Our Designer God

Speaker: Ps. Darin Browne

Reading Judges, the moral low point of the entire Bible, I was struck with the idea that a guy called Micah decided to produce a do-it-yourself God. It occurred to me that this is exactly what we see around us today…people seeking a God that serves their purposes and desires. Not for them to serve the God, but to have God serve them. A designer God made your way, just the way you like it. Let me recap.

Micah stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. When she cursed whoever had done this, he was terrified and gave it back. She had promised to dedicate it to the Lord, but only did so with 200 of it. Then together they did this…

Judges 17:4-5 (ESV)
So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest.

Then a travelling Levitical priest came along, and Micah bribed him to serve as his own, personal, household priest. Why did he do that?

Judges 17:13 (ESV)
Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

A TIME OF LAWLESSNESS

Judges 17:6 (ESV)
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

This was a time when everybody did as they saw fit, and no one sought God’s truth. To use 21st century speech, truth was relative, your truth is different to my truth. Listen, if your truth and my truth are different, they cannot both be truth. Jesus said…

John 8:32 (ESV)
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Relative truth is not truth, and it will not set you free. God’s truth is the truth that can set you free. Jesus promises that, if you come to Him, you will experience real truth, lasting truth, truth that sets you free.

However, this story in Judges reflects our own, modern situation today. Virtually everything about Micah’s situation bristles with highly questionable religious practices, because it was a time of lawlessness, just like today. Truth and honesty are clearly nonstarters in this family, but the biggest, most obvious sin is their direct contravention of the Second Commandment…

Exodus 20:4 (ESV)
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

CONFORMING TO THE CULTURE

Micah and his mother chose to ignore this clear instruction of the Lord and instead respond to the customs of the pagan tribes all around them.

Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So many people these days, even so-called Christians, blatantly ignore God and His clear Word and conform to the pagan culture around them. They try and squeeze almighty God into the box of today’s culture. Back in Micah’s time it was the same.

Many images have been excavated by archaeologists working on this period in that area of Palestine (Ephraim Hills). Doubtless, Micah and his mother convinced themselves that they were worshiping the true God in a “socially acceptable” way; but it was an abomination to the Lord. In fact, they were making their version of God in their image, reducing Him to man-size and thereby trying to tame and control Him. That is always both the attraction and peril of idols.

CREATING IDOLS WE CAN CONTROL

Where do idols come from? Obviously, they are made by people, they don’t drop out of the sky!

We must not be so naive as to imagine this to be a problem confined to ancient Israel or to primitive tribal communities. The essence of idolatry is to want to bring God within our pockets, to control Him. Foolishly, we imagine that we can deal with the source of life on the same level as ourselves. We create our own versions of gods that we can bribe, or drive a bargain with, or compel to do what we want, to give us what we want out of life.

For Micah, for his hireling the levite, and in the next chapter the tribe of Dan, the living God who annoyingly insists on interfering with our lives by producing His plans, is rejected in favour of “our own little godlets” that do not answer back because they cannot. Yet every time we make decisions without really seeking God, or insist on enforcing our will onto a situation, or choose what will be most easy and comfortable for us – are we not doing the same?

Personal power is the ultimate root of false religion, because it concerns who is going to be in charge in our lives. Two candidates, God or us! This was the issue as put to Eve and Adam by the serpent in the Garden…”Are you going to let God be God, by obeying what He says, or are you going to set up an alternative authority by which you put yourself in control?”

The age-old satanic method of temptation is to question God’s authority and present a more attractive alternative.

Genesis 3:5 (ESV)
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

OUR DESIGN

This is what we are seeing today. Above all, and at all costs, what natural human beings want is a god that will not make demands on our lives, but will give us what we want, requiring nothing in return. The idol may be an attractive shape or a quality product; it can be a status symbol much admired and envied. It could be a stone Buddha, or a Vishnu, or a Mary. But we worship idols for their imagined power, which is given into our hands as their devotees. In that sense, all forms of idolatry are an extension of works-oriented religion, a man-made invention by which we hope to save ourselves by the works of our own hands. The psalmist wrote…

Psalms 135:15-18 (ESV)
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

But you might say, don’t Christians do good works. Thing is, we are saved by grace, not by any kind of works. Working for salvation is a religious thing, not a Christian thing. What’s the difference? Religion is doing good works to attain salvation, but Christianity is attaining salvation first in order to do good works.

DO CHRISTIANS HAVE IDOLS?

In applying this passage, it is helpful not just to point out the more obvious materialistic idols of our culture, but to explore their Christian equivalents, which we so often justify and sanctify.

Religious idols are the most dangerous of all. We may be liberated from idolatry to the toys of our society – the cars and boats, the airplanes and swimming pools, the exotic trips and big houses. At the same time, in Christian circles, we can often substitute our own much more respectable and acceptable idol shrines. After all, if lots of other people worship there too, that gives the idol greater credibility.

