19 May, 2024

June 11 | Application (‘Accept No Substitutes for God’)

by | 5 June, 2023 | 1 comment

By David Faust 

The Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra. The Canaanites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. The Greeks honored so many deities they even erected a statue to “An Unknown God” in case they missed one. The silversmiths’ union in Ephesus sold silver statues of the goddess Artemis, so they became upset when Paul’s preaching about the true God interfered with their business model.  

But pagans aren’t the only ones who worship idols. God’s covenant people sometimes make the same mistake. That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments warns, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and John cautions believers, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  

While Moses received God’s commandments on Mount Sinai, the Hebrews were melting down their jewelry to make a golden calf. Later, God instructed Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who looked toward it in faith were healed from poisonous snake bites. At first the bronze snake was a good thing—a gift from God. But the Israelites turned it into an idol and centuries later King Hezekiah had to destroy it (2 Kings 18:4). 

GOOD THINGS VIEWED AS ULTIMATE THINGS 

Today’s spiritual substitutes are subtle and sophisticated. The author Tim Keller points out that idols don’t always look bad on the surface, but often they are “good things turned into ultimate things—things that constitute our most fundamental significance and security.”  

Keller wrote in Counterfeit Gods, “An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. . . . Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it your life would feel hardly worth living.”  

Work is good, but not if it crowds out God. Food is a blessing, but Scripture warns about people whose “god is their stomach” (Philippians 3:19). It’s fine to enjoy sports and social media, but how much time, money, and emotional energy do these activities deserve? Sexuality is a gift to be enjoyed in marriage, but in Jeremiah’s day the culture had become so preoccupied with sex and accustomed to moral laxity that people forgot how to blush and behaved like “well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (Jeremiah 5:8; 6:15).  

It’s good to have healthy self-esteem, but not to elevate our own ideas above God’s wisdom. We should appreciate nature and care for the environment, but never worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). It’s fine to earn, save, and spend, but Jesus warned, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24) and Paul called greed a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). 

CISTERNS AND SCARECROWS 

The true God is like a reliable spring of clean, refreshing water. God-substitutes are like “broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). A spring gives and gives; a cistern merely collects rainwater, which eventually becomes stagnant. False gods can’t satisfy thirsty souls.  

Here’s another analogy: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak” (Jeremiah 10:5). False gods are flimsy, like scarecrows made from wood and straw. They don’t last; they must be propped up; they are mindless and powerless.  

But the true God—our Creator, Father, and Redeemer—is unrivaled. Let’s recognize God’s rightful place and pray, “No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” (Jeremiah 10:6).  

Personal Challenge: What false god threatens your love for the true God? 

1 Comment

  1. Edward J Carl

    As always, your insights are inspiring. Thx,Ed

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

Big Little Churches

“A church with only 12 members is barely a church, but almost every weekend I preach in small Missouri churches whose attendances range from 12 to 112,” Daniel Schantz writes. “When people hear that I am preaching at such small churches they often shake their heads and say, ‘That’s a shame. Why don’t they just close the doors and go to a bigger church that has more to offer them?’” . . .

Long-Tenured Pastors Say Love Is Key to Their Staying

What does it take to pastor a church for the long haul? Christian Standard posed this question to Bob Stevens who has served with Allensburg Church of Christ in Ohio for 40 years; Jerran Jackson, 44-year minister with Clarksburg (Indiana) Christian Church; and David Simpson, pastor with Lanier Christian Church in Georgia for 48 years. . . .

THROWBACK THURSDAY: ‘Barton W. Stone—Champion of the Word’ (1962)

Sam Stone wrote in 1962, “If the early leaders of the Restoration movement are like men engaged in a race, it might be said that Barton Warren Stone took an early lead, but was later passed by Alexander Campbell.” Sam Stone contended that Barton Stone was deserving of greater appreciation . . . and he did so by presenting this “survey of his life.” . . .

ICOM Announces Speakers (Plus News Briefs)

The lineup of speakers has been set for this fall’s International Conference On Missions, which will take place Nov. 14-16 in Lexington, Ky. The theme this year is “Entrusted.” . . . Plus briefs from Ozark Christian College, Exponential, and the Northwest Christian Convention.

Follow Us