A Worldview Shift

I haven’t blogged much over the last couple of years, partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been reevaluating why I believe much of what I believe, and as a result, there’s been a shift in my thinking.

 

My foundational axioms haven’t changed.  They never will.

 

What’s changed is how I apply those beliefs, especially to the realm of politics.

 

I came to faith in Jesus Christ in 1979, as a college freshman.  A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President.  Since that time, I’ve been a political conservative – pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, pro traditional marriage, against illegal immigration, pro fiscal conservatism, and so forth.  Although my views on these issues haven’t completely changed, my view on the importance of these issues has shifted.

 

There have been many things that have triggered this shift in my thinking, but the two that stand out are my trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the election of Donald Trump.

 

In Pine Ridge, I have seen entire communities living in poverty, in the middle of the richest nation in the world.  I have gotten to know the Lakota people, and they defy the stereotypes portrayed by both the left and the right.  For generations, they’ve been used, lied to, abused, stolen from, and abandoned by the government.  The politicians on the left make all sorts of promises they never keep.  The politicians on the right vilify them then ignore them.  The Lakota people live in poverty, not by choice, but because the government has imposed it on them.  The addictions and suicides on the reservation are because they have no hope.  They desperately need Jesus, but most don’t want anything to do with Him, because churches were used by the government to murder them, steal their children, and destroy their culture.  I realized that, on Pine Ridge, the government is the problem, not the solution.

 

The support of evangelical Christians for Donald Trump has mystified me.  Trump makes blasphemous statements.  He is a pervert.  He’s a blatant liar and adulterer.  He is greedy.  He is a racist and a misogynist.  He is divisive.  His character is everything the Bible calls sin, yet most evangelicals continue to think he is a great man.   This completely baffled me, until I came to a realization:  American Evangelicalism has fallen into idolatry. It has become a political movement rather than an evangelistic movement.  Although they give Jesus Christ lip service, most prominent evangelical leaders have put their faith and trust in American conservative politics rather than in Jesus Christ.  They are more concerned with protecting the culture and their material wealth than in advancing the Gospel.

 

Confession:  I realized that politics had become an idol for me as well, and that many of my political views were unbiblical.

 

I realized that I was more concerned with what the government was doing about issues like abortion, marriage, gun rights, racism, poverty, and other issues than I was about following Jesus and sharing the Gospel.  I also realized this had to change.

 

My latest epiphany is that it is it is completely unbiblical to expect the culture to accept godly values and practices.  Most people in the United States are not followers of Jesus Christ.  They are unregenerate sinners, separated from God, and therefore have no rational reason to accept biblical truth.   They are their own gods, deciding for themselves what they accept as truth.  Why would a person who doesn’t know Jesus Christ and doesn’t have the Holy Spirit have any reason to reject homosexuality or abortion?  Why would racism, greed, or drug use be wrong?  Truth and morality can be whatever is convenient, if a person rejects Jesus Christ and the Bible as truth.

 

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, my message to you would be to make sure your faith is firmly placed in Jesus Christ alone.  Anything else is idolatry.  Faith in the government or politicians to solve our problems is idolatry.  I have had to shift my thinking away from trying to change the culture, and instead focus on trusting Jesus to change individual people.  Abortion and homosexuality are symptoms, not the illness.  The illness is sin, and the only cure is Jesus Christ.  Donald Trump cannot save us, and Nancy Pelosi is not the enemy.  Only Jesus Christ can save us, and Satan is the enemy.

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but think God is OK with homosexuality and abortion, or greed and materialism, or any of a host of other things the Bible calls sin, then you are worshipping a fake God.  God has told us His stance on these and other issues in the Bible.  Please dig into God’s Word, and see what it actually says.  If you cannot agree with what God has told us in the Bible, then you either aren’t actually saved, or you are spiritually immature and need to grow up.  Jesus Christ isn’t a liberal or a conservative.  He is God.

 

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t really expect you to agree with what the Bible teaches about abortion, sexuality, materialism, or anything else.  You’re simply going to decide for yourself what you want to believe.  But, please know this:  God will hold you accountable for your every thought and action, whether you believe it, or not.  All of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, are guilty of sin before a holy God, and deserve the punishment of Hell.  Only by turning to Jesus Christ and receiving forgiveness through His death, burial, and resurrection can we escape the fires of Hell.  Only by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit can we understand the truth and be changed into the person God created us to be.  It’s not about being a good person, with the good hopefully outweighing the bad.  It’s about the fact we cannot be good; we must rely on Jesus Christ to change us.  God loves you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer the punishment you and I deserve.  He doesn’t want your sin to send you to Hell.  He desperately wants you to deeply know His love and forgiveness.

