Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Who Is Your God?

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Who Is Your God?

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Who Is Your God?

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Our perception of God is influenced by our background and society. Primitive societies focus on the spirits. The Greeks and Romans had a pantheon of gods. They felt they needed to appease the gods. Their gods were unpredictable. What are the characteristics of the God of the Bible? To what other gods can we compare Him?

Transcript

[Robert Dick] I have a probing sermon today. One where I'd like to guide you through doing your own probing. But it is a probing sermon. And it's one that gives you an opportunity to reflect and think as deeply as you can internally about yourself. But the question is simply: Who's your God?

I realize it's a strange sounding question, but bear with me. Back in John, chapter 17, Jesus Christ prescribed a status for His followers. And He said in John, chapter 17, and verse 15, as He was praying to His Father on His final Passover. He said:

John 17:15 John 17:15I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.
American King James Version×
I do not pray that You should take them – that is His followers – out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Our status, as members of the Church of God, is easy to describe. We are to be – and we are told that we will be – in this world. But we are told that we should not be of this world. And that's our status – here, but not of. But in this status, we don't isolate ourselves. We don't move to communes. We don't have closed communities. We mingle and we go about our lives like everyone else. In fact, walking down the streets of any city in the United States, you wouldn't be able to tell a Church of God member from anyone else on the street. But in terms of where we are in our hearts and in our minds, Christ said, “You are not to be of the world.” But that leads to considering a reality. And that reality is this: it is virtually impossible not to be affected by the world around us. You can swim against the current, and you can succeed in swimming against the current in the river of life, but you would be naive and foolish to say that the current had no effect upon you. And so, as we metaphorically swim across the river of life, we swim against currents and it requires us to overcome.

Does a historic world view of God influence your view of God? When I ask you who your God is, every single solitary one of us, six days a week – before we come to Sabbath services – are immersed in a world – a world that is flooded with media of all sorts. We are inundated with information, attitudes, viewpoints, philosophies, ways of living. This is the current that we swim against. And occasionally, it's good to stop and ask what effect has that current have upon me? And so I ask: Does the historic world view of God influence your view of God? Is your God fully the God of the Bible? Or is your God partially the God of the Bible? I hope, in this sermon, we can provide you an opportunity to look and to think deeper about the question. And since the question is what level of influence has the world had upon our views of God, I'd like to start the sermon with a brief review of how the world has viewed it's gods.

I'd like to start with primitive societies. I'm not going to start with primitive times, because primitive views of God are not connected to time. We can go far enough back in time to certain societies, that we have viewed as very advanced, were once primitive. In fact when you study the history of gods there is a time in history where it is acknowledged that Rome, before it became the great empire that it was, in it's earlier days, had a very primitive view of gods. But there are societies to this very day, in fact there are societies still in existence at this time, that have a very primitive view of God. So we're looking at primitive, not in terms of 3,000, 4,000 years ago, but independent of time. Generally speaking, primitive cultures focus more on spirits than they do on gods. If you study the history of primitive societies, they're not as concerned about gods as they are concerned about simply spirit beings. And for good or bad – it really doesn't make any difference – I will tell you that primitive societies are far more keenly aware of the spirit world on a day in and day out basis than we are.

You know, you can stay very closely connected to God by prayer and Bible study, and you can have a closeness and an affinity to God. But I will tell you in primitive societies are keenly aware of the existence of the spirit world. But in the more primitive societies, it isn't a matter of looking at a god or at a pantheon of gods as it is, “I know there are spirit beings. I know they exist. I know they can't be seen, but I know they are there and I know they can act.” But what is common in primitive societies, as they look at the spirit world, is the view that the spirit world is something to be feared. And it is a world that can harm them and is very willing to harm them.

Years ago, I think I mentioned to you the account of a missionary who was serving in a very primitive area of the world. He was living among the natives. And in his introduction to their society he was fascinated by the fact that when the men of the village left the village to go out and foray for food – since they lived on a subsistence level – and the first time that he accompanied them, they walked outside of the perimeter of the compound they lived in, and the minute they left that perimeter, he said the men who were in front of him, would reach up and they'd pick up a leaf off a limb, and they'd tuck it in their belt. And they would pick a frond over here and they would tuck it in their hair. And then he said they would continue as they left and he said within less than 100 feet, he said they had disappeared. They were no longer visible. He said they had so covered themselves with the flora of the trail around them that they simply became next to invisible. And he asked them, why the ritual? And they told him very simply, “It is so the spirits can't see us.” They saw, upon leaving the sanctuary of their community, that they were now in a vulnerable position, and that as they left, they needed to be concerned about being harmed. And their focus upon the spirit world was protection from those who may harm them.

