Summary: Part 4 in the series Faith Basics. This message examines things that we frequently substitute for a relationship with God.

Substitutes for Relationship with God

Faith Basics, part 4

Wildwind Community Church

David K. Flowers

September 16, 2007

Exodus 20:3-5

Exodus 20:3-5 (NIV)

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

Check out Eugene Peterson’s translation of that first verse. It gets right to the point.

Exodus 20:3 (MSG)

3 No other gods, only me.

Five words that say it all. I got to thinking about how succinct and powerful this sentence is, and then I started thinking about another succinct and powerful sentence – those famous opening four words in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life. It’s not about you. What if we were to combine these two short messages? We’d have: “No other gods – only me. It’s not about you.”

Will you say that with me this morning? This is God speaking to us here. “No other gods – only me. It’s not about you.” I want to talk to you this morning about substitutes for relationship with God, and I want to get you thinking about the idea that every time life becomes about us, every time I start thinking it’s about me, or maybe not even thinking it but just acting as if that is the case, I am serving some god other than God. I have – in effect – made for myself an idol in the form of – myself. This is the slipperiest slope in all of religion, because everything good that can be done in this world can be done with wrong motives. I can serve other people with wrong motives, making it about me. I can pull somebody out of a burning building with wrong motives, wanting to get glory for myself and be a hero and make it about me. I can become a preacher with wrong motives, wanting to build not God’s kingdom, but my own little personality cult and have it all be about me. And we can serve God with wrong motives, wanting to use him for our purposes – to make our life happier, healthier, more comfortable, to get the political bounce that comes with being perceived as a person of faith.

This passage I read to you is from the 10 Commandments in the book of Exodus. Exodus was written somewhere between 1410 and 1450 B.C., about 3500 years ago. Think about that. Once upon a time, 3500 years ago, God felt the need to say to people, “Hey everybody, guess what? It’s not about you. There is only one God in this universe, and it is not you.” Does that sound like something we need to hear, something we need to remember, today? Rick Warren thought so. I think so. What do you think?

God says, “No other gods – none. Only me.” And then he gets specific.

Exodus 20:4-5 (NIV)

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them…

In other words, I am the only God, and you are not to worship any created thing.

The ancients were curious folks. It’s hard for us to relate to them. We can’t imagine carving an image of a frog or a bird out of piece of wood, and then worshipping that image in our home. We’d never consider something like that. We’re much too sophisticated to do something so primitive. But what did God say here? You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of ANYTHING. Not in heaven, in other words other religious entities like Zeus or Aphrodite or Ra or Baal, or even just the stars. Not on earth. Not animals, not structures, not nature, not rock bands or sports figures. And not in the sea, in other words the creatures of the sea or the powers of the sea. One God – only me. You are never to worship anything else as a god in your life. I want to give you three categories of things this morning that people in the 21st century worship other than God – three common substitutes for relationship with God. What I want you to see here this morning is that there is no difference between the ancient people who received the 10 Commandments from God and people today. They ate food and we eat food, just different food. They traveled and we travel, just different methods of travel. They loved and we loved, just different cultural ways of expressing it. They worshipped idols and we worship idols, just different substitutes for God. In fact I would say the greatest similarity between those ancient people and us today is that a loving God has sought a relationship with both of us, and we both have managed to find substitutes for that relationship.

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