Crabtree Acres

Only One God

First Commandment -- [Exodus 20:2-6] “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

This Scripture certainly parallels our lives as Christians. Christ has brought us out of the world, our Egypt. This world is a comfortable place to us until the Lord starts to work in us; it will try to bring us back to itself, like Lot's wife. She looked back to her world in Sodom and was transformed forever into a part of the world from which she came. Some of us are continually looking back to the world from which we came. Whatever we are seeking cannot bring the fulfillment that Christ brings, but when we look back it means that we are not committed to Him enough to trust Him. The familiar is more important to us. I heard a friend say once that he had to keep a crutch in the background of his life “just in case Jesus did not come through for him.” He eventually fell completely back into the world’s hold on him that was there before his commitment to Christ, the world of crime and drugs. He lost his wife and children, his friends, and, most of all, he lost his testimony of what the Lord had done for him in his life. If we do not completely trust Jesus and believe that He will meet our every need, then we have not made Him Lord of our lives at all. We cannot look back and follow Christ at the same time -- it's impossible. [John 15:19; Hebrews 11:23-29]

God has brought us out of the house of slavery –slavery to sin [Romans 7:14-25]. God is a jealous God toward His bride and, as in any marriage, the bridegroom wants the total love, trust, and affection of his bride. God also wants our worship, which outwardly reveals to Him and to us that He has our total affection and allegiance. In our marriages, if we say we love our mate and spend no time with them, or make no effort to make them happy, then our actions show that we really do not love them. Many times this also reveals that we do not completely trust them. We want to serve the people we trust and those to whom we give our allegiance. It brings us joy to be able to meet the needs of those we truly love. Our worship is not a way to make Christ love us, but is a natural result of the trust and love we have in Christ. The woman who poured the expensive perfume over the feet of Christ was worshipping and revealing her trust in and deep love for Him as her Savior. Incense in the Old Testament was a form of worship; the woman’s perfume was a revelation of her worship and the praise and worship of our hearts is the same revelation. Our worship of Christ reveals our commitment to Him, which is our love for Him.

In Exodus 20:5 God defines hate as a lack of commitment to Him. He also gives this same definition in Luke 14: 26. We must hate our own father, mother, wife and children to be Christ’s disciple. I had wondered about this Scripture for years thinking how can God contradict himself by telling us to love our families and take care of them, and yet tell us to hate them in order to be His follower. Then the Holy Spirit revealed to me that my definitions of hate and love were not the same as God’s definitions of these words. Hate is not the emotion of intense dislike for someone and wishing they were not a part of our life. Hate means a lack of commitment to someone. In Luke 14:26 God is not telling us to intensely dislike our family members, but He is telling us that our commitment to Him must be first and far above all other commitments that we make in our lives, even marriage.

In the same way, love is not the emotional feeling that we attach to the word, but the commitment we make to another; a commitment that will make us do what is best for that person, whether they like it or not. When the Bible says God is love and that He loves us, He is not having romantic feelings or even deep feeling of friendship for us. He is committed totally to us and our well-being.

It is interesting that the story of the woman at the well in John 4:7-24 is not a time that Jesus condemns the woman of her many sins, but He carries on a discussion about worship with her. This woman has been self-seeking; she has had six husbands in an effort to try to meet her needs. She may have even “tried God” as another husband to fulfill her needs, but because He did not march to her little tune she had discarded Him. She knew enough about the traditions of worship and religion to feel comfortable discussing these things with a Jewish stranger. Something in her was seeking fulfillment for herself and none of the ways she had tried had accomplished that fulfillment. Jesus showed her that her problem was worship. She had made a commitment to herself and that was where her worship lay. The object or person to whom we give allegiance and service is the thing we worship. The thing we fear is what we worship. When we commit ourselves to Christ, get our eyes off of ourselves and what we think our needs are and begin to worship Him, then true repentance for sin comes. We can say like this Samaritan woman “Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done. Is this the Christ?”

Worship is not attending church. Jesus told the woman at the well that there would come a time when men would neither worship God on Mt. Gerizim, where the Samaritans believed they should worship, nor in the temple in Jerusalem, where the Jews believed true worship took place. Christ said that because God is spirit, true worship toward God would be worship in Spirit and in truth. True worship concentrates on Christ; it is not centered on me or my neighbor. We are offering ourselves as living sacrifices as Romans 12:1-2 tells us to do as our spiritual service of worship. We are not seeking pleasure for ourselves, but expressing our desire to show our love to Him.

Philippians 3:3-11 tells us that the spirit is opposite to the flesh. To worship in spirit is higher than the law that commands us to worship. When we are worshipping in spirit our inward spirit that has the spirit of God is capable of worship that is genuine, not forced. Psalm 51:6 tells us that God desires truth in our innermost being, in the hidden part where we are capable of having wisdom. To worship in truth is to know the word of God [John 17:17]. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in truth and teaches us the truth. We can memorize all sorts of scripture, but it means nothing unless the Holy Spirit brings it to life in us. When we worship God in truth there is no guile in us; nothing is hidden from God. When Adam and Eve sinned against God they were no longer capable of having fellowship with Him and giving Him their worship. Guile in them prevented them from a relationship that had been theirs from their moment of creation. [1 John 1:6-7] John 8:31-32 tells us when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. It sets us free to worship completely.