The most common by-product of primitive religion is the view of spirits as beings who cannot be trusted – beings who are not out for our self interest, and our best interest as human beings – and beings who must be appeased. Very common in the primitive world is the principle of appeasement. You don't necessarily like me. You don't necessarily care about my well being, and I need to do something to ameliorate that attitude.

So I'll leave you with a question at this particular point. Is your God a god who needs appeasement? As you walk through life, do you ever see God through the eyes of someone that says, either directly or indirectly, or just emotionally feels, “I need to appease God?” Do you do things, because you think He isn't pleased with you, to make Him less displeased with you? Think about that as we go along. Tuck that one behind your ear, or in your belt, and keep that one as we go along.

As you move from the very primitive societies – many, many of them in ancient times, but some of them still existing in the areas of Papua New Guinea and in some of the areas of the continent of Africa – as we move from there into what historians and what societies would look at as advanced, we have to say that in our modern culture – in the Western world – when people look back in time and they say, “Well, where do advanced societies begin?” most people will go back to ancient Greece as the model of an advanced society. So if I look at the Western world, and I go back as far as I can in the Western world, and still have people universally saying, “Here was an advanced society,” it would go back to ancient Greece. The Romans, as they moved from primitive to advanced, adopted the Greek gods and gave them Roman names. So the Pantheon of Rome was adopted from Greece. Rome added their own local gods and their own regional gods, but Rome's gods were fundamentally Greece's gods but with Roman names.

Other advanced societies in the ancient Middle-East shared the same gods. It's known that Egypt's gods really were fundamentally the same gods as the Greeks, simply different names. And the Babylonian gods – you could say the same thing. Do you know what the dominant trait of Greek gods was? You know you can go on Google any time you want and just Google anything of the nature of, What were the traits of Greek gods? And it wouldn't take you too many hits before you would begin to see a very common trait. The dominant trait of Greek gods was inconsistency. They were emotionally unpredictable. If you look at their conduct, they were emotionally immature. They were emotionally erratic and demonstrated a very high level of emotional dysfunction.

The Greeks and the Romans worshiped gods whose lives would make the worst soap opera look like a Sunday school class. And that's not the exaggeration. If you take all of the more objectionable, cartoonish TV shows – and I won't name the groups, but my mind goes to two, or three, or four of them immediately – they're nothing compared to the lives of the Greek gods. As you walk down the lives of Greek gods in their mythologies, you come across these traits: completely unpredictable behavior – completely unpredictable behavior;       vindictiveness – highly vindictive; tantrums and fits of rage at the drop of a hat; complete and total immorality – immorality at a level and of types that you wouldn't even describe; lying; stealing; deceiving – common everyday practices of the gods of Greece and the gods of Rome. And we could add other cultures who shared gods. This is a short list. This is a short list. I have a little book on my shelf called “Tooke's (T-O-O-K-E-'S) Pantheon”. It's probably from the late 1800's. It goes through all the gods. And as it tells the stories about the gods, you sit and shake your head and say this is the most insane, crazy, dysfunctional group of beings that you can imagine.

So as we move from primitive, where the general position is simply, “I need to be cautious. I need to be wary. I need to leave my place of security with an attitude that whatever I run into isn't necessarily looking after my best interests,” and we go from there to complete and total unpredictability, complete and total inconsistency of conduct, it is admitted that among the Greek's, morality and a moral code was simply not a part of their mythology.

You know, the Jews are looked at as very unusual in that regard, because their religion was built upon a moral code. A moral code was not a part of Greek mythology. You didn't have, as a basis, “Here is how we conduct ourselves.” It was about looking good. It was about being made to feel good, which leads, at this point, to another question about your God. Is your God unpredictable? As you approach Him in prayer, or study, or meditation, are you unsure of how He feels toward you? Is the approach that you have – again emotionally, because I'm trying to probe, brethren, down to the place where your instincts live – are you concerned about making Him happy so you can avoid things He may do to you because He is unhappy with you? Is He deceitful?

