All Those Other "gods" - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonThe Tract Series
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
Take a moment, stop, and think about the “God” you serve. Really. Stop reading for just a minute and think about that which takes up most of your time, energy and thought.
What “God” do you serve? I have placed the word “God” in quotations because not everyone is really serving the God of the Bible. And I am not referring just to those people who are wicked heathens, for we know, very easily, through their lifestyle and actions, that they do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But rather, I am referring to those people who are professing Christians, who go to church, who pray, who read their Bibles and who do all those other “Christian” things that Christians are suppose to do. I am asking them, “what God do you serve?”
Why do I ask such a question? Because there are many Christians out there who have other gods which are far more important to them than the God of the Bible. These Christians say that they love Jesus, and serve Jesus and worship Jesus as Lord, but in their life and in their walk they have other gods which they frequently bow down to. Usually, they are bowing to themselves most of all.
The Law was given to us to worship God in the right way. Many “Christians” believe that we are no longer bound by the Law in any way. They say, misquoting and misunderstanding Galatians, that we are no longer under the Law. However, the Law is simply a reflection of the character of God. Without the Law, we would not know God. Without the Law, we would not know what it means to be holy. Show me someone who really rejects the Law of God, and I’ll show you someone going to hell. Really, Christians are often very confused about the Law and its implications in our life. But to reject the Law is to become as Christ said, “those who practice lawlessness.”
We see from reading the first four commandments found in Exodus 20 that they deal primarily with worship and the right relationship we have to God in worship. The very first commandment is this, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) God commands that we, as the creature who owes Him homage, have no other gods before the only true God. What does it mean to “have no other gods?” What is a “god?” The Bible speaks frequently about other gods. For instance, there are a variety of “other gods” seen through the Bible which have proper names: Erech (Gen. 10:10); Bel or Baal (Isaiah 46:1; Jer. 50:2; 51:44); Nebo (Isaiah 46:1); Ishtar, also referred to as the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19); Ashtoreth (2 Kings 23:13); Rimon (2 Kings 5:18); Dagon (Judges 16:23); Molech (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35); Chemosh (2 Kings 3:27); Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:8-18). All of these are other gods. They are not God in representation. They are “gods” created and worshipped which have absolutely nothing to do with the Almighty God. They are made up fantasies which in some way or another satisfied the creator of that particular god. These “gods” were worshipped and adored by people who thought that these gods were actually real, although they had fabricated them in the darkness of their own minds. Imagine sitting around and thinking up a name for the god of “fertility” because your nephew had not conceived with his wife for the last three months. So, you make up a name, give him a region or territory to rule over, and then sacrifice some homage to this god in token for a blessing from him. This illustration is something the heathen nations of Biblical times did regularly. Let me give you a real documented example of a made up god and the heinous implications which had arisen from the heathen practices to this god. Molech was a god from Old Testament times. He is mentioned in Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5 to name two. There was a statue of Molech in the Hinnom Valley which was made of brass in the form of a man. It was hollow so that the people could stoke wood in it and make a raging fire burn within. The brass would become incredibly hot, as you would imagine; metal becomes red and glowing under an intense flame and heat. The idolatrous Jews then took their children and offered them to this idol by placing them in its hands and burned them to death. The Jews thought that if a father sacrificed a child as an offering to this “god”, then the rest of his house and family prospered. This was a concept which was known as “passing the children through the fire.” It was deemed an abomination by God for very obvious reasons.
I know that no Christian would confess to worshipping Molech or the god of fertility. So how is it that this idea of having no other “gods” could apply to us today? There needs to be a clarification on the definition of what the words “thou shalt have…” mean. It is not that this means we are to have no idols shaped like Buddha or Hare Krishna which are idols and are other gods which the Lord forbids us to have. God not only means that which is tangible to the eye but also ideas and concepts. What do we have today that could replace God? Many things. And this is what the first commandment means: whenever we replace Jesus Christ with something which we deem more important, then we have violated the first commandment. Nothing in this world is to be more important than God. It is not only worshipping another god, which is a violation of the commandment, but also making anything more important than God which violates the commandment as well.
