September 17th, 2017
“Love Is Faithful”
Aux Text: Matthew 12:38-42.
Call to Worship: Psa 96
Service Orientation: Do we love God, or do we love what God does for us? Your honest answer reveals your true affections for God.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. — Matthew 24:24 & Mark 13:22
- It is important to realize that toleration is not nearly so easy to practice in relatively unstable political situations. Many countries of the world still fear dissidents, minority religious groups, political opponents, and so on, particularly if they are outspoken. Dt 13 was very much concerned with the social and political well-being of Israel; we are not reading here about some purely religious issue. The enemies of society, as the writer of Deuteronomy saw the matter, were fully comparable with today’s traitors or spies, whom our societies still punish with considerable severity. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 87)
- Although later historiographic texts never appeal explicitly to this passage, the spirit, values, and procedures presented here undoubtedly underlay the ruthless actions taken in later times in defense of an uncompromising Yahwism: Elijah versus the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18); Jehu verses the worshipers of Baal (2 Kgs 19:18-28); the Judahites versus the priest of Baal (11:18); Josiah versus the Manassite installations in Jerusalem and Judah (23:4-14), and Josiah’s extension of the crusade to the northern kingdom (23:15-20). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 336)
- (v. 1) Dreams were used in prophecy both legitimately (Nm 12:6) and illegitimately (Jer 23:25). Moses said that such illegitimate prophets were being used by the Lord to test the people’s love for him (v. 3). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 98)
- (v. 2) By identifying Yahweh as the God “who had brought you [sing.] out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery,” Moses reminds the people that all Israelites owe their existence and freedom to Yahweh’s redemptive grace. To go after other gods is to repudiate this grace and to renounce one’s status as his people. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 333)
- (v. 3) Israel is warned not to yield her ties to Yahweh even in the face of signs or wonders. The ultimate test of a prophet is his teaching. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 170)
- (v. 3) If the prophet or dreamer here is not in the service of Yahweh, his signs and wonders are nevertheless not to be credited to another god. Behind all such phenomena stands Yahweh; fulfillment cannot be attributed, even on a limited or temporary basis, to any other god. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 451)
- (v. 3) Yahweh is testing people for their love toward him, a key theme in Deuteronomy (6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22), and to determine this he gives individuals not in his service temporary success. But it is a success that will not last. We recall that from the magicians of Egypt Yahweh wrung a confession of faith once their power to perform signs and wonders was gone. They said: “This is the finger of God!” (Ex 8:15). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 452)
- (v. 5) The punishment is so severe because in the theocratic state of Israel this would be equivalent to treason. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 380-1)
- (v. 10) Because Israel’s identity was bound up with her covenant relationship with him, defection was a capital offense, the prescribed form of punishment being execution by stoning (v. 10a). The OT requires this form of punishment for actions considered “high treason” against Yahweh. By stoning the criminal the executioners avoided direct contact with objects contaminated by holiness/unholiness (e.g., Ex 19:13). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 333)
- (v. 13) The text characterizes those responsible for this mass defection as “men, sons of Belial” (NIV “wicked men”). The last phrase translates literally as “sons of worthlessness,” that is, men without honor. The moral sense of the idiom is reflected by the kinds of people so characterized: murderers, rapists, false witnesses, corrupt priests, drunks, boors, ungrateful and selfish folk, rebels, and those who do not know Yahweh. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 334)
- (v. 15) Obviously, any “inquisition” can turn nasty, but the law desires truth and justice, not mob witch-hunts. And secondly, if the charge proved true, then the whole town was to be put under the severest level of hērem. Because of this ban on acquiring goods during a war, all property and livestock was to be destroyed (v. 15). In other words, there would be no economic benefit for those who carried out the “execution.” The law could not be exploited as a “raiders’ charter,” giving one town the ability to accuse another of apostasy, attack it, and carry off its wealth. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 176-7)
- (v. 15) Being an Israelite settlement on the land of promise did not guarantee immunity from God’s wrath. The law illustrates the precise opposite of the divine favoritism that Deuteronomy is sometimes accused of. If Israelites chose to go the way of Canaanite gods and cults, then God would do to Israelites, individuals and communities, exactly what had been done to the Canaanites. Eventually, the year 587 BCE would see, in the greatest national catastrophe of Israel’s OT history, Dt 13:12-16 being executed on the very place where God’s name would dwell, and that not by Israelites carrying out covenant justice, but by a pagan nation acting on God’s behalf. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 177)
- (v. 16) The fact that “all its plunder: was to be destroyed, and that “it shall not be built again” eliminated greedy or illegitimate motivations on the part of those who were to carry out the punishment. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 182)
- (v. 17) One would think that destroying an entire city is a sure way to diminish a people, but here the reverse is affirmed: it will lead to multiplication. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 459)
- The actions of Josiah, the only person in the entire OT said to have turned to Yahweh “with all his heart/mind and with all his being and with all his resources, in accordance with all the Torah of Moses” (pers. trans. 2 Kgs 23:25; cf. Comments on Dt 6:5), come closest to the fulfillment of Dt 13. Indeed Dt 13 offers the clearest statement of what critical scholars have come to describe as the Yahweh-alone policy, whose aim was to stamp out all ideological competition. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 336)
The question to be answered is . . . What is God (through Moses) revealing to us in Deuteronomy 13?