As the Western world transitioned from pagan gods to the adoption of Christianity, we arrived at the place where Rome was center stage. And some of the ways in which Rome saw it's previous pagan gods, simply became convenient, conventional ways to see the new single God that they adopted. A good illustration: I have read apologies – I'm talking a theological sense – an apology is a defense. Okay? It is, “Let me show you why I believe what I believe, and let me show you the evidence why I should believe what I believe.” I've read apologies regarding some of these things and some of them are very, very well written. But at the end of the day, in the real world, there is a distinct difference between repentance and penance. Can you buy, can you aleve, can you soften the displeasure of God by a series of ritual actions? And God says, through the apostle , as a good example, in Acts 2, when he gave the stirring sermon on the day of Pentecost, and he said to them, “Men and brethren, what must we do to be saved?” And he said, “Repent and be baptized, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.”

Repentance – repentance literally means this: it means to make a complete turn – a complete turn – in your conduct and a complete turn in your attitude – sometimes even a complete turn in your understanding, but definitely a complete turn in how you conduct yourself. This is from inside. This is generated from the heart. Penance, in contrast to repentance, would be simply one of those things carried over from a previous world that viewed God as a god whose attitude toward me can be altered or softened by a series of rituals – prescribed rituals.

The roots of Roman thinking – and I'm speaking now about Grecian gods and Roman gods – the roots of Roman thinking are enshrined to this very day in the mosaics, the stained glass windows, and the frescoes that adorn the floors, walls, and ceilings of the great cathedrals of Europe. If you watch a Rick Steves, for instance – I've seen him…. I've seen also on PBS, there are different presenters that will give you a presentation, that will show you the great cathedrals of the world. It is understood, in fact, as tour guides will walk you through the great cathedrals that the audience that attended there were illiterate, so they didn't read. The services were not in the vernacular, meaning I would be preaching to you today in Latin. The fact that none of you spoke Latin, really was immaterial. The message would be in Latin. And if you didn't understand it, that was not, as I said, the issue. But adorning the walls were some of the most grotesque, frightening, and brutal depictions of all the things that could be done to the human body in the form of punishment. And so, as an illiterate man or woman sat in a great cathedral, the walls were adorned…. And to this day, if you took a tour and asked, “Why are they there? the answer is very simple. They were there to teach and to educate the people who could not understand the message – couldn't understand what was being said. But it spoke to a frame of mind. It spoke to a frame of mind.

Which leads to a third question: Can you pay – can you pay – for your sins? Can you soften the consequences through ritual? Are physical acts necessary as a part of that formula? And further, in the spirit of frescoes and stained glasses and mosaics, is the fear of God intended to be a form of terror?

Now what I've done for you so far, brethren, is simply to describe some of the things that the world around us, over the span of human history, have put on the table as attributes of God, which have affected how people have viewed God. And this is the world in which we live. So we've listed all the major influences the world has provided in order to form a view of God, and we then, in looking at these, have to ask ourselves have they had any influence?

Now it's time to go to the Bible and look at the true God. Now it's up to the Bible to let us know whether He looks like what primitive and ancient and medieval societies have seen, as they have viewed their god, or whether He stands in contrast. But let's look at the true God. When the true God began to make Himself known collectively to people, we have to go back to the book of Exodus to see what kind of relationship He established. You know, God, up until the time that He stood on Mount Sinai and addressed Israel, had worked with individuals. He'd worked with the Abels, He'd worked with the Enochs, He had worked with the Noahs, He had worked with the Abraham, Isaac and Jacobs, and finally with Moses. But it was not until He told Moses, “Now it is time for Me to take the children of Israel out of Egypt,” that God had ever worked collectively with a large body of people. So here is God introducing Himself to, as it were, the masses.

In Exodus 20, as a part of the covenant arrangement with the first body of people that He worked with, He gave the Ten Commandments. In the giving of the Ten Commandments, it begins in this fashion:

Exodus 20:1-2 Exodus 20:1-2 [1] And God spoke all these words, saying, [2] I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
American King James Version×
And God spoke all these words – Exodus 20 and verse 1 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. What is the first commandment? You shall have no other gods before Me.

