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Man's Shocking Response to God - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 1:21-23

  • 2014-12-14 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Well, next Sunday, Lord willing, we will look at the Christmas story. But today we want to finish the paragraph we've been studying together in Romans chapter 1. If you're already there keep your hand there but we're going to start in the Old Testament. We're going to start in Isaiah 44. Here the prophet Isaiah, 700 years before Christ, condemns and points out the absolute folly of idolatry. In Isaiah 44:9 this is what the prophet wrote. "Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile …" And he goes on then to recount the futility of human beings, verse 12, creating tools with which they can make an idol, and then verse 13, the actual creation of the idol itself, and then he details how there's this grove of trees that are developed and grown for the purpose of serving man. He cuts down one tree and with half of it he creates a fire and bakes his bread and warms himself. And the other half he makes an idol and falls down in front of it and worships. Look at the indictment that Isaiah gives in verse 18. "They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see …" that is, God has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see " … and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend." What's going on here? This isn't denying what Paul says in Romans 1 that they know. The point is they knew, they rejected that knowledge and God, as He often does and as we'll see in Romans 1, gives them over to their idolatry so that their idolatry begins to blind them and they actually begin to believe the lie. Verse 19,

    No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to 

    say, "I have burned half of [this log] in the fire and [I've] baked 

    bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the 

    rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block 

    of wood!" 

The sarcasm here is just dripping. "He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot …." this is frightening "he cannot deliver himself [from this idolatry] nor can he say, 'Is there not a lie in my right hand?'" God eventually gives the idolater over to his idolatry where he believes the lie. And he takes the knowledge of God that he began with and it becomes the lie of false religion.

Now, why would an intelligent person participate in the obvious folly of idolatry? Well, in Romans 1 Paul explains. And he explains to us that the reason behind false religion is not intellectual; it is, in fact, moral. Let's read again for the last time this paragraph we've been studying. Romans 1:18-23. You follow along.

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all 

    ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress 

    the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which is known 

    about God is evident within them. For God made it evident 

    to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible 

    attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been 

    clearly seen being understood through what has been made 

    so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew 

    God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. But they 

    became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was 

    darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools and 

    exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in 

    the form of corruptible man and of birds and four footed animals 

    and crawling creatures. 

As we've noted Paul is here in the second half of Romans 1 giving an indictment of all immoral pagans. That is, all of those who don't claim to worship the true God of the Bible. He begins his indictment in verse 18 by saying that right now the wrath, the just anger of God, is being revealed against them. And the rest of the chapter really answers two questions and that is: why is God's wrath being revealed against them, and the rest of the chapter is how is God's wrath being revealed against them?

We've been considering the first of those questions. Why? Why is God's wrath revealed against immoral pagans? And there are really two reasons Paul gives us here. First of all because of their willful rebellion against God's law. That's incorporated into two words in verse 18. God's wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness of men. This is the rejection of God's law. What He's revealed about what we owe Him and what He's revealed that we owe the people around us. It is willful rebellion against His law.

The second reason that God's wrath is being revealed is willful ignorance of God's person. Now, we noted that in verse 18 there's just a brief summary of what Paul means by this. Notice how he ends verse 18, men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." They hold down what they know about God. They stifle it. And then beginning in verse 19 through the end of this paragraph he fills that out and gives us a detailed explanation. And we've walked through this so let me just recount it for you briefly. He makes it clear in verse 19 that God has in fact revealed Himself. Notice verse 19, "that which is known about God is evident." It's clear, it's visible, it's plain within them, "for God made it evident to them." God has revealed Himself. He also tells us when God revealed Himself. Verse 20 begins, "For since the creation of the world …" day after day, night after night from the very beginning of creation this revelation is ongoing. What God revealed about Himself is, notice verse 20 "His invisible attributes," specifically His eternal power and His deity, His divine nature. Those have been clearly seen. How has God revealed Himself? Well Paul says that these things are seen and being understood through what has been made. Man looks at the creation and he sees in the creation these realities about God. What results from that revelation? Well, these sobering words at the end of verse 20, "so that they are without excuse." There has never been a person on this planet, there will never be a person on this planet who has an excuse to offer God because he has seen the revelation of God in creation and he has rejected it. And that brings us then to how man responds to God's revelation in creation. This is what we've been considering. In light of all of that, how is it that man responds?

