Idolatry is a major theme in scripture. All unbelievers are said to be idolaters, who worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. In a sense, every unbeliever is building his own kingdom on earth and rejecting the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ. He is not giving up His life for God’s sake. If someone is a believer, he has done that. He doesn’t want to be an idolater. He wants to worship God alone. So that means we’re not idolaters here at Bethel, right? It must be right as a characteristic, as a lifestyle. We are true worshipers of God, who worship Him in spirit and in truth. That is all true. Even for believers at Corinth, Paul wrote that they should flee idolatry, and John wrote to little children to keep from idols. You say or think, I don’t worship an idol, and you consider the carved wood or stone. No. That’s not it. You know that too. What occurs is rather than plan your life around God, let God have His way, complete control, you do what you want especially as it relates to material things. You commit to a lifestyle that has a certain car and place of living, and work a job for that, and start making decisions that conform to that. You put God, His Word, His people something third or fourth. It takes on the nature of not tithing or giving, or planning your future around a house or checking off your bucket list. That is idolatry.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
How does someone celebrate this country now? To start, we never have relied on this country for our joy and fulfillment. We shouldn’t consider ourselves to be citizens of this world, but citizens of heaven or the kingdom of Jesus Christ. We’ve never said everything in the country is right, but there is plenty to celebrate—less so, but a lot still. I still love this country. What a country this still is! I’m so happy that next week I will go out evangelizing door-to-door with no threat of imprisonment. We’re meeting today with a church service and we’re not going to go to jail for what preach. I’m not saying that we will continue to have these freedoms, but we have them. I’m grateful for the security and standards and work and sacrifice that has left us with what we have in this country. People are still trying to get in. Even those who are leaving, in many cases are leaving with the benefits they received from this country and living off of those benefits. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave, that is, because the money you take from entitlements will go further in another country, but people are doing that. Many of the things we celebrate are those qualities that we are giving up and what will bring down the country, but no doubt we can still celebrate what was done, what God has given, and the many great principles that bring us what we have today here.
As most of you know by now, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a 5-4 vote, changed the definition of marriage in the United States to include same-sex marriage. A man can now marry a man and a woman can now marry a woman. Many national leaders support this, including our president. Also, as most of you know, if not every one of you, that the Bible repudiates homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God, we know, as a major reason, because of its acceptance of that lifestyle. We know this. Sodom and Gomorrah are even defined by that acceptance. What I am saying is that we are becoming something like Sodom and Gomorrah. Romans 1 tells us that this is the judgment of God, because God turns people over to their own lusts as part of His judgment on them. They act this way, and participate in this destructive lifestyle, as part of God’s judgment on them for rejecting God.
God is still on the throne. Almost all of the churches in scripture operated in places with similar cultures as ours now is. We will still believe and preach and practice the same. Jesus will still rule in His kingdom and we still are headed toward an eternal state with the Lord. Whatever this country does might affect us physically in the short term, but it won’t change us at all spiritually. To God be the glory!
Stay with me for a few moments on leadership and our church. Spiritual leadership in a church revolves around the authority, the Bible, and our ultimate Leader, Jesus Christ, and His mandate for His organization. The Bible and that Person, Jesus, are our Leadership. The institutional flowchart has the pastor taking care of that responsibility on the ground and with the full support of the church, which by definition are believers. They believe in this. If they don’t believe in this, it won’t work. You can’t get people who don’t really believe to have bought in to this. They actually have to believe in this as a base, as a fundamental. Is that the case? Does everyone believe this? I think for sake of argument, we should say, “Yes, everyone here believes this; everyone is a believer.” Despite that, we have to help people be a part of fulfilling that thought. We’re saying they believe and we have to make sure there is a follow through, because the nature of the flesh tends toward not accomplishing what we say and think that we believe. I’m assuming we believe, but as one responsible to make sure people do in fact believe, I want to help us through those challenges. It would be good for us to at least first acknowledge that we do believe. That’s not difficult to do, that is, acknowledge something. Then we want to be sure we know what belief looks like. Jesus said what it was.
As I write this, I have something I can’t see, except for the symptoms, but I know I have it, because of the symptoms, starting with a burning sensation in the back of my nasal cavity, somewhat into my sinuses. I knew what it was, but that wasn’t all the evidence. That night I didn’t sleep so well because I felt uncomfortable. The next day my nose started to run and my body ached. Two days later, my nose was Yosemite Falls during rainy season. Sure, you already know. I have a cold as I write this. I changed my behavior in a pretty drastic way based upon the symptoms of something I couldn’t see. I couldn’t even see when I got the cold virus. I have it though. I know. I had touched a lot of different people between Friday night and Sunday, probably didn’t use enough hand sanitizer, and again, I couldn’t see it. I still know I have it. Some of you might have guessed what this is about. You’re thinking and that’s good. We can’t see God, but we have the visible symptoms of God all around, mostly scripture, that say that He’s here and He’s working. We know we have a cold. We know it. We know even more that God is here and working. When I got a cold, I changed my lifestyle. How is your lifestyle adapting to the truth that God is here and working? The greatest truth that we live regards what we can’t see. This is living by faith and that pleases God.
