Who Is Your Idol?
Good evening. This evening I would like to continue with a little more from the book of Amos. Last time we looked at the nations around Israel, their neighbors, and we saw that they were continuing in the lack of moral guidance and lack of God in their lives.
Remember that at this time the people had separated into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. This evening we will be looking at Judah, the southern kingdom, in Amos 2:4–5 – “4. Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. their lies lead them astray, lies after which their fathers walked. 5. but I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.''”.
Amos starts with the “oracle” against the southern kingdom of Judah.
I heard a story from a preacher in England once about a Sunday school teacher that was about to retire. She came to teach her class and offered everyone in the class either £20 or an old and tatty Bible. All but one child selected the crisp £20 note. One girl said “can I have the Bible please.” When the child sat down, and opened up the worn Bible she discovered that the Bible had a £5 note in between every page.
So many people choose things based on their face value. In the material world these objects and possessions as well as many temporary pleasures have become much more important to them than God and His word, haven’t they? Let us ask ourselves, “Who’s our idol?”
I. Last time, we looked at the pattern of Amos’ rebuke and this pattern continues in Amos 2:4–5. The message is starting to get closer to home. Amos’ sermon is still to the people of Israel and Amos is now referring to his own nation of Judah, who was another enemy of Israel at the time.
A. Let us see what it says in Amos 2:4 – “Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. their lies lead them astray, lies after which their fathers walked.”
B. We’ll break this down. Remember last week that Amos starts out with: This is what the Lord says. These are the words of God, not of Amos. Then he continues. For three sins of Judah, even for four, the people of Judah were sinning time and time again. Then we see this: I will not relent. God is going to punish these people for continuing in their sinful ways.
C. We read that they have rejected the law of the Lord and are not keeping His decrees. Many of their people had been led astray by the false gods and idols that their ancestors had followed. We see the sin Judah had fallen into and the reason that God was going to punish them. As a people Judah was struggling to follow God and keep his commandments because many of the people had been led astray by false Gods and idols. Their ancestors had also idolized these gods.
II. Let’s take a quick look at how they got there and what ‘law’ they had rejected. Deuteronomy 5:1 “Moses called all Israel, and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them.’ In Exodus, God gave the people of Israel, through Moses, laws and decree’s that were to be followed. Moses then reminds the people of Israel of these Ten Commandments.
A. In Deuteronomy 5:7–8, it says, “7. You shall have no other gods before Me. 8. 'You shall not make for yourself any 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;” These are the laws that the people of Judah had rejected and were no longer following. They put other gods or idols before God and these idols were manmade images.
B. In I Kings 9:6–7 we read, “6. But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7. "then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” God was warning King Solomon not to get involved with foreign people because of their ungodly practices.
C. As we know even though God warned Solomon, he was led astray. In I Kings 11:4, it says, “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” Solomon’s heart was towards these women and they led him astray.
D. At that time Judah was part of God’s chosen people, but during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, Judah had rejected God. Rehoboam followed in his father’s lustful footsteps and his arrogance led to Israel dividing into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
E. Then Rehoboam let the Judean people erect pagan places of worship and pagan alters all around their land. Judah’s leaders had fallen into other methods of worship and faith. They became more interested in putting their trust and faith into many false gods.
F. In the years leading up to the time of Amos’ ministry, many Kings of Judah weren’t pleasing in the Lord’s eyes, but some Kings were. In Amos 1:1 it mentions Amos’ ministry was during King Uzziah’s reign in Judah.
G. In 2 Kings 15:1–4 – Uzziah or as some translations say Azariah, is mentioned. “1. In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king. 2. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. 3. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done, 4. except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
H. Uzziah was a King that was right in the Lord’s eyes, but he still failed to get rid of the pagan places of worship. Idolatry continued and became a massive problem in Judah.
III. What were these idols and other gods? Some people made figurines and statues from wood, bronze, silver or gold. Isaiah 44:14-17 says, “14. He hews down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. he plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. 15. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. 16. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. he even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.'' 17. And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. he falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god.” Some people were worshipping false gods such as Baal and Molech.
A. Jeremiah 32:35 “And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
B. Dagon is also mentioned in Judges 16:23 “Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said: "Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!” We all remember that story, I’m sure.
C. Many people still struggled with idols and false gods not just in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament. Hermes and Zeus were two of them. In Acts 14 the people thought Paul and Barnabas were those gods. In Acts 17, the men in Athens had alters for many gods including one to an unknown god, just in case they had missed one.
D. Idolatry was a big issue back then, and I believe idolatry is a big issue today. No, they didn’t have cars, the internet or even Google back then. They were worshipping lifeless statues of people, false gods and animals. I think it’s interesting that most people today put their trust and faith into things that cannot be taken with us into the next life. We so often put our hopes in people and or temporary things that in the end let us down.
IV. When anything takes the place of Jesus in our lives the focus goes to that thing...and off of Jesus. When that thing takes the throne, we are guilty of idol worship. Let us look at some of today’s idols. Certainly popular T.V. programs can be. People follow a program quite religiously and watch every single episode from the audition stages all the way through to the finals and those shows become the most talked about topics on Monday morning at the work place.