Answer: Sometimes God tests us to allow us to see if we are faithful and truly love God or if we simply love what God does for us. Our faithfulness to God is most clearly revealed when we choose to obey God rather than be devoted to those things close to our hearts.
A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ. We are the bride of Christ! —Vance Havner
Although the Lord could see true faith in his people’s hearts, and although he could predict what Israel’s response to such temptations would be, these tests would give Israel the opportunity to show their faithfulness to the Lord. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 119)
The challenge of idolatry provided a test of covenant commitment. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 173)
To go after other gods was to exchange the God whose saving power had been proved for gods who couldn’t even save their own breath, let alone save their own worshipers. No wonder Jeremiah felt the heavens shudder with amazement at such folly (Jer 2:10-12). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 174)
Americans tend to define tolerance as moral neutrality–refusing to judge any behavior right or wrong. The classic definition of tolerance, however, is profoundly judgmental: It means putting up with people even when we know they’re wrong. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 153)
The appeal here is not simply to a debtor’s ethic by which we are challenged to be faithful out of an indebtedness to live for Christ because he has done so much for us. Rather we are being directed to a fresh understanding of the seriousness of apostasy. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 381)
God cannot bless his people when they tolerate such serious sin in their midst. We find this concept difficult to understand because we live in a highly individualistic society where the Biblical idea of corporate solidarity is missing. In the Bible the faithful live out their lives in community. So when there is serious sin from one segment of the community, the other segments cannot say, “This is not our business,” and ignore it. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 382)
Nothing on earth is as important as one’s relationship with God. Anything that acts as a deterrent to one’s relationship with God must be attacked like a dangerous poison. This is why Jesus said about those who bring temptation to sin to others, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk 17:2). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 383)
Today we are hearing a new definition of tolerance in the modern world. To respect people as people is not enough. To grant them the right to their practices is inadequate. Today, we must accept their ideas as equally valid with our own. We are constantly asked to jettison a love for the truth for the sake of harmony.
In the Western world, tolerance has now become the highest of all virtues. No one should be made uncomfortable by raising questions about the validity of their beliefs. Still less acceptable are people who have strong spiritual convictions. Christian evangelism is now often viewed as a form of hate speech.
Many Christians today subscribe to this perspective, not realizing that this modern brand of tolerance brings with it a diminished concern for lost people. We now can comfort ourselves when we are indifferent to people without Christ by explaining that we dare not cause them discomfort. As our biblical text shows, however, spiritual truth is literally a matter of life and death. Christians must not fail to show loving spiritual concern for others by justifying such neglect in the name of good manners. Our witness must always be winsome, but it must be a winsome witness. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 173)
Moses lumped spiritual sedition into the same repulsive category as sexual irregularities (cp. Lv 18:22), child sacrifice to pagan gods (Dt 12:31; 2 Kgs 16:3), the abuse of power (Prv 16:12), perversions of justice (Prv 17:15), and practices like necromancy and wizardry (Dt 18:10-12). Clearly, the modern view of false teaching as simply the expression of alternate opinions must be challenged. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 175)
Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction. — C.K. Chesterton
The Word for the Day is . . . Faithful
You want to know how faithful God is? He loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus to die for us so we could be saved from ourselves and our sinfulness. And He encourages us to come to Him by providing us with all sorts of benefits, blessings, assurances, promises and encouragement. What is heaven, the fruit of the Spirit, eternal life, wholeness, peace and joy but carrots that God dangles in front of our eyes to try and coax us into loving Him?