Well, he responds in two very shocking ways. Last time we finished examining the first way he responds and that is hardhearted rebellion against the true God. Notice how it's expressed in verse 21. "For even though they knew God," that is, they knew these things about God from the creation, "… they did not honor Him …," they did not glorify Him as God literally and they did not "give thanks." Those are acts of rebellion. They refuse to glorify the true God and they refuse to express gratitude for His goodness. Now I noted last week for you that the next three verbs after that are all passive. And they describe not what man does, not man's rebellion but rather the consequences of his rebellion. These are things that happen to him in light of his rebellion. First of all, the consequence of flawed thinking. Notice verse 21. When they didn't honor God, when they didn't give Him thanks "they became futile in their speculations." Their thinking, their processing, and their conclusions were all flawed and empty. Another consequence is a darkened heart. Every aspect of man's being, every part of his immaterial soul, the darkness descended. His mind doesn't work properly, his emotions don't work properly, his will doesn't make the right decisions. It's a darkened heart. And the third consequence is self-confident foolishness. Verse 22. Professing, claiming to be sophos, wise, they actually became moros, moronic, foolish.

Now, today we come to the pagan's second response to God and His general revelation. Not only does he show hardhearted rebellion, but secondly, and this response is also truly shocking, he shows hardhearted worship of false gods. Now, if you had never read this and you were really thinking through the reality of this, this would be shocking to you. Instead of worshipping the true, the one, the only living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, man turns from that knowledge and in a hardhearted way decides to worship replacements. Substitutes. Now let's pick up our steam here and start at verse 22.

    Professing to be wise they became fools. And exchanged the 

    glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of 

    corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling


Paul's point is here is man's greatest folly: that he would choose to worship something created rather than the Creator Himself. It is—and I don't use this word lightly—stupid. But here's man's problem. As part of God's design of every human soul, He hard-wired man to worship. Do you understand this? Every human being is hard-wired to worship. He can deny that reality. He can stay away from organized religion. He can even claim to be an agnostic or an atheist. But what he can never do is change how he's hard-wired. So what happens then when a creature made by God to worship God refuses to worship God? Folks, let this sink into your soul. What will never happen is he will never cease to worship. It can't happen. Every human being worships someone or something. Let me make it more personal. You worship someone or something today. You are worshipping either the true God in the biblical means He has prescribed or you are engaged in what the Bible calls idolatry. But there's no neutral ground here. There's no gray area between the two where you find yourself. According to God every person on earth, every person in this room, you are worshipping either the true God as He's prescribed or you are up to your eyeballs in idolatry.

Martin Luther writes, "The human mind is so inclined by nature that as it turns from the one it of necessity becomes addicted to the other. He who rejects the Creator must worship the creature." John Murray puts it this way, "The mind of man is never a religious vacuum. If there is the absence of the true there is always the presence of the false." That really is Paul's point in verses 21 to 23. Refusing to worship the true God, man will create or pursue another object of worship. In other words, he will either engage in the worship of the true God or he will pursue false religion. Now I'm going to use that expression false religion a number of times today so let me define it for you so you're clear on what I mean by that. I don't mean simply the one who falls down in front of a piece of wood or a rock. I mean by false religion all the philosophies, all the belief systems, all the religions of the world, all of the individually sort of personally created designer religions of individuals, everything other than the true biblical worship of the one God of Scripture. It's false religion.

Now, in verse 23, Paul provides us with several compelling insights into false religion. Let's look at these insights together. First of all, all false religion is idolatry. Notice the subject of the sentence in verse 23 is not expressed. "And exchanged…" To get the subject of the sentence, we have to go back in English to verse 22: They. They "exchanged the glory …." But in the Greek text the subject is supplied in the verb itself. And so it is in verse 23, and they "exchanged the glory …." So to whom is Paul referring when he uses the pronoun they? Well, in context the antecedent of that pronoun is in verse 18: "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." Who are the ones who suppress the truth in unrighteousness? All pagans. So understand then, Paul is making a sweeping universal point. All pagans, all who don't worship the one true God, are engaged in false religion, which is idolatry. Now, this is a stark contrast to the spirit of the age in which we live. If you take a comparative religions course in one of the local universities or one of the Texas universities, if the professor believes in the concept of God at all he will say something like this: "Well, you know, mankind's journey to God is something like climbing Mt. Everest. You know if you want to climb Mt. Everest you first have to decide which path to take. And there are many different paths. You can start in Nepal, you can start in other places, but in the end all of those paths on Everest are leading to one place. And that is to its summit." In the same way, this professor might say, "There are many different belief systems, many different religions that exist but ultimately all of the paths that are on this spiritual journey are intended to arrive at the same destination, a knowledge of God." Instead of that, Scripture asserts that there are not many paths to God, but only one. And all alternate paths, without exception, all the paths that promise that they will eventually end in God's eternal presence are dead ends. Or, more accurately, they are paths that lead to the opposite destination, eternal hell.

