Larry Kirkpatrick

A Positive Place on the Web for the Third Angel's Message

Too Many Gods

Where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah (Jeremiah 2:28).

Are you busy? Is your life full? Your lives must be quite full. We are a church of 151 members and there were 12 people at prayer meeting this week.

Our lives are full but what are they full of? The things we give our time to, the things we fill our hearts and minds with, those things are like gods to us. Polytheism is the worship of multiple gods. We are Christians--monotheists. We say we worship one God.

Today let us together explore the Lordship of Jesus and compare that to the primacy of other gods in our lives.

As a starting point, think again on the text from our Scripture reading: the prophecy of Jeremiah in chapter two, verse 28:

Where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah (Jeremiah 2:28).

Who owns these gods? Their makers. Who made them? The people who claimed to belong to the true God. Who were they made for? For themselves.

You see, e customize our gods. We design false gods to suit ourselves. We choose our allegiances. We enter te market for false gods when we depart from the true God.

But sometimes it is a lot of work to design your own false god, so we sign-on with some of the prefabricated gods of our age. We might develop an interesting list of those, but today we'll give attention to just three of these. Some might find that beside Jesus we have two or three false gods on our shelves.

The State

One false god very popular today is the state. By the state I mean the secular government. In the land where we live this is the United States government.

I am not saying that we should disregard the state. I do not mean that the people who work for the state are evil. We are subject to the state, and receive certain benefits from it as well as have certain obligations pressed upon us.

If we accept the state as the final moral arbiter, the definer of reality, we will not be able to serve Jesus in the way we should. In America we claim to have a separation between church and state. But where the founders of the nation built a system with checks and balances to preserve personal freedoms, in our postmodern age many would use the mechanisms of the state differently. Not seeing themselves as religious, to them, religious freedom as a concession to a faded age. They see the state as a manifestation of power relations, an engine to remake society in a new "enlightened" image.

And so, many are using the authorities that have been vested in the state to impose whole systems of values on people. The state is not being used neutrally. Children are subject to its teaching on values. A separation is claimed between the religious and the secular, the worldly and the spiritual. There is little in the Bible about oral hygiene but a lot about what we actually should and should not say. But there is no realm which does belong to God. In the claimed-to-be secular space, some very religious values are promoted. When we accept the state as a god (small g) we accept a kind of tyranny, we grant the progressively shifting values it promotes a legitimacy they do not have. The state does not define reality; revelation in the Bible shows us how to understand reality.

Jesus calls us, instead of the kingdom of the state which is used by people as an engine to drive societal change, to the kingdom of God. Speaking of what we owe those in authority, Paul writes, "Render to all what is due them" (Romans 13:7). First Timothy 2:1-2 directs us:

I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Yes, "kings and all who are in authority" includes presidents. So, in case someone wonders what we should be praying right now, I would include the theme, God, please help and protect us from those in authority, so that we may live peace, quiet, godly lives.

In rendering what is due to those in authority, we have to explore biblically the question of what is and is not due them. Some have thought of the Ten Commandments as making the first four commandments about what we render to God and the last six about what we render to our fellow humans. Not so fast. The command to not bear false witness falls into the last six. But we have moral obligations about truth and honesty, not just civil ones. Some think marriage falls in along with the last six commandments. Yet marriage is a divine institution from before the Fall. Some are keen to redesign marriage today, but it is God who is the Creator and Designer. Where there is a conflict between God's revealed values in Scripture, and the current favored values popular in a nation, then we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Do not forget to pray the way Jesus instructed His disciples. We are His disciples too. Jesus prayed, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). This doesn't mean we launch a rebellion against the government. But it does mean we intentionally should pray that wherever there is a contradiction between God's will on earth that His will be done by His disciples on earth (ourselves). There is a subtle convenience in adopting the values promoted by the state, just as there is a subtle convenience in other times and places in bowing down to the gods and values promoted by other kingdoms in time.


There is another god which we can identify as mammon, money, and material wealth. Consumerism says buy this product, buy that product. You'll have whiter teeth, fresher breath, a nicer car, softer toilet tissue. People will pay more for one brand than another, not always because it is actually superior, but often because it other meanings are attached to the product. One product is perceived as being trendier than another, or a certain celebrity uses the same product. We buy the product because we buy the pitch, and we buy the pitch because there is a weakness in us which can be exploited.

But Jesus warned us that we cannot serve both God and material wealth. We can experience material wealth but we cannot serve material wealth. He said,

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 wealth (Matthew 6:24).

It was in this context that Jesus said, "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing. . . Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:25, 33). There is a tyranny where it is only socially acceptable to wear certain clothes or drive certain cars, and where no one wants to be seen roaming the aisles at Good Will for clothes. Its about status, and we seem to have less and less of it.

Worshiping the god of mammon often means having stuff, and the getting of this stuff is sometimes a substitute for our responsibility as men and women. Adults have obligations and responsibilities to others. We can fall into a trap where we replace intimacy with other people, which takes emotional energy, with getting stuff, which takes physical energy. Work is easier than family relationships. Work can be done robotically; relationships require interaction with other people. People are much harder.