And He does not do this because He is desperate for our love. But, He does this because He loves us and knows we are ignorant of our desperate need for His love. — Pastor Keith
What questions do we need to ask ourselves about what God is revealing in Deuteronomy 13?:
I- Do we love God in truth or do we love the beneficial and/or spectacular things God can do? (Dt 13:1-5; see also: Mt 12:38-50; 24:24; Mk 13:22; Lk 11:29-32; Gal 1:6-12; 1 Cor 1:22; 16:22; 2 Cor 11:14; 2 Thess 2:9; 2 Pt 2:1; Rv 13:13-14)
Why do we seek signs, mediums, palm readers, fortune tellers and all the other paranormal information revealers? Why do we not trust God with our future? — Pastor Keith
Moses says that though these prophets and dreamers may have power to give us something that we are looking for, they are dangerous because they take us away from trusting in the one true God to trusting in other gods. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 377)
Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God. The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures. He will be all in all or He will be nothing. God will not be used. His mercy and grace are infinite and His patient understanding is beyond measure, but He will not aid men in their selfish striving after personal gain. He will not help men to attain ends which, when attained, usurp the place He by every right should hold in their interest and affection. (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 57)
Taken by themselves, miracles do not prove that the claims of a teacher or preacher are genuine. Paul said the church is built “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20), and he warned that any other gospel is really no gospel at all (Gal 1:6, 7). Pharaoh’s magicians could imitate some of the signs the Lord gave Moses (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7), and Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). Jesus warned that “false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible” (Mt 24:24). Paul predicted that the coming of the “man of lawlessness” would be “in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2 Thess 2:9). John described in Revelation the downfall of “the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs,” with which” he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image” (Rv 19:20).
The important question to ask a prophet is not, “What can you do?” but, “What do you teach?” (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 118-9)
Jesus acclaims faith which does not need signs. To the nobleman who wanted his son healed, Jesus said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (Jn 4:48). The very act of seeking a sign contradicts that which pleases God–which is faith. He said, “this is an evil generation: they seek a sign” (Lk 11:29). Jesus never reduced Himself to the level of a magician by performing a miracle to satisfy curiosity. (Leslie B. Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, 186)
The first article was an interview with economist Jim Gilmore who presented the latest approach in retailing and marketing–providing “an experience.” He pointed out that what shoppers are seeking (and smart retailers are providing) when they venture out to the stores is not a particular item, but a pleasurable or meaningful experience. The obvious question was then asked, “So how does all this ‘experience providing’ apply to the church?” Note his perceptive response:
It doesn’t. When the church gets into the business of staging experiences, that quickly becomes idolatry…Increasingly you find people talking about the worship experience rather than the worship service. That reflects what’s happening in the outside world. I’m dismayed to see churches abandon the means of grace that God ordains simply to conform to the patterns of the world. (Interview with Jim Gilmore, “No Experience Necessary,” Leadership 22, 31) (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God; A Vision for Reforming Worship, 185)
It is evident from this, “that however great the importance attached to signs and wonders, they were not to be regarded among the Israelites, either as the highest test, or as absolutely decisive, but that there was a certainty in Israel, which was so much the more certain and firm than any proof from miracles could be, that it might be most decidedly opposed to it”. This certainty, however, was not “the knowledge of Jehovah,” as Baumgarten supposes; but as Luther correctly observes, “the word of God, which had already been received, and confirmed by its own signs,” and which the Israelites were to preserve and hold fast, without adding or subtracting anything. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 363)
For the sign to authenticate the medium’s call to worship other gods, the predicted event had to transpire within a short period of time. If an event would happen just as the prophet predicted, people whose faith was weak would be convinced that both the person and the message were genuine–even if it contradicted what they had been taught about Yahweh and the other gods. Perhaps recalling his own encounters with the magicians of Egypt (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7), Moses recognizes that false prophets are sometimes able to work wonders. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 329)
Signs and wonders do not necessarily authenticate the truth of the message, the purity of the motives, or the integrity of the mission of those who perform them. The most awful perversions of biblical truth can sometimes be accompanied by the most awesome displays of “miraculous signs and wonders.” We need to judge with our ears, not just with our eyes. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 175)
Who are our cultural idols? Why do we idolize whom we do? Why do we not idolize Christ? Are we that dependent upon hype and emotional or physical experience that we cannot idolize Christ without hype?
To love the goodness in any one thing is to love goodness itself. To love one thing to the exclusion of the goodness in other things is not to love that one thing at all but to make a false idol of it and to hate real goodness. (Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It, 241-2)
According to the Bible, only God can create life and raise the dead (Gn 1:21; Dt 32:39). Pharaoh’s magicians, who had imitated the first two plagues, couldn’t imitate the third, which created life (in the form of lice). These magicians acknowledged that the third plague was the “finger of God” (Ex 8:19).
