Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Worship God, Not Idols

A Thanksgiving sermon

You can listen to this sermon here.



For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 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. 1:18-23). 


Truth Suppression 

Thanksgiving Day was intended to be a day to give thanks to God.

Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts is believed to have made the first Thanksgiving proclamation three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth: “Inasmuch as the Great Father has given us this year of an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of nine and twelve in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, in the year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred and Twenty-Three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... is to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

But many people refuse to accept that there is a God to be thanked. They either don’t acknowledge that God exists or that blessings come from him. They have suppressed the truth.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (vv. 18-19).

Whether people have the Bible or not, everyone is able to know something about God through creation. Creation reveals two truths about God.

1. There is a powerful and eternal Creator. 

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (v. 20).

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-2). “[God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

Creation provides many arguments for the existence of God: (1) the universe, like everything else, must have had a cause (cosmological argument). (2) the universe’s harmony, order, and design demands a designer (teleological argument). Richard Dawkins, an atheistic evolutionist, wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” (The Blind Watchmaker, p. 1). Of course, Dawkins believes that the apparent design in creation is an illusion. (3) Humanity’s sense of right and wrong comes from a God of justice (moral argument; cf. v. 32).

The problem is a moral deficiency, not a mental deficiency. Jesus said, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).

2. Our Creator deserves our praise and gratitude. 

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 (v. 21).

God’s wrath against humanity’s sin is justified. “God’s anger is not selfish or arbitrary but represents his holy and loving response to human wickedness” (ESV Study Bible, 2158). What humanity knew about God, they rejected. “They are without excuse” (v. 20).


A Foolish Exchange

Instead of worshiping God, humanity turned to idolatry.

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 (vv. 22-23).

An idol is something put in the place that God alone deserves in our lives. 

The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Gary Beale, in his book We Become What We Worship, writes, “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (p. 16). After the Israelites worshiped a golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6), God repeatedly called them “a stiff-necked [stubborn] people” (Ex. 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut. 9:6, 13; 10:16; 31:27). “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:20). God made us in his image (Gen. 1:26-27; cf. Rom. 8:29), but when we worship other things, we become less and less like him (cf. Rom. 1:24-32).

Humanity “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Many people are now saying “Turkey Day,” instead of “Thanks-giving Day.” When we make Thanksgiving Day only about a turkey then we become like turkeys.

“The primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 162).


Our Creator and Savior

In Romans 1:18-3:21, Paul’s point is that no one is righteous. “None is righteous, no, not one” (3:10). Everyone deserves condemnation. That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that God brought salvation to humanity through Christ. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). 

Don’t value anything—even good things—above God, our Creator and Savior.