A. The American Idol show was one such phenomenon recently and it led to the rise of big names such as Kelly Clarkson, JLS, One Direction and Leona Lewis. They won’t be here in 10 years time. They’re definitely not coming with me to the grave.
B. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with watching that show, but what happens when it becomes the most important thing in our life? Are we putting everything else on hold to make sure we don’t miss an episode? If this sounds like us, let’s ask ourselves this question, “Does God get this much dedication from us?”
C. Paul says in Romans 12:1–2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In other words we need to be dedicated to serving and pleasing God. We can’t be following things like NCIS or anything else religiously. We need to save this sort of dedication and commitment for serving the LORD.
D. Another area where we need to be careful of idol worship is sports. Professional football is the most popular sport across the world in its various forms. There are more professional and semiprofessional football teams across the world than all the other sports leagues combined. That’s a fascinating fact. The media plays a huge part in the marketing of football, and its top stars. It is no surprise that many boys will grow up with the dream and desire to play professional football. This has led also to a fanatical following of the teams and players.
E. In fact, watching the people at games and tailgate parties makes me think this closely resembles the old days of Scotland and its various clans or families. I’m sure we know a little bit about Scot folk lore. The people within the clans sported their family tartan to show where their loyalties lie. You might not know this, but different tartans have different patterns. They are showing off their family colors just like football fans and are very passionate about the colors they wear and the team or clan it represents.
F. Paul says in Ephesians 4:20–24 – “20. But you have not so learned Christ, 21. if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22. that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24. and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.”. Paul say’s “put on your new self”. We are now part of Team Jesus.
V. Are we willing to show people our devotion and allegiance to God? As in all walks of life, sports has its many heroes and its many villains. The majority of the time it is usually the same person, doing amazing things one minute and the next they are making a fool of themselves, but yet, so many people worship the ground that these people walk or run on.
A. For example, OJ. He was a very successful running back for 11 seasons. Then he became a broadcaster, actor, advertizing spokesman, convicted armed robber and kidnapper.
B. It’s not just in football, but in all sports and entertainment. People take advantage of their position of ambassadorship. I pray that professionals realize the privilege of the position they are in. Many people, especially the young look up to these professionals, and I believe they should be setting a better example then they often do.
C. That brings me to wonder, as Christians and ambassadors for Christ, are we setting a good example for the people that are watching us? Let us draw on Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi again. Philippians 1:27 – “Whatever happens, (I’m paraphrasing) conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence I will know that you stand firm in your faith of the gospel.” Paul tells us to conduct ourselves in a way that reflects Jesus Christ in our lives so that when people see us they know we are followers of Christ. It isn’t for our benefit but it’s actually for theirs. Don’t look to receive the blessings. Look to be a blessing in other people’s lives. Isn’t that really the story of Jesus?
D. There are so many other idols in the world we live in, such as: - Idol’s and Diva’s we called them heart throbs. We’ve got Dwayne Johnson, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, and Emma Stone to name a few. Want these as your idol? Just don’t look too close.
E. What about music? Many types of music promote anger, depression, pride and self-justification through the lyrics of the songs. Many different types of idols here.
F. What about Facebook and the internet? The youth of today seem to be addicted to the internet, to social networking and gaming. Materialism; Cars, Money and jobs; Possessions – Gadgets and technology, Phones. Addictions - Drugs, alcohol, pornography.
VI. Now here is a tough one. What about family? A person asked the question: Can a person’s family become an idol? I have seen examples where the family is king. Even when people do not like their families, they are still king! Blood ties are strong and for some people Christian relationships will always play “second fiddle” to the natural relationships regardless of whether or not the natural relationships are regenerate or unregenerate.
A. The answer to that question must start with the knowledge we can make idols out of anything. Men can idolize women. Women can idolize men. A single person can idolize marriage. A teenager can idolize the cool group at school. There is nothing known to man that we can’t turn into an idol. We turn love into lust. We turn hunger into gluttony. We take words and use them sinfully.
B. Nothing is safe. We can use anything sinfully. A person’s family is no exception. Our hearts are idol factories. We are tenaciously loyal to ourselves and without the protective care of others... the chain-breaking power of the Spirit... the clarity from the Word of God... and the sovereign providence of the Lord... we’re all vulnerable to our sinful desires. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
C. Every Christian needs to think about this. Christianity is not eclectic in nature where we can pick and choose what areas we want to give to God. He is Lord over all. Let’s take a look at the question about family becoming an idol in light of what scripture says.
1. Matthew 12:48-50 – “48. But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'' 49. And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! 50. "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
2. Luke 14:26-27 – 26. If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
3. Matthew 10:34-37 – “34. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35. "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.' 36. "And 'a man's foes will be those of his own household.' 37. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
D. Now these are not easy passages and could be confusing or considered uncharitable to the unbiblical mind. If they are not correctly applied a person could easily conclude: “Your family is king regardless of their faith commitments”, or “You un-love your family regardless of their faith commitments”.
