addictions, bible, biblical scholarship, Buddhism, Capitalism, christianity, church, Communism, dumb idols, God speaks, God's Word, Hinduism, idolatry, Jesus Christ, Materialism, religion, Roman Catholicism, Santaria, Socialism, Substance Abuse, theology, Voodoo, workaholism
As I described in my very first post, there is a philosophy I call “man’s religion”, not in the sense of gender, but of mankind. And I covered there many of the major distinctions between man’s religion and true, biblical Christianity in that post.
One of the misconceptions about God inherent to man’s religion is that He is silent. People think He’s just “out there” somewhere in the cosmos, watching from the balconies of heaven, smiting some, blessing others, but definitely not interested in talking to us. The totally-ungodly and unscriptural Bette Midler song, From A Distance captures this mindset perfectly.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, we see throughout most of the OT books written by prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, et al) God actually mocking and ridiculing the “dumb idols” that frequent man’s religion as well as mocking those who worship them. While we modern folk tend to regard people who worship carved or cast images as ignorant primitives out in some jungle, there is a tremendous amount of idol worship going on throughout the world, even right here in America, probably even in your own neighborhood.
What? You don’t believe me? 🙂 Well let me give you some wonderful examples:
Idols — In a Neighborhood Near You!
All the Hindu “gods” are by definition idols and almost all of them are pretty grotesque to look at, I might add. Hinduism is the oldest of man’s religions and the 3rd-largest world religion after Christianity and Islam. And those who practice Transcendental Meditation and Hare Krishna are in fact practicing forms of Hindu worship, even though they may not actively use physical images in their religious practices.
Throughout the Orient, we see Buddhist temples, each of them featuring a huge statue of Buddha, some of those statues overlaid with pure gold. Every Buddhist shrine you see has a smaller version of this statue, as well. Buddhism is the 4th-largest world religion.
In every Catholic church in the world, we find statues of Mary and generally one or more saints. In front of these statues, you will find candles lit to represent prayers said to them. That defines them as idols, no matter what anyone may say to the contrary.
We also see crucifixes showing an image of Jesus on the cross. “What? A crucifix is an idol? But that’s Jesus!” you may say. But it is indeed an idol. Why? For starters, it is used by many as some sort of magic talisman to ward off the devil and evil spirits. Case in point: what’s the classic image of a vampire slayer? Someone waving a crucifix around, causing the “undead” to cringe or run away. But there is a far more important reason why the concept of a crucifix is inherently wrong: The cross is empty! He is risen and alive forever more!The power of the cross is inherent to the finished work of Jesus Christ and resides in the heart of all true believers, not in a piece of metal, wood, ivory, or other material depicting it.
Who among the ranks of Catholicism are true believers and who aren’t? That is a determination to be made by a Person way above my pay grade. Like any other label applied to people who claim to be Christians, it is safe to say that just because some people call themselves “Catholic” does not automatically mean they are true born-from-above believers.
The widely-held misconception that all Catholics are by definition Christians causes Christianity to be counted as the largest world religion by falsely skewing the stats in our favor. The Vatican has also historically inflated its membership statistics by claiming that everyone in the Spanish-speaking third-world is Catholic, when in fact most in these countries are still worshipping the native idols of their respective regions.
Santeria & Voodoo
These are African-derived occult religions from Cuba (Santeria) and Haiti (Voodoo) that to this day have adherents among the Cuban and Haitian communities here in the United States and Canada. They use statues of Catholic saints as idols redefined as their own gods. This use of Catholic idols in their rituals protected them being persecuted by the oppressive combination of the Catholic Church and their tame lapdogs, the pre-civil-war Spanish and pre-revolution French governments before Cuba and Haiti gained their independence.
The following are not physical statues somewhere, but are idols nonetheless:
Secular Capitalism & Materialism
Here we have the worship of money, property, success, and worldly power.
Here, we have the supreme exaltation of secular humanism. Those who worship this idol are convinced the solution to every one of mankind’s ills is a human institution: government, schools, science, technology, but most especially government. The ones who actually end up in power worship money, property, success, and worldly power just like the capitalists. The main difference is that the worship of this idol destroys the middle class, thereby making poor everyone other than the ruling elite, as well as oppressing the population through onerous laws/regulations/taxes, curtailment/deprivation of civil liberties, or both.
Folks caught in this trap are guzzling, smoking, snorting, or shooting up their gods.
Here people derive their identity and self-worth through their work. They devote excessive time and attention to their jobs, career advancement, and professional accomplishments/recognition to the detriment of other more important areas of their lives, such as God and family.
