Greg Laurie - No Other Gods
Well, why don't you all grab your Bibles or your phones or your tablets or whatever you access Scripture on, and turn in it to Exodus chapter 20. The title of my message today is "No Other Gods". Let me begin with a question: Are you a happy person? Some of you are. Very good, excellent. But maybe there's someone listening to me right now that, basically, has everything they should have in life to theoretically make them happy, but yet they don't find themself in that state. Why is that? Because there's a right and a wrong way to find happiness. Because there are two ways that we can live: there's a right way and there's a wrong way.
There are two paths that we can take in life: the broad path that leads to destruction and the narrow path that leads to life. There's two foundations you can build your life on: the rock or the sinking sand, and the result is we'll either live the happy and holy way or the miserable and unholy way. And I bring this up because some people have a false idea of what it means to be a Christian. Sort of a caricature. You know, it's pretty rare to find Christians portrayed on television programs or in movies in a positive light. Have you noticed that? They're usually an exaggerated version or a completely distorted version, but people sort of think of Christians as, what's the right word, lame? People that live by a lot of rules and regulations, people that don't have any fun. People that live in perpetual boredom. And I suggest to you that is completely false, and the opposite is actually the case.
Let me illustrate in the story of a boy who ran away from home. We often call it the parable of the prodigal son. You remember a father had two sons, so the younger son, loose paraphrase, said, "Dad, I'm sick of living here with you. I'm sick of the rules, the regulations, all the rest of it. I want my portion of my inheritance now". So the father gave him his inheritance, and the boy went off and lived a crazy life with hookers and drinking and all kinds of horrible decisions and then he came to his senses and realized how messed up his life was. And let me just take a little different path here for a moment. If you have a prodigal child, a son or a daughter that's gone astray, don't give up on them. Keep praying for them. They can escape your presence but they'll never escape your prayers. And both of my sons went prodigal, and they both returned to the Lord. But it took a little bit of time. And they didn't return to the Lord because I pressured them into it.
I didn't have an advantage being a preacher dad, you see? It was a decision they had to make. And so, always keep the door open to your prodigal son, no matter what they're doing. Always keep communication open with your prodigal daughter, remind them that they're loved and you would always welcome 'em back home. So, coming back to the story in Scripture. Here's the boy, he's come to the end of himself, but listen, when you get to the end of yourself, you get to the beginning of God. And he has lost everything. He's lost his money, he's lost his so-called friends who weren't friends at all. And the Bible says: "He came to himself". He came to this realization, "You know what? I had it better back at my father's house," so he returned home, and we read: "When he was still a great ways off, the father saw him and ran to him and took out a large stick and beat him over and over again," right? No, that's not in my Bible.
The father ran to him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him and hugged him and said, "Welcome home, son," and then announced, "This my son who was dead is alive again. He who was lost is found". Here's the point I wanna make. What was that boy looking for? Apparently, he wanted to wear nice clothes, apparently, he wanted to have great food, and apparently, he wanted to party. And what did he find when he came back home? Oh, what did the father say? "Put a new robe on him". Oh, he got his nice clothes. What else did he want? Nice food. "Let's have a feast". And then the father announces, "Let's have a party".
Here's my point. I'm not suggesting the Christian life is wearing clothes, eating food, and partying. I'm trying to make the point that everything the boy was looking for was found in his father's house. It was there to begin with. And everything you're looking for in life is found in your Father's house in a relationship with God. The fact is, I have more enjoyment and fulfillment in a worship service, in a Bible study, than I ever had in any party, right? Any party. So in a sense, it is a party; it's just a different definition of one. So the point here is that everything we need is in this relationship with God. Sometimes, people talk about all that they give up to follow Christ. My response is, "Seriously? You didn't really give up all that much". Paul summed it up this way in Philippians 3: "You know, everything I used to value I now see as worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ my Lord. I discarded everything else, counting it as garbage that I may have Christ".
And by the way, the word "garbage" is a very kind translation. The literal word is a word that translates to excrement. Do you know what that is? We're talking poop, people. That's your old life before you knew Christ. Paul says that's what it's like: "It's dung, it's garbage, it's junk, I don't want it anymore because I'm gonna focus my attention on following him". And listen to me, this is where you will find happiness. Now, this might surprise you. The Bible actually tells us there's happiness in keeping the commandments of God. Psalm 112:1 says: "Praise the Lord! Blessed," or happy, "is a man who fears the Lord, and delights in His commandments". It doesn't say: "Happy is a man who resists them or breaks them". No, "Happy is the man or the woman who delights in them".
