 8:28 say? It says this:
"And we know that all things work together --- for GOOD to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
So if God caused something to happen, it's good from the very start. And if God allowed something, even if it was meant for evil, God is in it, in the very center of it, and He is already using it for and turning it into good.
So regardless of what it is and whether God caused it or just allowed it, it is, at its core, something good. It is a blessing, even if it's wearing a disguise. It is beautiful, even if the mind can't see its beauty. It is ultimately perfect, even if the mind cannot comprehend its perfection.
And this is why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 tell us to always give thanks both in and for ALL things. They are all ultimately good. And they will all turn out beautiful. For God is right there in the very center of every single one.
So can you choose to take your attention away from the complaining and constant fighting of the mind, and turn it instead to God? Not just a mental idea about God, or facts you learned about Him, but God Himself?
Taking your attention out of your head is a good place to find stillness and quiet. If you have been born again, then your body is God's temple. So bring your attention into where you are right here and right now, not thinking about it, but just being here with God.
And from that place of inner quiet, you might naturally lift your face or your hands, or you might start singing a song to Him, or you might just quietly rest in His peace.
[To Him who Sits on the Throne]
To Him who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb
Be blessing and glory and honor and power forever
Or, in that place in which you are not fighting against what is, and are instead truly thankful from the very center of your being, you might also take action that will affect something in this world.
You might hold someone, let them cry, and talk to them about how much God loves them, and how much He loves that infant in their womb, and how, just as He clothes the flowers with glory and feeds the birds of the air, so He will take care of their every need too.
He provided a way for us to be forever delivered from our sins through Jesus. Everything else, He has been providing from the very beginning.
You can enjoy the roles you play. They are beautiful. And you can play them skillfully as unto the Lord. That is the only way they should be played. But don't fall into the trap of thinking those roles are who you are. They are not. And they will all pass away.
These temporary blessings, troubles, roles, situations, and stories, you can enjoy them. You can interact with them. You can let them cleanse you. Just don't let them take center stage, and do not give them your identity. They are all passing away.
But you and God are together, seated together in the heavenly realm, here and now, and you can rest in that glorious union forever.
In chapter 34, God says that the Shepherds of Israel did not feed the flock. They did not strengthen the weak; they did not heal the sick; they did not bind up the broken; they did not bring back those driven away or seek those who were lost; instead, they ruled over them. And as a result, the people were destroyed.
And then, God says this: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out." He also says, "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and they will dwell safely." And finally, "You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; I am your God."
You know, you should pray for and thank God for Pastors Dan and Renee, and for the other leadership here at The Potter's House. God Himself has sought out every single one of you. He has made a covenant of peace with you. He has promised that, no matter what happens to these temporary circumstances and even to your temporary body, YOU will dwell in complete safety.
And He has, for this time, for right now, led you here and has given you leadership who feeds you, who strengthens the weak, who heals the sick, who binds up the broken, and who seeks out those who are lost.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to put them on a pedestal. But when God blesses you, you should give Him thanks, and all of us here have a LOT for which we can be thankful.
And when someone like this is a blessing to you, that's just God. He's just touching you through them. So rejoice! They are just one of the many proofs that God's hand is upon you!
In chapter 36, God says this: "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt." The desolation and ruin are rebuilt and brought to life. And finally, God says He will then let His people inquire of Him to do these things.
Through this destruction from idols, the people were brought to a place of full surrender. And in that place of complete surrender, they were brought back to the place in which they could once again commune with God and partake of the blessings of Life.
What idols do we have? You probably don't have a Budha statue in your home to which you physically bow in worship. At least I hope not.
But those aren't the only kinds of idols. And a statue or figurine might not be any more of an idol than a photograph in your wallet or phone.
Your idol might be an ideology, or a belief, or a denomination.
Your idol might be a relationship, or a ministry, or your own ideas about God.
Your idol might be the thought that you have no idols.
But we can recognize that something has been an idol for us when we think it is threatened or might be taken away. How do we react?
Now don't get me wrong. If, for example, someone you hold dear leaves this earth, you will probably go through some mourning.
Or if, for another example, you lose your house, and have to say goodbye to earthly stuff and locations that might represent a lifetime of memories, you might shed some tears.
But how long will you hold on to that thing? Can you let it go? Most of our suffering is caused by our attachments to things of this earth, things that were never going to last forever, things that were always temporary and were always going to pass away.
But remember: God is in the center of everything, whether or not that thing was brought about by His hand. And that includes even the pain we cause ourselves by not letting go of temporary forms that are all passing away.
Sometimes the pain the mind causes can drive us to turn to God. To cast our cares upon Him, because He cares so much for us.
Sometimes that pain can inspire us to actively seek some sort of relief, and so we plunge head-long into the Presence of God. Into seeking after Him. And as we seek Him in the only time and place we can, which is always right now wherever you are, we just might discover that we start letting go of everything else, letting go of the things we are fighting or refusing to release.
And as we fully surrender, we find the One we seek. And He brings peace that surpasses our human understanding. And out of that peace comes a joy that cannot be put into words, as we overflow with the very glory of God.
Does any of this make sense to you? Can you see the God finger of the Scriptures pointing us to this place in Him?
If not, don't take my word for it. I've only offered a bunch of human words that hopefully have served to point you to the Great I Am. Any of them that don't, don't have any true worth. Any of them that do, have worth only in that they point you to something of worth.
But regardless, just keep pressing into Him. Keep seeking to get closer to Him. Keep presenting yourself as a Living offering of Love. And His Spirit will continue to lead you into truth, for when you seek Him, and you seek Him with all your heart, you most certainly will find Him.
Let's wrap up by turning to 1st Peter. I won't talk about much of this, and I'm sure God spoke to you as you were reading it. I can't imagine otherwise. It's full of practical wisdom. Be wise! Put it into practice!
1st Peter chapter 4, verses 12 and 13, says this:
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
So perhaps you, too, are going through something that seems to you like a fiery trial. But it's not some strange thing, or some foreign thing. Instead, you can rejoice that you are sharing in suffering with Jesus, because when His glory is revealed through that pain, you will overflow with joy.
14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters.
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
If you get thrown in jail, whether that's a physical prison or an inner prison, because you murdered someone, or stole something, or did something evil, or gossiped about people, there's no glory in that. God will use it in your life for good once you confess it, turn away from it, and let it go. But until then, your suffering is your just reward.
But if you're thrown in prison because you Love Jesus, there is GREAT glory in that. Not glory for your self, but Glory in God, in Love, in Life.
And then verse 17 says this:
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God;
Are you still holding onto the things of this earth? And are you still holding onto things you know don't please God? The Scriptures tell us that every that CAN be shaken WILL be shaken. And all the things of this world, all the things that are not eternal, can and will be shaken.
You can let go of them now, or you can wait until turmoil comes through them. And if that's already happening, you can let go of them, or you can watch your own destruction.
But God is good. He will complete the good work He has begun in you. And as the temporal is being destroyed, the self in you that holds onto it will, in the end, be destroyed as well.
Bye bye! Good riddance! So long, self! You make an absolutely horrible god! And now that my eyes are off of you and all the things you thought were so important, I can turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, as the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
[Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus]
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.
[I Exalt Thee]
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