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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The LORD God is Above All Others
Text:LD 34 94-95 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 1st Commandment (God alone)
 
Added:2022-07-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Romans 1

Lesson: Lord’s Day 34 (94 & 95)

 

THE LORD GOD IS ABOVE ALL OTHERS

  1. Fear His Power with Holy Awe

  2. Obey His Precepts with Complete Devotion

 

  1. Psalm 115: 1, 5, 6, 7

  2. Psalm 14: 1, 2, 5

  3. Hymn 6:1-2

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 95: 2, 3

  6. Psalm 117

 

Words to Listen For: flipped, neutron, Baker, Latin, boss

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are some of the lies of false teachers?  What are the corresponding truths?

  2. Is God “safe” ?  Prove it.

  3. How does God use His power?

  4. What does “other gods” mean?

  5. What 2 words should you be putting on your whiteboard at home?  What do they mean?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved children of God,

What do you do when you hear blasphemy against God and His Word?

What do you do when you hear people slandering the church?

I suppose it depends on what you hear, doesn’t it?

So what about this particular lie?

The Church is all about guilt. It’s very easy to manipulate people into doing what you want if you invent a problem, and then further invent a solution.  None of it is real.

     The invented problem is sin

     The invented solution is the Saviour.

But this isn’t real...this is just a manipulation.  Sin isn’t real.  We just have to remember that nobody is perfect!  It’s not SIN, it’s just a little mistake.  Nobody’s perfect, and that’s ok!

God, if He even exists, is this big friend in the sky who acts like your friend in High school.  He proclaims over the yearbook of your life: You’re so great!  You’re the best!  Don’t ever change!

And what is frightening about hearing these lies spoken, is knowing the people who speak them.

Knowing that it is not only non-Christians and militant atheists who say these things, but even some self-professed Christians teach in this way!

     So-called Christian authors like Ted Dekker.

     So-called Christian preachers like Joel Osteen.

     So-called faith leaders like Joyce Meyer.

It is all about YOU.  Christianity is about YOU.

  • It’s about you being SO VALUABLE that God sacrificed His Son for you.

  • It’s about you being SO LOVABLE that God didn’t want Heaven without you.

  • It’s about God being YOUR divine cheerleader.

This is dangerous manipulative heresy, and it has no place on this pulpit, and it has no place in our lives.

One way to address these blasphemies and slander is to let Scripture speak for itself.  Spurgeon once said: “Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself.”

So let me speak some truth over these lies.  The truth of Holy Scripture.

  • It’s not because you were SO VALUABLE that God sacrificed His Son...it was because your sins were SO ABHORRENT AND OFFENSIVE (Romans 1)

  • It’s not because you are SO LOVABLE that God wants to spend eternity with you...you were DEAD and STINKING and ROTTING in your sins, but God showed you mercy (Ephesians 2)

  • It’s not that God is trying to get you to embrace your own power...but when Moses proclaimed His inadequacies...God answered him - it’s not about you...but it’s about who I AM! (Exodus 3)

The truth of Scripture comes up against the lies of the world...and Scripture wins.  Scripture always wins.

But the false teachers didn’t lie about everything though...they did get one thing right...nobody’s perfect.

But this doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious problem...it means that the problem is more widespread and far more serious than we might think.

Not one of us is perfect.  Each and every one of us has fallen.  We have fallen short of God’s glorious standard.

Nobody is perfect...except for God.

And it is this perfect God who comes to us, corrupt creatures.

It is this God who approaches us, knowing that we could never approach Him on our own.

In every other religion, whether Greek Mythology, or Islam, it is the job of the worshipper to approach the god or goddess.

But it is only the LORD, YHWH, who approaches us.  Every single time, we see that God makes the first move.

Not because we were too scared.

Not because we were too insecure, or too hard on ourselves

But because we were INCAPABLE of coming to Him.

We were incapable, but our God stepped up and stepped in to His creation, showing us a glimpse of His glory.  The smoke and the fire and the sound of a trumpet was just a glimpse.  And yet, even this tiny picture of God’s glory sets Him apart from all others.