God is a jealous God. “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is not because He is greedy and wants all of our attention, but it is an expression of His desire to serve and love us. He wants us to have the very best and He is the very best. He is the one who made us and knows what makes us enjoy the abundant life. Only in Him can this be found and experienced. When we put other gods before Him in our commitments we are settling for far less than God wants for our lives.

What causes us to worship something other than God Himself? I believe there are many reasons, but three specific sins stand out.

1. Fear – When the children of Israel began to fear, they turned to false idols. In Exodus 32:1 the children became afraid because they did not know what had happened to the leader Moses, who had brought them out of Egypt and into the wilderness. They asked for a god who would go before them and lead them. What we fear becomes a god to us. It controls us and directs our lives. For example, if I am afraid to fly in an airplane, then that begins to direct my life and to have more power over me than God. If God were to tell me to get on a plane and go to another country, I will obey the thing I fear most. It is my god.

2. Grumbling and Complaining – When we grumble or complain about our lives, then we are saying that God is inadequate to provide what we think we need and that He is therefore unworthy of our respect. Grumbling and complaining is a way of telling God that what we want is more important to us than what He wants for us. We have turned our own expectations of what we think we deserve into a god. We have actually turned our own self into a god to be worshipped and catered to by God himself. For too many years I grumbled and complained about God and became a very bitter woman. I blamed God because I could not have children – “Why had He not prevented the surgery that required my ovaries to be removed when I was 20 years old and unmarried?” I blamed God for a father who seemed to hate his children rather than love them.

3. Double-mindedness – [James 1] When we keep one eye on the world and one eye on God and what He is doing, we are trying to have what the world offers and what God offers at the same time. The Bible says this is impossible; we cannot have what an ungodly, temporary world offers and have eternal blessings from God at the same time. What we are basically saying to God and to others is that God cannot please us by Himself; He is not enough. We are revealing that we believe in our hearts that we also need the world’s offerings to make us happy. God is certainly not obligated to make us “happy” in our lives, as the world views happiness. God has promised that He will give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Have you ever asked yourself why God would have to give us these things if there were not occasions when we needed to use them? Why would we need patience, if we did not have times in our lives that we needed patience to deal with unpleasant situations? Why would we need self-control if there were not times that our desires would not tempt us to indulge ourselves? Happiness depends upon outside influences to exist, but joy is in the heart and depends only upon God’s Spirit to exist. We can have it at all times, not just when things are going well for us. When I look back upon my life, the amount of time when things are going perfectly well in my life is minimal compared to the amount of time spent dealing with unpleasant problems, stress, and sorrow. If we wait for things to be perfect in our lives to be happy, we will have very limited minutes of the happiness that we seek. If we depend upon God to give us joy, we can have that always, without limit.

God has made us like Himself. I believe that one of the ways we are made like Him is that we are a trinity; we have a body, soul and spirit. Watchman Nee shows a circle that depicts the three parts of man. Satan has the power to attack us from the outward body. He can tempt us with the pride of life, lust of the flesh and lust of the eye. All of these are attractions that come through the body first. The soul of man is that area between body and spirit – the area of the mind, will and emotions. The spirit of man is his inward parts where God places His spirit when He comes to dwell in us. God and Satan have opposite approaches to man in that God comes into our spirits and transforms them. Then He begins the renewing of the mind and the changing of the will and the control over our emotions. Satan begins on the outside and tries to possess our souls. He tries to convince us that we are capable of cleaning up the outside without God if we just work hard enough and take charge over our will. Many people refuse to come to God because they are “waiting until I am good enough for God to accept.” God says that we must come to Him in our wicked state and let Him change us.

In some ways we can obey this commandment in our outward life by not having other gods. We can make sure that the world does not have holds on us by isolating ourselves and banning certain things from our lives. We may sell all we have and give it to the poor in order not to be tempted to worship things. We may live celibate lives to avoid the temptations of sexual sins; but Christ has said that if we lust after these things in our hearts we are guilty of sin, even if we do not outwardly participate in them. We are already in trouble before we start, because our sin nature makes us bound to sin. Only Christ can save us from the horrible state in which we find ourselves.

When Christ came He came to fulfill the law. He came to change the focus of the law from the “Thou Shalt Not” attitude to the “Thou Shalt” attitude. Christ said that it is not what we don’t do that matters, but what we do to show our love and devotion to God does matter. He actually turned the commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me” into “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might, and thou shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This changes the entire focus of the law from a “Don’t Do this” attitude to a “Do this” attitude. When God’s Spirit comes into our spirit and changes us, He also changes our attitudes into something that wants to express love in a positive way. When we are focusing on God and the positive ways to worship, we are not constantly looking at the laws and commands and saying to ourselves, “I must not do this; I must not do that.” We are free to enjoy loving God and loving our neighbor. As we do this we become more like Christ and take on more of His character. We will be more like Moses, who went upon the mountain to talk with God and when he came down He glowed with the light of God. We, too, can glow with the love of God and with His light so that others will see Christ in our lives.