Tony Evans - Committing to the True God
What depression, discouragement, despair often brings is distorted information. Elijah is by himself. Depression gets worse if there's nobody in your life to change your thinking. See, if you're feeling sorry for yourself and you're talking to yourself, that's a bad conversation for yourself. You're already feeling sorry, and there's nobody to talk to but you, about you, regarding you, to tell you what you ought to do. And you aren't in a place to even hear you correctly, then your discussion with yourself is helping yourself to become worse off about you.
So, God then enters the picture and tells him, "Elijah, tell me how you feel. Stop talking to yourself 'cause when you talk to yourself, you were getting depressed, you were suicidal. Start talking to me, okay? Now, I'm going to show you the wind and the rain and all that stuff. Now, y'all talk to me because you talking to you is killing you. Since I don't want you to kill you, stop talking you to you, and y'all talk to me".
God has an angel for you, he's got a person for you, he has himself for you. He gave Elijah all three of those to give him a supernatural experience to lift him out of his depression. And one of the reasons that the church exists is to have people available in your life when you are down who can embrace you, minister to you, lift you up, and he can use you to do the same thing for somebody else. Because when we are depressed, we need another perspective. That doesn't deny the reality of how we feel, but what it does is, doesn't let you live there.
Israel is dealing with a problem that brought the Prophet Elijah on the scene in the first place, and that is their attraction to idols. They were attracted to Baal and Asherah, Baal's girlfriend, the idols that had now consumed the culture, even those who named the name of God. We've defined an idol already, but just so that we review, an idol is an unauthorized noun, person, place, or thing, that you look to to get a need met. It's an unauthorized person, place, or thing, and unauthorized noun, that you look to for that thing to be the source of a need being met. Something God has not approved, but you're looking to it to be the source of your provision. That's an idol. Granted, we over here don't worship trees by and large, or the moon, or the stars.
Well, I can't really say that 'cause folks are still checking their horoscopes as an unauthorized source. Because the Bible says when you check astrology to find your source and your direction based on the movement of the stars, or the month you were born, or any of the like, you have appealed to an unauthorized source to be the definition of your needs being met and the definition of your identity. So that is idolatry, so you may not do any of the things people may do, you just have an American idol. You just look at what's happening in the culture and you gravitate to that, whether it's people, or power, or possessions, or whether it's prestige. Whatever it is, you are looking to that thing as the source of your provision.
Now, when you understand that is the biblical definition of idolatry, then you understand that you can be right here, right now, today and be an idol worshipper. Because while you're sitting in church, God is not your source. He's a point of reference, but he's not your source. And so we have seen some of the supernatural activity of Elijah, and we've tried to say this transfers over to you today. The principle of God's supernatural work that we're discovering in his life relates to your life.
We come in chapter 18 and we come to a place where now the Prophet Elijah confronts King Ahab. He confronts King Ahab, and he confronts him in chapter 18, verse 17. "And when Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, 'Is this you, you troubler of Israel"? In other words, "You gettin' on my nerves", Ahab says. "Is this you, Elijah, you bringing all this trouble to Israel"? Elijah responds in verse 18, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have because you have forsaken the commandment of the Lord and you have followed the Baals".
You've followed the idols. Elijah is not concerned about being politically correct, so he refuses to be politically correct. He says, "Ahab, you have brought this about because of your pursuit of idolatry. You've caused the heavens to shut up. It's no longer raining. The culture's in trouble because you have pursued another god".
One of the reasons you're seeing all of this chaos around us, even in our culture and in our country, is because we have forsaken the Lord our God. And what you and I are experiencing today is God saying, "You don't want me? Let me get out of the way and let me show you life without me". And so you have the consequence of the removal of God. God is being removed from government. God is being removed from schools. God is being removed from the biblical definition of marriage. God is being removed from the cities. God can't even open up a prayer at a football game.
When God is being removed from the culture, that means idolatry has automatically set in, which means there are consequences that accrue in the environment where God has been removed. And that is what was happening in Israel. They're experiencing life without the one true God. So Elijah says, "Now, send and gather to me all of Israel at Mount Carmel", verse 19, "together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah", that's 850, "who eat at Jezebel's table". He says, "Okay, let's have a fight at the O. K. Corral, okay? You bring your people and your god, and I'll be there at high noon, okay? Let's settle this once and for all. Let's don't confuse people. Let's put this thing out on the table".
So Ahab says, "Okay, you got a deal. Let's go for it". "So Ahab sent", verse 20, "a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel". Now watch this, because this is where we start. Verse 21, "Elijah came near to all the people and said, 'How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal, follow him.' But the people did not answer him a word".
Oh, Elijah says, "All right folk, how long you gonna keep dancing? How long will you hesitate between two opinions"? The word "hesitate" means vacillate. How long you gonna dance, this God on Sunday and another god on Monday? How long you gonna go back and forth? How long you gonna dance around this thing? How long you gonna move back and forth? How long are we gonna have to keep doing this? How long are you gonna have to keep hearing the same sermon every week, calling you to full commitment, before you make one?
