Robert Morris — His Plan
We're in a series called, "Living in His Presence". And my burden for this series has been that we would not just enter God's presence once a week at church, but that we would live in His presence all during the week. And so, this message is gonna be a little tougher than some of the other messages, because we're gonna talk about what is it that pulls us away from the presence of God. And if you remember back in Genesis 3 — we'll be in Ezekiel 14 in a minute, but Genesis 3, just want you to notice after Adam and Eve sinned how clear this is. Genesis 3:8 says: "And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden".
They hid from the presence of God, so obviously, what pulls us out of God's presence? It's sin. But I don't wanna just think about it in the way that we all make mistakes. I wanna really talk about how Satan will begin to form a stronghold in our life and us serving that stronghold is what takes us out of God's presence. So in Ezekiel 14, we're gonna read a lot of verses here, but you'll like it. All right? It's really good, but just watch. Ezekiel 14:1. "Now some of the elders came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Son of man, these men,'" now, watch carefully: "Have set up their idols in their hearts," — they've set up their idols.
Instead of wooden images, they've set up their idols in their hearts: "And put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore, speak to them, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: 'Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.''
Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God: Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man, make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. And then you shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet is induced to speak anything, I the Lord have induced that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people.''"
Now, watch Ezekiel 14:10. "And they," — plural. This is the person who inquired in the prophet now. "And they shall bear their iniquity. The punishment of the prophet shall be the same as the punishment of the one who inquired," and then Ezekiel 14:11, I read you this verse in a string of verses a few weeks ago. "'That the house of Israel may no longer go astray from Me, nor be profaned anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be My people and that I may be their God,' says the Lord God". Okay. This is the Old Testament, and he's talking about idols in the heart.
Here's what I want you to know that maybe you didn't realize this, but God has always been concerned about the heart. Not just the New Testament, Old Testament. And he says they have idols in their heart. Now, you might not know what an idol is, because you might have an idea of what it is. Let me tell you what an idol is. The word idol actually means image. Image. As a matter of fact, many times in the Bible, it's translated image, not idol.
If I asked you what the second commandment is, you'd probably say something like this. "Not to have any idols". Let me read it to you, though, show you how it translates it. Exodus 20:4: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image," so an idol is an image, and idolatry is worshiping that image. But before you think about, again, something that's made out of wood or stone, I want you to think about, in your mind, he said, "These men have set up idols in their hearts". Think about this. Image is the root of the word imagination. In other words, if you're thinking about something more than you're thinking about God, it's very possible you have an idol in your heart.
And let me show you some ways to determine if you have an idol in your heart. Here are some things that it will cause. Number one is presumption. Presumption. Look back at Ezekiel 14:3. We're gonna stay in Ezekiel 14 this whole time. Ezekiel 14:3: "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity". See, if you have an idol, you'll actually begin to cater to the idol. You'll actually begin to make plans of how you can sin. Romans 13:14 says: "Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts," but many times, we do make a provision for it. We begin to make up a story and begin to cover, because we have an idol in our heart.
We went to Israel, as I said, about a little over a week ago, and we went way up, we went north, south, east, and west, the four prayer altars, to pray over the land of Israel. And in the north, up at Dan, where the springs are, Jeroboam built an altar there. He actually built a replica of the temple, and an altar. When Rehoboam took stupid advice from his friends, that's what split the northern and southern kingdom, that split Israel to ten northern tribes, and then split Judah. And what happened was Jeroboam then began to leave — lead the ten northern tribes, and here's what he did. He built an altar in Dan, which is way at the north, and Bethel, which is way at the south. And he built a replica of Solomon's temple.
We saw it. We saw the ruins of it. Outer court, inner court, you know, a holy place, and a most holy place. Most holy, the holy of holies. So we saw this. Here's what else he did, though. He also built idols for other gods. Because he said a couple things. First of all, he said, "I'm gonna put one in the north and south, because it's too much trouble to go to Jerusalem three times a year". So instead of having to go to Jerusalem three times a year, you can come to Dan or to Bethel, and I have a temple here. And then, if you come here, and you need something else, we've got some other gods you can worship. He made golden calves, and he said, "These are the gods that brought you out of Egypt".
So there were golden calves there. He had the god of Mammon, which in other words, he was saying, "If you have a — if you need money, and you can still worship God, but you ought to also worship Mammon". here's a problem with that. Jesus said really clearly you cannot worship God and Mammon. And I'll tell you why, and I'll just give you a simple analogy. Tithing. God says bring the first 10% to the house of God, Mammon says, no, you can't make it if you do that. Do something else. You can't do both. You either do what God says, or you do what you think is best, but please hear me. What you think is best is not what you think is best. There's someone talking to you. And you cannot — you have an idol in your heart, and you cannot live in God's presence if you have an idol in your heart. That's what He's telling us here.