These are people addicted to sexual behaviors of some sort and the variations here are legion, ranging from viewing pornography over the Internet at one end of the continuum to pedophilia and other serial sex crimes and/or murder at the other, and everything in between. While there seems to be an epidemic of that sort of thing these days, it’s hard to tell if that perceived increase is actually real or simply more highly publicized due to greater media exposure and the availability of new technology through which people can indulge their lustful vices.
Eating Disorders & Serial Plastic Surgeries
I lump these two together because the idol in such cases is not the behaviors, but what drives those behaviors: an idolization of the “perfect physical body” — using whatever standards of perfection the addict may subscribe to — and engaging in compulsive behaviors to achieve that standard in their own bodies.
Any Other Addiction or Non-Brain-Chemistry-Induced Compulsive Behavior
These are behaviors where we derive our personal identity as well as emotional support and comfort at the expense of our relationships with the One True Living God, our families, our employer and coworkers, and friends.
Some might consider that last one to be a little too comprehensive, like I’m targeting the enthusiastic pursuit of hobbies and leisure activities. Not at all! I pursue hobbies and enjoy leisure activities and I feel everyone should be able to do so as well — it’s scriptural to kick back and relax a bit after working hard at whatever we do to put bread on the table. The operative words in that statement are “compulsive” and “at the expense of”. In other words, we’re talking about an activity that consumes a person to the point where it disrupts their daily lives and relationships.
And lest anyone think that I’m being judgmental towards those caught in cycles of addictive behavior, let me assure you that I personally am a recovered addict and that the only reason I stand before you today as a man freed from that addiction is by the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, and the finished work of the cross. So I have no room or desire to condemn those still trapped in them.
But the single salient feature of every one of these idols is that the object of worship is silent. Can’t talk, mute, zero decibels, no speaky, total absence of vocalization, ergo silent.
The ironic aspect of this whole issue is that those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior generally consider people who hear from God as nut-cases. Television shows and movies are replete with either news reports or dramatic plots where wackos justify their heinous deeds by proclaiming that “God” told them to do those crimes (point of fact, it was the devil who told them to do that stuff. See my Acts of God — NOT! series of blog entries to discover more about this kind of thing).
These days, if you tell most people that God talks to you, they’ll start calling for unsmiling men in white coats to come and take you away against your will to secure places where they will try to talk and drug you out of that notion (they’re coming to take me away, ha, ha! 🙂 ). Yes, there is such a thing as schizophrenia and those unfortunate people who suffer from it indeed need compassion and treatment, but believers who hear from God are not part of that group.
Point of fact: Our hearing from the One True Living God is supposed to be the normative experience — not an aberration — because that’s way God intended it from the get-go. And because His speaking to us is the norm, there is nothing momentous, distinctive, or exceptional about someone having God talk to them nor should people who truly hear from God be exalted above anyone else.
But, trust me, it is cool!
So how does God speak?
Both Psalm 19 and Romans 1 state the premise that God has declared His existence for all of mankind through the majesty of His creation. The universe is amazingly complex and full of both unity and diversity — the mathematical term for this is “chaotic”, a combination of order and randomness.
For example, all humans who are not born with some sort of birth defect or genetic anomaly all have skin, hair, fingernails, lips, teeth, 1 heart, 1 brain, 2 lungs, 2 kidneys, 1 stomach, one set of small and large intestines, 2 feet, 2 hands, 2 eyes, etc. Yet we have a wide range of height, weight, metabolism, skin colors and shades, eye colors, hair colors and textures, brain capacities, and so on. All snowflakes have the same general chemical composition (frozen H2O), but no two are identical. A maple tree can have thousands of leaves of the same general shape, yet no two are identical. And so on and so on.
If the earth’s orbit was even a minute fraction of a percent closer or further from the sun, life on earth would be impossible. A couple of orbits away, we have a huge planet called Jupiter — whose location and dimensions are not accidental — which protects us from the constant bombardment of meteorites. The existence of our proportionally huge moon causes tides which cleanse our shores and keep the sea life alive. If the moon’s orbit was a minute fraction of a percent closer or further from the earth, life could not exist here. We breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while the plants breath our CO2 and replenish the oxygen.
As the saying goes, once is a phenomenon, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend, four times makes a pattern, five occurrences is a fact. And we have literally millions of such data points, all defying the idea that the universe exists due to a combination of fortuitous coincidences apart from intelligent design.
The universe is this wonderfully complex machine that we cannot even come close to duplicating any aspect of it, yet there are people who see the wonder of it all and still reject the notion of God, stating that the whole thing is a series of lucky accidents. No wonder God calls them fools! (Psalm 14:1) Personally, I think that it takes far more faith to believe the myths of evolution and accidental creation and their underlying philosophy of atheism than it does to believe the fact that God started the whole thing!