 

Issues like stopping abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration used to be very important to me, as were protecting gun rights and religious freedom, and a host of other political issues.  What I have come to realize is that these issues cannot be solved by legislation or the courts.  In the grand scheme of eternity, our cultural and political issues are temporary, and should not be our focus.  They can only be solved by turning our nation to Jesus Christ.

America’s Blessings

Many American Christians believe the United States has been blessed because we have been a “Christian nation.”
 
Many also believe that the United States has become less Christian, and that we have begun to lose God’s blessings as a result.
 
How do most American Christians respond? By fighting to keep the blessings, rather than fighting to make America more Christian again.
 
We spend far too much time and effort fighting politically to keep the blessings. We spend far too little time and effort fighting spiritually to turn Americans’ hearts and minds back to Jesus.
 
This is idolatry.
 
And, I believe the idolatry of believers, not unbelievers, is why God is withdrawing His blessings.

You Shall Not Make For Yourself an Idol

The Ten Commandments:

  1. Golden CalfYou shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Second Commandment says:

“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. Exodus 20:4-6

What is an idol?

According to dictionary.com, an idol is:

1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
2. Bible.
a. an image of a deity other than God.
b. the deity itself.
3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.
4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.

Let us consider each of these five definitions.

  1. An image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed

The key points of the Second Commandment are that we should not 1) have images or likenesses that 2) we worship. The Second Commandment does not, as some have claimed, forbid artwork. It forbids the worship of images.

Many Christians wear crosses or have artwork depicting Jesus displayed in their homes. If one pulls Exodus 2:4 out of context, it would seem that any sort of God-themed artwork would be forbidden. However, verse 5 makes it clear that it’s not the artwork per se that is problematic, but the worship of these images.

Owning a cross or a statue of Jesus can be a wonderful reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross. However, when someone prays to the statue, or uses the cross as some sort of talisman to attempt to get closer to God, this becomes idol worship.

What about worshipping the Bible? Although the Bible is the Word of God, it’s not God. Worshipping a physical book is idolatry. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humanity – it points us to Him, but it isn’t Him. By way of analogy, this blog tells people a lot about me, about how I think and what I believe, but reading my blog isn’t the same as knowing me. Similarly, the Bible tells us about the One who wants us to know Him in an intimate, personal manner. Don’t worship the Bible – worship the One who gave it to us.

  1. An image of a deity other than God, or the deity itself.

Here, we’re no longer talking about crosses or paintings of Jesus, but of objects representing other so-called gods. Whether it’s a golden calf or a statue of the Buddha, the worship of any object representing any god other than the God of the Bible is forbidden. It doesn’t matter if one believes the object itself is a god, or just represents a god, any worship of or through an object is sin. There is only one true God – the God of the Old and New Testaments. The worship of any other so-called god takes away from our ability to have a relationship with the true God, and thus is sin.

  1. Any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion

American IdolIn modern America, few of us worship actual objects, per se. However, how many of us worship other people? Many people derive meaning and purpose for their lives from the teachings of the Pope, Billy Graham, Darwin, Barack Obama, Joel Osteen, the Dali Lama, or a host of other people. This is idolatry. When we put our faith and trust in anyone other than Jesus Christ, we violate the Second Commandment.

There are many Christian teachers whom I respect and from whom I learn a great deal. However, it is critical that I take whatever they say and compare it with God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. I am never to take what mere man says as infallible. To do so becomes idolatry.

  1. A mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

The worship of spirits, angels, demons, ghosts, and the like is clearly forbidden throughout the Bible. Ancestor worship, the occult, New Age practices, and so forth all fall under this category. There are numerous passages throughout both the Old and New Testaments that clearly forbid such practices.

  1. A figment of the mind; fantasy.

SexDrugsRockNRollThis one is interesting. How many people worship a false Jesus? Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims believe in a Jesus that was just a mere man, not God in the flesh. They deny the true nature of Jesus – they hold to a fantasy Jesus.

What about people who see Jesus as only loving? A Jesus that would never allow anyone to go to Hell? Or, a Jesus that picks and chooses who He will save, and who He will not, never giving some the opportunity to be saved? Both of these views deny the true nature of Jesus as revealed in the Bible. Both views are figments of man’s imagination. Both views are idolatry. Both incorporate certain aspects of God’s true nature, but deny other aspects. To worship man-made God who ignores sin is idolatry, as is worshipping a man-made God who only loves some people, but not others.

Can anyone follow the Second Commandment?

Ultimately, the answer is no, we cannot. We all get meaning and purpose from people and things other than God. Due to the limitations of our finite minds, none of us can truly understand the fullness of the nature of God, so we all worship something less than the actual God. At times, we all put other things before our worship of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We all fall short of following the Second Commandment perfectly.

Thankfully, despite our sin and idolatry, we can still be saved. If we repent of our idolatry and other sin, and place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” We need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ alone can forgive our sins and restore our relationship with God the Father. Any other worship is idolatry.