Now, the question that ought to come into your mind is if there's only the true faith in the true and living God and everything else is false religion, everything else is idolatry, where did all of this false religion come from? You know we speak about "man-made religion" and of course in one sense that may be true. But that's not entirely accurate. Scripture speaks very clearly about where false religion comes from. You first have to understand that false gods don't exist. Right? You understand that. There are no other gods. There's the one living and true God. And the others are pretend. That point is made in a number of places in Scripture, but let me just give you one: Acts 19:26. Here are Paul's enemies talking about his ministry and listen to what they say about Paul. Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people saying, here's what Paul teaches. That gods made with hands are no gods at all. That's absolutely right. They don't exist. So, what really lies behind every false god, every false object of worship? The answer might surprise you. According to both the Old Testament and the New Testament the answer is demons. Let me give you Moses. Here's Moses in Deuteronomy 32:17. He's talking about idolatry and he says, "They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread." You hear what Moses is saying? He's saying that while those gods don't really exist, those pretend gods originate with, are empowered by, are animated by demons and those demons then that are impersonating those gods become the real object of the worshipper's affection and adoration. Paul says the same thing. 1 Corinthians 10:19-20. He says, "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God." So understand the import of these verses. The ramifications are far-reaching. The inventor of all false religion is God's archenemy, Satan himself. Satan's greatest strategy to oppose the work of God in this world is not to cause you to stumble in your flesh. He does that. He creates a world system that appeals to your flesh, he puts temptation in your way as does your own flesh bring you to temptation. But that's not his main role. Satan's primary strategy is to promote damning false religion. And behind every false religion is a demon impersonating the god who is worshipped in order to enslave the people who follow that religion. So technically then understand there is no man-made religion. There is the true faith revealed to us by God Himself and all other faiths, all other religions, all other belief systems of any kind can be traced back to the Prince of Darkness himself.

You know when we think of idolatry I think we get this sort of myopia, this sort of limited view of what idolatry really is. We think of the tribesmen falling down in front of a rock. And that is one form of idolatry, but it's only one form. Several years ago I preached a series here on worship and part of that series was four messages on idolatry. So you can feel my pain today trying to cram everything I want to say about idolatry into one message, but in that series we discovered that according to the Bible there are at least seven different expressions of idolatry. It's not simple. It's a complex idea. Now, if you want to study these in detail you can go listen to that series. But let me just give you the list so you can see how far-reaching idolatry in biblical terms really is. Here's idolatry. Here are the expressions of idolatry in Scripture.

