Are Idols Really Worth the Cost?
Jet lag is a thing, but I seem to be handling it well and without much trouble. I was a little bit on the struggle bus yesterday for morning and evening worship along with Sabbath School. However, the Spirit was faithful to give me strength and lead me through it all. It helped that we had a luncheon that fueled me with all the great food I may have missed while in Namibia. Bethany folks can cook like no one’s business and the fact that I was honored to receive so many cards and well-wishes for pastor’s appreciation it made it easy to serve. I am truly a blessed man.
Of the many lessons I learned while at the International Conference of Reformed Churches is that the world is at the same time a lot smaller than I once thought and also a lot bigger at the same time. What I mean by that is when I had the opportunity to speak to folks in the local churches in Windhoek they spoke of similar issues (materialism, globalism, busyness, etc…) that our church back in Clover deals with. There truly is nothing new under the sun. Yet, on the other hand the stories I heard from brothers in India, Indonesia, and Northern Ireland reminded me that while we have issues in the United States they pale in comparison to what our brothers and sisters face in Europe, Africa, and Asia. We are truly privileged to experience what little persecution we undergo in North America. That is not to downplay the real troubles we have on the horizon, but we are not quite in the same ballpark as some of our other brothers. In our prayer and worship help today I want to talk a little bit about what we can learn from how they are handling these troubles for when the piper comes calling on our shores.
As I sat and conversated with brothers from South Sudan as an example a thing that one of the men chuckled in jest as he said it was that they have no chaff in their churches. What he meant by that was that in a cultural situation where being named a follower of Christ has fatal consequences in some cases no one is going to pretend to be a believer. He wasn’t communicating that his local congregation was made up of only the elect, but that serious believers made up the totality of the membership. It most certainly was not the case where someone would come and be a part of their communion to help make business contacts, or because they felt like they needed to be in church. When you have to choose between life and death in order to raise your voices to the Lord on the Sabbath it makes the things we miss worship for seem incredibly unimportant. God in His grace has been incredibly kind to His people in America, to our shame. Much like covenant Israel we have allowed our abundance to make us lazy and inconsiderate spiritually. Our hunger for the things of the Lord is wanting. Something we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ in areas where more intentionality is needed is the way we prioritize Christ and His means of mercy. When Jehovah condemns Israel through the prophet Amos (who we have been studying on Sunday evening) one of the ways He brings that judgement upon them is giving them a famine for the word. Since they by their actions had shown that they did not care about valuing the revelation given from above He took it away from them.
To quote a famous poet, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
If our compatriots in a warzone can put aside the things of this life to praise Jesus I think we would likely be wise to make a decision to do likewise in a place of outward peace. I mean what are we actually losing by not engaging in activities on the Lord’s Day that cause us to miss the ordinary weekly gathering together of God’s people? The unbelievers who honor not Christ will learn more about Jesus by your willingness to forsake their company to be with your adopted family than they would be in your skipping out on the worship of your Savior to be with them. It’s hard to give a defense for the faith that is within you if you can’t give up the things of the world in order to follow Christ. We show the world how we love Jesus a lot more by how we act and prioritize our life than what we say to them in words. If we do not value the things of God then as the example of the Northern Kingdom shows us the Lord will take them away from us, and then where will we be? Our idols can never give what we lose in not having the fulness of Christ in our being and in our soul.
Joshua’s dictum to the people of God at the covenant made at Shechem is apropos. Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve. For the things that you give your time and energy to, especially when it takes us away from worship, are the things you really give honor and duty to, when the first commandment is sitting there shrugging its shoulders wondering what we missed in what it communicates about who should be first in our day-to-day. The reason why this matters is because of what comes before the first commandment in the decalogue: “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
In closing, this self-same Lord who has gifted and granted you faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is worth the cost we will have to pay (and in enough time and wisdom we’ll see it really isn’t a sacrifice, at least not in the negative sense) in order to give preeminence to the God of glory. There will be things we can’t do because unbelievers do not have the same priorities as us.
At the end of the day when eternity is in the balance the choice is easy and light, for there is only one whose grace is sufficient for thee, and He requires nothing of you, but to come and rest in Him.
One more word:
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church