Jesus calls us instead to the kingdom of God. We should plan for the future, we should seek to meet needs. But we should not trust in wealth here today and gone tomorrow. This life is not a dress rehearsal. We're here now. We must make our dent in the world now. We are either daring and doing for Jesus, or ducking and dancing for the devil. The easy path is always the longer path and the harder path. When we serve material wealth we are serving dirt. Mammon dehumanizes us. He is a subtle god. Do not be his fool.


Now, consider one more "god." We will call it the god Egalitarianism. Strictly-speaking, egalitarianism means equalitarianism, the idea that all persons are absolutely equal. Let me remind you that you do not believe that all persons are absolutely equal. No matter how awful the presidential candidates were this time around, you probably did not think they were equally bad. In your best understanding, you thought one to be even worse than the other, and your instincts surely were right.

You have a love for your children which is different than your love for someone else's children. As special as other children are, your own children are special to you in a way unique to you.

You probably have a reason why you prefer your make of automobile to a different brand, or why you prefer your phone to the kind of cell phone your friend has. How many of you men prefer pink clothing to another color? The report of my eyes tells me that not one male in this sanctuary today is wearing a pink suit. You all seem to prefer other shades or colors. We have different preferences for food. We do not regard all apples as equal. Do the taste test; take a bite of a crispy, sweet, perfectly ripe Braeburn organic apple, and then take a bite out of a softer apple, a tart Granny Smith, or a grainy Cameo. Most will have a preference for one kind over another. On the tree of life I'm hoping for Braeburn; maybe you are hoping for Red Delicious. All apples are valuable and edible, but all apples are not the same; all apples are not equal.

To the Bible. Genesis 1:27:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; interchangeable He created them.

The text actually says, "male and female He created them." Adam and Eve were bone of each other's bone, flesh of each other's flesh. But Adam in his very being was fundamentally, distinctly male. Eve was fundamentally, distinctly female in her being. To each person God was equally fair; each was gifted free choice. In opportunity for salvation outside of themselves in Christ, they were equal; but in other ways, it was part of God's design to make them sexually distinct in their beingness.

No matter how technically excellent my ability, I do not possess the "right" to play center in the women's professional basketball league. Likewise, I possess no "right" to play center in a man's basketball league. I don't believe that I should have a "right" enforced by the state to become the president of the NAACP. No matter how much may I want to go to the Moon, I have no "right" to replace others on the rocket because I might desire to go more than someone else. If I want to go to the moon, I should try to qualify as an astronaut, or, become wealthy enough that I can travel there as a space tourist.

Some limitations arise from my beingness. I am not female. I am not tall. I am not of African descent. Other limitations arise from my economic status. I am not a person with some special right to go to the moon.

Did you know that you cannot serve as president of the United States if you are only 34 years old? Thus says the US Constitution, Article II, Section 1. Those who wrote the Constitution built this limitation into the design of the Constitution. The benefit to the nation, we hope, is that the person who becomes president will have at least 35 years of life experience.

When people claim to be egalitarian most often the term is left undefined. We do not know, unless there is further explanation, whether or not the speaker means egalitarian in salvation opportunity, or egalitarian, that is, equal, or even interchangeable, in beingness.

Some take the idea and apply it to other ideas. Eventually you have laws telling you that random men may enter the women's restroom with your daughter, because they say that they feel they are actually the opposite gender in their being.

Even had we no Bible and only experience, that would inform us that in beingness male and female are different; not superior and inferior, but different. Men and women communicate differently, think differently, have different biochemistry. It was God's glory to make us different. As Christians who uphold the Bible, we should form our understanding on the basis of what God has revealed about the humans He designed, and not on vague, untested ideas about fairness which arise from the confused culture around us.

There is a tyranny against our essential being, a willful forgetting of who and what we are made in God's high image. Jesus calls us instead to the kingdom of God. We will thrive when we cleave to God's models. We will be confused and buy ourselves unnecessary sorrows when we go experimenting with other values arising ultimately from the adversary of god, who hates human sexuality and longs to bend it, crush it, and destroy all that is truly human in the divine design. You and I are valuable and precious in what we are, as distinct persons, carefully designed to give Him glory.

False Gods Create False People

We are created in the image of God. When we cleave to false gods we are setting ourselves up to be false people, people who abandon divine design for a creaturely one.

Ancient Israel had many gods, many stocks and stones they worshiped. They departed from the true God. They were most pluralistic when they were in apostasy. But today, self-satisfied worshipers are also at risk. We can have as many gods as had Israel, and we can experience the many painful trials that Israel did, too.

Instead: the Kingdom of God

In place of these false gods, you and I must cleave to the kingdom of God singular. Jesus is Lord. God sets our values; not the state, or wealth, or even subtle ideas. We are made in the image of God, and we are not to remake ourselves in the many conflicting creaturely images of lesser things. In God's design He sets the values, He values people over stuff, and He makes us special and not interchangeable. He is a God who loves. We are not plastic blocks to be redefined in random combinations but living beings who think and feel and love and who want our children to know right from wrong. All this comes from the kingdom of Jesus, the inconvenient kingdom. It's inconvenient to be human. But because we are made in God's image, we can do nothing else but plead with Him to work in us to create us again as truly human.


Deer Park WA SDA 2016-11-19