So first is presumption. Here's the second, estrangement. Now, I know this isn't a word that we use a lot in our vernacular today, but estrangement. Let me show you where this is. Ezekiel 14:5. "That I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols". So what does this word estrangement mean? In the Hebrew, this is actually referring to a woman who is married, but living with another man in an adulterous relationship. That's what this means. Now, remember, Jesus is our Husband. We are married to God. Here's what He says. The house of Israel, because the house of Israel, remember, would represent God's people. The house of Israel, because they have idols in their heart, they're having an affair on Me. They're married to Me, but they're sleeping with an idol.
Let me show you a few verses. Jeremiah 3:6. "The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: 'Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She's gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot". Jeremiah 3:9: "So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees". Okay, how do you commit adultery with stones and trees? It's very simple, this is not a complicated text. Stones are what you build an altar out of, and trees are what you — you cut the trees to take the wood to burn a sacrifice on that altar. It's very, very simple. They built altars to other gods, and they made sacrifices to other gods. But here's what God says. He said, "They've committed adultery by doing this".
Jeremiah 3 again, Jeremiah 3:14. "'Return, O backsliding children,' says the Lord. 'For I am married to you.'" Now, I understand this is a tough message. I argued with God about this message. I said, "God, you know, I'm going along, and this is a real tough message on sin". Here's what I really feel like the Lord said to me. "There are some people on a precipice right now, and they're about to go over the cliff, and I want to stop them". The only reason God brings a word as strong as this is for your good. You need to remember that. God is saying, "Don't go off that cliff. Don't do that".
So I'm gonna say some tough things, all right? If you've never heard this, it's so clear in scripture, and I just read you a few of the scriptures, but sin is spiritual adultery. Sin is leaving God, going and committing adultery, and then coming back and slipping in bed with God, as if nothing ever happened. That's what sin is. And that's what an idol will do. It will cause you to be estranged from God. Let me say something else about sin. Sin will not affect God's love for you. It won't. He'll still love you. It will not affect God's love for you. What it will do is it will affect your love for God. Because your heart begins to go after that thing. It's an idol in your heart.
Here's the third thing that it causes. Spiritual deafness. Spiritual deafness. Now, I want you to think about this. These were elders in Israel. They were elders, and they went to the prophet to see what God was saying. Why did they go to the prophet to see what God was saying? Really simple, 'cause they couldn't hear God. Why couldn't they hear God? Because they had an idol in their heart. Sin brings a separation in our intimacy with God. Isaiah 59:2. "Your iniquities have separated you from your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear". He will not hear, nor will He speak.
Here's what I've been trying to say in this series. We can live in constant communion with the Holy Spirit. But if you have sin in your life, if you have an idol in your heart, here's what we do. We turn down the Holy Spirit, and we turn up the idol. The Holy Spirit is saying, "Don't go that way". And we say, "No, no, no. I don't wanna hear that. I wanna hear how this is going to be more fun and more prosperous for me". And we begin to listen to that idol. This is all through scripture. When we begin to go away from God, we can't hear God. I just shared this past spring the series on frequency. "Tune in, Hear God". Well, if you wanna know the number-one thing that will cause you to not be able to hear God, it's sin. And let me tell you something else that will happen. You'll begin to think that the voice you're hearing is God, but it's not God. It's the idol talking to you. It's the demonic spirit behind the idol.
I was talking with a man one time who was having an affair, and he said to me, talking about this woman he's having the affair with, he said, "But we pray together, and we read the Bible together, and God is speaking to us". And I said, "That is not true. You are deceived". There is a spirit speaking to you, but it is not the Holy Spirit. And here's the fourth thing that it causes, consequences. Consequences. Look at Ezekiel 14:10. "And they shall bear their iniquity". Now, notice the word iniquity because I'm gonna come back in just a moment to it. "The punishment of the prophet shall be the same as the punishment of the one who inquired," — now, we're gonna talk about it in a moment, but let's just — I wanna go back and look at it one more time.
Here's what I need to tell you before we read this one more time. The word punishment here is the exact same word that's translated iniquity. It's the same word. So it says: "And they shall bear their iniquity," which could read, "And they shall bear their punishment," and then, the punishment of the prophet could read, "The iniquity of the prophet shall be the same as the iniquity of the one who inquired," okay, so why is God saying this? Because if someone's in sin, and he goes to a prophet to get counsel, and the prophet doesn't call the sin out, then the prophet has the same idol. See what I'm saying?
I can remember Pastor Olin was here, and Pastor Olin shared one time about he was having lunch with a pastor, and something just came up about a pastor that had left his wife, and married someone else, and was still going on in ministry like nothing had ever happened. And this other pastor he was having lunch with, all of a sudden, got real defensive. I mean, just like, "Well, what about grace? And what about restoration? And what about this"? And I mean, he just started being real defensive over this. It came out just a few months later that that pastor was having an affair with his secretary at that time. His assistant.
See, here's why he came out that way, because he had the same idol in his heart. See. So God says so if that prophet says something, if he doesn't take a stand against the sin, he's gonna have the same punishment. And here's why, because God's a just God, because what God is saying is he's got the same idol. Now, I know he's got the same idol. Otherwise, he would say something. It says the punishment will be the same, and I told you, it's the same word for iniquity. The word iniquity literally means the consequences of sin, the punishment of sin. That's what iniquity is, and that iniquity then, if you don't know this, can be passed to your children, and to the third and fourth generation. That's what God says.