See, a lot of folk wanna worship God on Sunday and then hug an idol on Monday. He says, "How long"? How many more years? How many more months? How many more services? How long are you gonna dance before you decide? That's his question. It says the people were silent. Why were they silent? Simple, they weren't ready to commit. They weren't ready to commit. They weren't ready to, you know, "you know, you too serious. Yeah, you're being too serious about this Christian thing. Just let me get a little church, give me a little music, preach me a little sermon, and then leave me alone".
It says the people were silent. They were not ready to commit. But watch this, they were always ready for a miracle. They were always looking for a blessing. They were always looking for God to do something while they were silent. So let me state my position as coming from this passage. If you're not ready to commit and to stop dancing, stop looking for a miracle and searching for a blessing. They said nothing because they weren't ready to make a full commitment, and yet he's calling on them just to do that.
So now, Elijah says, "I alone", verse 22, "am left the prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men". Elijah says, "I'm outnumbered, 450 to 1". He says, "This is not to see how the numbers fare in my favor. I'm ready to take my stand". God is looking for some folk who, even though outnumbered, are willing to take their stand, who even though the other side has more than you, even though it looks like you're outnumbered among your friends, among your coworkers, or what have you. He said, "This is how the numbers shape up, but in spite of that, we gonna put the true God to the test".
He says, "Why don't you bring", verse 23, "two oxen and let the 450 choose one oxen, and I'll take whichever one they don't choose. Put it on the wood, put it on the altar, but don't put a fire under it. And then you 450, you call on the name of your god and tell your god, 'Light the fire,'" okay? Tell your God, "Be the Ohio Players, fire"! Tell your God to light it up. "And then I'm gonna call on my God and let's see whose god is the God of fire".
Now, unless you understand Baalism, you can't appreciate this, but Baal was the god of fire, the god of the sun. So you figure, if Baal is in charge of the sun, he can light something up. So he's challenging him at the very core of the greatness of their god. He says, "Let's see what your god can do". So they agree. He is so confident in his commitment to God that he will challenge the majority. Oh, do we need some committed Christians today who are so committed and so confident in their God, they don't mind be outnumbered, because they understand that once God, the true God, is in the equation, the numbers shift.
So he says, "Come on, let's don't talk. Let's do this thing. Let's do this thing". And so, here's what they do. The 450 agree, and so, they chose the ox. And verse 26, "They took the ox and prepared it in the name of Baal. And from morning to evening, they were saying, 'Oh Baal, answer us,' but there was no voice. No one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made". So they're in there with their god, "Oh Baal, oh Baal, let's have some fire. Light the altar. Oh Baal, oh great Baal". They're jumping around the altar. They're getting their praise on around the idol and it says, "And nothing happened. And there was no voice".
Now, this is where we get to a little humorous part in the Bible. It gets a little humorous here in verse 27, 'cause it says at about noon that Elijah mocked them. Okay, now it's 450 of them and it's one of you. This ain't the time to be making fun of folk. But Elijah just standing there and he mocks them. And look at how he mocks 'em. He says, "Why don't you call out louder? Call out", verse 27, "with a loud voice. Y'all ain't screaming loud enough. He can't hear you". He says, "But he is a god. Maybe he's occupied". He's got another meeting going on and he can't get to y'all right now, so maybe that's why nothing happening. "Or maybe he's gone aside".
Now, "Gone aside", means maybe in the bathroom. "Gone aside" mean he doing number two. That's what "Gone aside" means. Or maybe he hasn't gone aside. "Maybe he's on a journey". He's on a trip, you know? He's taking a vacation. "Or perhaps he's snoring". He says, "Maybe he's asleep and you need to wake him up, so why don't you sing a little louder. Praise a little louder. Pray a little louder and wake up your god".
Well, all he did was tick them off 'cause in verse 28 it says, "They cried out with a loud voice and they cut themselves according to the custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out of them. When midday was past", verse 29, "they raved until the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, 'Come close. Come close.' So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down".
Okay, let me stop there. Let me stop there. It says he repaired the altar which had been torn down. That means they had religion without commitment, 'cause the altar hadn't been used. Now, what would they do on the altar? Sacrifices. Why would they make sacrifices? To deal with sin. So what they were doing was having religion without dealing with sin. They did not want to deal with the spiritual realities in their lives because Baal let 'em go where they wanted to go, do what they wanted to do, act what they wanted to act. Baal did not put any boundaries or restrictions on them, and that's not the god they wanted all week. That's good enough for Sunday.
