warnings to religious people

woe to you

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

Religious people close their eyes to Jesus (the Light of the world). In Luke 11, the Pharisees and lawyers had such eyes. They eyes were darkened. On the outside they appeared holy and righteous, but the opposite was true about their insides. Their insides were without light, full of pride and unbelief (vs.37-41). Therefore Jesus gives some serious warnings to religious people. In fact, he gives six warnings:

WARNINGS AGAINST STEALING PRAISE THAT GOD DESERVES.

1) Do not brag about what you give to God (v.42, i.e. tithes & services). Religious people don’t care for people or God, the care about how holy people think they are.

2) Do not love the good seats in God’s house (v.43). The Pharisees paid good money for the good seats—the seat where everyone had a good view of them.

3) Do not love titles. The Pharisees were more concerned about their name than the name of God (v.44). Their fame will die with them in the grave, but God’s fame lasts forever.

Jesus trumps the Pharisees. Jesus is title is: Son of God, King of Kings, and Savior of the world. He is seated: at the right hand of the Father, the seat of supreme authority. His fame will stand the test of time and one day all will bow at His feet.

WARNINGS AGAINST GUARDING YOUR IDOLS TOO TIGHTLY.

4) Do not burden (intimidate/bully) people with rules stacked upon rules (v.46). The lawyers made their living studying the law and enforcing them upon others. They don’t love Jesus or people, they only love being in control of rules and making sure others are keeping them.

5) Do not kill the prophet who calls you to repent (vs.47-51). In the Old Testament, Israel killed the prophets they did not like. The religious people will kill Jesus too.

6) Do not make the Scripture to fit your agenda (v.52). Instead, search the Scriptures to understand God’s plan. The only way to God is not religion, it’s Jesus. Religion gets in the way of redemption. Not only do religious people not understand they prevent others from understanding too.

Jesus trumps the lawyers. He is the author and perfecter of the law. He willingly dies a sinless servant so that the unrighteous could have His righteousness. Jesus is the key to Scripture. He is the Door (cf.11:9-10). Knock and you have eternal life.

In conclusion, each of these warnings has something in common: They show the condition of man’s heart, which is full of pride and idols. Now, it’s easy to point fingers at religious people, but if you were honest, you and I can be just like Pharisee or lawyer? Where has religious thinking distorted your heart? What sins of religious belief or action do you need to repent of? What does repentance look like in those areas of your life? Will you let Jesus’ light shine inside out?

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the colossal compromise

A city family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name.  “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we’re calling it the J-Q-W-Y Lazy Suzy Flying Bar Ranch.” Their friends asked, “But where are all your cattle?” In disbelief they responded, “None survived the branding.”

Compromise is a part of life. Everyday you are faced with decisions where you have to give up something good for another good. Do I study or do I play soccer? Do I visit this family member or do I visit this old friend? Do I go out to eat for pizza or a hamburger? Do we go on vacation to the beach or the mountains? Compromise is simply changing the question to fit the answer.[1] Sometimes you cannot have both and you must compromise. Sometimes compromising is not this simple. Sometimes compromises can have a great affect on you and others depending on which option you choose. Sometimes people compromise deep-rooted beliefs or sacrifice morals to get what they want.

Why do people compromise their faith? Why do people fall away from their faith? The answer: people give into the colossal compromise. What is the colossal compromise? It is choosing to worship creation or the created thing rather than the Creator [cf. Romans 1:19-23]. Or it’s choosing to worship a man-made god or made-over god in the place of the real God.

Giving God a Makeover [Isaiah 44:6-20]

How do you give God a makeover? As the French philosopher Voltaire said, “God made man in Hus image, and man returned the favor.” In other words, giving God a makeover is to create a god in your image—a god that looks a lot like you. Creating a user-friendly god is not something that is new, since the beginning of creation man has been trying to recreate God to look more like man. Since, God is infinite, man tries to make Him more finite. Man desires a designer deity custom-made to suit out individual needs.

Have you created a god that fits your liking? People tend to cut-and-paste Scripture piecing together a nice and comfy-cozy god that puts up with their messes [by passively overlooking offenses], minds his own business [unlike a pesky parent], approves of their choices [of premarital sex, rebellious friends, and additive tendencies], and gives into their desires [like a genie in a bottle]. Thomas Jefferson made up a god like this with his Bible. He could not believe that Jesus could do supernatural miracles, so he cut out those passages in the Bible and made a version of god to his own liking that fit his own belief. Now known as the Jefferson Bible.