So there's an iniquity or a bent toward that sin, the consequence of that sin, and all sin has consequence. That's the only reason I think that God takes such a stand in the Bible against sin is not because He doesn't like people, it's because He loves people, and He knows what the end is of sin. There's a way that seems right to man, but the end is death. So He's doing everything He can to try to stop us. People who have idols in their heart will pretend. Do you know the word for — it comes from two Greek words, but it's literally what they called actors. You know what the word is, what they called actors? You ready? Hypocrites. Hypo, krite. It comes from two words, and krite means to speak, hypo means underneath. Underneath.
Now, let me explain to you, and you'll remember this, you've seen this, because actors back then all wore a mask. So they put a mask on their face, and then they would speak underneath the mask. And they would pretend to be the person of the mask. Are y'all following me? So hypocrite literally means one who speaks underneath. He's underneath a mask, and he speaks underneath that mask. And he pretends to be someone that he's not. He's an actor. That's a hypocrite. That's what we all become when we have an idol in our heart. When we begin to serve something other than God, this is what Jeroboam did. Jeroboam said, "Listen, it's too far to go to Jerusalem, so I'll build an altar here, and then I'll give you some other gods".
Let me say it this way. The three steps to idolatry are it's inconvenient to worship God, I'll give you something convenient, and let's include some other gods, too. It's inconvenient to worship God, it's inconvenient to get up early and have a quiet time. It's inconvenient to go to church. It's inconvenient to read your Bible. Let's just make it convenient to be a Christian. And then, let's also be inclusive and worship some other gods also, instead of the number-one commandment, "You shall worship the Lord God, and in Him only shall you serve". You shall have no other gods before Me.
I remember one time, I wrote this in my notes, and then I put something in parentheses beside it. Because — well, here's what I wrote. I remember one time that God convicted me of having an idol in my heart, and then I thought about it, and I thought, it hasn't just been one time. It's been many times, but I'm referring to one specific time. Does that make sense? So I've been in — listen, if you feel like I have something in my heart, and I've never thought about it this way, that I'm committing adultery on God, that I'm beginning to love this thing and go toward this thing, and — okay. I'm saying to you, if that's what you're thinking right now, I understand. And all of us understand, if we're honest. We've all, at some point, worshiped and served someone other than God. All of us have. We've had an idol in our heart.
So I remember one time, God used this scripture, Ezekiel 14, to speak to me about the idol in my heart. And I'd never really seen it as an idol in my heart. I never really seen that it was idolatry, that it was adultery, committing adultery on God. And I remember repenting, and the joy that came, and now, the victory in my life because I know where that thing would go. I know what would happen to me, to my family, to the church, if I were to continue going down the wrong road.
So all of us can relate, that's what I'm trying to say to you. If there's something that you're being convicted about right now, don't feel bad in the sense that I just feel bad, I'm a bad person. See, that's what Satan wants to do. Satan wants to come and say, "You're just a bad person. You're a bad person". No. You're not a bad person. You're a child of God. You've been redeemed. You've been bought with the blood, but you're still in a war, and you still live on a fallen earth. And Satan is doing everything he can to set idols up in your life, to get your attention off of God, and onto them. And it's really, really simple.
See, we think so many times, the Old Testament, it's just full of legalism. Where is the grace? Where is the grace? Let me just show you. Ezekiel 14:5, it says, "That I may seize the house of Israel by their heart," — see, the only reason that God is speaking to you right now about this idol in your heart is so He can bring you back to Himself. That He can bring you out of this adulterous affair. That He can bring you back, because you gotta remember, sin creates a distance, but it doesn't create a diminishing of His love for you. Doesn't change His love for you at all, but it does create a distance.
You can't live in His presence if you have an idol in your heart. I didn't tell you at the first of the message, I call this message, "His Plan". The reason I call it "His Plan" is because His plan for you is good. It's not evil. His thoughts about you are good. God has a good purpose and a future for you, and a hope. He's got a good plan for you. That's His plan. But the enemy's plan is to set up an idol in your heart that causes you to walk away from God, and to say, "It's inconvenient to serve God. It's more convenient to do it this way, and let's be inclusive of some other things in your life".
I wanna encourage you, if God is putting His finger on something right now in your life, that He's not doing it to make you feel bad, He's doing it because He wants you to give it to Him, and He's the only One that can take care of it. So if there's something that's trying to be an idol in your heart, trying to steal your affection from the Lord, don't feel bad about it, don't feel like I don't wanna tell Him about it, because He already knows. Talk to Him about it. Say, "Lord, You know this is — right now, I'm being tempted in this area. Take it to the Lord, because He wants to take care of it, He wants to set you free. He wants to bless you, even though you're struggling right now. But don't struggle alone. Take it to the Lord.