Satan can perform tricks better than the best magicians–and there are many examples of these in the Bible–but those tricks fail to meet the characteristics of a true miracle. As we have seen, true miracles cause one to think more highly of God, tell the truth, and promote moral behavior. Counterfeit signs from Satan do not do this. They tend to glorify the person ostensibly performing the sign, and they are often associated with error and immoral behavior. They also may not be immediate, instantaneous, or permanent. (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 213)
It is not strange to see that the most dangerous heretics have many followers, every error being a friend to some sort of lust. —Alexander Nesbitt (Alistair Begg sermon, False Teachers Among You, Part 1)
Many Christians today view Christ as the answer to their problems rather than as the absolute and sole Lord of their whole life (an attitude they should have moved beyond early in their Christian walk). In this environment we can see how people could be lured into going to powerful prophets of other gods. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 378)
He who has God and many other things has no more than he who has God alone. —C.S. Lewis
No display of miraculous powers, no amount of signs and wonders can lend a moment’s credibility to anybody with a message so clearly at odds with covenant truth and demand. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 173)
Moses then provides the rationale for such harsh treatment of the conspirators (vv. 5b-c): The prophet or dreamer has falsely claimed to have received a message from God and has tried to turn the Israelites away from the way prescribed by Yahweh. Because the first expression suggests that, through the sign, Yahweh has authorized the worship of other gods, the issue involves an Israelite who creates the impression that he speaks in the name of Yahweh and suggests that, like other gods in the ancient world, Yahweh tolerates the worship of other deities. With the second expression, Moses describes the potential effect of such seditious prophecy: it is seductive and entices the people from Yahweh’s prescribed course. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 330-1)
As in the case of the magicians of Pharaoh’s court (Ex 7:11-12), it is not doubted that false prophets can perform signs ostensibly demonstrating their authority. But such signs are not to be believed, for they lead only to apostasy from the true God. (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 419)
Transferring the matter to a Christian context, the clearest criterion of what constitutes false or potentially idolatrous teaching from religious leaders (whether claiming prophetic gifts or not, whether producing signs and wonders or not) is how their teaching relates to the central truth of the saving gospel. For Israel, that was the story of the exodus. For Christians it is the story of the cross. For both it is a matter of the essential priority of God’s grace and the good news of God’s historical redemption. To distort these essentials or to lead people away from them into figments of human speculation is culpably idolatrous, as this ancient text declares. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 174)
“Dreamer of dreams” could be simply another name for a prophet (cf. Jer 23:25-28) or else a title in its own right. Dreams are generally viewed positively in the OT, as they are elsewhere in the ANE, being recognized as a bona fide medium of divine revelation. Only with Jeremiah are they brought into disrepute (Jer 23:25-32). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 451)
II- Do we love God more than our family or community? (Dt 13:6-18; see also: Nm 25; 1 Kgs 17-18; Mt 10:37; Lk 14:26; 2 Jn 1:10-11)
Family loyalties could cloud one’s judgment, or tempt a person to be more lenient toward one of their own. Instead of being the last person to condemn a false prophet from one’s own family, however, Moses said, “Your hand must be the first in putting him to death.” (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 119-20)
If wholesale defection from the Lord should occur in a community, the people who are guilty must be executed and their community destroyed. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 171)
It follows that to love members of one’s own family more than God disqualifies a person for discipleship. Luke, who perhaps translates literally from an Aramaic source, has it that one must “hate” his own family in order to become a disciple of Jesus (Lk 14:26). The issue is one of priorities: our commitment to Christ must be greater than to anyone else. Jesus is not counseling his followers to ride roughshod over family affection or responsibility. The point is that when a person pledges solidarity with Christ and his mission, nothing–not even the love of a family member (understood as unsympathetic to the Christian faith)–must be allowed to stand in the way. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 98)
Love of family is a law of God (see Eph 6:1-4; 1 Tm 5:8), but even this love can be self-serving and used as an excuse not to serve God or do his work. We must not be so devoted or enmeshed in family love that we push Christ into the background. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 214)
The death penalty belongs to the fact that Israel’s constitution had a real presence in a political-religious world; it was itself a political-religious entity. In the NT, the church is not constituted in this way. It remains a covenantal community, however, called into the service of God, in a world (then as now) in which many gods made their own claims. The NT, too, protects its covenant by placing allegiance to God above all other claims, even valid ones. Jesus made it plain that the service of God preceded family ties (Mk 3:31-35; Mt 10:37-39). And Paul required what amounted to excommunication in order to ensure the integrity of the church (1 Cor 5:11-13). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 241-2)
The livestock of the city were included in the destruction, perhaps to forestall the false accusations that might be made if people should come to covet the animals of others. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 172)
While modern readers might dismiss this chapter as totalitarian and link its call for the members of one’s family and the community to act violently against their own relatives and neighbors when they observe them “secretly” worshiping other gods, with Stalinist-style “secret police,” Moses’ message here is not about repressing personal freedoms and imposing thought control. It is about preserving the freedom that Yahweh by grace has wrought on Israel’s behalf. If they abandon Yahweh, they will not only cut themselves off from his grace, but will also cease to be his people, Israel. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 338)