The Bible warns about a time when good religious Christians will compromise their faith to teachers who will tickle their ears and tell them what they want to hear, rather than speaking the truth [1 Timothy 4:1-6]. These false teachers are master sculptures at creating false caricatures of God that morphs from crowd to crowd pleasing particular peoples fancies. Like a chameleon they adapt to your ever-changing desires, helping you give God a makeover. People will go to great length to get the god of their liking [i.e. Isaiah 44:12-17]. Instead of listening to compromisers or sinful-sympathizers, challenge teachers words with the truth of God’s Word in its context—look for yourself and see if it is true.

What is the problem with giving God a makeover? You are not God. Remember, God made you. You cannot make God. Making over God is making an idol of your own god. God does not need a makeover, you do. God is a jealous God and desires no rival god, in fact, He puts your gods up for an old Western-style dual, “I am the first and the last; besides Me there is no god. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before Me…Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” [Isaiah 4:6-8]

The problem with making over your own god to fit your own image is that your god is nothing [Isaiah 44:9-11]. You become deaf, dumb and blind just like the gods you worship [44:18-20].[2] You become what you worship for ruin or restoration.[3] You always lose out when you try to compromise with sin. It will consume you in the end. Let’s observe this consuming compromise from an illustration within the Bible.

What is your golden calf of compromise? [Exodus 32:1-24]

Remember when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert and they created for themselves an idol of gold in the shape of cow? This was a colossal compromise. God commanded His people though Moses in Deuteronomy 5:7, “You shall have no other gods before me.” [cf. Exodus 20:3-4] Once Moses was out of range the people caved into to their created idols. Their idol was big and noticeable. Not all idols are so easy to spot. Here are some golden calves that might go undetected to the human eye:

Idol of people. People can become idols. Moses was idolized by the Israelites. When Moses went up to the mountain their man was gone, and Israel freaked [vs.1-20]. They looked for a loophole, “Moses is a good guy and all, but he’s gone, who knows if he’s coming back? We just can’t live up to his godly standard. He’s so spiritual. Let’s lower the bar a bit. Aaron’s a softy, surely he will cave in.” Thus people look for others who will sympathize with their sinfulness and help them to compromise. Like playing Jenga, stacking more bricks on an already unstable structure doesn’t offer a solution. Sooner or later the tower will crumble, and Christians look no different than their worldly counterparts. If your relationship with God depends upon another person, friend, or pastors that is not a good sign. People are great for growing spiritually, but your key relationship must be Jesus.

Idol of possession. Do you see stuff as an idol? Instead of owning your possessions, your possessions own you. This began in the Garden of Eden, when your first parents wanted to possess God’s wisdom. Believing a lie they had to eat the fruit to be like God. According to your world, possessing money is power. The world’s motto and mantra is, “gotta have it.”  1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Like the rich young ruler, money and material possessions can lead to an improper love and a distorted image of God [Mark 10:21; Matthew 6:24].

Idol of provision. Whether it is food, sex or additive tendencies mans desire for peace, comfort, and ease are all provisions that man idolizes [Philippians 3:18; Ecclesiastes 2:10-11]. Advertisers make millions off of products you are led to believe will make you feel better, run faster, climb higher, accomplish quicker, or make your life easier. What you find out moments after getting the thing doesn’t quite meet the hype, and its off to the next thing. Men and women are pleasure junkies, but we seek pleasure in lesser pleasures [1 Timothy 5:6; Galatians 6:7-8].

Idol of pride. Pride prizes you as the idol. In fact, all idolatry comes down to you. Idolatry of pride is Insidious—little by little, over a long period of time you become pompous and self-serving. Pride takes many shapes and comes in many sizes, most of which our culture promotes, “Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Be proud of yourself.” All balloon our heads to the size and shape of planets that we sit enthroned upon as the most-high-galactic-ruler.

Idol of piety. Being religious can be a ginormous idol. Even those who go to church regularly, read the Bible and pray everyday, and know the religious lingo to make great idolaters. Their religious habits become idols colored by stain glass windows. They say to God and others, “Look at me. Look how committed I am.” They are great actors that play the part of the second coming of the messiah. All the while under their mask they are rotten to the core riddled with pride and self-centered piety [cf. Isaiah 29:13].