That commandment is far richer – far, far richer – than meets the eye. What do you think of when you read the first commandment? Let me expand it. When He said, “You shall no other gods before Me,” we all, I think, immediately see: we shall have no gods who rank above God. We are taught enough by the Christian culture that not only should we have no gods who are higher ranking than God, but we are not to have any other gods period. But what He was saying to them included more than that. He said, “I don't want any gods – and I want you to see that first commandment now in the visual sense – you know, there's behind and before, visually – and so when you say, “I don't want any other gods before Me,” I don't want any…I don't want to see any other gods. In a way that human beings can think, where, you know, where is your peripheral vision? Okay? Right about here, my fingers start disappearing. God said, “I don't want anything in front of that that I can visually see.”

The most subtle part of the first commandment is that God is letting them know, “There are no other gods like Me. All of your history of gods, all of your history of thinking about gods, all of your history of association with gods, all of your history that has anything to do with spirit beings and gods…picture beings who are not like Me.” And He said, “As you worship Me, you have to worship Me abandoning every single, solitary thought, belief and response to any of the gods you have ever worshiped, because I'm not like any of them.”

It's a tangent that I don't have the time to go down, brethren, but you have to understand. From the time of Adam and Eve onward, and in the New Testament, Christ and the apostles speak about it in a very matter-of-fact manner. Paul simply refers to Satan as the god of this world – that is the title he gives him – Jesus Christ does the same thing. He says the world is his playground for this point in time. The prophecies speak about the time coming, literally, from the beginning of time, when the seed of Eve will bruise the serpent's head, and the serpent will bruise his heel – which all theologians understand was the crucifixion. Satan through introducing sin into this world was able to bruise the heel of the Messiah – in effect, to require the coming of someone to redeem mankind from his sins. But at the same time, Jesus Christ would step upon the head of that serpent. He would take His position – that “I am the King to come.”

When the disciples said to Christ, “Teach us how to pray,” what did He say to them? “Pray in this manner: Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.” This is not His Kingdom. It has never been His Kingdom. The god of this world is not God. His Kingdom will come, and at that time, He will be the only God. But from Exodus 20 onward He said, “I don't want any other gods before Me. You need to understand I am not like any god you've ever had. Don't compare Me with them. Do not compare Me with them.”

One of the most commonly understood truths across the entirety of the Christian world regarding God is found in 1John, chapter 4. In terms of principle, this is a principle that is adopted by, endorsed by, embraced by literally all of Christendom. 1 John, chapter 4, verse 10:

1 John 4:10 1 John 4:10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
American King James Version×
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

When we describe God, how do we describe Him? We describe Him in three words. God is love. That's who He is. When you look at the creation of mankind, can you think of a greater act of God than to face the two first living human beings and say to them, “Everything I have made is yours.”

You know it's funny. You can have a person – six foot – we'll just say six foot – nice head of hair, handsome, well dressed, nice voice with a big zit right here on his nose. And you don't see six feet, you don't see nice suit, you don't hear nice voice. You say, “That is one ugly zit!” Christendom has a way of looking at the one tree in the garden, that God says is not yours – leave it alone – and say, “Oh, but leave the zit alone.” God said, “All of it is yours.” What was His only request of them? Put the tree aside. He said, “Everything belongs to you. I give it to you.” What's the only thing He said to them? “Take care of it.” Take care of it. Or, to use the old King James English, “Dress it and keep it.” That's all He asked. So when you say God is love, He demonstrated love to Adam and Eve in a way that none of you have ever seen physical love shown to you. Anybody ever given you all of the world at the time you were born, and said, “All I'm asking is that you take care of it? Don't treat it shabbily.” Go back and read after Cain killed his brother…excuse me, not after he killed his brother. Go back and look at Cain at the time that he got furiously angry with his brother, and read the conversation God had with Cain, and tell me, when you read the conversation, if you are not reading the conversation between a God who loves and a rebellious individual? What did He say to him? Did He scold him? No. Did He threaten him? No. He said, “You are wrestling with an attitude, and it's an attitude that, if you don't get control of it, it is going to take over you. There is nothing that stands between Me and you in a relationship. If you will do well, you and I have a great relationship. Your biggest problem right now is whether you allow your attitude to destroy you.” No threats, no wrath, no punishment, simply the warning that there is a way, if you continue to go, it will destroy you.