Viewed as a whole, this list imagines those who are closest and dearest as potential conspirators intent on leading the family and the community away from the worship of Yahweh. Like most seditious plots, this action is urged “secretly,” presumably within the walls of one’s home–as if Yahweh or his spies are unable to see what goes on inside. To “entice” people to follow a different god is treason of the highest order. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 332)
The tempted person was to throw the first stone at the tempter, thereby testifying to the truth of the testimony against the tempter. The participation of the rest of the community showed their allegiance to the Lord and their resolute hostility toward anything that might endanger that allegiance and “entice [them] away from the LORD” (V. 10). (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 180-1)
Can “everyone” be wrong? Can a whole community be swayed? Can there be mass apostasy? Yes. But mass sinning also leads to mass repercussions. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 182)
Jesus grew up and spent his ministry among the most religious Jews in the world. Galileans were known for their great reverence for Scripture and their passionate desire to be faithful to it in every aspect of daily life. The people of Galilee knew Scripture by memory, debated its application with enthusiasm, loved God with all their heart, soul and strength (Dt 6:5), and trained their children to do the same. Their great desire to follow God translated into vibrant religious communities whose synagogues echoed with debate and discussions about keeping the Torah. As a result, Galilee produced more famous rabbis than any other region in the world. (Ray VanderLaan, From The Dust of the Rabbi Discovery Guide, 63)
III- What can we do to be faithful to love God with all our heart? (Dt 13:4, 15-17; see also: Lk 7:47; 1 Jn 3:1-5:12)
- IIIa- Know God in His Word
In order to evaluate the message all teachers bring us, we need to be knowledgeable of and devoted to the word of God. The only way we can recognize a false message is by being fully familiar with the truth. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 122)
The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. (John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, 14)
God is everywhere. However, He does not want you to reach out for Him everywhere but only in the Word. Reach out for it and you will grasp Him aright. Otherwise you are tempting God and setting up idolatry. That is why He has established a certain method for us. This teaches us how and where we are to look for Him and find Him, namely, in the Word. —Martin Luther.
The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 3)
- IIIb- Repent of following idols
Actions do not emerge from nothing. They faithfully reveal what is in the heart, and we can know what is in the heart that they depend upon. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 144)
Neither Jesus nor Deuteronomy were, by any stretch of imagination, antifamily. They were both passionately anti-idolatry and recognized in the family one of the toughest and subtlest sources of hidden idolatry, on which many a profession of loyalty to the kingdom of God has foundered. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 176)
We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one. Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly? Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself. We would not lie unless we first had made something—human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage—more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God. The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart. (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 166)
If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me. — Buddy Briggs
Idolatry—1 Jn 5:21—everything that we do that is sin is based on idolatry.
“One part of repentance is to set the will against sinful behavior. But in spiritual renewal, your eyes are opened to deeper forms of “flesh” in the heart from which sinful behavior springs—root attitudes and values that serve as forms of works-righteousness and self-will. All Christians maintain ways to keep mastery of their own lives through residual schemes of self-salvation, ways of continuing to seek to earn our acceptance. To do this, we fix our hearts on created things such as work, love, possessions, romance, acclaim, and so on . . . . Revivals always require a relinquishment of idols (Jdgs 10:10-16; Ex 33:1-6). As this deeper work of repentance proceeds, the Christian begins to hunger for the love and presence of God.” — Tim Keller
We must be constantly in the process of repenting, allowing the Holy Spirit to have our faith renewed to more and more obedience of God’s Law. When we repent of our sin and idols in our life, we are able to see our sinfulness more and more and we are forced to confess our sinfulness which in turn allows us to see God’s grace and love for us more and more which creates more and more faith in our lives which allows us the strength and fortitude to pursue obedience to new and more sanctified levels. — Tim Keller
- IIIc- Learn how to love
Nobody can give anyone else the kind or amount of love they’re starved for. In the end we’re all alike, groping for true love and incapable of fully giving it. What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all. Someone who loves us radically, unconditionally, vulnerably. Someone who loves us just for our sake. If we received that kind of love, that would so assure us of our value, it would so fill us up, that maybe we could start to give love like that too. Who can give love with no need? Jesus. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98-9)
Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness. Your love is conditional: You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs. And it’s nonvulnerable: You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary. But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy. Therefore your affection is unconditional: You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs. And it’s radically vulnerable: You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away. Then Vastone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love. We want it desperately, but we can’t give it. He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love. All of our love is somewhat fake. How so? Because we need to be loved like we need air and water. We can’t live without love. That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships. We look for people whose love would really affirm us. We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98)
- IIId- Die to self
A person who “finds” his or her life to satisfy desires and goals apart from God ultimately “loses” life. Not only does that person lose the eternal life offered only to those who believe and accept Christ as Savior, but he or she loses the fullness of life promised to those who believe.