God does not let idolatry go on unnoticed. He hates idols. What did God call these cattle-loving idol worshipers? [v.9] He said they were a stiff-necked people. Why would God call them stiff-necked? They had become like cow they worshiped. Have you ever noticed how stiff a cow’s neck is? Cows look like people who have seriously thrown their backs out. Worse yet, they were like stupid cows [vs.21-24; cf. Psalm 106:19-21]. They stray away from the herd like ornery calves too cool for corral. Moses asked Aaron, “What did this people do?” And Aaron responded, “You know these people, they are set on evil…I took their gold, threw into the fire, and out came this calf!” Doesn’t sin make us moooo-cho grande morons?

Can a god-compromiser be salvaged? [44:21-28]

A god-compromiser can be salvaged because God is a Redeemer,

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like a mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you…Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself, who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish.” [Isaiah 44:21-28]

God uncovers our colossal flaws, but covers them up with His redemptive plan. Like a potter can fix a leaky or cracked pot, so can God reshape us into His image [cf. Isaiah 64:8]. He reverses us from reflecting our idols to reflecting His image. It begins with repentance and restoration. Flee idolatry. Idolatry is a matter of the heart. Compromise reveals the commitment of your heart. The antidote is Jesus. Jesus is an idol crusher or killer. If you love Jesus solely you will flee from idolatry [1 Corinthians 14:14-22].

Jesus does not settle for cheap imitations or substitutes of God, He wants you to imitate God whose image you created in [Genesis 1:26-28]. Why settle for a substitute, when you can have a relationship with the real God?


[1] Merrit Malloy, Things I Meant to Say to You When We Were Old

[2] cf. Isaiah 6:9-14, 29:9-16; 32:1-4.

[3] Note: G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship. IVP, Downers Grove, IL. 2008.

meet the taters

The Tater’s family are a memorable family. I was introduced to the highly dysfunctional Tater family and their ongoing saga through Travis Huseby at Checkpoint Bible Camp. Here is a glimpse of the Tater Family:

Uncle Common Tater

He is no common Tater!? Common has the gift of gab. He makes a living in broadcasting and is good at communicating. He is certainly a chatter box outside the press box. He always has a story to share, and people are interested in hearing him ramble about random happenings.

When you get to know Common you will quickly observe that he does a lot of talking, but not a lot of walking. His bark is louder than his bite. In fact, he is a Sweet Tater, never saying anything bad about anyone. He is certainly a people pleaser. Common could be a mighty spokemen for God’s glory, rather he is ashamed of the gospel of Christ [Romans 1:16-17; 10:14-17].

Speck Tater

Speck is the father of the family. He is intelligent, dedicated to his job, pays the bills, but is not particularly outgoing on the home front. He is the dad you see on the sidelines. Speck is not doing much to support his Tater’s, much like his father Hesi Tater. He is one dud of a spud.

Speck, as Pa-Tater, needs to get off the bench and into the game before time runs out and life has past him by. His family is his most important responsibility. His greatest impact as a father is to train up his children in the ways of God [Proverbs 22:6], and modeling Christ’s through his loving and committed marriage. This cannot be done by passive spectating [Ephesians 6:4], but by active husbandry and priority parenting.

Ima Tater

Ima is the decorated daughter of the family. She is no darling. She models and mimics the world. Her friends often sway her opinions. Roe Tater, her best friend, switches boyfriends weekly, complains about not having enough, and brags about spoiled habits. She is swoon by current fads, trends, and teen idols [aka: Idol Tater].

An idol is anything you worship, and what we worship we become. An idol can be a material possession, a feeling, a person of interest, a place of comfort, or anything that captivates your heart. The Bible says to imitate Christ [1 Corinthians 11:1], and to destroy all idols before they destroy you [Isaiah 40-49].

Agi Tater

Agi is the always angry son who must have inherited the spicy Irish Tater genes. He tends to mash, scalp, or fry any Tater that gets in the way of his plans. His parents blame his bad behavior on Iri Tator, a bullish friend at school.

Agi is self-centered, never wrong, and a big-headed boaster. When things are not going his way you will surely hear about it. Can Agi gain control of his anger? Anger itself is not sinful [Ephesians 4:22ff]. In fact, anger is a God-given emotion that can be used for glorious means in defeating sin and choosing righteousness. Followers of Christ can learn how to control their anger [Titus 2:11-15].

Regurgi Tater

We all call him, Reggie. He is the younger brother [aka: Tater Tot] who tends to tattle tail. He hurls up information quicker than a baby spews up their bottle. Reggie’s feed off of gossips and lies for his own satisfaction [1 Peter 2:1]. The tongue is like a wild fire. A little spark can do a lot of damage [James 3:1-12].

