What say the King?

Let me share a brief story of something I’d like to talk about in today’s context that happened years and years ago. I want to use it as a point of reference because, while it happened back in the Old Testament, the scenario is played out to this day in some of our churches and many lives.

Then

Assyria occupied the territory of the Israel. During this time there was a proliferation of worship to false gods and idols. Each small town had their own local ‘god’ and it was almost like an achievement of social rank to have a preferred god for your town. But that wasn’t the limit of it, numerous other gods were worshiped all across the land.

Things didn’t go well during this time, and in an act of desperation the King of Assyria decided to bring back the priests that he had banished from the land, so they could help to ‘make it right’ (in the words of the king, appeasing the ‘god of the land’ never considering this was the God of All).

2 Kings 17:27-33 (CSB)
Then the king of Assyria issued a command: “Send back one of the priests you deported. Have him go and live there so he can teach them the requirements of the god of the land.” So one of the priests they had deported came and lived in Bethel, and he began to teach them how they should fear the Lord.
But the people of each nation were still making their own gods in the cities where they lived and putting them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. They feared the Lord, but they also made from their ranks priests for the high places, who were working for them at the shrines of the high places. They feared the Lord, but they also worshiped their own gods according to the practice of the nations from which they had been deported.

Not surprisingly things didn’t turn around for the ‘land’ in question. You see the priest they brought back either neglected to mention or they simply disregarded him telling them of the Ten Commandments. That would suffice as a ‘requirement’ for the God of the land, wouldn’t it? In fact, it ranks so high up on the list all of this fell under commandments #1 and #2:

Exodus 20:3-4 (CSB)
Do not have other gods besides me.
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

Therefore, if the king was trying to appease God, he ended up failing miserably. Needless to say, things didn’t change a great deal as all he accomplished was adding yet another god to the list the people were already worshiping.

Do not have other gods besides me

Let’s consider the situation and what children of Israel were finding themselves in.

First, overwhelming forces had entrapped them in a world where they found themselves facing daily bombardment from all around them with practices that were not their own. As a result, they adopted those practices and made them their own. They found this so inspiring that they even came up with their own for every town and village.

Next, over time they lost their vision of the truth. You will notice in the story that in order to attempt to appease the god of the land, the king had to bring back a priest to reeducate the children of Israel on how to worship God.

Finally, they went along with this return to worship of the God that they’d apparently forgotten about, but at the same time they didn’t wish to forgo the worship of their man-made gods and idols. So, they ended up sharing their worship time with The God of the land and their gods.

How does that translate to now?
There are two significant places this story parallels to a modern-day application.

Some Churches:

Not all churches, but unfortunately many more than should be find themselves in this same situation and have responded in like kind. Am I serious? Absolutely! Let me explain.

In the face of two factors we see many churches that have adopted the ways of the world around them on the pretext of making their congregation and potential membership more comfortable; the church more accommodating ‘to the needs of their community’; or to be more in keeping with the times.

Now, none of these pretexts are bad in and of themselves. In fact, when you find yourself in the ‘right church’ you often feel a comfort just from the fellowship. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the church being accommodating to its membership and visitors. Likewise, so long as, updating and changing traditional practices to something more ‘in keeping with the times’ doesn’t compromise the message of the bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no issue whatsoever.

However, the issues arise when these compromises or minimize the message that the church is there in the first place to propagate. Programs and practices can and do become idols and gods that stand between the message of Jesus and the individual.

Matthew 6:24 (CSB)
“No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

I really like the way that the Amplified version spells out the last sentence of that verse, “You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].”

Theses churches that I mention here are in trouble because they find themselves so influenced by the world around them that they serve those worldly trappings that entice them; to the point that Jesus and Salvation are either an afterthought or a loosely associated concept. When anything comes between us and the Lord of our life, it immediate is an idol and makes God secondary in our service.

Revelation 3:14-20 (CSB)
“Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent.
See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

In the letter to the church of Laodicea, Jesus himself is quoted as saying that THIS church which is a representation of a type of church is such a repulsive presentation to God that he is ready to spew them out of His mouth. The other thing I really want you to understand is verse 20 at end of this quotation is so very popular for many, but read it in context. Verse 20 clearly is stating that these churches of the type Laodicea He is NOT abiding in! You can’t be outside knocking if you’re residing inside the structure. Jesus Christ is standing outside the door of this church knocking and calling out to this church for anyone who hears his voice an opens the door! Jesus despite the revolting condition of this church wants to redeem it. He wants to come in and commune with it, but at present He is unable to commune with it for its lukewarm attitude.

Some “Christians’:

Oh, this is going to hurt some toes; some “Christians”! The quotes are there because if you ask 100 people in the United States of America if they are a Christian, the response 83 of them would be that they are indeed Christian. You can refer to this ABC Pole to see how this information was derived.

83% of Americans say they are Christian. The vast number of those that you would ask why they believe they are a Christian would respond with comments like:
– I believe in God
– I go to ______ church
– I was raised a Christian
– Etc.

The number of those who would say they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and He is the Lord of their life would be shockingly low. But it’s that group that I want to focus in on right now. You might call them ‘true believers’ except for the fact that what I’m about to share puts that term somewhat in doubt.

The list above is truly not a valid measurement to determine one being a ‘Christ Follower’; a true Christian; one who has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and is now in pursuit of following him on the path He has directed them. The term Christian has been diluted by those adopting the term that really do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.

But for those that are:
That select subset we are talking about; from these I would like to contrast our original passage.

We live in a busy world today. There is a great deal of things going on constantly around us. The very pursuit of ‘down time’ and diversions is such an important commodity for most of us. Taking a flashback of Israel in the opening passage, and we see that it would be easy for even these elite to fall into the snare of mediocrity.

There the job, sporting events (amateur, scholastic and profession), hobbies, social and political activities. Each one and many more can and do become idols and gods we expect God to tolerate co-existing in our lives. But remember…

Exodus 20:3-4 (CSB)
Do not have other gods besides me.
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

And…

Matthew 6:24 (AMP)
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].

There isn’t a happy medium here. Remember what we saw with the church of Laodicea? This mediocre mixing of the world’s trappings with the path that the Lord would set before you is not going to work. Jesus will not be co-equal with anything else in your life. That’s not to say that other things can’t be important priorities but the minute that they become a precedent to your life we see that image of Christ standing outside the door. Desiring with all that is in Him to come in. Calling out and knocking. Did you really make Him Lord of your life? Were you serious? He is!

Revelation 3:20 (CSB)
“See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

So, it comes to this. Is He Lord of your life? Or have you kept him outside waiting to come in and commune with you? Have you made gods and images that you insist that he must share co-equal precedence in your life?

These questions narrow that number of ‘true believers’ down a bit. The fact that you’re reading these words right now means it isn’t too late to correct a misconception of what being a follower of Christ really is. It’s not too late to clear those idols and gods that you’ve erected in your life that He abhors. It’s not too late to truly make him King and to take up your cross and follow Him.

Luke 9:23 (CSB)
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

He’s knocking!

What is he King of King’s saying? Come sit our meal is ready? Or is He outside asking to come in? What says the King?

Blessings,
Kip…

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