Fruit Audit ~ Our View of God (Understanding the Second Commandment)

Most people when they read the second commandment think, “I have no problem with that one.” They read it to mean we should not have any idols, like the carved statues of Bible times. We even go into understanding the concept of what our idols are of today, like worldly things, money, or even ourselves, plus a potential plethora of other items that we can easily place as an “idol” over our love for God. While this is all true it is not the whole of what the second commandment means.

Here is the text of the second commandment as seen in the ESV version of Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

It is curious that the first commandment is simple and straightforward, yet the second commandment needed 3 distinct directives. It is almost as if we wouldn’t get it and need a little extra explanation. He knows we are dust and in that I find great relief in His mercy, however we are to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study the Word of God by searching for answers and understanding. Read the above verses from Exodus 20 again and ask yourself, “What could I be missing?”

God tells us not to create idols or symbols that we would worship such as worshiping a cross or praying to a statue in a church as a method to help us get in the “mood” to worship. However God also tells us to not make any likeness of who we may think God looks like. There is a great deal to learn about our own salvation based on how the significant full meaning of this commandment plays out in our lives. While this may not be a salvific issue in and of itself, I often consider that the number one issue when it comes to why people may think they are saved when in fact they may not be is their view of God.

Ask yourself these questions: When you think of God, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Who has He been to you over the years? Daddy? Friend? Helper? Disciplinary? Do you think of him as your Co-pilot? When you imagine seeing Him for the first time what is it like in your mind’s eye? Is He a big Santa Claus type that you imagine yourself crawling up into His lap and having Him hold you tight?

Everyone has a different “picture” of who God is and what He looks like. Naturally they are based on who we are and what we have learned and experienced God to be. Interestingly enough our views are not right at all. They are offensively wrong. Consider this: if you asked me to show you a picture of my husband and I showed you a picture of a snail, you might laugh or think I was nuts. What if I was serious and said to you “Isn’t he the most gorgeous man on the planet?” You might start to feel sad for me. You might pity me. But more importantly it would be an offense to my actual husband. He would surely ask me to stop representing him in that way.

This is how it is to God when we conjure up images in our mind of what God looks like. When we see him for the first time we won’t be cuddling in his lap, we will assuredly be in shock and awe at how wrong we were and we will forever be amazed at the glory that is his alone. Consider that the homecoming you have imagined will more likely start with your body swiftly slamming to the ground with your face firmly planted as low as you can get in the presence of your Maker as a form of humble worship so humiliating that we will only but desire to worship and adore him like never before. Oh the day! As you study the Bible and learn of any account where a human sees God, or fully sees the Deity of Jesus, you see statements such as “I am ruined.” or “Woe to me!” or “Depart from me, I am not worthy!”

All of these statements used to utterly confuse me. Why were they so ruined? Because in the presence of a holy God their wretchedness was made fully and overwhelmingly crystal clear. They understood, at that moment, that they were wrong, dead wrong, in there original assessment of who God was. In his excellent work “Knowing God” J. I. Packer states, “We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him.” With that in mind, we may then conclude that it could be salvific. If our view of God is so low then we may be worshiping something fully and wholly NOT God at all.

After all, in the second part of the second commandment God states, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” That is a very harsh reality and one I would surmise is not something he is saying about those whom are saved. The last part of that sentence is: “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As Christians we consider us to be part of that last part and not the former.

When you fall in love with someone the very first desire we all have is to find out everything we can about that person. We want to know their soul. We want to know their passion. We even want to know their mundanity. Every little thing, no matter how frivolous it may be. If you consider yourself a Christian but perhaps find yourself not knowing that much about God, I encourage you to start your study today. Research his attributes. Discover who He is based on what He has revealed to us and not what you feel He is like based on your own ideas. Search Him out and if it is at all possible that you are not saved then perhaps in your study of God and the heightening of your view of Him, He may be gracious and merciful to you by drawing you closer to Him and bless you with an unquenchable thirst to know everything you can about Him as he has revealed in the Scriptures.

“a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.” ~ John Calvin in his Commentaries of Exodus 20