What do you deem important? That which you deem important, does it take up more time, more thought, more energy than the Lord of Hosts? God requires we pray without ceasing to Him, meditate on Him always, give Him reverence and glory-none other, and continue to realize that He and He alone is the most important aspect of our lives (1 Thess. 5:17; Psalm 1:2ff; 1 Cor. 10:13). The moment something is more important than God, whether it be realized or not, we have broken the first commandment. We have said in our actions that there is something that deserves greater attention than God. May God forgive us!!
What Christian would say this? Who would confess of having other things more important than God? I believe not many would say so. But I also believe not many really know what their “other gods” could be. Let us make a partial list of those things which we, as Christians, could deem by our actions as more important than God: friends, family, spouses, hobbies, blogging, the internet, children, cars, jobs, ideals, money, and the like. All of these things can consume our time and energy and thoughts so quickly that we would not even realize that we have made them “other gods.” The rich young ruler of Luke 18:18ff did not realize money was his god. He came to Jesus inquiring about eternal life and the way to get it. “He said “Good teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”” The Rich Ruler thought that Jesus was good by what he saw Him do. He was a good teacher because He did good things outwardly. So the Ruler thought that Jesus would give him a list of things to do to receive eternal life. But first Jesus asks him about the commandments. He lists the last six instead of the first four. The Rich Young Ruler replies to Jesus that he has kept these since his youth. So Jesus says this, “There is one thing you lack, take all you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.” But the Rich Young Ruler did not like this one item. He did not want to give up his wealth because he was very wealthy. So the Scriptures say he went away sad. The Young Ruler was caught in his own words. He had said that he kept the commandments from his youth, though only replying to the last six. But come to find out, Jesus brings him to the very first commandment. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jesus does not quote the commandment, but rather tells the Young Ruler to put his so-called faith into action. But he could not give up his wealth. It was his other god. It was more important than God. And so he had not even kept the first commandment let alone the last six.
There are many gods which we could have. The Rich Ruler did not know what his other god was, and we, just because we are Christians, think we have no other gods as well. We talk about service to Christ, but spend all week at work without spending any real prayer time with God. We have fun with the kids daily, but forget to have family devotions. We make time to work on the old car in the driveway, but feel too worn out by the end of the week to go to church– both morning and evening services. Other gods don’t have to have Bible names like Dagon and Molech. All other gods have to be are replacements for the true God. The moment we find ourselves spending too much time with other things and not enough time with God, we need to stop, get into our prayer closet, and repent of that sin. And it is not enough just to ask God for forgiveness, but we must show God we mean what we say by our future actions. We need to make devotions a priority. Instead of watching four movies over the weekend with our family, get them to study the Bible and attend church regularly. Instead of spending all that time on the old car, or on some hobby, let us first give the glory and honor due to God alone. Let us not turn those blessings which we have been given by God into other gods. God blesses us with children, and we use the children as an excuse not to go to church! God blesses us with a job, and we are too worn out to make it to Bible study! We are blessed by God with a talent for some hobby and we find more enjoyment in it than we do in Christ! We are blessed with so many things; let us be wise and prudent not to allow ourselves to turn them into other gods without even knowing it.
What are your other “gods?” We all have them. No one is exempt. We should all take a long hard look at what things we consider to be important. Would you do anything for your wife or children even if it meant taking time away from God? Would you jump obediently when the boss tells you to work overtime, on Sunday? Would you rather spend time building the model airplane than reading the Bible? Where does our life go? Where do we invest our precious Christian life which Christ Himself paid for on the cross?
When we boil it all down and scoop away the dross, when we dig deep into the list of our “other gods”, what we really find is ourselves staring back. We replace the first commandment with what we think is most important. Though we spend more time at work, with the family, or with our hobbies than we do with God, it really all stems from a worship of the self. It is really self-love. It is really, thinking we are more wise than God is. We think we know what is best. But I believe the commandment is very clear. God is saying He knows what is best. He knows that having other gods is not going to produce spiritual growth, rather it produces God’s judgment upon worshippers of other gods! The commandment could even be stated this way, “Thou shalt not worship thyself, or what thyself deems the best.” That is the heart of worshipping other gods. It is a rejection of the command of God and an institution of the commands of the self. “Molech will serve me better, so I will worship Him.” “My hobby is very important, so I will try to do my devotions when I am finished.” It is a centering of the self, and the discarding of God. But God never gets discarded. He is always Lord no matter what. The question is, do we realize this? or do we worship other gods?