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One God or Many

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
February 15, 2021 9:00 am

One God or Many

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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February 15, 2021 9:00 am

As we continue our study of Elijah, we’re looking at a defining moment in Israel’s history when they had to choose between serving God or idols. And Pastor J.D. is challenging us to face that decision, as well!

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. It's one thing to hear what I'm saying about God and say, that's wrong, I disagree with it. It is entirely arrogant and bigoted to do the other thing which says you don't really know what you believe. So don't limp along intellectually and do the very thing that you are denying to others just because you don't have the courage to actually think through to tell somebody, hey, I disagree with what you believe. If you won't decide about God being God, you're limping intellectually. If you won't decide of which God is God, you're limping along through life. Welcome to a new week of teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. You know, every once in a while you're bound to come to some defining moments, crossroads in life, like a marriage proposal or pursuing a new career or move to a new city.

And either way you choose, you know your life will never truly be the same again. Well, today we're looking at one of those defining moments for the nation of Israel when they had to choose between serving God or serving idols. And Pastor J.D. Greer is showing us that we each have to make that same decision in our own lives.

It's part of our teaching series titled Something Better, and Pastor J.D. titled this message as a question, One God or Many? Israel is at a place in 1 Kings 18 where they've got to make a decision, and Elijah is going to call them to that decision.

He's going to say, hey, you can't go on any longer not making a decision. You've got to decide whether God is your God or whether you're not really fully committed to God, but you can't go along just kind of following the path of least resistance like you have been. I would say that of those that are listening to me right now, probably this would describe a large number of people. One of the largest groups of people in our culture and our community are those that you've not rejected God. I mean, if you rejected God, I doubt you would be here, all right?

You haven't rejected God, but you haven't fully decided for God either. And so you're kind of like, you know, like God, I'm into God, but you're not a fully committed disciple of Jesus Christ, and I'm going to present the same decision to you that Elijah gave to the children of Israel because through this story, God is presenting this question to us. If you've got a Bible, I'd invite you to take it out and open it to 1 Kings chapter 18. The context, just to catch you up, Israel has been on a downward spiral for about 200 years in which they've begun to worship a lot of other gods besides Jehovah. Jehovah, of course, being Israel's God, the God that delivered them from slavery, the one creator of all the universe.

The King of Israel at this time is a guy named Ahab, and Ahab is pretty much a spineless wimp. On the one hand, he's kind of a worshiper of Jehovah. I say that because he named his kids Ahaziah and Jehoram. Ahaziah means owned by Jehovah and Jehoram means Jehovah is exalted.

And in those days, names are very significant. So he's kind of a worshiper of Jehovah. But on the other hand, he chooses for his wife, the wicked witch of the west, Jezebel, who is fully committed to Baal. Not just fully committed, but she is committed to removing the worship of God from Israel. And so she has a lot of God's prophets killed and she tears down a lot of the synagogues and in their place she's building temples to Baal.

And she is trying to make Baal worship the official state religion, and Ahab is too much of a spineless wimp to do anything about it. So God, into this situation, raises up a real man, Elijah. And Elijah's mission is to show that there's only one God, Jehovah, and to call Israel back to worship him.

Elijah's name in Hebrew, I told you this, literally means the Lord is God, Eli-ja, Eli, God, Ja, the Lord. So his name is kind of the point of his life. He's trying to show what is distinctive about Jehovah. He's trying to show there's not a bunch of gods and you just choose whichever one you want. There's one God, the Lord, he is God.

He's trying to show what is distinctive about him. And so we come today to this epic battle on top of Mount Carmel. I told you last week that all the stories in Elijah's life have been leading up to this battle.

And so this is kind of the moment that all this has been building toward. The moment when the question is answered, is there one God or are there many gods? Now I told you this a few weeks ago that when I was growing up, I always thought Baal was like one guy. One God and she had God and Baal, but that's not true. Baal was more like a title. There were hundreds of Baals. There was Baals for just about every sphere of life.