Truly:

THE LORD GOD IS ABOVE ALL OTHERS

  1. Fear His Power with Holy Awe

  2. Obey His Precepts with Complete Devotion

Fear His Power with Holy Awe

There is something lacking in the false teachers that I mentioned just moments ago.  There is something severely lacking in their theology.  It’s not faith...they believe in A god...they believe in SOME TYPE of God...maybe he created the world, maybe he didn’t...but he exists.  They believe in a god of their own making, without any evidence at all that such a god even exists.

Instead of believing the truth of Genesis 1:27 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them...

We read in Romans 1 that humanity rejected the one true God for and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

They did so literally, constructing idols and bowing down before them.  But in our day and age, we go a step further.

We have flipped the truth of Genesis 1:27 on its head.

Instead of believing that God created man in His image, as mankind, we now have created God in our own image.  Our God looks a lot like us.  Our God votes the same way we do, our God likes the same books we like, our God is just us...but more.

And when confronted with the God of the Bible, the defenses come up:

     “I could just never serve a God who…”

           Fill in the blank.

We hear this so often, don’t we?

  • I could just never serve a God who allows suffering.
  • I could just never serve a God who restricts women’s rights.
  • I could never serve a God who could punish sin in Hell.

Well, your failure to understand the justice of the Almighty aside...do you realize that what you are really saying is: I could just never serve a God who doesn’t agree with me on every single point.

The issue when you do this, is that you drag God down to your level.

     Your God is too small.

     Your God is too simple.

     Your God can fit in your pocket...or perhaps more accurately, your mirror.

Your God...is too safe.

C.S. Lewis put it well in the Chronicles of Narnia when he said (about Aslan, the character that represents Jesus Christ),

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

Your God is too safe.

But a safe God is a false God, because Yahweh is anything but safe.

Let us learn, and fear, and marvel, at what He has done.

Romans 1 describes it like this: what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

When we look out at the world, we can see the fingerprint of God.  We can see something of His eternal power and divine nature by looking at His creation.

And what a creation it is!

Though when we look out at creation, we can see so many things: creativity, beauty, goodness...I want us to focus on power.

This next part might get a bit scientific and technical...and since this is not my area of expertise, I asked a real scientist to go over my facts and figures here.

To simplify, when we speak about power, I invite you to think of it in terms of lightbulbs.

An average human laborer, over his 8 hour day, produces enough sustained energy to light a 75 watt light bulb.  1 lightbulb.  In the grand scheme of creation, human beings are not all that powerful.

But now think of the power of a blue whale.  A blue whale, on average, produces enough energy to power 33 000 such light bulbs.  33 000.  A lot more than a human being!

But a blue whale’s power is not nearly the pinnacle of creation.

What about our sun?  With all the calculations and conversions, the sun produces enough energy to power over 2000 trillion lightbulbs.

And a volcano?  In a short burst, when it erupts, it produces something like the power of 900 million suns.

And I could keep going.  Time would fail me to tell you about the power of black holes, supernovas, and neutron stars...each almost infinitely more powerful than the one before.

But my point in all of this is the following: nothing in this universe...not a blue whale, or our sun, or a neutron star...nothing in this universe could possibly match the power of the One who made all these.

Do you see?

As human beings we are SO TINY.  We are SO TINY, and to think that we can be our own gods...to think that we can influence God and tell Him that maybe He’s a little backwards in some of His thinking...when we assume that we are WISER THAN GOD...it is so foolish that it is laughable!

It is laughable...but even as the laughter is on our lips, it should be replaced by FEAR.  It should be replaced by AWE over who our God is...and that He cares enough to create us...that He even thinks of this little blue and green marble, revolving around a pretty wimpy star, in an out of the way galaxy…

That this God who breathes out galaxies and creates with the sound of His voice...that this ENORMOUS, ALL-POWERFUL, MAJESTIC God, cares enough to clothe each lily of the field and count the hairs on your head…

That He cares enough that YOU worship Him…

It is enough to cause an existential crisis in even the strongest of us.

It is the understatement of all time to say, “Your God is too small.”

