The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Deuteronomy 5: 1-21 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me. ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. ‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you. ‘You shall not murder. ‘You shall not commit adultery. ‘You shall not steal. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.’
If it may be said that the First Commandment declares to us Who the object of our worship is to be, namely God Himself, then the Second Commandment gives us the proscription and prescription for how that worship is to be conducted. ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’
In the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch.21, titled “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day”, the divines had this to say regarding worship:
1. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
2. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.
Our Lord Jesus Christ in speaking with the woman at the well made clear that the true worshippers of God are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship of God is possible only for the child of God, whose conscience has been sprinkled clean, whose heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh, who has the Spirit of God Himself dwelling within him. Only the man, woman, boy, and girl who has been born again, by the will of God, can worship God in Spirit and Truth. This true worship of God is worship that is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. Jesus speaking to the Father on behalf of His disciples says “Sanctify them in the truth. Your Word is truth”. Jesus declared Himself to be “The way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but through Me.” True worship of God is through Jesus Christ alone, our great High Priest, Who entered into the Holy of Holies through the blood He shed for the remission of our sins.“Imagery replaces God’s revelation, with man’s imagination” (Pastor John Greer, Ballymyra Free Presbyterian Church). Idols, graven images, carved images, and likenesses which seek to capture the divine nature of God, things which sinful man craft with their hands, originating in their imaginations, are clearly forbidden by the Second Commandment and serve no purpose than to distort the true nature of God.
When we look closely at the second commandment, we see the prohibition against crafting idols (which other translations render as graven images, or carved images) and likenesses of anything in heaven above, the earth beneath, or the waters under the earth, with the worship of these created things attached to the prohibition. A close look at Romans 1 quickly reveals that in man’s suppression of the truth by his unrighteousness, he winds up worshipping the things created rather than the Creator, and as he does, God gives these idolaters over to the lusts of their hearts, degrading passions, and a depraved mind.
This morning I want to briefly focus on the second aspect of idolatry found in the commandment, the use of likenesses, which is rampant in American Evangelicalism today. The second commandment tells us clearly that we are NOT to make any likeness of what is in heaven above, nor are we to worship those likenesses. This prohibition extends even to likenesses of Jesus Christ which we form in our minds. Extending beyond what we may think Jesus Christ looked like physically, this commandment forbids us from creating any image of Christ in our minds, any semblance of Him, which is contrary to how He has revealed Himself to us in His Word. What do I mean? How many of us have formed a picture of Christ in our minds Who is ok with the sin in our lives? How many of us have formed an image of Christ in our minds Who permits us to worship Him in the way we see fit? How many of us have formed an image of Christ which looks, sounds, and behaves the way we think He ought to, and amazingly, gives approval to all of the things we desire in our own hearts? How many of us have created an image of Christ in our minds which winds up serving us, bending to our will; an image of Christ Who is all too willing to be led along by you like a dog on a leash?
Brothers and sisters, this is the heart of idolatry. Creating God in our image, rather than falling at His feet and begging for mercy. Idolatry is rebellion against God. He has declared that His Word alone is the standard by which we must worship Him. Your opinions, and what you think God accepts as worship, is irrelevant. The image of Christ Jesus you have formed in your mind is pathetic compared to the Lamb of God Who laid down His life for the Church. The image of Christ you have crafted in your heart, is at war with the True Christ. How arrogant and prideful must we be, to trade the glory of the incorruptible God, for images which do nothing but serve our wicked, depraved lusts and passions?
If this is you this morning, there can be only one proper response: repentance. Jesus Christ, the One revealed in the Word of God, very God of very God, begotten not made, says “Repent, lest you likewise perish”. Jesus Christ, the very image of the invisible God, Whose eyes are like a flame of fire, Who sees into your heart, Who alone is worthy of your worship and praise, commands you to repent of your idolatry. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, and follows Him. Won’t you repent of your idolatry this morning, and worship the One True God? The Lamb slain for the sins of the world, Who is risen indeed, is the only One worthy of your worship.
At this time, if you are able, please kneel as we go to the Lord in prayer.
It is the flame of my life to worship thee,
the crown and glory of my soul to adore thee,
heavenly pleasure to approach thee.
Give me power by thy Spirit to help me
that I may forget the world,
be brought into fullness of life,
be refreshed, comforted, blessed.
Give me knowledge of thy goodness
that I might not be over-awed by thy greatness;
Give me Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God,
that I might not be terrified,
but be drawn near with filial love,
with holy boldness;
He is my Mediator, Brother, Interpreter,
Branch, Daysman, Lamb;
him I glorify,
in him I am set on high.
Crowns to give I have none,
but what thou hast given I return,
content to feel that everything is mine
when it is thine,
and the more fully mine when I have yielded it
Let me live wholly to my Saviour,
free from distractions,
from carking care,
from hindrances to the pursuit
of the narrow way.
I am pardoned through the blood of Jesus --
give me a new sense of it,
continue to pardon me by it,
may I come every day to the fountain,
and every day be washed anew,
that I may worship thee always
in spirit and truth.
In Jesus Name we pray, Amen
From The Valley of Vision, titled Worship.
Listen now to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
Romans 6:1-11 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!
(From the 4/21/19 liturgy of Sovereign King Church written by Aaron Sabie.)