You had the Baal of good sex, and then you had the Baal of the harvest, then you had the Baal of prosperity and success, you had the Baal of military power, the Baal of economic might. You see, a lot of times, think about this, I know this is true, a lot of times we hear stories like this and we're like, oh, look at all those silly primitive people with all their gods. They're so backwards, they got their little statues out, we are so far advanced beyond them.

Yet, think about it, we worship the exact same things they do. Sex, prosperity, family, power, at least they recognized that they had these things had a spiritual dimension to them. They had the ability to grab ahold of our souls. They had the ability to penetrate us and consume us.

We often don't recognize that, which makes them, in many ways, ahead of us. You see, all humans are worshipers. We all find something that we give ultimate worth to. That's where we get the word worship from.

Worship, worship. You find something that is so worthy, so valuable that you couldn't imagine life being any good without that thing. That thing defines you.

To obtain that thing determines whether or not your life has real value. Now, I know some of you are like, no, no, no, not me, I'm not a worshiper, I'm not even religious at all. That's just because you don't understand how your soul works. Your soul finds something that it applies infinite value to. It may not be traditional religion in that sense, but you feel like without this one thing, without this set of things, life is not worth living.

You could no more turn off your drive for worship by not being religious than you could turn off your sex drive by remaining single. That's just not how it works. An idol, a bail, is anything that takes on ultimate worth to you. It becomes your primary source of security, your primary source of fulfillment, your primary identity. For example, money, for many people, is their primary source of security.

That's why you're so worried about it all the time. That's why you can't obey God in the area of money. You're like, I can't give my money away because my money is what's going to take care of me in the future. I couldn't imagine life being okay without a good pile of money. Money is the price. Nothing wrong with money. Listen, idols are not usually bad things.

Idols are usually good things that we turn into God things. For some people, family is fulfillment. When they think about the good life, it always revolves around having the right kind of family. That's why if you're single, for some of you, you think the idea of growing old single is just devastating to you because you can't imagine life being okay without being properly married. If you're not in a good marriage, that's why you daydream about getting out of that marriage because you're like, how could life be good if I don't have the right kind of family? That's why some of you, as you get older, are getting bitter and unhappy because your kids aren't doing what you always hoped they would do.

You think that in order for your life to be good, you've got to have kids that live at a certain distance from you, kids that treat you a certain way. That's why. It's because it's an idol that's becoming so devastating to you. A lot of people find their identity in something besides God. They find their identity in their accomplishments. I've told you before, this is me. For years, I have established my identity based on how good I was at something. I just dragged that right into the pastorate. I many times will judge my identity based on how successful I'm being as a pastor. That's why I told you when I preach a bad sermon, you could scrape me up off the floor with a spatula.

It's not because I'm worried that you people didn't get the word of God. It's because I build my identity on being a good preacher and pastor. I don't find my identity a lot of times in being a child of God.

I find my identity in something that I have accomplished or done. These things are things that we worship. In our day, there are hundreds of false gods, just like there were in Elijah's day. John Calvin used to say that the human heart is an idol factory. You have as many bales in your heart right now as Jezebel has been trying to put in Israel. So do not think for a second this is a quaint little story about some backward primitive people that lived a couple thousand years ago.

This is a story about you. This is a battle that takes place in your heart. If you are not aware this battle is taking place in your heart, then you are more deluded than anybody because this is the ultimate battle of your life, which God is God. 1 Kings chapter 18. You have to read this with a dramatic drum beat behind it.

I'm not going to do that for obvious reasons because the pace quickens in this story and it starts taking off. Verse 17, when Ahab saw Elijah. Remember Ahab has been looking for Elijah for three and a half years trying to kill him because Elijah stopped the rain. When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, is it you? Is it you, you troubler of Israel? Troubler is a Hebrew word that means one who wreaks havoc, a pestilence, a plague. And so Ahab is looking at Elijah and saying there you are, there you are, you plague, you pimple, you canker sore, you ass, okay.