By contrast, those who willingly “lose” their lives for the sake of Christ actually “find” them. They will receive great reward in God’s kingdom. To lose one’s life for Christ’s sake refers to a person refusing to renounce Christ, even if the punishment were death. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 215)
People are experts at hearing who they want to hear so they can believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. —Leadership Magazine (Steve Brown sermon, False Prophets II: Matthew 7:13-29)
God alone knows what is good for human beings and God alone knows what is not good for them. To enjoy the “good” we must trust God and obey him. If we disobey, we will have to decide for ourselves what is good and what is not good. While to modern men and women such a prospect may seem desirable, to the author of Genesis it is the worst fate that could have befallen humanity. (John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 101)
The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds. All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing. The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness; the church or denomination that grows careless on the highway of truth will before long find itself astray, bogged down in some mud flat from which there is no escape. (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 162)
Signs of spiritual growth and sanctification (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 188-9)
* There is a growing delight in praising God
* There is a growing instinct for caring and giving, with a more pronounced dislike of the self-absorption that constantly takes without either caring or giving.
* There is a growing passion for personal righteousness.
* There is a growing zeal for God’s cause, with more willingness to take unpopular action to further it.
* There is a greater patience and willingness to wait for God and bow to His will, with a deeper abhorrence of what masquerades as the bold faith
Why do Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego choose fire over idolatry? They know where the real danger lies. They understand that God brooks no rivals. It is better to die than to bow down before anyone or anything but Yahweh. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 61)
IV- What should we do with anyone who tempts us to put anything before God? (Dt 13:3, 5, 8-10, 15-17; see also: Ex 12:15; Lv 7:27; 17:8-9; 22:3; Nm 15:31; Dt 17:2-13; Mt 18:15-18; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 5:1-13; 16:22; 2 Cor 6:14-15; 2 Thess 3:6-15; 1 Tm 1:19-20; 5:20; 6:3-5; Ti 1:13; 3:10-11; 2 Jn 1:10-11)
Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.
The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God. When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases. That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry. “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 221)
What you do with Jesus has always been more important than what you do for Jesus. (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 111)
What the OT calls idolatry, enlightened Westerners call addictions. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 15)
Idolatry = worshiping the creature at the expense of the Creator. —Stewart Briscoe
When God’s people deal with sin as something deadly serious, people develop a fear of sinning. By punishing an unrepentant blasphemer we save others from falling into the same error. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 384)
He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake (Augustine). In other words, if created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry—if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker. (John Piper, Desiring God, 143)
When we sin, we are in essence saying to God: I love what this other thing does for me more than what YOU do for me God. We are like a spouse who is found in adultery with another lover. Repentance can only be seen properly when we see ourselves as an adulterer going back to our faithful mate when we have sought the arms of another. — Pastor Keith
The essence of the Christian life is a love relationship with God. Our standing in the Christian life rests with Christ; when the virtues take on too much importance, that is, when acquiring virtues and avoiding sin become the primary focus of our walk, we have elevated the (admittedly important) secondary over the primary. Another way of putting it is that we have made an idol out of our own piety. (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 79)
When the offending city has been punished, God’s wrath will be appeased. The result is: “. . . the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers” (13:17b). We can do nothing to deserve his mercy. But without repentance and the fruit of repentance we forfeit the mercy, because that represents an attitude of rebellion against God. So Moses goes on to say that the mercy is conditional upon human obedience: “. . . if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God” (13:18). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 385)
We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)
The Bible uses three basic metaphors to describe how people relate to the idols of their hearts. They love idols, trust idols, and obey idols. (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xxi)
God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty. The health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” swallows up the beauty of Christ in the beauty of his gifts and turns the gifts into idols. The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God. They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain. (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 72)
Whatever we love, whatever we desire, whatever we rely upon, whatever we make the center of our lives will be “Dead Sea fruit in our mouths unless we remember God comes first.” And if we err in that way, we will surely not drink from the river of grace. (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 37)
When a symbol becomes the reality rather than a reflection of it—it becomes an idol.
Jesus will not be liked. You either bow down and worship Him as God or kill him as a lunatic and a heretic. But let us not come with any relationship with Jesus that is less than total commitment. Jesus says, “Crown me or kill me”.
