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Thursday, March 10, 2011

False Gods

When I first really gave my life to Jesus Christ, I began to read my Bible earnestly. I mean I read it daily, and spent time seeking understanding of its truths. I'll confess that I found the most relevance in the New Testament. I'd occasionally make a visit to the books Psalm or Proverbs. But for the most part, that was the extent of my interest in the Bible.

A few years ago, I started to intentionally spend a bit more time in the Old Testament. As I went, I began to see some fascinating truths. It seemed that the true nature and character of God were being revealed me in so many new ways. Even today, I believe the Old Testament is probably the best place to get to know who God really is ... and has always been (since He never changes).

It's been said that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I'm finding real tangible evidence of that simple truth as I read the Old Testament. Seriously, I've probably been spending most of my daily Bible time in the Old Testament now for a few years. And it's fascinating the connections that I find between ancient history and modern times. It's also been said that things don't really change that much over time. I'm discovering evidence that would indicate this is especially true when it comes to the human race.

When you read through the Old Testament you find that the Israelites ... God's chosen people ... had a recurring problem with false gods. They encounter the one true God. He would reveal Himself to them in magnificent ways - often accompanied by some incredible miracles. They would of course fall on their knees, worship Him, commit themselves to Him, etc. But over time, they drift off to their own versions of God or just abandon Him altogether and go worship someone or something else.

This pattern was repeated time and time again. Real God. False gods. Real God. False gods. It was like some cycle that they were doomed to repeat. Now the thing is, I'm finding incredible relevance between that pattern and what happens in modern American culture.

Since the time of Abraham, there's been Judao-Christian religious movement. Unfortunately, it has spawned a plethora of religions and even denominations within religions. But just as unfortunate is what they've done. A surprising number of them have ended up worshipping false gods. Seriously.

They start with the one true God who revealed Himself to Abraham. But then they add to Him or subtract from Him. What's left is not who God is. Nevertheless, it's the god they're now worshipping. So they think they're still worshipping the one true God. They don't even know that they've abandoned that God in favor of another god that they apparently find more suitable.

So how does this happen? Recently someone asked me if a Baptist could be equally yoked in a marriage to a Jehovah's Witness. Now I know the Jehovah's Witnesses are the religion that Americans like to make light of. Many of us have chuckled at a Jehovah's Witness joke ... usually about what we find to be their annoying method of door-to-door evangelism. But they say they believe in God and in Jesus. Let's consider then what it is that they believe about God and Jesus.

Jehovah's Witnesses have religious beliefs that are in many ways similar to other Protestant religions. They believe, for example, in the authority of the Bible. They trust in Jesus' death and resurrection for their salvation. But the similarities probably end there. For example, even though they believe the same things about the Bible that the rest of us believe, Jehovah's Witnesses have their own translation of it ... the "New World Translation." (I've never read it, so can't say what's different about it.)

The Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. They point to the fact that the Bible never actually uses the word Trinity. But they ignore the fact that Jesus said He is God and Jesus said the Holy Spirit is God. So this is a God who reveals Himself to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with distinct personal attributes - but without division of nature, essence or being. It became known as the trinity ... three in one. But the Witnesses don't accept that.

Interestingly enough, the Witnesses accept Jesus death for their salvation, but they don't believe He is God. Instead, they say He is God's "first creation" - as opposed to being the Creator. Now think about that for a minute. They are taking the definition of God as He has revealed Himself to mankind ... and they are subtracting certain aspects from it. The result is not the God who is. They end up worshipping a false god --- a god who isn't.

But let's not blame Jehovah's witnesses. They aren't alone. Islam believes that Jesus was a prophet --- and not the Messiah. Jews believe the Messiah is yet to come. They're all subtracting from the true definition of who God is. Then too we have the Catholics, who add to the definition of God. Catholics, for instance, give deity to the Virgin Mary and to dead people whom they determine post mortem to be saints. That is not who God is. So they end up worshipping a false god --- a god who isn't.

These are all monotheistic faiths who trace their origins to Abraham. But even though monotheistic faiths believe in only one god --- we can see that they are not all believing in the same god. And there are many other differences in what they believe - which end up being perversions of what's actually true. Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe that hell exists, for example. Catholics believe there's another spiritual place --- besides heaven and hell.

So the key thing here is that Jehovah's Witnesses, along with Jews, Muslims, and even Catholics refuse to accept the one true definition of who God is. Let's be clear here. God defined Himself when He revealed Himself. And He continues to do so today. So if any religion adds or subtracts from that definition ... this one true God is not who they're worshipping. They're worshipping false gods - and they don't even know it.

It would appear that history does tend to repeat itself. More importantly it appears that if modern day Christians are ignorant of the patterns of behavior that the ancient Israelites displayed in worshipping God or false gods, we are doomed to repeat their same mistakes.

So, who is the God that you're worshipping today? For you see, it isn't enough to believe in God or even worship God. It matters very much how we define him. It matters very much that we get God right.

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