A HEALTHY CHURCH CONTINUED
Is God, a jealous God? Well, “Jealousy” by definition is a resentment against an opponent, vigilance in maintaining or guarding something. A biblical definition of “jealousy” is "apprehensive of loss of exclusive devotion", it’s an intolerance of competition or unfaithfulness" The bible is very clear when it comes to God and His jealousy. Why? God has a passionate desire that things should transpire as He desires, which is always in accord with His character. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,..” Exo 20:4-5. In Deut 4:23-24 we read “Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Joshua said “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good." Joshua 24:19-20
God is also jealous that we should not sin against Him, because it provokes Him to anger. The warning and the consequences went out to the people of Israel as they turned to worship gods created by man. "The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.” Deut 29:20. “For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.” Psalm 78:58. Paul warned the church about playing games with God.“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Cor 10:21
What is something that we all have done and may still struggle with today that provokes God to anger? Our desires over God, I will do what makes me happy! This is Idolatry! This is something this church family turned from, to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. But what is idolatry? “idolatry” “is an image, form or representation, usually of a man or other animal, consecrated as an object of worship; a pagan deity.” Idols are usually statues or images, carved out of wood or stone, or formed of metals, particularly silver or gold. I always like to use Erwin Lutzer explanation of idolatry because it goes even deeper than that. Erwin, leaves no room for compromise for today’s generation when it comes to idolatry! He says “an idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero. If I can simply define idolatry! It is something that gives you and me more pleasure (fulfillment) than GOD” It was John Calvin who said “our heart is an idol factory.”
In a fallen world, people regularly seek things they can worship, even though the Creator is before us in plain view.......Watch sporting events! Our homes even! Churches around the globe! Movies and television. The “idol factory” is hard at work and it does everything it can to get your eyes off of Christ, and gets our eyes fixed on temporal pleasure and passions that lead to destruction.
Do you have any gods in your life at the present time? If we are not! Consuming our lives with more of Him and less of this world were susceptible to falling into the sin idolatry. If we are not! In drenching our lives, or families........in the Scripture, in prayer, sharing the hope of Christ and communion with the saints! Then, we are at risk of becoming an idolater! That’s how easily idolatry can happen to a person. It can be something as simple as…..
- Idolizing your pastor…..He is so cool.
- Idolizing personal prosperity……I love my money and stuff and all that bling.
- Idolizing self-worship…..the “I love me” syndrome.
- Idolizing of background…we can more proud to be a Canadian then we are a Christian at times.
- Idolizing hobbies ……I find more pleasure in these over spending time with God.
Understand this though! God hates idolatry! And God says this is a major problem. Why?
Idolatry is an Abomination......“for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.” Deut 7:25
Idolatry is forbidden.......“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.” Exo 20:2-3
Idolatry is changing the glory of God into an image.....“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Rom 1:21-23
Idolatry is changing the truth of God into a lie......“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,…” Rom 1:25
Idolatry forgets God and brings judgment......“And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Deut 8:19-20
The bible is filled with idol worship. The Nation of Israel built a Golden calf to worship because they were impatient with Moses and return from the mountain. (Exodus 32). King Jeroboam had two golden calves build for the people to worship because it was to much for the people to go to Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:28). Mannasseh had alters build in the house of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:4-7). Amon walked in the way his father did. (2 Kings 21:21). Nebuchadnezzar had a 90 foot statue of him built for people to worship. (Dan 5:23). The people of Lystra thought Paul and Barnabas were Greek gods to worship (Acts 17:16)
But there is hope for the idolater! There is mercy and grace for sinners to find rest in Christ, and to be set free. We see it in this chapter of Paul’s letter……praising God for their transformed lives from idolatry! Again, not only were the Thessalonians living a Christian life commendable by all these things we have been looking at over the past month...But they showed the world that they were transformed by the living God....not a false or a dead god. The power of the Gospel changed the way these people…
- Who they worshipped
- Who they would die for
Their testimony to everyone outside in the community and surrounding cities was so powerful and noticeable. That even an idolatrous people could see something different in them. But they were a church transformed by the power of the Gospel that Paul proclaimed to them. What’s more amazing is……the people outside the church knew it! Why? By what (v8b -v9) says! “for they themselves declare” the people who came in contact with the Thessalonian believers.This was a church that had a body that knew what it meant to worship the true Living God and people took notice of that.