Go back to Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, and read all the blessings that God offered to Israel for obedience. They're mind boggling. They are absolutely mind boggling. They’re things that today…they’re things that if, today, we had them, the difference in our economy would be a difference that would amount to billions of dollars. I have a book on my shelf titled – well not the title – the book is about the analysis of all the nations of the earth. It's a think tank product and they were asking the question: Why are the rich nations of the world rich, and why are the poor nations of the world poor? Among the many things they said, there was one point that I found very fascinating in the light of what I know from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. One of the offers that God gave to them was rain in due season. Do you know much of Africa gets the same amount of rainfall as the most productive parts of the United States and western Europe? And yet, there is absolutely phenomenal poverty in Africa and phenomenal agricultural wealth in these areas. What is the difference? If both get 50 inches of rain in a year, why is one in one place, and why is the other in another place? And the answer is, rain in due season. When it falls gently and evenly, things grow. Crops produce. When it comes as a dump in a monsoon, it simply hits the ground, runs wherever it's going to go, and what follows is a parched earth.

Micah, chapter  6. We've covered two things about the true God. He said, “Do not compare Me to any gods you have ever had an association with.” And He has demonstrated in His actions toward all of us – whether Adam and Eve, whether Cain and Abel, whether ancient Israel, or whether us today…. You know, the Christian world is the greatest illustration of love – that God can forgive every single, solitary sin we have ever committed – wash them away. We don't even have a good way of describing the level of obliteration that He promised. In a universe that is endless – that science, every time it builds a bigger telescope, sees more of, it still can't see or grasp the statement of God that says, “I will remove your sins as far as the East is from the West.” How far…how far is the end of the East to the end of the West? Science doesn't have a clue – doesn't have any tools to find out – can't measure it. God does not seek appeasement. If you're looking for some ritual you can do to make God happier with you, don't waste your time. Micah, chapter 6, verse 6:

Micah 6:6-8 Micah 6:6-8 [6] With which shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? [7] Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? [8] He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
American King James Version×
With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression – the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Take some time sometime to go online to Wikipedia and type in human sacrifice. It has covered the entirety of the world. And there’s not a single, solitary part of the world that for some bizarre, demented – and I use the word demented deliberately – reason hasn’t seen human sacrifice. That's one of the great tributes to God. The Mayans, the Toltecs, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Islanders of the Pacific, the Celts of Europe, the peoples of the Middle-East, the peoples of Africa – all have seen that as a way to connect with God. He says: He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? There is no appeasement there, is there? Not a single bit of single, solitary bit of appeasement. Treat people justly.

How many times in life do you find the point and the place, where you look at an interaction with another human being, and you find what is just? And you look at the circumstance of that individual and you realize their circumstances are not as good as yours. And you determine there is another action that needs to be taken. And that is, you don't have the same privilege I do. You don't have the same benefits I do. We're not on equal footing. He says, “Not only do you do justice, but you love.” You love. Mercy. You love being able to go beyond justice, and be merciful, And your attitude toward God is an attitude that is always aware of the fact that you're this tall, and He's infinite. God is not erratic. And He's not unpredictable by nature. Hebrews 13, and verse 8, says of Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I'll give two or three of these to you. Numbers, chapter 23, verse 19 is a beautiful, beautiful illustration of the fact as God was introducing Himself to ancient Israel, to let them know, “I'm not erratic. I'm not unstable. I don't wobble back and forth. You can't find Me on a bad day. I don't have bad days and good days. I can't wake up on the wrong side of the Heavenly bed one day, and on the right side another day.” To a people who lived in a world where gods were as squirrely as they could be, as irrational and as unpredictable and vindictive, God could say over and over and over again, “I'm not like them,” and people would still default to, “I'd better watch out to what God's going to do.”

At the very tail end of the Old Testament, in Malachi, chapter 3, and verse 6, God said to ancient Israel, “The only reason you still exist as a people is because I never break My promises.” He said,, “You exist today because I promised your father Abraham a promise. You're not worthy of it. You don't deserve it. But you will not be destroyed, not because you merit not being destroyed, but because I don't lie. I don't change My promises.” I'll read one to you. I've cited three of them. Go back to James. We'll cap it off with reading one, so at least you can see one of them with your own eyes. James, chapter 1, and verse 17 says.

James 1:17 James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no ficklenss, neither shadow of turning.
American King James Version×
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation – no wobbling, no variableness – or shadow of turning.

