If there is only one true God, why is there so much activity and propaganda to the contrary? Allah, who is obviously a different person than the Christian God , claims the allegiance of millions and has for centuries. Even the God of the Jews cannot be the Christian God, as He denies the Messiahship of Jesus! And this is just the big three; it would take volumes to account for and describe the hundreds if not thousands of " one true gods" worshipped throughout the earth! If we just narrow our focus to the God of Abraham when Jesus walked the earth as an adult, we begin to understand the plethora of gods. They arise from the imaginations of stubborn humans.
Early on, God was expelled from a fitting and proper relationship with man just as surely as Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Rather than man thriving in the glory of a perfectly submitted sonship, he, stained with the shame of disobedience, set out with his assigned dominion to make it on his own. God, however, had a plan of reconciliation from the beginning. He struck up friendships with individuals who could know and submit to Him. Through them he gained reputation and through Abraham, a people. Because of Moses, who loved and submitted to the Truth, this people gained a home place and a Word. Because God continued to protect His people by raising up leaders(judges) to deliver them, they survived and thrived for centuries. They thrived but they continued to cavort with other gods and idols much to God's chagrin if not His surprise. It was through this people that God was to be known throughout the earth, and out of this people that God was to raise up a Messiah who would rule the earth! God had been clear from the first pages of Genesis about His intention to raise up a representative who would crush the head of him (satan) who perverted man's way. The Old Testament is like the phased construction of a legend that would be Jesus the Christ: He would come out of Abrahams lineage (Deut 8:15). The ark of the covenant and the tabernacle illustrate a human man with the Spirit of God inside of Him. The priesthood of Aaron is a shadow of one acquainted with our sorrows, but holding us before God. We are told He is to be born in Betlehem from David's house of Judah, that he will be from Nazareth (Isaiah 11:1,4:2; Matthew 2:23). Isaiah and Psalms contain a fairly detailed description of His ministry and death( Psalms 22, 69; Isaiah 52:13-15, 61:1). Despite all of this, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the person of Jesus, was rejected by most of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This phenomena truly staggers the imagination. The Jews rejected and murdered the Messiah that they claimed to be looking for, whom God, like a good parent had lovingly described and prepared them for. How is this possible? The answer is in a parable Jesus shared: a great man built a vineyard with a winepress, leased it to some vinedressers and left. After a while he sent some guys to collect a share of the product, but these collectors were rejected and returned empty handed. The owner sent his son thinking he would be recognized and honored with the portion to which he was entitled. It turns out the son was totally recognized- there was no confusion about who he was.
(Mar 12:7)" But those tenants said to one another, Here is the heir; come on, let us put him to death, and [then] the inheritance will be ours."
I believe because we see a little Pharisee or a little Judas in ourselves, we go easy on the citizens of Israel and the religious hierarchy; we really want to give them the " they really didn't know" out. But in this parable, Jesus prophetically declares they knew full well who they were killing and they were doing it to preserve what they had! The high priest, occupying the office that prophesied Jesus and belonged to Jesus declared it was better for one, albeit innocent man to die than for he and his cronies to give up their cozy relationship with Rome.
Here's the deal: we love our lives and recognize that submitting to the One True God will cost us that life. It's that simple. We are drawn to the goodness of God but are repelled by His sovereign demand of obedience. To obey God is to die to self. The conspiracy developed between satan and your flesh is committed to your rebellion.
We have a life on earth committed to a hodgepodge of values ranging from material success, to family harmony; from a leisurely cessation of our labors ( retirement ) to winning the favor of man. We are called to an eternal life in the kingdom of God where, we are told, we will rule and reign. The life on earth is finite, so it's goals and values are in harness with a body that declines and quits. The kingdom life is eternal and holds our flesh irrelevant if not obstructive; the presence of our flesh in kingdom life is laughably brief so why pay it any mind? It's the Spirit cohabiting with our souls that claims the Father's attention, and should ours. We will be shocked when we find ourselves in a reality that has been described to us in this life, and even more shocked and remorseful to think that our investment in the very brief life we are currently living distracted us so effectively from our eternal kingdom life. Our Lord is so much like a candidate for a presidential election (except He's been given the office of King of Kings by God Almighty); so those of us who embrace ( vote for) Him will be accepted and those who don't will be escorted to eternal torment. But the campaign is in full effect and those who "get" Him; perceive His great qualifications, believe in His message and throw themselves tirelessly into the process of the "campaign" and put His interests above their own and make an effort not to be disruptive to the campaign, despite personality conflicts, misunderstandings.etc, are the ones through the demonstration of those qualities of obedience, maturity, and loyalty, will win positions of authority and prestige when our candidate is "elected"; that is, He is no longer perceived as an unseen, powerless, vague Being, vying for our affections, but a very real physical/ spiritual presence ruling our affairs on this earth! Remember, Jesus told His disciples on numerous occasions that He would be handed over to the Jewish leaders, that He would be put to death and that He would come back to life. Because that message was so contradictory to their expectations - that He, like David, generations before, would come forth out of this wilderness- cave of Adullah type exile and be made King of Judah/ Israel! Jesus' description of His demise and return didn't jibe with the David thing so they politely ignored it. When events started unfolding that did violence to their collective vision, they got in despair and were totally unresponsive to reports of His resurrection. Try to imagine how they felt when the risen, resurrected Jesus appeared to them at their hideout inviting them to examine His hands and side for evidence that it was Him! I'll bet in their minds they were saying over and over to themselves, "it's just like He said.... It's just like He said". What they exercised as rational conclusions and logic now proved to be doubt and unbelief. The silly reports of hysterical women and unrealistic men appeared now as true and faithful testimony. That's how it's going to be when Jesus comes to this earth to rule; we will all be in a daze muttering, "it's just like He said... It's just like He said!". We should seriously begin to live as if He were really coming back to assume the throne that is His inheritance, and rule with His followers in the positions they have gained through obedience and loyalty.
