Sunday, March 2, 2014
What God do you worship? Whether it's Jesus or not, you really should read this.
The Only God That's Real by Rev. Paul J. Bern
This week's commentary will be taken from the book of Acts in the New Testament, which is right after the gospel of John for all you new believers. I will use the Scriptures to prove that the one true God is above and beyond churches and organized religion, in keeping with the theme of this website. The first thing that I want to point out is that there are many false gods in the modern world. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the worship of money and all the evils that come with it. In the apostle Paul's first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. That means money in and of itself is not always evil, but the insatiable lust for money most definitely is. Jesus said in the four Gospels, “No one can serve two masters. He/she will either love one and reject the other, or cling to the latter while despising the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism.” (NIV)
Let's ask ourselves these questions – do we sometimes find ourselves in automotive dealerships every time a new model comes out? Do we shop for new clothes, electronics, mobile or “smart” phones, the latest computers, and new decor for our homes whether we need them or not, just because they're “on sale”? Do we sometimes find ourselves shopping for a new house whether we need one or not? Are any of us in debt up to their eyeballs (not counting student loans) because we owe too much on our credit cards? If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, and particularly if you prioritize these things at the expense of your Spiritual lives, you may be worshiping a false god. It is Jesus Christ and he alone that must be at the top of our priorities. Anything else takes a back seat to Jesus in the order of our lives. Most of the things I just mentioned are not evil in and of themselves. But false and futile worship of anything other than God, through Jesus Christ our Savior, amounts to idol worship. A similar line of questioning was presented to the apostle Paul 2,000 years ago, and it is well documented in the book of Acts in the New Testament. I will begin with a quote from chapter 17, beginning at verse 16.
“While Paul was in Athens....... he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of..... philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, 'What is this babbler trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be advocating foreign Gods'. They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus (which was basically a temple for idol worship and a meeting place), where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean'....... Then Paul stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth....... God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps to reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us.... as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”. Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent....when they heard about [Jesus] resurrection from the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “we want to hear from you again on this subject”...Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the [Jews and Greeks] that Jesus was the [Messiah]. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles'.” (Acts 17, verses 16-32; 18: 5-6; NIV)
This passage is just one of numerous examples of Paul's teaching about the one true God. I especially appreciate that Paul made two distinct points about God. The first is that God is above and beyond all nationalities, races and religions because he preached the same message equally to Jews, Greeks and Gentiles (a group of people that included everybody else). This was considered to be a radical teaching at the time because all these groups believed that their version of God was the correct one to the exclusion of everybody else. This very point continues being emphasized today by certain church denominations who I will decline to name. Nobody has the exclusive path to God. No one has the right to claim that they are any closer to God than anyone else. It's just not true and it never was.
The second point that catches the human eye and captures my imagination is what Paul said about where God lives. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else.” What an awesome statement! Think about how many churches there are in the world. All are called “houses of worship” regardless of which religion they represent. And yet God doesn't live in any of them. Instead, for the true believer God lives in the minds and hearts of all individual believers. Never mind all the spiritual sophistry that's being “taught” in some modern churches, because it's largely based on money. God doesn't care who you are, where you live, what you have done (or not), what country you are from or what church you are connected with (or not). He doesn't care where you have been, and He doesn't care about what is in your past. Unlike many men and women who attend church regularly, God doesn't care what you look like, or what your social or economic status is. God couldn't care less what church you go to, or even if you go at all. The one true God doesn't even live in church, although a lot of phony religious leaders and related clergy will no doubt insist that He does. Instead, God wants to live and breathe in your hearts and minds. He wants you to become a church in and of yourself, a church that walks and talks. Not only does God want to live inside you, He wants us all to act as if we do. That means that He wants us all to have a conscience and to learn how to use it most effectively.
In closing, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church. If you currently attend, I'm certain that God wants you to continue to go so long as you keep hearing messages from the pulpit that are encouraging, uplifting and positive. I don't want this message to be a reason for those who are attending church to stop going. God forbid! On the other hand, please keep in mind that the church is just a building and nothing more. I acknowledge that churches are built as meeting places for like-minded believers and that they should remain so. But now that you have read today's message you know a better way to keep everything in perspective. You can look at organized religion with skepticism as I do, but do not let that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. The one true God is greater that all the religions in the world combined. He is truly above and beyond it all.
Let me say one more thing, and I really wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point this out. If we are going to have God living inside of each of us then we should be living and acting as if He did. Watch what you say and how you say it. Clean up your life and the language that you use. Be mindful of anything that you are doing to excess because this is the root of all addictive behavior. Live your life as if God is watching what you do and listening to everything that you say because He really is. Until next time, be a church that walks and talks so you can be a good example for others to follow, especially those who look up to you. And the almost incomprehensible peace that is the very embodiment of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world – will remain with you all. Amen.