An idol is anything that usurps the place of God, because I am looking to it to give me real life, to protect or to enrich me. It is anything that squeezes God into the margin of my life because that thing has now become worth more to me than God is. Idolatry is more than just stone statues or flashy houses. It could be our marriage or family life, the achievements of our kids, the success of our church, our position as a valued Christian leader, our service for the Lord, our financial generosity, our biblical or doctrinal knowledge, even our spiritual gifts. Once we fall in love with any of these good and potentially godly ingredients of life, rather than with the Lord as the undisputed Number One, we are casting our idol, as surely as Micah did.

NO PROFIT

Habakkuk 2:18-20 (ESV)
“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols…and there is no breath at all in it! But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

For behind each of the good things around us, even church things, when they usurp the central position of our affections and worship, lies none other than ourselves. I am really worshiping acceptable extensions of little me, while all the time fooling myself and my fellow Christians that it’s all for the Lord.

We need to take the closing injunction of John’s first letter with deadly seriousness, because he places the responsibility fairly and squarely with us.

1 John 5:21 (ESV)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

WORSHIP GOD, INSTEAD OF PUTTING GOD IN A BOX

Everybody today wants a god they can control and put inside a box. We live in an age when the true God of the Bible is being despised, and those who worship Him in truth are being persecuted, while people create a god more to their liking, one that tolerates and even celebrates their sin and depravity, and it’s only just beginning. Christianity was previously recognised as at least neutral, and maybe even good, just a few decades ago, but now governments and media see it as dangerous. Why? Apparently, God has standards, and our society doesn’t like it. So, if I am a homosexual, I’d like to order a God that accepts and tolerates my sexuality, not one who has standards and calls it sin. If I am pro-abortion, I’d like to design a God who elevates women’s rights over life itself.

Francis George, Catholic archbishop of Chicago, said this…

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilisation, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Humans put God in a box because it makes sense to us. Then we persecute those who question the validity of our man made god. We create a god we can wrap our preconceived philosophies around. This helps us justify and explain our clearly sinful behaviour. Today we see not just misguided individuals but whole denominations doing this. Paul writes…

Ephesians 3:19 (ESV)
the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We should be filled with the fullness of God, not whittling Him down to a convenient size.

THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD

Our God is a God of unchanging truth. He is not a god you can design or make to your own specifications. He’s the creator, He is sovereign, and He is Lord, whether you like it or not. The Bible says at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow! So, let’s examine a few facts that we know are true about our God!

1. GOD IS ALMIGHTY

1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV)
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

You can’t put our God in a box! He created everything, including you, and your box! He is the creator, the King, the Lord, He is in total control. Rather than constantly questioning who God is and what He does, we should just bow and worship Him. Don’t try and make the creator of everything subject to your petty doctrines and desires!

2. GOD IS NOT YOUR PERSONAL SANTA CLAUS

God is not like a genie, one we keep in a bottle until we need something, then He is ready to grant your every wish. Your comfort and your desires are not high in His list, but your devotion is. True Christians know that He is a generous and kind and lavish God, who brings blessing into our lives all the time, if we trust Him. But He says…

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I cringe when I hear good intentioned Christians trying to use God’s Word as a manipulative device to force God to perform whatever miracle they want. God is God, folks, He is mighty and sovereign, and His ways are higher than our ways. He doesn’t need to be bribed to bless you. However, if you say you truly trust Him to save you, surely you can trust Him with every aspect of your future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

3. GOD KNOWS YOU INTIMATELY

Psalms 139:1-4 (ESV)
You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

Do you think your can fool God? Can you hide your sinful heart from Him? God knows you, your desires, your thoughts, your sins and everything about you…totally. He knows what you did last night. He knows the anger you felt towards someone and He knows everything about you! God also knows that sin, any sin, carries a consequence. We as human beings make bad decisions, then blame God for the consequences. “God, why did You make me an alcoholic?” “God, why did You let me wife leave me?” “God, why did I get caught?” Consequences.

4. GOD LOVES YOU ABSOLUTELY

John 3:16 (ESV)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God knows you and all your bad points, but still loves you! His love is unconditional, but God loving you does not mean that He permits you to do whatever you want without consequence. It’s not a licence to sin. Freedom is not being free to do what you want; it’s being free to do what you ought.

God loves you so much, He promises that if you love Him back, nothing will ever separate you from His love, for all eternity.

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

5. GOD SENT HIS SON TO PAY THE PRICE FOR YOU

Sin separates us from God, and we cannot do enough good to reconnect with Him. He is Holy, which means totally without sin. Watering down His truth in the name of His love ignores His holiness and incurs His wrath, not His mercy!

We must recognise how sinful we are, and that every one of us deserves an eternity in hell.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

DON’T DESIGN A FAKE GOD, WORSHIP THE REAL ONE!

Today, like Micah in his day, we can set up our own gods, but Isaiah said…

Isaiah 41:29 (ESV)
Behold, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.

Elijah, in the showdown at Mt Carmel, challenged the people…

1 Kings 18:21 (ESV)
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

God proved Himself that He was the only true God that day, and He is doing it again today! The social mess our society is plunging into will expose how petty and pathetic some people are. The true people of God will arise and stand strong.

My question to you this morning church is, how long will you go limping between two different opinions? We must not sit on the fence, now more than ever we need to seek the Lord.

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