My wife said make sure you aspirate that last P, okay. You ass, you snake. Verse 18, and Elijah answered I have not troubled Israel but you have in your father's house because you've abandoned the commandments of the Lord and you followed the bails. So the first question this passage presents to us is who is the real troubler? Who's the real troubler? Let me ask you this, are you in a place where someone is speaking truth into your life and you are hating them for it? Is that person me? Could we just be honest for a minute? And you're just busy trying to find fault, you're busy trying to come up with excuses, and maybe for just a minute could I just get you to stop and think maybe the troubler is not the person in your life that is causing you that pain.

Maybe the real trouble is what they're pointing to. And maybe for the first time in your life could you have a little bit of humility to say maybe, maybe I'm causing a lot of my pain and this person is simply pointing it out. Think of how pain works in our physical body, right. I mean pain, I don't like pain and when I get rid of pain I get rid of it as fast as possible, right. But pain is a good thing. I mean imagine you had a little dial on your wrist where you could just turn down pain. That would be devastating because when you lean against a hot stove and you begin to melt your hand that pain, believe it or not, is a good message you're saying you are destroying your hand. The real pain is not the problem but what's causing the pain is the problem.

Maybe the trouble in your life is there as a gift of God to point you to something that is deeply wrong inside of your heart. That's what Ahab should have recognized. Verse 19, Now therefore, Elijah says, send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel's table. How big was that table? Just out of curiosity. These are the questions I ask when I come to study a passage of Scripture. No commentator answers them.

How big was that table? Verse 20, So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and he said, How long are you going to go on limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal is God, then follow him. Now some translations there will say waiver. Literally the Hebrew says sink. How long will you sink between two opinions?

But limp is a really good translation because that is a good picture of where these people are. They're not fully committed to God. Yet they're not fully committed to Baal either. They haven't rejected God. They're just limping along between the two, taking usually the path of least resistance without really being fully committed in either direction.

But some things require a verdict and to not decide in itself becomes a decision. And you begin to limp along through life, which is exactly, again, where many of you are. For example, if you're one of the ones who says, Oh, all religions are the same, you know, they're all headed the same place. It's just, you know, what's the big deal? You are limping intellectually. I don't mean to insult you.

Okay. But you're not really thinking strong intellectually. I mean, think about it like this. We've all heard the little statement that God took a mountain. You know, whatever way you choose to get to the top is great.

You know, it's wrong on the same place. You got your path. I got my path. You know, it's a little things are different, but we're all headed to the same place and all religions are the same.

Can I tell you what is, again, no offense, but ridiculous about that? In order for you to say that all paths are headed to the same point, what do you have to be able to see? The whole mountain. Like, you have to be able to see that all the paths are leading to the same place for you to make a statement like that, which means you are claiming for yourself the one thing you're denying to everybody else. How bigoted could you possibly be for you to deny to somebody the very thing you claim for yourself, which is that you see the whole mountain? You're like, well, I just don't like how dogmatic Christians and Muslims are.

And you realize that to say that all religions are the same is essentially a dogmatic statement, and you don't even seem to realize how dogmatic you actually are. I got a good friend who is a Muslim. He lives here in the area.

He's a professor. Our families have gotten to know each other over the years. I've had him in his whole family. And in my house for dinner one night.

I think I've told some of you this story before. So I had him over for dinner, and when we all get in the kitchen, you know, we're about to serve dinner, it just hits me like, oh, I got to pray. We do this every night. We pray for our dinner. So I look at him, and I'm like, hey, when you and I are eating lunch together, usually I just kind of do my thing, and I pray, and you do your thing. Now that our families are together, should I just pray for everybody?

Is that okay? And he stopped for a second. He said, no, no, I have an idea. He said, he said, why don't we have my daughter, who was, his daughter was 11 years old, why don't we have her pray for our family, and then your daughter, who was seven years old at the time, she can pray for your family. Well, that's great, except I've had zero prep time with my daughter.