But this is not just the problem of the Israelites...who traded in God for a golden statue at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

This is not just the problem of Joel Osteen who turns God’s very name - I AM - into a self-affirmation lifestyle - The Power of I AM.  

But each one of us has this problem too.

We may THINK we have the Bible fully understood, knowing the context of not wearing mixed fabric clothing and the forbidding of tattoos, translating the long run-on Greek sentences of Paul, translating the poetry of David in our sleep…

But there is always more to know with the Bible.  We could never plumb its depths, had we thousands of years of focused study.

The Bible is many degrees of magnitude beyond us.

But God…

But GOD is many degrees of magnitude beyond even the Bible.

The Bible is the God who speaks universes into being, this God...speaking, instead of in black holes and supernovas...it is this God speaking in human words.

EVERY SINGLE WORD of the Bible is authoritative and inspired...this is the very word of God...but let us not imagine for a second that the power of the Bible is equal to the power of God.

God has TRULY revealed Himself...in creation, in History, in the Bible...but He has not FULLY revealed Himself.  We couldn’t handle it if He did.

And THIS No matter how good our theology, no matter how much we think we know the Bible...there is always more to learn.

This is one of the reasons that we are promised eternal life before the face of God.  We will have an ETERNITY to continue unpacking the depths of God’s greatness.

It’s like hiking in B.C. You climb up one mountain.  You go up one, and you think, Well, certainly I’m at the top of the world now!  But there’s another mountain.  And another one!

There are mountains.  Taller than Mount Baker in the distance...mountains of God’s glory and God’s power.  And we get to explore that forever!  When we think we have a grasp on who He is, how much He has loved us, we see another mountain.  Another range and another, going on forever.

And this amount of power, held by any other person...would be terrifying.  It would cause us to fall to our knees, not in awe and reverence, but in terror, feeling helpless and hopeless before this being of unlimited power and strength.  But it’s not just anyone...it is Yahweh who has this power.

And how does He use it?

He uses it, not to kill indiscriminately.

He uses it, not to show no mercy or cruelly and vindictively uncreate us in a moment.

But rather, this is the power that He uses to open the eyes closed by sin

He uses it to soften the heard heart and raise the dead soul.

He is our mighty King who used His power to save Israel from the might of Pharaoh and his hosts.

He uses His power to break the walls of Jericho, and to call His people back from Babylon.

He uses His unlimited power to transform death, more than conquering His greatest enemy.

We do not need to be terrified of this God, for there is no person in heaven or on earth that loves us more than our God.

Could we find someone who loves us more than He who laid down His life for us even when we were His enemies?

Could we find someone with more power and authority than He who breathes out galaxies, He who spoke all this into being?

Could we find someone wiser and gentler than He who took Israel by the hand and gave them HIs most marvellous law to obey?  Giving them a glimpse into His being, while at the same time, informing their earthly life?

Truly our God is a God like no other!  He is worthy of all worship and adoration, all blessing, honour and glory.  He is worthy of our love.  And as we heard in our call to worship, our ultimate expression of love is in obedience.  Our second point.

Obedience is really the heart of this Lord’s Day, and the next 10.  It is the heart, but it is not the foundation.

Fear is foundational.  Proper, holy, reverent fear.

As the Holy Spirit teaches in Proverbs - the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Fear is foundational to worship.

Fear is the motivation to obedience.

And that’s what it is - obedience.  For God did not give us 10 suggestions, but 10 commandments.  The LORD is not soft.  The LORD is not safe.  He does not suggest, but He commands.  He commands, with power and with love, and we are to obey with humility and with love.

And this is the commandment: You shall have no other gods before me.

For such a short commandment...only 8 words...there is a lot to explain.  Both parts of this commandment need explanation.

No other gods needs explanation, and before me needs explanation.

The very words “other gods” leaves us with questions.

Are there then other gods?

In this day and age, the question seems almost laughable.  We know that the idolatry of ancient times was mere superstition.

     Baal is now sleeping for good.

     Zeus no longer sits atop Mt. Olympus.

     Artemis no longer has any worshippers.