So you don't just keep it; you delight in it. If you wanna be happy and holy, you must be living wholly committed to Christ. Look at that on the screen. I want you to see how it's spelled. "If you wanna be happy and holy, you must live wholly," W-H-O-L-L-Y, "committed to Christ". If you wanna be holy, live wholly committed, not halfhearted commitment. In Psalm 1 it says: "Happy is the man that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful," but listen, "his delight," his delight, he looks forward to it, "his delight is in the law of the Lord," or the Word of the Lord. "And in it does he meditate day and night".
The Ten Commandments. Why were they given? Well, first of all, they give us absolute truth to build our lives on. We can't just say, "We all make up our own morality as we go". We can't vote on this or reach consensus. We need a higher authority, and God has given this to us in what we call the Ten Commandments. But, understand, they're not there to make your life harder. They're there to make your life better. They're not the bars of a cage keeping you in; they're barriers of protection keeping evil out. And if I live by them, I'll be a happy person and I'll be a fulfilled person. But just a footnote, no one can keep these commandments in their own ability. Now, the only person who has kept all those commandments is Jesus. The rest of us, the commandments show me that I needed Jesus. They opened my eyes to my shortcomings and my sinfulness.
So let's review the first two commandments again. Exodus chapter 20. Here's commandment number one: The Lord says, "I'm the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage". Here it is: "You shall have no other gods before Me". Commandment number two: The Lord says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, of any likeness of anything that's in heaven above, or earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them". Now, why does God ask this of us? Here's the answer: "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments".
So commandment number one: "Have no other gods before him". A lot of things can become gods, with a small "g," or idols in our life. An idol is anyone or anything that takes the place of God in your life. So let me ask you this. What do you get really excited about? What gets you fired up? What are you passionate about? What do you think about the most, dream about as you fall asleep in your bed or perhaps even scheme for? What are you passionate about? That, my friend, is your god. Sometimes, we can make ourselves God. We can become God. Romans 1:26 says: "They traded the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped and served the thing created instead of the Creator himself".
I can make myself God. For some people, it's their body, it's all about the way they look. They worship at the First Church of the Perfect Physique. They're not here with us today; they're working out, and they're taking selfies while they do it, right? And if you go to their Instagram page, it's just hundreds of selfies, close-ups of them doing the trout pout. Do you know what the trout pout is? Girls seem to do this more than guys, I have to say. Come in, bring the camera in for a close-up. I have to show you. Come closer, closer, closer. A little, that's it. Here's trout pout. You hold your...now, you do this... Girls, it doesn't look good. Stop it. Guys don't like it. And guys, if you ever do it, we have to have a talk. People die to take selfies.
I read the other day that 250 people have died in the last few years taking selfies in dangerous places, like at the edge of a cliff, like, "Oh, oh, here's 500 feet. This is a great place for a shot, here, here". Like, what are you doing? Don't do that. But they're all about themself. They are their own god. For others, it might be an object. Maybe you drive your idol. Yeah, this is it. You get out of the car, beep, turn on the alarm, kind of walk away... Oh, wait, what's going on? Yeah. Somebody dings your door, you freak out. For another person, it can be an object. "Oh, if I just win this object, this medal". Gold medal, object, career, house, whatever it is you wanna put there, that can become a god in your life.
Listen to this: idols are not always evil outright. The most dangerous idols are good things that are twisted. Things that are not bad in and of themselves but we make them more important than the Lord himself. And why is it that we should not have any other gods? "Because our God is a jealous God," Exodus 24. That doesn't mean God's insecure. Actually, the fact that he's jealous speaks of how much he loves you. He has this commitment he's made to you, and he expects you to honor the commitment you've made to him. And the Lord doesn't wanna share you with another. God wants an exclusive relationship with you. Is that not reasonable? And that brings us to the second commandment: "You shall have no other graven or have no graven images," verse 4, "or likeness of anything in heaven above, or in earth beneath".
You think, "Well, how could this happen"? Well, let's talk about when it did happen, back in the days of Moses and the Israelites. So Moses was a great man of God, wasn't he? Wasn't a flawless man or a perfect man, as we'll see later. But he was described as Moses, the man of God. Man, I can't think of a higher compliment to be given to a person than for someone to say, "You know what? That person is a man of God. That woman, she's a woman of God". Moses was the man of God. And through his influence, his godly influence, and his personal integrity, he effectively kept 2 to 3 million people from turning to full-tilt idolatry. You know, integrity is so important.
I read an article in "Forbes Magazine" and the statement was made, quote, "Success will come and go, but integrity is forever". The article went on to point out that building integrity takes years and it takes only seconds to lose. What's integrity? It's what you are in the dark. It's what you are when no one is watching. It's honesty. Moses was a godly man, full of integrity, and the reason I say this is the moment he left the scene, all hell broke loose. And he was summoned by the Lord up to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments, and he left Aaron in charge, his brother, which was a big mistake.