This extreme measure of discipline will bring fear to the people and stop the slide into idolatry. A graphic illustration of this is given in the story about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s lying to God about the selling of one of their possessions. After Peter exposed their deceitfulness, they fell dead (Acts 5:1-10). The result? “Great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11). (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 181)
One of the most critical missiological tasks facing the church today is to recover, rethink, and reapply a fully biblical understanding of idolatry, with a sober and painful evaluation of the extent of its penetration, not only to the roots of western culture, but into the very bloodstream of the church. We will not find ourselves reviving the legislation of Dt 13, but we may become more impressed by the sharpness of its delineation between truth and falsehood, between the saving God and lifeless substitutes, and ultimately, between life and death. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 178)
Hybris is the first and most popular form of idolatry. But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly. All idolatry is not only treacherous but also futile. Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy. If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but under-nourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 122-3)
Calvin captured Scripture’s testimony well whenever he suggested that the human mind “is a perpetual factory of idols.” In worship this becomes the crucial issue. The imposition of unsanctioned features in worship is, according to Scripture and Reformed tradition, idolatry, a violation of the second commandment–however harsh that may sound. Idolatry is humankind’s gravest sin, and Scripture is stern in its condemnation (1 Cor 10:14; 1 Jn 5:19-21). (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 78)
Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems. It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.
Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook. “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.” A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.” A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”
The message is obvious: Government is the solution to every social need.
Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up. Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived. They wanted richer, fuller lives. They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.”
This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic. And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”: the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.
This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.
But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine. A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God. The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-6)
Worship Point: Worship God who loves us and provides us with Jesus; Who alone loves God with all His heart.
But in fact for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale. We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc.
In all of this we bear witness that we are confused about what true worship is. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.” That is not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.” If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something. (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 240-1)
However, in keeping with our approach to the Law in Deuteronomy we need to ask what principles we can apply from this stipulation of punishment. What we can apply is the thought that we cannot tolerate people in our churches who deliberately try to take us away from the worship of God as prescribed in his Word. Today what we can do is to expel them from the church. Paul did this with Hymenaeus and Alexander, about whom he said, “. . . whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tm 1:20). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 381)
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis; The Weight of Glory)
Where God has not revealed himself, there can be no faithful response to his revelation, by virtue of the very nature of faith. Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb 11:6) and since “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23), God cannot be pleased by worship that is not an obedient response to his revelation, because it is by definition “un-faith-full” worship. Hence, once again we see that worship must be positively based upon the word of God. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 56)
Gospel Application: We are commanded to love God with all our heart. We don’t. As a result we deserve hell. Jesus loved God with all His heart. His righteousness is credited to us by our faith in Jesus.
Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us? He did it because he loves us. His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love. And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)
Think about your own righteousness and presenting it to God. What a joke! You have nothing to offer the God of the Universe. Even your most pure righteous deeds fall far short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23, Isa 64:6). The only thing that can please God is God. Therefore the only thing you can offer the God of the Universe is Himself reflected in you by the work of the Holy Spirit in you. That is what brings glory to God. That is what pleases God. That is what brings merit to us before God. It is God and God alone. — Pastor Keith
Someone has said that our sins are handles by which the Lord gets ahold of us. When we realize that we have failed a test by sinning, then God has a way to work in us to bring us fully to himself. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 379)
For Paul, preaching a gospel contrary to the “gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7), which secured our deliverance from the present evil age (1:4), is equivalent to leading the Israelites away from Yahweh, who brought them out of Egypt and redeemed them from the slave house (13:5) to follow other gods. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 337)
Spiritual Challenge: Look to Jesus to know the standard of our love for God. We demonstrate our love for God as we follow, revere, obey and serve Him.
An idol is anything that deflects our devotion to Jesus Christ. It could be our career, our family, our hobbies, or our home. Preachers of a health and wealth gospel in our day push personal happiness and material success as if they were the ends for which we live and on the basis of which we make all our decisions. But this too is idolatry, twisting the gospel of divine grace and its call to take the name of Christ as a badge of honor and his cross as a privileged burden into a modern version of the fertility religions of the ancient Near East. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 339)
Every time a church family gathers for worship, we come as idolaters or recovering idolaters. We all fight allegiances to someone or something other than God that make a claim on our lives. To pretend otherwise is to be naive and unprepared for the serious work of realignment we need. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 62)
Theological error is the most pernicious of errors; it strikes at man’s center and separates him from his Creator and Redeemer. God insisted not only that Israelites should judge their own hearts and cast aside falsehood about him but that they should also confront it wherever it emerged. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 168)
Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace. Nothing shows him the truth; everything deceives him. The two principles of truth, reason and senses, are not only both not genuine, but are engaged in mutual deception. The senses deceive reason through false appearances, and, just as they trick the soul, they are tricked by it in their turn: it takes its revenge. The senses are disturbed by passions, which produce false impressions. They both compete in lies and deception. — Blaise Pascal
So What?: How does one become faithful? By realizing how much we are loved in light of our inability to reciprocate true love. By accepting the fruit of faithfulness from God’s Spirit who lives in those who have truly accepted Jesus as their Savior from themselves.