E. Neither is biblically correct. Let’s think about this. In Luke 14:26 Jesus was using hyperbolic language and we know this because the Bible does not contradict itself, and God does not teach us to hate our fathers and mothers. Quite the opposite. Jesus is teaching us where we should place the relative “weight”. For example, a driver says; “He passed me like I was sitting still” does not mean the driver was actually sitting still. It is a hyperbolic expression for conveying how fast the other car was going.
F. I will admit this is a very tough question. If we were to ask, “Who do we love the most?” “Will it be Christ and His body or will it be the unregenerate world, even if some of our family members are part of the unregenerate world?” What would we answer?
G. There is no doubt some people do not have a biblical worldview on the family. For some, the family will trump regardless. They do not divide relationships between those who do God’s will and those who don’t do God’s will–the saved and the lost. They divide between who is in the biological family and who is not. They are wrong, and cannot support their view by the Word of God. It’s impossible.
H. If we were to look closely at this idol of family we would see that, as with all idols, there is something more rebellious in play here. 1 Samuel 8:7 – “And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” Rejecting God is the real problem when people prioritize relationships between biological and non-biological rather than regenerate and non-regenerate. When the biological family becomes king the real issue is people are acting out of ignorance, rebellion, or both.
I. For us to avoid creating this particular idol, God calls us, as He called Samuel, to keep plowing the furrow He has called us to plow. We are not to jump in the ditch of making the family king regardless of their faith commitments, and are not to jump in the ditch of not loving our unregenerate family members. Continue to live in the middle. Love those who will allow you to love them, but be clear without being rude regarding your own faith commitments. This kind of “love” should not be hard to do.
VII. Which one of these things mentioned might be our idols? Amos 2:4 says “Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. their lies lead them astray, lies after which their fathers walked.”
A. Have we been led astray by these many things? Because God wants us to be committed and devoted to Him. I remember at a fairly young age, just after I was married, when I bought a 1968 Dodge Monaco 500—beautiful car. I was so excited because this was my first purchase of a NEW car. I idolized that car. I cherished that car because of its looks, its comfort, and its power. It had all that we needed as a young family.
B. I remember when I was in my teens, and my grandfather gave me his 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe. Good solid first car but, of course, I wanted to be cool. So I spent a lot of time on the car. I even bartered down at Cotton’s Garage in Russell for a 392 Hemi engine out of a wrecked Imperial. So many things make us so cool, don’t they?
C. I mention this because material things, just as people, places, and activities can end up consuming us to the point to where everything else becomes secondary. We so frequently rise up and hold these many idols with such high regard... but these idols can’t give us eternal life.
D. How we gain eternal life Jesus tells us in John 3:14-15 “14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15. "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”. Without fault or blame, Jesus shed His blood for us, only Jesus deserves to be put on a pedestal so high up. When Jesus was lifted up onto the cross at Calvary, God had put Jesus on a pedestal to remind us of what He has done for us. Jesus should be the only thing we hold in high regard.
E. Jesus continues in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We do not want to be like the people of Judah. Let us remember who God is and what He has done for us. Let us be like Joshua and choose to serve God. Joshua 24:14–15 – “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15. "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
F. We cannot serve the LORD, our God, when the devotion of our heart is on these many things that surround us. If Joshua were saying this today he would say; we are surrounded by idols, some are pretty, some are tempting and some seem miraculous. Look I understand that serving the LORD may be hard work or even challenging, so you carry on doing what you want, but me and my family will worship God.
VIII. I believe we need to ask this of ourselves, who are we going to serve today? Are we going to serve God or idols? Because if it is God we choose, we need to put away these idols. Put things that distract us from God in their proper place.
A. Joshua 24:19–20 – “Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” While these idols are in our hearts, we are incapable of serving God.
B. Joshua goes on in Joshua 24:21-22 – “And the people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord!'' 22. So Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.'' And they said, "We are witnesses.” I’m sure that is the same way most of us answered when I asked “Who are we going to serve?” The answer was God. Let us put in our minds that just like when Joshua stood before the nation of Israel, we here at the church of Christ in Chardon, have all been witnesses against ourselves today because we have also chosen God.
C. Joshua then goes on to say in Joshua 24:23 “Now then,” “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” Joshua is telling us that we need to get rid of these many things in our lives and turn our hearts and devotion to God.
It’s not just worshipping idols. If we go on in Amos we will find there are other things the people were guilty of. In the New Testament Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:3–5 – “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4. neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”,
Paul warns us that immoral, impure and greedy people are also idolaters and such people are not fit to enter the kingdom of Christ and God.
Are we prepared to get rid of all these things from our lives? Idols are all the things that hinder our relationship with God. Are we prepared to call them what they are and discard them in favor of our Lord?
Because Amos tells us what will happen if we don’t in Amos 2:5 – “I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.”
Amos is telling us that if we continue to put these many things before God, He is going to judge and He will punish us. Keep away from these many things that distract us from God. Be careful of what and who we’re following. Keep worldly things in the proper perspective. Don’t fall away to devoting our life to the temporary pleasures of this world. Let me challenge us today to get rid of these many false gods and keep our devotion elementary and strong for the LORD.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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