You’ve heard the term, life goes on. It doesn’t. It actually ends. Everyone knows this and thinks about it on a regular basis. People are trying to do things to insure that life will go on, knowing that it is futile. Because life doesn’t go on, they choose to not think about life not going on, and instead say, “life goes on.” I can say, “I’m Albert Einstein,” and that doesn’t make me Albert Einstein in a very, very similar way as saying, “life goes on,” doesn’t really make life go on. If I keep saying “I’m Albert Einstein,” won’t make it more so. Most people would say that I was just insane, but they think differently about “life goes on.” Life doesn’t go on and there is only one trustworthy place to find out what to do about that. It isn’t cryogenics, where they put your dead body on deep freeze until medical science can solve death or whatever killed you. It isn’t some religion. It isn’t a man, like Buddha. The only place you can trust to find out how to escape death, once you’ve got there, is the Bible. The Bible is authenticated. It is validated. It is confirmed. It is sure. It is documented in more ways than are necessary to believe anything else. The reason people don’t believe it isn’t because of the nature of the Bible as a book, but because people are rebellious in their sin, so they don’t like it. They rebel against God. Since life doesn’t go on, we need the message of the Bible.
As we enter the summer season, I suggest you think about fulfilling eternal projects that won’t waste your summer. This short time on earth isn’t about you, isn’t about us, but about God. If you are saved, you believe that. If you don’t believe that, you’re not saved. If you’re not saved, there is much more to be concerned about. However, whatever God is doing in the way of saving you, you should be, and will be cooperating with if you are saved. You must cooperate, because you are born of God. As always, being eternal means three aspects: one, God, two, the Bible, three, the souls of men. The three aren’t, one, vacation, two, sleeping, and, three, play. I know you’ve got to be challenged in this. I understand that it is a time that some of you especially need to get some rest. You rest up for the very much busier school year period. I know that, so this isn’t anti-rest. As a Christian, we understand this life is work. As Jesus talked about, work for the night is coming for the night cometh when no man can work. To put it in farmer’s language, it is to make hay while the sun shines. Since time might open up in the summer, we can get some projects with people done. You might need to get some housework done too. That’s understandable, as well. I say the same thing about December. You won’t like looking back at a summer that you’ve wasted, so plan on not wasting it.
When Darwin wrote his Origin of Species, the technology that could look at the cell had not been invented. As far as that generation was concerned, it was just a mass or a blob. Then came the electron microscope and men could look at the cell and saw the irreducible complexity. It didn’t stop there. They went further and figured out DNA, that it was a code, a system of information and design. This, of course, blew apart everything that naturalists speculated to back up their presupposition. In addition to that, men already knew that there was no evidence of transitional forms in the fossil record, only the evidence of kinds. The incrementalism of Darwin, slow transformation over billions of years from simple to complex—men knew that had never happened. There was no basis for it. What I’m saying is that the worldview taught in the public schools, the entire university system, and the media is all a lie. They know it is. Everyone knows that all of this never occurred by chance. Someone put a room full of monkeys into a room full of computers and saw what even this level of intelligence could produce by chance. They didn’t come up with Shakespeare. They didn’t even get words. That could only occur by design. This world, solar system, galaxy, all the galaxies came from design and matches exactly what is taught in the Bible. God created the heavens and the earth.
The bottom line of any position that we take is, “Does scripture teach it?” If it does, then we believe and obey it. If whatever it is that we believe contradicts the Bible, it is invalid. We shouldn’t believe it – we have no basis for doing so. Religions have these issues to deal with, that is, what they believe and practice isn’t taught in God’s Word. The Bible does not teach, for instance, to sprinkle infants. That’s not in the Bible anywhere and there is nothing like it in scripture. You have to put it into the Bible in order to get it out. Someone may think that God’s Word teaches something, but it doesn’t. We should believe and practice what the Bible says, no more or no less, but what the Bible does teach will cohere to everything else that it teaches. It won’t contradict itself. If it is in fact what scripture teaches, you will see how it coheres with everything else in the Bible. Men are not saved by works and by faith. Those two contradict each other, so they could not both be true. One is false, and the Bible doesn’t teach anything false. The right position will agree with all other texts of scripture that say something about the same subject of a particular passage. A prerequisite for faith in and obedience to a teaching of scripture is the presupposition that you can read the Bible with the normal meaning of words or the basic laws of language.
I didn’t know it, but “certainty” is a philosophical concept that has entries in encyclopedias. More than ever, men are thinking about certainty, because they are less certain. We lived in a world with far more certainty in an earlier age. Was this good or bad? Some would have you believe a greater merit to doubt than certainty, except that doubt isn’t exalted by God in the Bible. It’s bad there. In the end, being uncertain insults God’s revelation. You are saying He hasn’t been clear enough or plain enough, short on ability to communicate. God couldn’t get His message across and so you’re uncertain. Either that, or we really don’t know. That really is a blank sky and when we die, we turn to worm food, at least until the sun burns out, all life on earth is eliminated, and the universe goes silent. Nobody is there to hear it, even if it did make a noise. I believe that God wants complete certainty, 100% assurance from us. He wants to believe fully. Not because of God, we don’t operate at that level of certainty, and so living in a continuous state of full assurance isn’t required as a definition of belief. Believing is something a little less than certainty, is what I’m saying. However, you are certain to the degree that it results in the full submission of your will to God. You turn from your will and way to His, because you’re certain enough that He is true, and you believe.