Now give me my six days. But they wanted that god to be the god of the supernatural, so the altar was left unattended. The spiritual issues were not addressed, but yet they had enough religion to claim God. You oughta be tired of religion by now. Religion can't change you, religion can't help you, and religion certainly won't bring heaven down to earth. What you need and I need, and we need is a relationship, but you can only have a relationship on God's terms. And you can't have a relationship on God's terms if you got another god waiting for you tomorrow. That is, another source of your identity and your reality. "And so Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the Word of the Lord had come, saying, 'Israel shall be your name'".
So, the prophet comes along and here's what happens. He took the 12 stones, verse 32, "So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord". He got the spiritual priority back in order. And unless we do that as a church, unless that's the main thing, every other thing is a waste of time. He got the altar back, the spiritual part back, the confession of sin and the pursuit of righteousness back. The altar represented all that. "And then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed". So he digs this hole around the altar.
Now, watch what he does here. "He arranges the wood", verse 33, "cuts the ox into pieces, lays it on the wood. And he said, 'Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering'". Now, wait a minute. If you're trying to light up something, you don't pour water on it. You're not trying to pour water on it. You wanna keep it dry so that it lights quickly. But he pours water on it. Oh, but that's not all he does, 'cause according to verse 24, it says he said, "Do it a second time". So they pour water on it, they wet the wood, wet the ox, wet everything. He says, "Pour four more pitchers on it".
So okay, he does it again. Oh, but is he finished? No, "Do it a third time", and they did it a third time. So he prays and he prays at the evening sacrifice. "O Lord", verse 36, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel", the covenant-keeping God, "today let it be known that you are God in Israel, I am your servant and", notice this, "I have done all the things at your Word. Let it be known what you will do when people are committed to you and your Word". In other words, "I'm not like y'all. I ain't dancing. I'm not like y'all. I'm not going back and forth. I am totally committed to his Word".
That's how you know if you're dancing or not. He said, "Let it be known that I'm for real because I obey your Word". In other words, "God, your Word has the final say-so over my decisions". Until you get to that place, you're not fully committed. If you're not fully committed, you have limited or lost access to the miraculous. So he says, "I have kept your Word. Answer me, O Lord", verse 37, "that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back again. And the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and licked up the water in the trench".
Now, this is one of the scenes I wanna see on instant replay when I get to heaven 'cause it not only said the fire fell, but it says it consumed the stones, the wood and the stone. But here's the part I like. It said it licked up the water around the trench. Oh, and when you see God show off and show out for you, when you see him do exceedingly, abundantly above all you can ask or think, when you see, because you've rebuilt the altar, a full commitment. He said he saw it, and then the people saw it. "They fell on their faces; and said, 'The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God'".
Does anybody here know what a hillbilly road bump is? A hillbilly road bump is an armadillo dead in the middle of the road. That's what's country people call it a hillbilly road bump, okay? Now, let me explain. One half a million armadillos every year are killed in the middle of the road. Every time I've seen an armadillo, it's on his back and his legs are sticking up in the air. Every time I see an armadillo, it's dead in the middle of the road, 'cause here's what they do. They start crossing the road, they stop in the middle of the road. They stop in the middle of the road with cars coming. They stop in the middle of the road with cars coming and they get run over. They get run over because they get comfortable in the middle of the road.
Does God have any hillbilly road bump Christians in this place? Does God have any hillbilly road bump Christians? You come to church and you stay in the middle. You're like, "Malcolm in the Middle". You stay in the middle. You wanna be able to step over here to the God of the Bible, but you wanna stay over here to the world. You stay in the middle, only to be run over by his glory when he moves down the center. But if he could ever get you to go all the way, heaven will open up. You will see heaven open, Jesus said. You will see the angel of God going up and down, the Son of Man, and you will see what God can do because you've given him all you have. God is looking for some folk who are gonna leave the middle and go all the way.
The dominant sin spoken of in the Bible is idolatry. All through Scripture, you see God's hatred of idolatry. Idolatry is any unauthorized noun, person, place, thing, or thought, that you look to as your source, because that means you're committed to a false god. There's only one true God, the God of the Holy Scriptures, who's revealed himself both in creation and in his Word, and he does not want any competing loyalties in our lives. He wants us totally committed to the one true God.
The moment you bring another God, another noun, person, place, thing, or thought, that you look to as your ultimate source, you've created divine competition. You've created a deity competitor and nothing will drive God from you, in terms of you experiencing his presence in your life, like you inviting another god into the vicinity, whether that god is money, or whether that god is even religion, whether that god is education, whether that god is Korea. You can name it, but once that thing or person becomes your source, God is angry with that and will display the weakness of your god. Because he'll interrupt your god to let you know that god wasn't as big, powerful, as authoritative as you thought it was when you put your whole life into that god's hands.
So, there must be a decision that we must all make, even as Christians, that there will be no other god before us. You know, that goes back to the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt have no other god before me". In fact, God wants to be so alone as God he won't even let you take a picture of himself creating an image, because he does not want us to dumb down how awesome a God he is. Stay committed to the one true God because there's only one true God who deserves that commitment.