We should love God simply because He is God. But almost all of our love to God is in recognition of all that God does for us. As you reflect on the depraved basis of your love for God, reflect as well on His grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and love for us in light of our pathetic attempt to reciprocate His perfect love. — Pastor Keith
John Piper from Desiring God on Loving Christ as a self interest:
I have argued so far that disinterested benevolence toward God is evil. If you come to God dutifully offering him the reward of your fellowship instead of thirsting after the reward of his fellowship, then you exalt yourself above God as his benefactor and belittle him as a needy beneficiary—and that is evil. (John Piper; Desiring God, 97)
Paul does not think the moral value of an act of love is ruined when we are motivated to do it by the anticipation of our own joy in it and from it. If it were, then a bad man, who hated the prospect of loving, could engage in pure love, since he would take no joy in it; while a good man, who delighted in the prospect of loving, could not love, since he would “gain” joy from it and thus ruin it. (John Piper; Desiring God, 100)
Love cannot be equated with sacrificial action! It cannot be equated with any action! This is a powerful antidote to the common teaching that love is not what you feel but what you do. The good in this popular teaching is the twofold intention to show (1) that mere warm feelings can never replace actual deeds of love (Jam 2:16, 1 Jn 3:18), and (2) that efforts of love must be made even in the absence of the joy that one might wish were present. But it is careless and inaccurate to support these two truths by saying that love is simply what you do and not what you feel. (John Piper; Desiring God, 101)
The very definition of love in 1 Corinthians refutes this narrow conception of love. For example, Paul says love is not jealous and not easily provoked, and that it rejoices in the truth and hopes all things (13:4-7). All these are feelings! If you feel certain things such as unholy jealousy and irritation, you are not loving. And if you do not feel certain things such as joy in the truth and hope, you are not loving. In other words, YES, love is more than feelings; but NO, love is not less than feelings. (John Piper; Desiring God, 101)
Definition of love that takes God into account and also includes the feelings that should accompany the outward acts of love: Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others. (John Piper; Desiring God, 103)
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
Jonathan Edwards tied it to the Word of Christ: “Jesus knew that all mankind were in the pursuit of happiness. He has directed them in the true way to it, and He tells them what they must become in order to be blessed and happy.”
Edward Carnell generalizes the point: “The Christian ethic, let us remember, is premised on the self’s love for the self. Nothing motivates us unless it appeals to our interests.” (John Piper; Desiring God, 177)
* * * * * * *
I wanted to prove that I was sorry for what I did by being faithful for a period of time. I wanted to develop a good track record before pursuing my relationship with Him again. I wanted God to see that I could be a good servant. Then I felt good enough to talk with God again. But God didn’t want a good slave who tried really hard. He wanted me to see that He was a good Father. He wants intimacy. (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 113)
I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry. Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis. (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 196)
We can be at peace believing that the almighty God who is sovereign over the affairs of history holds not only the future but also our hands and that he is committed to our welfare. In times of uncertainty and trouble we will cling to him in faith, believing that in his time he will surely use even the present gloomy situation to enact his good purpose for us (Rom 8:28). We do not need to know what God chooses not to reveal to us. What we do need to know is that God is committed to our welfare and will never forsake us. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 378-9)
The danger from similar sources of power today cannot be exaggerated. People are impatient and accustomed to controlling their lives by using the various conveniences readily available. Therefore, they are unused to grappling with uncertainty about what will happen to them and to waiting patiently for God to act in solving their problem or giving them the guidance they need. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 378)
C.S. Lewis once said that if we no longer feel comfortable with the cursing psalms, for example, it is not because of our greater, “Christian” sensitivity, but because of our appalling moral apathy. We no longer feel the passion of the psalmist that God should deal with evil and evildoers and vindicate God’s own moral order in the world. We respond to idolatrous, blasphemous evil not with a curse, but a shrug, and then have the gall to claim morally higher ground than ancient Israel. Similarly, if we can no longer identify with the scale of priorities and values that undergird Dt 13, it is manifestly not because we have acquired a greater appreciation of the value of human life, but because we have lost any sense of the awful majesty of God’s reality. The western church, more than it cares to admit, has imbibed that dichotomized, privatized, cultural worldview in which God is no longer the ultimate governing reality and Lord of all human life and community, private and public, domestic and political, local and global. And having for all practical purposes accepted the box into which the surrounding culture has confined God, it is not surprising that we have difficulty with the concept of idolatry. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 177-8)