And it is true…

Baal is not God, Zeus does not reign on high, Artemis of the Ephesians is not truly great.  Only the LORD is God.  Only Yahweh is Almighty.

But this does not mean that there is no hint of truth behind the widespread idolatries.  This does not mean that there is no power behind these statues.

Do not be deceived beloved...though an idol is made of wood or stone or gold...there is real demonic power behind them.  Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians 10, saying that pagans offer sacrifices to demons.

And so, while we do not have to fear their power (for demons too, are many magnitudes of power below that of the One True God), we should not treat them casually or lightly.

There are no true “other gods” but there are pretenders, and powers in the spiritual realm that wish to take you away from the worship of the One True God.

So what about the second half of the commandment: the words “before me” ?

There are those who use these words to justify polytheism.  As though the words “before me” mean “above me.”

That whatever other gods you might worship, you must put them in their place.  Worship whomever you want, as long as Yahweh is first.

But this is not, and this cannot be what this commandment means.

Indeed, this word can be translated as “besides” or “in addition to.”

     You shall have no other gods besides me.

     You shall have no other gods in addition to me.

But really, when we get to the heart of the commandment, what it means is “You shall have no other gods BEFORE MY FACE.”

And this is an important concept that I want to leave you with this afternoon.  I want to give you two words.

Two words that sum up, not only this commandment but the Christian life in its entirety.

These aren’t English words but Latin.

Two words: CORAM DEO.

This is such a beautiful and full concept.  You and I live our lives, each day, each hour, each minute and each second CORAM DEO.  We live our lives BEFORE THE FACE OF GOD.

And this is what the first commandment, really all the commandments, and even our entire Christian life is about.  It is about living our entire lives in the PRESENCE OF GOD.

Whatever we do, whether it is the most mundane of tasks, or the most honorable, we must endeavor to do the best we can in everything for His sake, making, as the poet said: making drudgery divine.

It is all too easy to speak in flowery poetical terms about this, so let me make it practical, this CORAM DEO.

A serving girl in the 1800s described her life of faith in this way:

  • When I open my eyes in the morning, I ask that the Lord would open my eyes of understanding

  • While I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothes with the robe of righteousness

  • As I begin my work, I pray that I may be given strength equal to my tasks

  • As I sweep out the house, I pray that my heart may be cleansed from all impurities

  • When I am busy with the children, I remember that I too am a child of God

Your life might be different…

  • putting up siding on GOD’S house

  • Cutting GOD’s grass

  • Protecting GOD’S internet security from hackers...

From the time you open your eyes and breathe your first breath of the day, to the moment your eyes close on your pillow at night, you are living under the gaze of God.  We must be aware of this, and, as I challenged you a few weeks ago, start off your day gathering the mercies of God.  Drinking up the comforts and blessings found in His Holy Word!

Recognize that there is no higher goal than offering honour and worship to your God.  Your entire life is to be a living sacrifice.  Each day, you should live your life by the first commandment with no other gods before Him.

This means that you live a life of integrity.  This means that you live a life of wholeness and single-mindedness.  A single-minded devotion.

Do not compartmentalize your life, saying that only Sunday is for God, and all the other days are for you, all the other days are for your work, all the other days are for the boys…

This is faithless desertion of your God, and it is not behaviour that is becoming in a Christian.

Coram Deo is an objective reality...whether you acknowledge it or not.  All of life is lived before the face of God.  Our thoughts, our words, our deeds, are an open book before Him.

And so, live your life, ruled by God, not by you, and whatever you think is right.  Not by your neighbour, and whatever he thinks is right.  Not by your boss, and whatever she thinks is right.  But ruled by God.

Every day, we must do what is RIGHT, not by what is EASY.

Every day, we must live our lives fighting for what is JUST, not for what is EXPEDIENT.

This is what God expects of us.  We must walk before Him...recognizing Him for who He is, not remaking Him in our image.  We must walk before Him, not out of fear of His greatness, not out of guilt over our weakness, not in terror over our insignificance.  We must walk before Him, in awe, in love, in obedience, and in everlasting praise.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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