Number one, worshipping nature and its unexplained forces. The animist is an idolater. If he worships the sun, if he worships the storms, if he worships the sea, the moon, the stars, he is an idolater. Number two, and this is how we normally think of idolatry, worshipping false personal gods often localized in images, so either wood or stone. That's the classic idea of idolatry. Number three, deifying abstract concepts or forces. For example, in the Old Testament times people would actually worship destiny or fortune. That's idolatry. Number four, improperly venerating something attached to the worship of the true God. You remember the children of Israel worshipped that bronze snake that Moses had made. That was attached to the worship of the true God but by worshipping that it became idolatry. Number five, this one's shocking. And again you have to go and get all of the biblical support for it but let me just give it to you, refusing to recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. Since God has identified His Son as the object of our worship to refuse to do so is to commit idolatry. In fact, if you have not acknowledged Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, from God's perspective you might as well build an image of yourself, install it in your house, and fall down in front of it and worship every day. That's what's going on. Number six, holding wrong or deficient views of God. You see, you don't have to make an image to be an idolater. All you have to do is in your brain think wrongly about, think poorly of, the true God because you have reshaped God into an image. And this one's particularly frightening. A seventh expression of idolatry, biblically speaking, is giving any human desire precedence over God. In Colossians 3:5, and it's also in Ephesians 5, Paul's talking about sexual sin and he gets to sin of the heart, to sexual lust. And listen to how he describes it. Colossians 3:5. Literally he says this, covetousness, speaking of sexual covetousness, which is idolatry. That's very sobering because think about what that means. If lust can be idolatry that means you don't have to have a name for your god to be an idolater. You don't even have to make a deliberate decision "I'm going to worship this." The person involved in sexual covetousness does neither. He simply pursues his desires and he gives precedent to the pursuit of his desires over God. And to do so is to become an idolater, Paul says. And that's not just true with sexual sin. It's true with any desire. So, understand then those seven are the biblical expressions of false religion of idolatry. In Romans 1, from the simple pronoun they and its antecedent, the men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, we learn that all of those outside of the worship of the true God in Scripture are engaged in false religion and all false religion, according to Paul in verse 23, is idolatry.

Now, there's a second insight Paul provides us into false religion in verse 23 and that is all false religion is an intentional flight from the true God. Kirsten Bigelow told me after the first service that her kids were taking notes and she glanced over at one of her children, what they had written, and they had sort of mistaken the word and they had written, "all false religion is an international flight from the true God." Just to be clear it is an intentional flight from the true God. Look at verse 23. "And [they] exchanged." The Greek word exchanged is identical to our English word. It simply means to trade or to exchange one thing for another. And notice the verb is active. In other words, the subject of the sentence in this case they, meaning immoral pagans, all of them, are performing the action. Pagans intentionally make an exchange. All men, according to verse 20, know much about the true God through His creation, but because they don't like the implications of what they learn about the true God they make a deliberate exchange. This is why John Calvin called the human heart an idol factory. We don't like what we learn about the true God and so we are very capable at creating idols and gods out of anything and everything. You see this even in Israel. You read the Old Testament. Now you understand that not everyone who was a part of the nation of Israel was a true believer. In fact, most of them were unbelievers. Only a remnant of them were true believers in the true God. And so those who were unbelievers in the nation, they ran from the true God to idolatry and you see it over and over again in the Old Testament. Right after the Exodus you see that ugly incident of the golden calf. What's going on there? Well, listen to the psalmist commenting on that incident and speaking of that deliberate exchange that took place. This is Psalm 106:20 speaking of the golden calf incident. He says, "they exchanged their glory …," that is, God Himself, "they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass." Now that's shocking. Just let that sink in to your mind. They exchanged the glory of the great Creator God for the image of an ox. Eight hundred years later in the time of Jeremiah unbelievers in the nation of Israel were still making that same sort of dreadful exchange. Jeremiah 2:11 the prophet says, "Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods?" God says "But my people have changed their glory…" that is Me, "…for that which does not profit." That's truly amazing. What I want you to see is that man's pursuit of false religion is not because he is desperately seeking God. That's what a lot of people think. "Well, look around you. See all those people engaged in false religion? It's because they're seeking God." No. Biblically the absolute opposite is true. False religion is an intentional flight away from God. It's because he's desperately seeking to leave the true God. Look at Romans 1:28. Just as they, literally, did not approve of having God in their knowledge. That's what the text says. They did not approve of having God in their knowledge. And so they turn to idolatry. Look over in 3:11. Here's everything you need to know about false religion. "There is none [not one] who seeks for God." So all false religion then is an intentional flight from the true God.