This would seem an appropriate place to urge you to sell all you have and go to Africa at once to be a missionary; but that's really been a problem for Christians. We are so drawn to the dramatic sacrifice and resist the mundane submission of our moments and ourselves to Him. He is the king and His aim is to rule. If we are going to rule and reign with Him, we need to be utterly convinced of His wisdom, His benevolence, and His intent on seeing His will done. All of that He can accomplish if we can believe His word is true no matter what we see, experience or think. He is the Creator. He is the sole Arbiter of truth. He is not a man that He would lie. It's only prudent to believe His word.
Interestingly, we are restrained from totally believing because we love our lives. Loving our lives doesn't mean we're having all that much fun with them. In fact, if you have been walking with the Lord for any length of time, I can safely presume that this life is trying you; things are not working out as you had hoped, your best efforts are not that good, and they're getting you nowhere. I believe throughout the body of Christ, the Lord has our wrist and is putting an increasingly vise-like grip on it to persuade us to release our hold on this life. In "Mere Christianity", C. S. Lewis observes that most Christians view religious life as one would taxes. In order to enjoy what I have, the government requires that I give a portion to them. Our question is how little can I give up so as to be left alone to enjoy what I was able to keep? This is a brilliant analogy! Even volunteering for mission work in Africa is nothing more than an offer to give a little more than is required. It is a grand gesture and it is your idea, not His. Our pastor has a wonderful phrase/ question: is it a good idea or a God idea? Samuel put it this way: Obedience is better than sacrifice.
If I'm in charge of a campaign, I need a reliable, from the top down structure that responds to my direction. What I don't need is a bunch of people jumping out on their own initiative, ignoring instruction from the head. The kingdom of Heaven is no different; obedience from a foundation of love and faith is gold to a ruler, or in this case the Ruler. This article begins by asking why, since there is one true God, are so many recognized. The answer is , we are unwilling to give up our lives, so to be in harmony with our belief that there is a god, we make our own.
"He hews for himself cedars, and takes the holm tree and the oak and lets them grow strong for himself among the trees of the forest; he plants a fir tree or an ash, and the rain nourishes it.
Then it becomes fuel for a man to burn; a part of it he takes and warms himself, yes, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. [Then out of the remainder, the leavings] he also makes a god and worships it! He [with his own hands] makes it into a graven image and falls down and worships it!
He burns part of the wood in the fire; with part of it he [cooks and] eats flesh, he roasts meat and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire!
And from what is left [of the log] he makes a god, his graven idol. He falls down to it, he worships it and prays to it and says, Deliver me, for you are my god!" Isaiah 44:14-17
That's a great passage from Isaiah highlighting the absurdity of ignoring an overwhelmingly obvious God and using that which He lovingly created for our needs to make a god! It would be hilarious if weren't so accurate. I remember some years back in a season where business was scarce and I spent idle hours in my office devouring the Word, looking for answers. I was bound and determined to read, study, and make sense of what had been, to me, a nonsensical and impenetrable Old Testament. Among my frustrations, under the heading, "what does this have to do with me?", was why I had to read about this ancient people's obsessions with weird gods and carved idols. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I began to understand that plastic Jesuses and saints notwithstanding, we modern religious folk are as into carving our own gods as any of the wayward Jews or legions of 'Ites (Hittites, Jebusites, Amelekites, etc.) were in the Bible. Adam and Eve couldn't stand the shame of His presence, the children of Israel shriveled at the sound of His voice and the terror of His presence at Mt Horeb, and the people of Decapolis begged Jesus to leave them after they saw the manifestation of God's power and authority as the young demoniac was delivered of multiple demons at Jesus' command! We resist association with an all powerful God who expects our obedience and judges sin; our flesh will not consider it! So we deny God and embrace silly idols like evolution, technology or politics. Or we adopt an image of the Judeo- Christian God, but whittle away the parts we don't like; holiness, declaring what is holy and what is profane, His expectation of a portion of our material gain, His desire that we submit to the structure and leadership of His body, etc., etc.. Truly, we are as guilty of carving out gods of our doctrinal wood as any ancient or primitive people.
In the next installment of this article, I'm going to acquaint you with obedience as I've seen it in leaders and experienced it in my life. The submission of your life to an unseen God is the ultimate act in Kingdom life, and the highest form of worship! Theo