So who is the true God in contrast to the spirits of primitive peoples and the gods of advanced ancient societies, like the Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians? He says, first of all, “I'm not like any of them. So don't stand any of them up here and run comparisons. Get rid of all of them. I don't look like any of them. I am love. I'm not looking for appeasement. And I'm not erratic or unpredictable.”

Now, this is who God is. Over here, I've described how the gods of the world are. Where is your God? Is He completely, totally over here? I know your God isn't over here. That's a given. I've worked with all of you long enough, and I've worked with other congregations like you – none of you have a god over here – but is your God here, or is He a step or two, just a little bit left of here? That's something you have to answer. Is your view of God formed solely by the Bible? Or is your view affected by the way God is viewed by the world around us? That view can have a subtle influence on any of us – very subtle influence on any of us.

Let's look at some of those areas where it can have an effect. This is now to you personally. This isn't about the world. It isn't about scripture. This is to you. Do you see God as always looking out for what is best for you? Is this how you wake up in the morning and is it how you go to bed at night? Is it how your week goes? Is it how your year goes? As you walk your Christian walk, do you see God as always looking out for what is best for you? And is it the way you walk?  1Peter – here in James, just a couple of pages over – 1Peter, chapter 5, verse 6 says:

1 Peter 5:6 1 Peter 5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
American King James Version×
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

I think all of us live in the same address. We don't always have the ability to see this truth. But do you live your life with the assurance that it is the truth? If your view of God is formed by the Bible your default position is that God both loves and cares for you and that He has your best interests at heart at all times. If the world has intruded into this domain in your life, there are going to be times of uncertainty, even doubt. You know there is always the broad, “Well, I read the Bible. God is love.” Well, that's the broad. But you're not the expansive. You're an individual. You're one single, solitary individual. And when you get up in the morning, and you look at God, forget the broad. What about you? Is that how you see God? Now you're beginning to understand what I mean when I ask the question, “Who's your God.”

How do you fear God? You can't get away from the Bible's repetition of the fact that we are to fear God. How do you fear God? I do fear God. I do fear God. I don't do this, I don't do this, I don't look over my shoulder. I don't have any good luck charms. How do you fear God? Is your fear in any way, shape or form, dread? You know, dread is a hallmark of the relationship of men with the gods of this world over the span of human history – from those natives who adorned themselves with camouflage, because they dreaded what could happen to them before they got back to the village, to the Greeks and the Romans who had no reason to believe anything but “If I don't appease these gods, they are so unpredictable in their conduct, and so powerful, in a moment, I may simply be zapped.”

Turn to the 112th Psalm, because the fear of God has an absolutely, totally, completely different face. It has nothing in common with what springs from and is spread by the gods of this world.

Psalms 112:1-3 Psalms 112:1-3 [1] Praise you the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in his commandments. [2] His seed shall be mighty on earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. [3] Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endures for ever.
American King James Version×
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments. Where does the fear of God live? The fear of God lives in that area that says do this and don't do that. The fear of God, in a mind that truly understands God, understands that every single thing that is said, in the attitude of don't do this, or do do this, is simply to protect you – simply to protect you. I remember years ago in the broadcast, one of the common phrases was: there is not an individual on this Earth that doesn't want other people living by the Ten Commandments toward them. I don't want anybody murdering me. I don't want anybody stealing from me. I don't want anybody taking my wife. All of the things that God said, “Thou shalt not do” are what I want people not to do to me. And he said, “Well, it's a two way street. You don't do it to them either.” Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth. The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. You can read all the rest of the 112th Psalm, and it describes the fruit of the fear of God. You know what? I don't know anybody in a sane mind that would not like to have every single, solitary goodie that's in this 112th Psalm. So is the fear of God something…“Oh, no. What's He going to do to me? Oh no!” No, what it is is, “Listen to Me, obey Me, enjoy all that comes from that.”