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11:11 IMHO

God is a God of numbers. He created them. They are purposeful. Do you ever find yourself looking at the clock and it is exactly 11:11? It happens to me all the time. In fact, there is a whole group of people out there who have tried to determine the meaning of this odd yet widespread phenomenon. Here is my take on it.
Numbers have significant meaning all over the Bible. A few that I am sure you will understand are the following: 40, 7, 666, 1000. These are just several of the many numeric symbols that are found throughout Scripture. The number 1 relates to God is One. The number 11 or 11:11 is not something that is referenced in Scripture, so here is where I am purely speculating, so please indulge me in this little slice of “smile time.” For me, whenever I see the clock and it reads 1:11 or 11:11 my heart smiles, I smile. If anyone is near my I scream “Eleven eleven! Eleven eleven!” Most people think I am nuts but I love it. Why? Because all I see is God. For that brief moment, God reminds me to look up. I see those little numbers as little arrows all pointing up. I see those little number 1’s all in a row as God’s army and am reminded of my purpose on this earth. I see the number 1 and remember this world and our existence is not about me but is fully and completely about the 1 who died for us. Jesus. I see those 1’s and am reminded that God is ONE. The Alpha and Omega. God IS. So, the next time you look at your clock and see those numbers, take a moment to praise God for his perfect timing and his grace and mercy on you. I view it as a God “wink” telling me I am on track. It is like when I wink at my kid as a private visual “hug” so he knows I am watching him. He loves that. I love it too when my amazingly powerful and all-knowing Dad gives me this little smile from Heaven.
Cheers!

Fruit Audit ~ No Other Gods (Understanding the First Commandment)

The 10 Commandments are the foundation of God’s Law. We can rattle off about 4 or maybe 5 that we know by heart like, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, but beyond those your mind may get a little fuzzy. Do you know the first one? Many people say it is “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is what Jesus said was the most important commandment of all so it makes sense we would think that is the first commandment, however, the first commandment is that you would have no other gods before God himself. At first look they seem different, but in fact, they are the same. Let’s take a look at those verses in the Bible.

Exodus 20:3 is the actual first Commandment and it reads, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The first part of that passage, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the essence of the first Commandment. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 when he answers the scribes question in Mark 12:28-30. It reads, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” If you love the One True God in this way, there is no room for any other gods.

How do these verses apply to us today? We are a God-fearing Nation, are we not? We think to ourselves, “Of course I don’t put any gods before God.” I thought that God was my only god when in fact I was simply deceived into thinking that was true. To paraphrase my pastor, he says that Satan’s best work is not through people who devil worship or those we think of as satanic, but that his best work is done through people who have a Bible in their hands. Think about who Satan is. If you had 6,000 years to perfect the art of anything, you’d probably be a master at your craft. Satan’s craft is deception and you better believe he is a master at his craft. 1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I’ve heard people say they don’t like to think about Satan and they don’t want to give him any credit. I fear that is a fatal flaw in their thinking. We are told to be watchful and sober-minded. We need to be aware of our enemy so we are not deceived. If you know what your opponent’s game plan is you will have a greater ability to defend yourself. How, then, do you know if you are being deceived? How would this apply to “bearing good fruit in keeping with salvation”? When you consider your opponent in any situation you always try to think “what would be the best way they could win?” and then you would use that against them. Usually we think of the most obvious game plans, but often it is the most insidious.

Satan may consider, “How can I get droves and droves of people to believe they are saved, give them a false sense of security, and then send them all straight to Hell?” I think his best platform is taking the 10 Commandments and getting people to generally think they are “good people” and that they love “God.” He would take the definition of God and he would lower people’s view of God himself through a faulty definition. He would slowly but surely take the human-valued perceived understanding of holiness away from God. He would take our basic human nature, our selfish nature, our sin nature, and feed it with pride. He would take the God of our youth and subtly, systematically, and systemically take God off of the alter on our heart and allow us with all grandeur to firmly replace Him with ourselves.

It is not about other “gods” like tiki gods or worshiping little statues. For people who identify with Christ, those who call themselves Christian, it is about getting them to worship themselves. We worship ourselves by doing things on our own. We worship ourselves by thinking our accomplishments are our own. We worship ourselves by pridefully thinking we are somehow entitled to life and everything in it. Our selfish prideful entitlement is our god. How do you then use this as a litmus test for our salvation? How can you tell if you are not obeying the first Commandment to have no other gods before God alone? Simply look at your life. Jesus gives us some obvious clues when he said we need to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

What does your life look like? How much do you love God? Do you love Him with ALL your heart, or just on Sunday from 9-10am? Do you love Him with ALL your soul, or only when you are hurting and crying out in prayer for his deliverance? Do you love Him with ALL your mind, or only for the few minutes a day you devote to reading the Bible, if you even do that every day? Do you love Him with ALL your strength, or just when it is convenient for you. I know this is a high bar but it is what it means to be a true follower of Christ. I’m not saying you must be perfect all the time. We all mess up and often find ourselves quite a bit below the bar. That is why salvation is an act of grace. A gift that is received at once. Our sanctification is a life-long process. We are asked to be holy yet we are sinful. While we cannot work our way to heaven we can see with clarity the natural outpouring of our spirit’s desire to love God in this way. Our hearts can attest to its truth while our minds try to trip us up. “It is unattainable” the Great Deceiver tells us. Satan has watered down over the decades the idea, reality, truth, and fact that loving God in that way and with that intensity is what is needed in order to be called a true Christian. The first Commandment is something to be highly considered when you work out your salvation with fear and trembling.