THE MARK OF A HEALTHY CHURCH IS A BODY THAT HAS TURNED TO SERVE THE TRUE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE.
Paul wrote “You turned” (v9)
Which means “motion toward, to turn about, around or toward and then to convert.” Note the order, as it is not "accidental". First we fix our eyes on God. Then we turn from idols. When our eyes of faith are opened to see the true and living God, the vain, dead so called gods are seen for the empty unsatisfying worthless created things they are. The Gospel changes our lives from idolatry to repentance, a turning away from idols to a faith that submits to Christ alone. This is why Paul continues to write about this changed life in the following chapter. “ For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively (successfully)works in you who believe.” 1 Thess 2:13. William MacDonald rightly observes... “that they turned to God from idols, not from idols to God. It wasn’t that they had become fed up with their idols and then decided to give God a chance. No, they turned to God and found Him so satisfying that they dropped their idols. Let us never lose the sense of thrill and awe that is implicit in this account. Two men go into a heathen city with the word of the Lord. They preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit. The miracle of regeneration takes place: men and women become so enraptured with the Savior that they abandon their idols. Next you have a local assembly of believers praising God, living lives of holiness, bravely enduring persecution, and winning others to Christ. Truly the Lord’s service is the prince of callings!” See, it isn’t that their idols became boring or unpleasant to them. It’s because the gospel penetrated their hearts and they saw that it was sin. They didn’t just drop their idols….they repented because they were their gods for a season. “Turned” is same expression we use when a person repents over their own sin! Genuine repentance is evidence to the supernatural work in your life through the gospel. We see this in action! “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. The bible says that after Peter preached the gospel to the people they turned from their idols! In Act 2:41 we read “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Jesus said “….but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3b. “Repentance” a change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abomination of one’s past sins. Salvation involves a person turning of what they loved over God to God and His goodness and grace. Repentance requires taking in a whole new point of view; looking at it God's way.
A great example of a people turning from idols is ……..Asa, the first good king who tore down all idols and burned them (1 King 15:9-14). Mannasseh later in his life turned and destroyed all the idolatry in the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem. (2 Chron 33:15). The city of Nineveh! “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish." When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:4
God truly hates idolatry, because He created us to worship Him. This is why we need redemption. Every single one of us were idolaters’ before the gospel penetrated our sinful heart. We need to understand God hates idolatry and He does not take pleasure in the unconverted man or woman perishing because of the bondage of sin. Ezekiel penned these words “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die……Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Eze 18:21-23. This church family had their eyes opened to see the glory of the cross and to understand Christ is our greatest treasure. Our prize for all eternity and His is [should be] our only desiring for worship, nothing else.
Paul also said “They Served” (v9)
Which means….”to serve as a bond-servant (doulas) to be a slave, the most demanding form of servitude” “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Rom 6:16-18. We welcome slavery towards the Lord Jesus Christ…………..I know, I do! The Thessalonians’ had turned from mindless devotion to false, dead demonic idols, to a new (born again) welcome slavery to the ONE TRUE Living God! THE ONLY GOD THAT IS WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE ADORATION......We serve a living God......WHICH MEANS?
- A Breathing God
- A Caring God
- A Loving God
- A Sovereign God
- A Wrathful God
- A Patient God
- A Merciful God
- A Righteous God
Not a god made by……. man or of wood, silver, gold, or a statue, a cross or fallible man! We serve a God who desires and deserves our adoration and thanksgiving. That’s why I wake up every morning thankful, that he turned this wretched man that stands before you this morning, from false idols to the truth of the Gospel and the power of His salvation. So that I could be used for His glory in the local church to serve Him with my life! So that I could serve Him in the way He intended me to.…..by enjoying Him forever and bringing Him glory! What have you turned from to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? What was your idol or your god before salvation came? Do have any idols in your life this morning? As R C Sproul Jr said this week “Every idol, if you scratch it, is a mirror. We worship ourselves.” I know who I use to be, but the gospel changed my life forever! If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Could you prove beyond reasonable doubt that your faith is true and genuine? What does the mirror of your life say now? Only you can answer these questions.