Do you trust God? Now trust and fear are different. Do you trust God? Is your default position that verse in the faith chapter, that it is impossible to please God without trusting Him? Can you put things in His hands and walk away? Or do you have to babysit Him? “God, would you take care of this for me? Okay, God how are you doing? Well, God, I don't see it done. Well, God, You're a little slow. Well, God...,” you know. Can you give something to God, and then lay down, put your head on the pillow and go to sleep? Or do you have to nursemaid God? You see, the pagans had to nursemaid god. When I ask, “Who’s your God,” the gods, who are not the God, had to be babysat. Your God doesn't. Do you try to make God happy with you, because – let me add becauses – I want God to be happy with me. I want to be able to look God in the eye, and say, “God is not unhappy with me as an individual and how I live.” But do you try to make God happy with you because you don't want the results of His anger? Or, do you try to make God happy with you because you want to reciprocate the love He has shown to you? You know the most beautiful marriages are those marriages where both individuals try to show their love for the other because of how much they appreciate how much the love that has been shown to them. The reciprocity feeds on itself and it never ends. It feeds, and it feeds, and it feeds, and it feeds. This is what God has in mind. Yes, I try to make God happy, but not as appeasement. I don't say, “Boy, if I don't make God happy, what's He going to do to me?” I appreciate so much what God has done for me that I wish to give back to Him what little I, as a human being, can give to show how much I appreciate what He has given. There's the relationship with the true God.

Last of all, do you walk and talk with God? Throughout most of history, the gods of this world have taught people to steer clear of them – to keep them at arms length, to avoid any more contact than is necessary, so as not to create, whether deliberately or inadvertently, an opportunity for wrath. And so history has taught a certain…“You know what? I need to spend as little time with you as possible, so as not to get in your doghouse.” In the world of sales, there is a statement that says: Know when to not talk yourself out of a sale. Know when to stop. I find it amusing at times, when I watch a salesman, and they've gone far enough to convince the customer that they should buy, and the customer is there, and they keep on talking, and when they've finished, they've talked the customer out of now wanting to buy it. Is that our relationship with God? You know, “I need to keep my communication with God at a minimum, unless I stick my foot in it, make Him mad at me, and then I'll walk away from it worse off than when I started.”

It was a good sermon not too terribly long ago to this congregation – about talking with God. Prayer – daily prayer – is a formal event. Wherever you do it, daily prayer is a formal event. When David said, “I meditate on Your laws day and night,” he talked about someone who had a connection with God. Do you talk to God throughout the day? If the only time you and God have a conversation – now all your conversations don't need to be here – your conversations may be here. But they're both conversations. If the only conversation per day is the one that you have where you formally pray to God, or in addition to that, you could add, and you bow your head over meals, you're short-changing yourself horribly. There are times, and times, and times, and times throughout the day where there is an appropriate opportunity to talk to God – to talk to Him about your own life, to talk to Him about the life of your community and the weather that it may suffer and people that may be harmed by it, to talk to Him about the state of the nation and what's going on in the country, to talk to Him about all sorts of things. Do you walk and talk with God? David did. Psalms tell us that backward and forward up one side and down the other. Abraham did. Does it absolutely astonish you when you see accounts in the Bible of people who reasoned with God? Does it cause you to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! You know, I would never do what Abraham did. I'd never say, ‘God, would You bargain with me? God would You bargain with me?’ I'd never do what Moses did, and say, ‘God, I have a problem here, and I can't solve the problem, and these are Your people. What are we going to do?’” They were connected. They walked, they talked with God.

Is this your God? As I walked through these things, is this your God? So today was about simply giving you a basis, a platform, a map that you could use to answer for yourself the question, “Who’s my God?” Is He totally over here, or has the magnetic pull of this pulled Him a little bit this way? Has the indoctrination of the world around us – that we absorb simply by being in it – altered somewhat and varied our view of that Great God? These are just some of the ways to explore the effect of the world's view of God upon our lives.

I'd like you to turn in closing to James, chapter 4. The one thing that all of us know – every single, solitary one of us in this room – there's not a one of us who cannot get closer to God than we currently are, and we have the assurance from scripture that that's reciprocal. Anecdotally, I find it fascinating when festival seasons come – that over my lifetime, at festival seasons, are the times of the year when I will hear more people say to pastors and elders, “This is the best sermon I've heard.” And I've smiled over the years, because the sermons are not really different. This is different. There is something about deeper immersion that comes with annual holy days, where you're more connected. There's more going on. There's more keeping your eyes and your focus there. And when that happens, these hear differently. Yes, all of us can get closer to God than we are, and I think it's appropriate to end with this assurance and blessing – James, chapter 4, and verse 8.

James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
American King James Version×
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. There’s a simple reciprocity. The more we choose to draw near to God, the more God chooses to draw near to us. And as that process happens, more and more, our God is more sharply focused as the true God that is seen within His word.

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