And so I was like, oh, sure, you know, not going to be out prayed by my Muslim friend. And so his daughter, his daughter, we all bow our heads, you know, and my, you know, my family is dutifully lined up here. And this girl kind of lifts up her head, and she, for 45 seconds, which doesn't sound like a long time, but when you don't understand a word coming out of her mouth, and she's just rattling off Arabic for 45 seconds, it felt like an eternity.

And we're all standing there, and I'm kind of making sure the family is not, you know, looking around. And then she finally gets to something that sounds like amen, and then there's this kind of this pause, and I'm like, oh, this is it, this is the moment. And we kind of wait for a few seconds, and I'm looking out of the corner of my eye at my seven-year-old daughter, who just waits there just beyond that point where it was really getting awkward.

And I didn't say anything to her. And she lifts up her eyes like this, and she opens her hands. And she says, Lord, this is her exact words, Lord, thank you for sending your son Jesus to this earth to die on a cross for our sins so that we can be saved.

And thank you for leaving us the Holy Bible so that we could all know about it, in Jesus' name, amen. And I was like, part of me was like, woo! And the other part of me was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You know, because I'm going to think he is totally thinking I'm going to put my daughter up this, but I had no prep time with her, right? So it's created some awkward situations between us, for sure. And we have talked about, we have disagreed. He thinks I am dead wrong about things that I think about God.

But both of us love living in this country. We both love being able to believe what we want to believe and be able to worship what we want to worship. What neither of us can stand, though, is that group of people that looks at us and says, oh, you guys actually believe the same thing.

Because we're like, how big it could you possibly be? Now you assume that you know better what we believe than we do? As if you have some supreme view of reality where you can actually look and you're so far beyond us that you can see that what we actually believe is the same thing? It's one thing to hear what I'm saying about God and say that's wrong. I disagree with it, which my Muslim friend does. It is entirely arrogant and bigoted to do the other thing, which says you don't really know what you believe. So don't limp along intellectually and do the very thing that you are denying to others just because you don't have the courage to actually think through to tell somebody, hey, I disagree with what you believe. If you won't decide about God being God, you're limping intellectually. If you won't decide of which God is God, you're limping along through life and what you serve and what you worship.

You know, Elijah says to these people, he's like, look, if Baal is God, serve him. Go all the way with him. Here's what I would tell you. If money is your God, serve it with all your heart. You've got to cheat to get it?

Cheat. Because money is the ultimate good. If you've got to sacrifice your family or your integrity to get it, sacrifice it. Don't obey God with it. Don't obey God with your money.

If money is the ultimate good, then serve it with all your heart. What I can't understand are a group of people that sit and listen to me every week who say, no, no, no, God is our God. But you won't obey God in the area of money. So you won't obey God in the area of money.

And I'm like, how long are you going to limp along between two opinions? If God is God, then obey him and serve him. If money is God, then why don't you give up on God and go with money? Or how about parents that we have that would sit here and say, oh, yeah, God is my God.

Yes, yes, God is my God. But the way that you hyper structure your kids' lives shows that what you really value is them getting into the right schools so that they can get the right job so they can make a lot of money. It seems to be that you actually would say that God is your God, but what you do with your kid shows that money is your God because you seem to care more about where your kids are going to go to college than where they spend eternity, which is why you've got no time for things like student ministries and kids' ministry because God's simply not a priority.

How long are you going to limp along between two opinions? Who's your God? Because if God is God, then you should make that the priority in your kid's life and say everything else is peripheral.

I'm going to make sure my kid knows and walks with God. If romance is your God, then go anywhere to find it. You're not in a good marriage? Get out of it. Divorce. Don't obey God there. Just find good marriage. That's ultimately what you want. Go all the way with it.

Forget about your responsibilities to your kids. If romance is your God, they'll get over it. The important thing is you finding your soulmate.

If your soulmate happens to be married to your best friend, well, then figure out a way to get your soulmate from your best friend because romance is the ultimate and highest good. Now, I realize probably none of you really think that. I'm just trying to push you to the logical end. If you're not willing to obey God in the area of romance, if that's your God, obey it all the way. If sex is your God, then go have sex with whomever and whenever you want.