In the Scripture the word often referring to regurgitation is meditation. The Bible says as followers of Christ we must meditate on God’s Word by: reciting it [Psalm 119:11], reviewing it [2 Timothy 2:15], and renewing our minds by it [Romans 12:1-12]. When we think about God’s Word and chew on it we are reminded that other people are created in God’s image and defaming them offends God.

Gravi Tater

Gravi is the mama of the spud bunch. She is large and in charge. If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Big mama has control and stay out of her way. Everyone agrees that she takes after her father, Dick Tater. She can certainly be a Sweet Tater when she wants to be. Even as her family is falling apart, she finds a way to contribute by butting herself into everybody’s business. She could be using her magnetizing clout to bring everyone together in unity [Ephesians 4:1-16].

The Tater family does have serious issues. If we were honest we probably see some of the Tater family in our families. My suggestion is that the Tater’s go to Counsel Tater [aka: Pastor Ed U. Tater]. Their they will discover the root issue is sin. Sin is like a bruise or spoil that needs to be cut off or it will infect the the Tater if not the batch of Tater’s. Unfortunately our sin affects others around us, especially those in our immediate family or church [cf. Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12]. Deal with sin swiftly by lovingly confronting it and helping in the change process. Through God’s grace the Tater family can begin to learn from their Creator how to live in His image [Genesis 1:26-27].

image is everything

god-of-hand

In our world today, image is everything. What seems to matter is what you represent and what image you portray. People spend lots of money on creating an image for themselves. A picture of a mountain doesnt compare to the beauty of beholding in reality. Images or representations cannot be compared to the real thing.

We often do this with God. We try to make Him into something we can see, touch, feel or experience, and it never compares to who He really is.

The 2nd commandment seems harmless at first, but God views them differently: “You shall have no other image of God.” (Exodus 20:3-6)

The Second Commandment seems like a repeat of the First. This commandment addresses something that hits the core of humans: our concept of God. We all have different concepts of God, and our concept of God shapes who we are. Anything we use to mirror the majesty of our Maker will fall miserably short of Him and will minimize Him. Man’s finiteness cannot create something infinite.

Now is it wrong to have a cross or a masterpiece of art that portrays God? Of course not, but when that image replaces God or becomes your sole representation of God that is when it bucks the 2nd commandment. In your mental picture album, what is your image of God?

How people often imagine God:

picture-11. Grandpa God: this God is popular, forgiving, and giving. Whenever we do something wrong they smile and say, “It’s okay, I understand, don’t worry, I love you.” No offense, I love my grandparents!

picture-32. Santa Claus God: this God is like a Cosmic Easter Bunny or Mr. Rogers. He is deeply involved in our daily lives and world events. He is positive and reluctant to punish. He likes to give lots of gifts; blessings. All we have to do is ask, and He will give us whatever we desire, like a genie in a bottle. The old we get the more faint He becomes.

picture-43. Buddy God: this God is distant, but our buddy. He does not interact with the us. We can call on Him when we need Him. He will look out for us, but doesn’t interfere with our lives.

picture-24. Texas Justice God: this God is like an evil mother-in-law, deeply involved in our daily lives and world events. He is angry at sin and punishes the unfaithful. He wears a long flowing robe and carries a gavel waiting to inflict punishment on sinners. Feeling guilty?

picture-55. Emo God: this God loves to be emotional. We haven’t met God until we have tears on our faces, lumps in our throats, a chill down our spine, and butterflies in our stomachs. Probably, just ate too many Mexican beans. We think we have to be in touch with our emotions before we can be with God.

Is God some of these? Yes, in fact He is all and more, but if we characterize Him only these ways we are missing out on who He really is. God is loving, forgiving, giving, blessing, a friend when we need one, He is just and angry at sin, and God desires us to come before Him with truthful emotions. God is very different, different compared to you and different than our concept of Him.

Why shouldn’t we have any other image of God? He is jealous (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16; Psalm 78:58; 1 Corinthians 10:22). He doesn’t want to share the top spot with anyone or anything. For God to step down and acknowledge something greater than Him, would be to step down as God. The fact is, we do not need to create images of God because He has create us in His image (Genesis 1:26-28 ) and we are to represent Jesus Christ who is the exact representation and perfect image of God (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15ff).