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Worship 101


Our worship is based on our redemption in Christ. Unless we see that clearly, much of our “worship” will be conducted in vanity and will be for the most part self serving. Continuing in Exodus 20 we find the first commandment where God identifies himself as the exclusive object of worship. “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3, NLT).

Postmodernism has done much to deconstruct absolute truth including the Bible’s exclusive claim of monotheism. In one of my previous pastorates I preached a sermon that highlighted the exclusive claims of Christ. Afterwards I was confronted by a person who was indignant that I would make such a bold claim. “I think in the end all Gods are the same. We’re all praying to the same God and we’ll all end up in the same place.” The person continued, “If you are going to continue to preach that there’s only one God and one way of salvation, I’m going to have to find another church.” I simply replied, “If every way is ok then no way is necessary, and all of this is a colossal waste.”

God’s first commandment to the people of Israel was to always hold fast to the conviction that God is one and there are no others beside Him. This conviction does not justify spiritual arrogance or grant permission to be judgmental. You can hold a conviction without being angry about it. But if we yield to a system of plurality, we make worship about us instead of about God. We think of what we want and not what God desires. Which leads naturally into the second command.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on thoseb who love me and obey my commands” (Exodus 20:4-6, NLT). The claims of God are exclusive, yet our hearts are naturally inclined to idolatry.

Israel had scarcely caught their breath from their deliverance from Egypt. One would think that their dramatic rescue would have left a lasting impression on their hearts. Yet as God speaks these words to Moses on the mountain, Aaron is making a golden calf at the base. Why are idols so compelling? The thing about an idol is that it doesn’t have to be something we carve or chisel and erect on the mantle above the fireplace. It can be anything. An idol is when we take a good thing and make it a god thing. They can be subtle. Romans 1: 21-23 reads as follows: “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” Birds, animals, and reptiles were examples of idols in Paul’s day. In our day, we use birds, animals and reptiles as mascots for sports teams. Those of you who know me know that I like sports as much as the next person. But there’s a fine line between fanaticism and worship. We wear player jerseys, collect memorabilia, and pay big bucks for tickets. According to Deadspin, 41 of 50 states list a college coach as their highest paid state employee. Again, I’m not anti-sports. I’m simply trying to point out that idolatry is seductive and slippery, and once we erect them in our hearts they turn on us and become demanding taskmasters.

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