There's a third insight back in 1:23. And that is that all false religion is an intentional effort to diminish the glory of the true God. Paul says in verse 23, they "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image." Glory here speaks of the splendor, the majesty that intrinsically belongs to the one true God. It's the weighty list of all of His divine perfections. Paul says they exchanged the glory that is God for an image. Now understand, when he says they exchanged he's not describing a particular event—a particular event in human history, a particular event in the progress of a nation, or even a particular event in a person's life. Rather, in a summary fashion Paul is describing the shocking propensity that all human beings have to exchange what they know about the true God for false religion. And it's so shocking that it defies comparison. I mean how do you picture trading God for an ox? We could try. I mean, we could think of it this way. Let's say for a moment that you possess all of the British crown jewels. Many of you have seen them. You actually own the British crown jewels in all of their splendor, the craftsmanship involved, the beauty of the stones, their incredible value. They belong to you. And you take the British crown jewels and you exchange them for the trinkets in a Cracker Jacks box. That doesn't even touch the reality of what's described here. So why? Why is man willing to make such an exchange? Well, think with me now. You only swap or exchange something because you have concluded that the value of what you have is less than what you're trading for. So what does man gain in this exchange? What is so valuable to him that he's willing to exchange God to get? In other words what are the advantages of false religion? Well there are several of them. Let me briefly give them to you.

Man pursues false religion to diminish the glory of God to allow for his own self-rule. This is what false religion, folks, is all about. I wish I had time to take you to Jeremiah 17. Mark it in your notes. You can look at it. The first five verses are interesting because in verses 1-4 of Jeremiah 17, God talks about Israel's idolatry, talks about her pursuing idols and worshipping idols. And then he says this in verse 5, "Thus says the Lord, 'Cursed is the man who trusts in ….'" what do you expect there? Idols. That's not what he says. "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord." In other words, to follow idols is ultimately all about one's self. Once you make a counterfeit for God it allows you to remain at the center of your world. You simply choose a god who fits you and your lifestyle and what you want, a designer god. David Wells puts it this way:

    Why do people choose the substitute over God Himself? Probably 

    the most important reason is that it obviates accountability to God. 

    We can meet idols on our own terms because they are our own 

    creations. They are safe, predictable, and above all, controllable; 

    they are, in Jeremiah's colorful language, the "scarecrows in a  

    cucumber field." They are portable and they are completely under the 

    user's control.     They offer nothing like the threat of a God who 

    thunders from Sinai and whose providence in this world so often appears 

    to us to be incomprehensible and dangerous. People who 

    remain in the center of their lives and loyalties need  only face 

    themselves. That is the appeal of idolatry. 

It's about self-rule.

There's a second reason that false religion appeals and that is because it panders to self-centered gratification. False religion invariably either allows gross sin or it makes some rules where you can't sin in a gross way but it tolerates sins of the heart and it really promotes self-righteousness. So either way it is ultimately about self-gratification. You understand this? False religion is about self-gratification. If you were to look in the Old Testament, I wish I had time to develop this. You can go back again and listen to the series I did on this, but when you look at the Old Testament idolatry you will find that the real appeal of Old Testament idolatry came into this self-gratification area and in three areas. You will find that the common attractions were violence and brutality. People liked the false religions because it allowed them to do what they wanted, to be brutal, to be violent in the name of their God. This is exactly what you see happening with ISIS. Why are the people attracted to that? It gives people a chance to do what they want and to do it in the name of religion. Violence and brutality.

Secondly, it was about sexual fulfillment. Old Testament paganism was sexual. There were temple priests and prostitutes. You talk about the high places in the Old Testament; those were actually places on elevations, platforms on which sexual sin was carried out so that the gods could be voyeuristic and watch. So you could worship and engage in sexual sin. And then it was about financial prosperity. Baal was the god of the storms. Supposedly he brought the rain. So you needed to be in touch with him because you wanted a good crop, you wanted to be financially successful. So understand then paganism wasn't primarily about Baal; it was about violence and brutality, it was about sexual satisfaction and fulfillment, and it was about financial prosperity. Listen, the people in our culture could just as easily be worshippers of Baal as anything else because that's what they worship. If you don't worship only the true God then whatever you worship you do so because you've convinced yourself that it brings you self-centered gratification. And those who live to pursue self-centered gratification are in every sense idolaters.