Try new stuff. Try the full spectrum of sexuality if sex is your God. If you're not willing to obey God in this area, then go all the way. But if Christ is the one true God, serve him with all your heart. How long are you going to go on limping between two opinions?

See, here's what I think. The joy in my life, the things I get the most joy from, all come from the fact that I'm a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ, seeing faith formed in my children, giving money away and watching what it does in the kingdom of God. Those things are joy to me, and they're only joy because I'm trying to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.

Joy is the sole possession of the wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ, and many of you are miserable because you're just enough into God to be miserable in the world, and just enough in the world to be miserable in God, and you need to choose one way, and you need to get on with it. I'm like, how long are you going to go on limping throughout your life if God is God, then serve him, and if Baal is God, then serve him? So Elijah throws that big old question out there, and how does everybody respond? You see in verse 21, and the people did not answer him a word.

They're all looking down the ground, kicking rocks, little crickets playing in the background. So Elijah says, all right, well, let's take two bulls. You take one, put it on an altar over there. I'm going to take one, put it on an altar over here. Verse 24, then you call upon the name of your God, and I'll call upon the name of the Lord, and I'll tell you what, the God who answers by fire, he is God, and the people answered, it is well spoken.

In other words, good idea. Verse 25, then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, choose for yourselves one bull. You prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your God, but don't put any fire to it. And of course, all these prophets of Baal are thinking, you idiot.

First of all, there's 850 of us, and one of you. Second of all, our God is the God of lightning. Verse 26, and they took the bull that was given to them, and they prepared it, and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, oh Baal, answer us. But there was no voice, no one answered. And they limped, there's that word again, by the way, they limped around the altar that they had made.

Now, this is my favorite part. Verse 27, and at noon, Elijah mocked them, saying, cry loud, louder, because he's a God. Either he is musing, which means daydreaming, steering aimlessly into space, checking his Facebook page on his phone to see how many likes he got on his latest picture, maybe he is musing, or maybe he's on a journey, you should yell louder, or this is the best one, maybe he is relieving himself. Some of your NIV translations of the Bible try to clean that up, and they just say busy, but the literal Hebrew there is a euphemism meaning on the john. Hey, maybe your God's taking a dump, maybe he's got the fan on, he's got the fan on, and he can't hear you, so why don't you yell louder? Or maybe he is asleep and must be awakened, this is what we call righteous smack talking, righteous smack talk, holy sarcasm, Batman, all right?

And let me just point out, not all sarcasm is wrong, some things need to be mocked. Verse 28, and they cried aloud, and they cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out upon them, and as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention. Are you a little into the world and a little into God? Or are you all in with your faith? Like Elijah said, if the Lord is God, follow him. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of J.D.

Greer. We'll hear the conclusion of this story tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can listen again or download the complete transcript free of charge when you visit us at jdgreer.com. These free online resources are part of our mission to reach the world with gospel-centered Bible teaching, because as we say quite often here, the gospel isn't just the diving board into the Christian life, it's the whole pool. And when you give to this ministry, you are making that mission possible. As our way of saying thanks for your generous support, we'll send you a brand new book from Pastor J.D.

titled Something Better, Something Greater, a study of Elijah and Elisha. It follows our current series right now on Summit Life and is broken into eight parts. Each part includes a short chapter that aligns with the teaching that you've been hearing and you will be hearing for the next few weeks. It also includes space for notes on the scripture readings from 1 and 2 Kings, interactive application questions, and prayer prompts. Request a copy of Something Better, Something Greater when you give today.

Call 866-335-5220 or go online and request the book when you visit us at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Bittovitch, so glad to have you with us today. And be sure to listen again Tuesday as Pastor J.D.

explains how good things become idols and how to check your own heart for false guides. We'll see you tomorrow on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 15:57:18 / 2023-08-16 16:08:32 / 11

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