God has created this marvelous collection of books we call the Bible. Written over a period of thousands of years starting with Moses and ending with Jesus apostles, men were divinely inspired to write down the things God spoke to and showed them.
“…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” — 2 Peter 1:20-21
Through His Word, God has imparted to us:
“…all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” — 2 Peter 1:3.
His Word is an invaluable resource that reaches into our deepest innermost parts and discerns the thoughts and motives of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).
The bottom line is that:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” — 2 Timothy 3:16-17
So while the Bible doesn’t contain everything there is to know about God, it does contain everything we need to know about God in order to have successful relationships with Him and with one another.
As I covered in my post Jesus is God, when we look at Jesus, we see God. Our God not only speaks, but He loved us all enough to become one of us so we could hear His voice and words up close and personal. Jesus not only spoke, but He clearly demonstrated the nature of God.
There’s a story I heard once about a Hindu man who had just heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time and was open to the message, but struggling to get his head wrapped around the concept of the Incarnation — God become the Man Jesus. He was out walking in a field thinking about this and noticed an anthill there. He also noted that a farmer was plowing that field and in the next few rows, he would be plowing right into that anthill and destroying it. Now one of the core beliefs of Hinduism is reincarnation and their so-called respect for all life is based on the idea that one of those ants might be long-dead Uncle Patel who was punished for his profligate lifestyle by being reincarnated as a lower life form. So this man wanted to warn those ants of their impending destruction, but couldn’t. He then thought to himself, “If I was an ant, I could communicate with them and warn them of the danger!” And the Holy Spirit chimed in with, “That’s why God had to become a man.”
The Hindu man converted to Christianity a moment later.
God is continuously speaking to all of mankind through His Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that the Spirit would come and convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement. And that’s what He says to the lost, “You’re lost in sin; when you die, you are going to burn; repent and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you will receive His righteousness, go to heaven, and live a much better life while you’re waiting.”
And now for something completely different :-):
To believers, however, He’s speaking of other things. He is comforting them, guiding them, enlightening them, healing them, correcting them, defending them, blessing them. And all of these things require Him to speak to us somewhere along the way, especially the last one: blessings. You see “blessing” in the NT Greek is the word eulogia, which literally means “good words”. So when God blesses us, He is speaking “good words” over us and since His Word has creative power (e.g., “let there be light!”), His good words will come to pass!
And God’s Spirit speaks to us through several earthly and spiritual mechanisms. These include, but are not limited to:
- Our reading of God’s Word, the Bible
- Preaching/teaching of the Word from pulpits, through books, recorded audio/video, live TV, etc.
- Dreams and visions
- Tongues and interpretation
- The words of knowledge/wisdom
- Speaking to our hearts directly
- Christian counseling
- Support/small groups
It is supremely important to remember that ALL of the second through last items on this list are subordinate to the first one. The Word of God is our gold-standard for divine revelation and anything directed at us through the other mechanisms listed must first pass the litmus test of “is this scriptural?” And not only scriptural in general, but consistent with what we see Jesus doing/saying/etc. God’s Word is also the yardstick against which we measure all the concepts we encounter in the marketplace of ideas and ideologies.
In other words, some wacko terrorist-type cannot biblically justify going around setting off bombs to punish the “wicked” simply because he found a verse in the OT where God commanded someone to use capital punishment on a person or city. Why? Because nowhere in the Gospels do we see Jesus handing out judgement for sin by killing people.
I’m going to stop at this point because many books have been written by many excellent Christian authors on the topic of “how to hear from God” and I don’t have the time, space, desire, or leading to reinvent their wheels here.
I’ve just hit the high points to illustrate the main focus of this article and that is that God not only speaks, but He is always speaking to everyone — Christian and non-Christian alike — whether they choose to hear Him or not.
If you profess to be a believer and God isn’t speaking to you, that leaves three alternatives, none of them good, but all of them curable. Either you are:
- Not really a born-from-above believer — The cure is submitting yourself to the lordship of Jesus Christ according to Romans 10:9-10. Then do #3 below.
- A believer, but are not walking with God because of unconfessed/unrepented sin in your life — The cure is repent, resubmit yourself to Jesus, and confess your rebellion as sin. Then do whatever it was He last told you to do that you’ve been stubbornly resisting until now. Then do #3 below.
- A believer, but you haven’t ever been taught that God really wants to talk to you until now — The cure is to start a conversation with Him, starting with the request, “God, I really want to hear your voice so I can fellowship with You and never be deceived by the devil’s counterfeits. Please speak to me in a way that I can tell is obviously You.” Then listen for what He says. If you can’t hear Him the first time, don’t give up — keep after it! God always rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Thanks for reading!