There's a third advantage to false religion and that is it appeals to pride. You see all false religion without exception offers you the path to self-salvation. It tells you, "You know what, you're a pretty good person. You can do it. I mean look at all you do. Look at how helpful you are. Look at how generous you are. You know you're a pretty good person." It promotes and stokes human pride. Those are the appeals of idolatry. Man pursues false religion because it diminishes God's glory and once he's diminished God's glory he can give himself to self-rule, self-gratification, and human pride. Now, look at verse 23 one other time. I want you to see the progression that Paul outlines here as man descends into the darkness of false religion. They "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…" an image, notice the progression "… in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." You see the progression there? John Calvin put it this way, "First they befouled the majesty of God by forming Him in the likeness of a corruptible man. And then, not satisfied with so great a crime they descended even to beasts and to those of the most filthy kind." It started out comparing the true God to the apex of God's creation, man himself. But then it descends. As the ultimate insult to God, they ultimately compare God to the lower forms of life; to animals that don't even have an immaterial spirit, to birds and four-footed beasts and even to reptiles crawling in the dirt, comparing the glorious God to a snake.

Now, Americans tend to get pretty smug when they read these sections about idolatry because they think only in terms of, you know, the tribesmen falling down in front of a piece of wood or stone. But I hope you see after just that brief survey that in fact what the people in paganism were worshipping was really not Baal. It was themselves. It was their ability to fulfill what they wanted—self-rule, self-gratification. It stoked their pride. That is exactly what modern America is all about. Having willfully abandoned the one true God people cannot change the reality that they are hard-wired to worship and so they turn to substitutes, to false religion. Their own hearts become idol factories. Scripture calls all the replacements for the true God, without exception, idolatry. It's a deliberate exchange. Look at verse 23 one last time. I want you to see the nature of this exchange. Notice the exchanges that take place here. They exchanged the person of the living God for a lifeless image. They exchanged the Creator for one of His creatures. They exchanged the incorruptible, the one not subject to decay, with what is subject to decay and death. And they exchanged the glorious and the majestic for the common and the every day. It's interesting; there is one picture of idolatry in the Old Testament that is a comparison. It's in Jeremiah 2. Here's how Jeremiah puts it. Jeremiah 2:13, "For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." Boy, in a land where it's so barren and dry, that's a remarkable image. He says, listen, they have in Me a spring of this fresh, bubbling, cool, clear, clean water. But they're not content with that. So they trade in their fountain, their spring, of water for a cistern, a collector of rainwater. But not just a collector of rainwater, one that's broken, that doesn't hold water. So here you have on the one hand a fountain of fresh, cool, clean water and on the other hand a pit filled with sludge. That's the exchange.

Now, what do we do with this? Very briefly let me talk to those of you who are believers. Understand that we are all susceptible to idolatry. Over and over again the New Testament makes this point. In 1 Corinthians 10, 1 John 5, Colossians 3, Ephesians 5; we can turn any desire into an idol. The problem is our hearts are deceitful and it's very hard to recognize. So how do you know if one of your desires has become an idol? Let me give you a little test. Give yourself these questions as a test. Do you love that thing more than you love anything else including God? Secondly, are you willing to disobey God to get it? Thirdly, is that desire and its fulfillment what you believe will bring you the greatest happiness? And, do you obey that desire and do you make sacrifices to it of your time, your resources, etc.? If you answered yes to any of those questions then it is very possible that that desire in your life has become an idol. But perhaps you're not worshipping the true God through His Son today. And you know that. Understand God's perspective: You are an idolater. It's just as if you set up an image of yourself and fell down and worshipped it. What do you do? How do you respond? Turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 1. Here's how you respond, verse 5: you need to hear the good news, the gospel. The fact that Jesus came, God's only Son, took on flesh, lived a perfect sinless life, died paying the full penalty of sin for every one who would believe in Him, reconciling us to God. And here's what you need to do, verse 9: Hearing that message you need to

    Turn to God from your idolatry to serve the living and the 

    true God. And to wait for His Son from heaven whom He 

    raised from the dead, that is Jesus, [the one] who rescues 

    us from God's wrath that's coming. 

That's your only hope. It's interesting the book of Revelation ends by saying that those who are outside of heaven, those who are in eternal hell, are idolaters. Your only hope is Christ. Run from your idols to Christ. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this amazingly clear text. Thank You for all that we've learned. Father, help us who are in Christ to tear down every idol. May nothing mean to us what You mean to us. May we obey You above all things. May we love You above all things. May we pursue You above all things. And Father I pray for those here today who, because they have not yet submitted to You and to Your Son, are from Your vantage point idolaters. I pray that this would be the day when they would turn from their idols to You, the living and true God. To wait for Your Son from heaven, the one who rescues us from Your coming wrath against idolatry. We pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.