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Sermon 2019-07-07 Ross Woodhouse

GOD, above all gods

Options. We like to have options in life, don’t we? So many things, and voices and activities and, ‘gods’ that seek to distract, to sway, to subtly seduce us, things…that compete (vie) for our love and affection.

To the extent that for many, these “things” can become the dominant loves of our lives. I want to suggest this is the greatest battle we face as Christ-followers and where we need the greatest encouragement; which consists of God is the only – our only – one true God. Love him and him only.

I am suggesting this is the greatest battle, because everything else as Christ-followers flows from Him and is effected by Him, being first, is affected by our strength and depth of identity in Christ. Put it this way: when he is our first and greatest love, and we are FULL of the Holy Spirit, there is no space to give God-owed affection to anything else.

It is why the first commandment is “you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3); it is why Jesus said the most important one (law) is “the Lord is one…Love the Lord your God…” (see Mark 12:28-31); it is why Paul considered everything else rubbish apart from knowing Christ as Lord (Phil. 3:8).

We know when our love for Christ has waned and has cooled. There is no longer “delight” in him, a willingness to serve him without complaint or condition, we may have become bitter and easily angered, his word means little, prayer is non-existent and worship is mechanical. When this happens something has stolen away our love for Christ. “You shall have no other gods before me” still applies today…and there is a long list of ‘things’ that could be classified as ‘gods’.

Now all of this is important because we, the church, Christ-followers, are ambassadors of truth (see Rom. 10:14f), we are a (prophetic) voice in the world, tasked with bringing the good news of Jesus to the world, that He is the only way. Therefore, our spiritual, moral and ethical persuasion means little if our message is inconsistent with our practice. But it must be, consistent, in our homes, with our friends, our workplaces…in private. Because, among many gods, God is the only – our only – one true God.

gods, many gods, today. Different voices saying different things, with their version of the truth.  We see it on TV, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, in our politics…[1]

What and who do we listen to? What goes into our spirits?[2] Push pause – see it’s not just us I’m thinking of folks, our kids, grandchildren, and greats also. Do we really understand what they’re exposed to?

A handful of folk from here (inc myself) went to a Josh and Sean McDowell seminar on Tuesday, they described the world and culture in which we’re living as a perfect storm, in which there are 3 “storm fronts”: a major shift in what truth is[3]; an explosion of information – youth take in avg. 34GB of data (lyrics to 8,160 songs) – and (P) pervasive internet pornography, particularly for 12-25-year-olds.[4]

…gods of this age.

The reason we do series such as this is to equip you.[5] Here are the things, with such ‘storm fronts’ we need to be confident in what we believe, who our God is and the voice[6] we listen to.

What we’ll see through the accounts[7] of Elijah and Elisha[8] and other characters in these stories is the same “temptations and struggles, with the interwoven tangle of sin and obedience, success and failure” [9] that filled these people’s lives, in the same ways ours do. We face the same distracting things they did – possibly just not as obvious or out in the open. The same God (Heb. 13:8) as then, says to us today, I am your God, follow me, trust me.

We’ll see the prophets’ message is about Gods power over any so-called gods and idols; their task was always to redirect people’s attention and devotion back to the one true God. (See Ex. 20:3) God wanted exclusively to be their God. No other god or gods.

We’re introduced to Elijah during the reign of King Ahab (1 Kings 17:1) who along with wife Jezebel form most of the backdrop for a lot of the action. Ahab was more evil than any king before him. (See 1 Kings 16:30-33) Jezebel represents the person who resists God and his word by criticizing others. 

We’ll hear about Baal worship in the stories. Baal apparently provided rain. Worshipped to ensure the fertility of the land and growth of crops. Israel were people of the land so the fertility of the land was vital. So it is not hard to see the temptation of Israel to worship Baal. But through the prophets, God would show his power time and again as the provider, healer, giver of all life. Baal worship was, in essence, a religion of materialism. In plain terms, it is a desire for wealth and trust in material things above loyalty to God.

What might the Holy Spirit show us we’re putting our trust in ahead of himself? 

I want to encourage you to note the forces and powers Elijah and Elisha were up against in their ministry and be asking: What today would be the equivalent of those anti-God forces where we are needing to see the power of God? What are the gods of this day we are distracted with and tempted by?

Why these Old Testament scriptures? Why not just stay with the New?

It could seem that the OT has far less relevance to us today than the new: I’ve just given the example of materialism that is very much relevant today. It may seem that most NT stories and texts are easier to understand and apply. Possibly. I believe all scripture is God-inspired. All are part of God’s redemptive plan for the world completed in the person of Christ[10].

What I want us to see is that God is all powerful in and over and through anything and everything that we will face… Keep our eyes on Jesus, be full of the Holy Spirit, and confident in God’s power

So our aim in this series is to learn from the stories of Elijah and Elisha and that they will encourage us onward in our following of Christ.

We’ll talk about:

…how difficult circumstances can deepen our faith

…to push back on the advances of anything that would affect our love and worship of God

…to accept spiritual leadership, in our church, community and nation.  This means that each one of us plays a part in being a force and a voice for moral, ethical and spiritual truth in the world.

 

We must keep our eyes on Jesus, be full of the Holy Spirit, and confident in God’s power.

 

 

 

[1] https://genius.com/Tobymac-the-elements-lyrics: This ain’t our home, nah, not even close, This world always gotta be stealing my heart, This world always tryin’ to rip my family apart (Apart, apart, apart)They camouflage like we’re fighting some ghost, You start to doubt everything that you know, I feel the heat and it’s starting to show, They try to break us, break us, make us wanna give in I’ll fight the elements (Elements, elements, elements), I got spirit, I got faith, I might bend but I won’t break. (Chorus) I’ma gonna go down swinging if I go down.

[2] What, rather who is the truth, Jesus. If it doesn’t align with him, then it isn’t the truth.

[3] Trust based on feelings and my own version of what I think is true

[4] https://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-apologist-josh-mcdowell-3-cultural-changes-that-create-the-perfect-storm-against-the-church.html

[5] Build up…

[6] My sheep hear my voice… (see John 10)

[7] The stories of Elijah and Elisha span about 75 years in Israel, covering about a third (15 chapters of 47) of all the accounts in Kings.

[8] Kings was written to exiles during the Babylonian captivity. When the writer reports this story to his audience of exiles in the sixth-century b.c., the message is the same: the gods of the nations are idols and have no power, while Yahweh rules over all the earth. So much, too, for the gods of our own age.

[9] Dillard, R. B. (1999). Faith in the Face of Apostasy: The Gospel according to Elijah & Elisha. (T. Longman III & J. A. Groves, Eds.) (pp. 1–2). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[10] In fact, Jesus’ invitation is to learn more about him in the OT (see Luke 24:27, 44).