“…They have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” – Isaiah 45:20 (KJV).
I was in my local fish and chip shop waiting for my order and noticed an addition to the décor.
Behind the counter on a table, a small shrine had been placed and food and flower offerings were before it. Idol worship, and graven images, are not as popular today as they were in Bible times, but they still exist – and perhaps in forms that may not be so obvious.
Most people, when asked, would say that they do not worship idols – but I believe we do.
I believe anything we put before God is an idol. There are plenty of warnings about this in scripture.
Look, for example, at Deuteronomy 11:16, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.” (KJV).
I believe there are three main false gods that people worship and put their trust in today. Firstly, worshipping the god of good works. Let’s take a look at probably the best example of good works. In the Gospel of Mark, in chapter 10, a man approached Jesus wanting confirmation that he was acceptable to God. He listed all his virtues and said he had been good from his youth. Jesus loved him and acknowledged his good works – and then He asked the man to sell all he had and follow Him.
The man was sad and went away, because he was wealthy and could not give up his possessions. He was relying on his good works to make him right with God, and therefore worshipping a god that could not save. This was my default position before I became a Christian too.
I convinced myself that I was generally good enough to be acceptable to God, and certainly so when compared to the world around me. Secondly is worshipping the god of wealth.
In the same passage, Jesus points out that wealth also can be a false god that people worship.
“And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” – Mark 10:23 (KJV).
Notice the disciples’ reaction in the next verse.
“And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” – Mark 10:24 (KJV).
This is a fascinating passage of scripture, because it captures the heart of the wealth issue. Wealth is a barrier to God. It is an idol that stands in the way of a true relationship with God – yet there are many who would violently protest at such a notion.
Surely wealth is the benevolence of God – a blessing from above allowed by God for us to enjoy. “I have all that I need and can do what I want.” This attitude was a fundamental part of Judaism at the time of Christ. God richly blessed Abraham, who was an acknowledged man of faith.
Jewish tradition established that, likewise, if you were rich then you were obviously faithful to God – otherwise He would not bless you.
In short, wealth equaled ‘godliness’, poverty equaled sin. Christ though clearly refutes this notion. Wealth is a god that cannot save.
Thirdly is worshipping the god of religion. Many trust in their religion to save. I know I did. Before I became a Christian, I was raised very casually in the Methodist faith and whenever I was confronted by a ‘spiritual’ question I hid behind my family’s Methodist background. Truthfully though, I didn’t know anything, really.
This is not an uncommon situation. People genuinely trust in their religious position. But religion cannot save. Only faith in Christ – the son of God – can save. When discussing religion today, I often say I was a Methodist before I became a Christian and my wife was an Anglican before she became a Christian.
The Bible teaches that we must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Read the words of Philippians 2:10-11: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (KJV).
I trust today that you are not praying to, or counting on, a god that cannot save.
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About the author
Barrie Hanson lives in Bluff, Southland. He has been a Christian for over 40 years and in that time he has been a preacher, Pastor and a church helper in both Auckland and Hamilton.
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