A Spirit of Whoredom.

My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. – Hosea 4:12-14 ESV

Idolatry should seem like a not-so-subtle form of idiocy to us. The idea of taking a piece of wood and carving an image out of it and bowing down before it as some kind of god should come across as utterly ridiculous. The prophet, Isaiah, provides us with God’s very comical description of just how silly idol worship should be to us.

“the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it!” – Isaiah 44:13-15 NLT

Regarding idols, God pulls no punches. “How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame” (Isaiah 44:9 NLT).  And as sophisticated, modern believers, we would probably agree with His assessment. The thought of bowing down before a block of wood or some kind of man-make object sounds ridiculous to us. But for the people of Israel, idol worship was a part of the daily fabric of life. It was a common practice among all the nations surrounding them. Idol worship was socially acceptable. But the real issue behind all idol worship is the rejection of the one true God. God calls it a “spirit of whoredom.” What drives it is a desire for something other than God. It is built on dissatisfaction, distrust, and a belief that God is not enough. Rather than trust God and His promises, the people of Israel hedged their bets and turned to the gods of other nations in a hope that they would have all their bases covered. It God didn’t come through, maybe one of the other gods would. Some of their unfaithfulness to God was also driven by mere peer pressure, the desire to fit in with the nations around them. One of the reasons God had demanded that the people of Israel destroy all the nations living in the land of promise was so that they would not be tempted to worship their gods. But Israel failed to keep God’s command and soon found themselves intermarrying with those nations and worshiping their false gods.

By the time we get to the period in which Hosea prophesied, things had digressed to a dangerous point. Israel had actually manufactured their own idols – two golden calves – to replace the worship of Yahweh. They had set up their own priesthood and sacrificial system to replace that which God had instituted in Jerusalem. Their unfaithfulness had reached epic proportions and God had had enough. The “spirit of whoredom” was rampant. It even led their daughters to become actual prostitutes. The marriages of the people of Israel were marked by adultery and unfaithfulness. God declared, “your men are doing the same thing, sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes” (Hosea 4:14 NLT).

Unfaithfulness to God stems from an ignorance of God. If the Israelites had really known and understood just how great their God was, they would never have considered turning their back on Him. But over time, they had grown foolish in their understanding. They had lost their intimacy with God and had no real personal relationship with Him. God had become little more than a concept to them, an impersonal, distant deity whom they couldn’t see and with whom they had little or no interaction. The spirit of whoredom creeps in when we stray from God. The less time we spend with Him, reading His Word, sharing with Him our wants and needs, listening to His direction and hearing of His love for us, the more we will tend to stray from Him. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but distance from God is dangerous. It can lead to disinterest and, ultimately, unfaithfulness. Like the people of Israel, we will find ourselves turning to something other than God in order to have our needs met. And while we may not have wooden idols in our homes or shrines located under trees or on top of hills. we will find ourselves worshiping false gods. The spirit of whoredom will creep in, tempting us to seek out something other than God to bring us satisfaction, contentment, joy, pleasure, hope, peace, or fulfillment. Anything we turn to other than God is an idol in our lives. Anything we fear losing has become an idol in our lives. Anything we wake up at night worrying about has become an idol in our lives. If sleeping in means more to us than seeking God, sleep has become an idol. If watching TV brings us more joy than reading God’s Word, then TV has become an idol. If becoming successful is more appealing to us than becoming holy, then our job has become an idol to us. If we place more trust in our money than we do God, then money has become an idol to us. And we are suffering from the spirit of whoredom.

God is not enough for us. His love is insufficient for us. We need more. We demand more. When He doesn’t give us what we think we need, we turn to something else. When we think we deserve more or better, we seek what we’re looking for elsewhere. And when we do, we shouldn’t be surprised when our children end up seeking their hope, help, fulfillment and satisfaction from the things of this world. The spirit of whoredom is contagious. It can spread through a family, a church and a generation. In a very short time, we can find ourselves in the same predicament that Israel was in – unfaithful to God,  spiritually adulterous and facing God’s wrath for their infidelity and insubordination. But God would have us return to Him, placing our faith and trust in Him. He wants to love us, bless us and fulfill His will in us.

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2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Dead or Alive – Please God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. – 2 Corinthians 5:9 NLT

What’s your goal in life? To be successful? Make a million dollars? Reach retirement? Graduate from college? Get married? Own a big home? Drive a fancy car? Have kids? See the world? Change the world?

As believers, we’re to have a different perspective about life on this planet and what we expect to get out of it. We are eternal creatures living in a temporary environment that is nowhere near what God intended it to be when He created it. This place can be beautiful, even breathtaking at times, but it is fallen and marred by the effects of sin. Human beings have the capacity for good, but are more prone to sin and selfishness, perpetrating all kinds of evil on one another. And yet, we find ourselves, like everyone else, living as if life on this planet is all there is. We fear death and so we try to cram as much living as we can in the days we have. We try to prolong life and extend our time here on earth, hoping to buy ourselves a bit more time to enjoy what we’ve got or get our hands on what we’ve missed out on.

But Paul had a different perspective. He longed to be with God, because he knew that what God had in store for him in eternity was far better than anything he could ever experience here on earth. Paul didn’t have a death wish. He wasn’t in a hurry to die, but he knew that his life here was temporary and a poor substitute for what was to come. And that eternal perspective led Paul to have a different goal in life. As long as he lived on this earth, he was going to seek to please God. His temporary, earthly life was an opportunity to contribute to the advancement of God’s mission and glory in the world. Rather than live for himself, Paul chose to live for God. Rather than trying to build his own kingdom on earth, Paul chose to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Because Paul knew that all that he accomplished on this earth was going to one day be judged by Christ at the Bema Seat. He understood that his life as a believer was going to be held to a different set of standards. The Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ is a real event that will take place after Christ returns for his bride, the Church. Every believer will stand before Christ and will have his works judged by Christ – all those things he or she has done in their life since becoming a believer. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB). The judgment spoken of here has nothing to do with salvation. This will not be a judgment to determine who gets into heaven, because as believers, we will all spend eternity with Christ. But He will judge our works. He will determine the relative value of what we have done since becoming believers. The criteria for judgment will be the worth or worthlessness of our works. This is not about punishment, but rewards. There will be rewards for those things we did in this life that helped extend God’s Kingdom and accomplish His will on earth. Those things that we have done that were selfish, self-centered, and ended up building our own little kingdom will not be rewarded. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul had told them about this coming day of judgment. “Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NLT).

The realization of rewards should motivate us to live differently in this life. It should cause us to recognize that all those things we invest so much time and energy in that are for our own pleasure or personal satisfaction, will be worth nothing when we stand before the Lord. They will be wood, hay and stubble. That is why Paul lived to please God. He wanted his entire life to be comprised of gold, silver and jewels – those things that would be judged by Christ as worthwhile and worthy or reward. But it all begins with an eternal perspective. We have to understand that this life is temporary and only a fleeting moment when compared to the eternity we will spend with Christ. Even these bodies are temporary, growing older with every passing moment, which is why God is going to provide us with new bodies, heavenly bodies, designed to last an eternity. None of us know how long we have to live. But as believers, we should know that as long as we do live, we should make it our goal to please God in all that we do. We should live in such a way that our lives are “a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1 NLT).

Father, I focus way too much on this life. I worry far too much about getting out of this life all that I can – and mostly just for me. But I am to set my sights on eternity. I am to focus on Your Kingdom, not mine. I am to live here, but with my attention focused THERE. Show me how to live to please You. I want to make it my goal to please You in all that I do in the time that I have left here. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org