So while Moses is gone, the people come to Aaron and in Exodus 32 we read: "The people said to Aaron, 'How long is it gonna take Moses to come back down from the mountain?'" Then they said to Aaron, "C'mon, make us some gods that can lead us. We don't know," excuse me, "what happened to this fellow, Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt". They're basically saying to Aaron, "You know what? We don't know where Moses is. We need something tangible we can worship right here right now". So, Aaron, instead of discouraging this, says, "All right, bring all your bling to me right now. All your rings, your earrings, everything, all your jewelry". And he melted it down and he put it in the shape of a golden calf. Now that makes no sense to us today, "golden calf".
Well, they worshiped those back in Egypt. They had lots of gods. So, sort of brought an Egyptian god, and then Aaron boldly announces, "This is the god that brought you out of Egypt". And so, they stripped off their clothes. And some translations of the words that are used would imply there was an orgy and they danced before the golden calf. See, they made an idol out of Moses and we can do the same thing. We can make an idol out of a person. You know, sometimes, we put people on these pedestals and we expect them to walk on water. And when we discover they have feet of clay like we do, we're devastated and we say, "I don't even know if I wanna be a Christian anymore". Hey, grow up. Grow up. You can look up to people, but don't put them on pedestals and make gods out of them. They're flawed, just like you are.
These people made Moses into a god, so when their "god" left the scene, "We need another god. Golden calf will do just fine". And that's what they ended up worshiping. So here comes Moses now, descending from Mount Sinai, imagine, holding the Ten Commandments. And what does he see? He sees the Israelites breaking the first two commandments, actually, probably more than the first two. But at least the first two. False gods, worshiping this thing. He demands an explanation from Aaron. Aaron says, "I know this looks bad. I know what you're thinking. We're naked in front of a false god, dancing, but I can explain everything". And then he offers an excuse that should be in the Excuse Hall of Fame. He actually says, "I'll tell you what, Moses what happened was the people brought their gold. We threw it into the fire, and this gold calf came out so what else could we do but have an orgy"?
Well, he's lying. That's not what happened at all. And of course, this was a very clear illustration of what happens when we put something in the place of God. And they broke the commandments of God. God has given us these standards for our own good. Years ago, I was on a cruise, leading a tour, so we went to Israel and we went to Ephesus which is in modern-day Turkey. And that made me hungry, even, Turkey. No, the city's amazing, Ephesus, because you can visit it and it looks very much like it did in biblical times and you think, wow, the apostle Paul was here and preached here so they have an arena, a stadium, you can go in today that's the same one that was there when Paul went there and preached.
Well, in Ephesus they worshipped the goddess Diana, also called Artemis. It was a feminine deity, sort of a feminine fertility deity, if you will. That's what they worshiped. They made a lot of money selling these little statues of Diana. And so when Paul came to town, they were alarmed, thinking he was gonna ruin their business, and the people were screaming out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," and a riot broke out. But it all happened because they wanted a false god in the place of the true God.
So, I'm in this actual little stadium, speaking to our group. It was kind of exciting to think Paul might have stood somewhere around here. And so I went in, there was a little souvenir stand, selling the little idols, the little objects of Diana, so I bought one for a couple of bucks to use as an illustration. And I said, "All the people were worshiping this little idol," and then to make my point, I just dropped it on the ground, like, "How ridiculous". Well, it ended up in my backpack and we got back in the cruise ship and we're going to the next port and I go into my room and my two granddaughters are there, playing with the little Diana idol, like it's a doll, they're making it talk. I'm like, "That's like a stinking idol". And I said, "Girls, I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to get rid of this".
I literally walked out on the deck of the ship and I threw it over the side. Thought, "What am I doing, carrying that idol around"? Sometimes we need to do that. And there might be an idol in your life right now. Remember, your god is anyone or anything that takes the place of the true God. It could be a relationship that's pulling you away from Christ, because you're so concerned about what that person thinks, it's more important than the Lord himself. And they're keeping you from Jesus. For another person, it can be an object, something you value above all other things and you're more passionate about that than you are the Lord himself. It could be your money, it could be your body. It could be so many things, but as Matt Damon said, if you make the Oscar your idol, it won't fill the hole in your heart.
And whatever you try to fill your heart with, if it's not Jesus, you're gonna keep coming up empty. But God wants you to be happy. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. Just do it in the right way. And the way to be happy is by knowing the Lord. And then when you know the Lord, he gives you his parameters, he gives you the absolutes to live by. And I don't do these things because I have to. I do these things because I want to, because I have this exclusive relationship with the Creator of the universe. That's what it's all about.