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Is Your Devotion to God Misguided?

What does the Bible say about worshiping created images? Is it pagan worship or worshiping more than one God? Are we worshiping idols or God?


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That’s in the Bible! LIVE


Brother Bob Pellien: Welcome everyone to a live studio taping of That’s in the Bible! The Bible is always the basis of our teachings here in the Church Of Christ, because the Bible answers questions about proper worship, questions about the right relationship with God and most importantly, salvation – That’s in the Bible!


It has been said that man is a religious being. Recorded history of the earliest known civilizations bear witness to man’s relentless attempt to return to His creator. Since ancient times, mankind has sought ways to win back God’s favor which well, they lost when sin was committed by who? Yes, the first couple whose names, Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden. This transgression committed by that first couple has caused well, the fall of mankind from the Lord’s graces, eviction eventually of course, his eviction from paradise. He therefore gave up, mankind therefore gave up their right to serve the Almighty. 


The history of religion is a thrilling account of man’s unending quest to be reconciled with God, his maker; and his innate desire to search for his God, return to his God, and respond to the impulse to worship Him. We have that, an impulse to worship Him. It’s man’s natural response to an invitation from our ever compassionate benefactor.


Throughout history, how has mankind often responded to his need to serve God, and what’s important for us to learn together, right now, today in this study? The question that we pose together now is: how can we truly return to God? Our study together now is the study of man’s worship and if in fact people are truly worshiping the Creator or, this is important, or something else? Even unknowingly.


We received lots of questions about this concept about whether the different worship are all truly acceptable to God. Is there truly a devotion, a worship that is misguided and not acceptable to God? What is it that God wants all people to do? He wants me to do it, He wants everyone to do this. What is it? Let’s begin opening the Holy Scriptures. We turn to the writings of the prophet Malachi, chapter 3, verse 7.


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Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees  and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

[Malachi 3:7 New International Version]


Brother Bob: So people are right! They’re right and correct in their earnest effort to return to God, it’s what He’s expecting. However, what’s the problem then? Well many have tried to return to God traveling the wrong path. Of course if you take the wrong path you’re not going to get to where you’re hoping your destination to be – the wrong path, instead of taking what Jesus called the “narrow doorway.” Jesus of course, being the son of God, he spoke in the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 13 and 14, he spoke of a “narrow gate.” What else did he say about that narrow gate? He said few find it, that narrow path that leads to life.


How did Apostle Paul describe what is the mistake that has been embraced by far too many? And we’re glad that you’re here tonight because we want to share this with you so that the same mistakes would not be made. Apostle Paul in fact wrote it to the Romans and we’ll turn there to Romans, chapter 10, verses 2 and 3.


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I can assure you that they are deeply devoted to God; but their devotion is not based on true knowledge. They have not known the way in which God puts people right with himself, and instead, they have tried to set up their own way; and so they did not submit themselves to God’s way of putting people right.

[Romans 10:2-3 Good News Bible]


Brother Bob: People seek God, yes. They seek God with zeal, with devotion. Their passion is without question, their passion is not the problem. The problem is, as we just heard from Apostle Paul, that their devotion is not based on true knowledge. That is, they have not known God’s righteousness, they have not known the way He puts people right with Himself. 


So, what do they do? They end up submitting themselves to another way, they choose for themselves a different way. They decided to set up their own way, hence their attempts to return to God are doomed at the outset. They will fail. They will fail! But we don’t want that for anyone and God does not want that either so we have to know the mistakes that have been made throughout history. What is one of the futile and unsuccessful ways, whereby man has sought reconciliation with his creator? In the first century Apostle Paul wrote to our brethren in the city of Rome, in Romans chapter 1, let’s read it here. Romans chapter 1, verse 21 to 23.


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for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

[Romans 1:21-23 New Revised Standard Version]


Brother Bob: What did they do? One of the futile efforts of man’s pursuit of reconciling with God was instead made futile because they exchanged, they made their own way, they have exchanged God for something else, the Creator for a creation. They began serving the creation instead of the Creator of the creation meaning what? Take a look at a few important examples from history.


It’s common knowledge that the ancient Greeks and even the ancient Romans to whom Apostle Paul was sent into those Gentile lands to preach back in the first century. They worshiped a pantheon of gods. They built temples that were dedicated to these gods and goddesses, carved out images of them and offered sacrifices before them and what remains of the glory and the grandeur of the said cradles of western civilization? Well we have their architecture, we have sculpture, we have literature. Visiting tourists today can see the ruins of the temples built for the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana. Or the Greek parthenon for the goddess Athena. Greek and Roman literature contains rich tales about their gods and goddesses, even the demi-gods. 


The Catholic Church also bows down to statues and images of the Apostles, Mary, and others. Apostle Paul sharply denounced this practice as he lamented that though as we just read, what did he say? He said, “they knew God! But they did not honor Him as God,” that’s what we read. But in what way did these people fail the immortal God as God and exchange it for what God created instead. He said they exchanged His glory, for what? Remember these are not my words, I have to point that out okay, because we’re going to come back to this in a second.


He said, instead they were serving images resembling what? “Mortal human beings, birds, or four-footed animals, or reptiles.” So together we pose this question: how grievous a mistake, let’s call it what it is, how grievous a sin has been committed by that? Apostle Paul, again we’re just posing the questions he’s the one answering here; Apostle Paul gave his response this way in the book of Romans chapter 1, verse 25. He went on to explain to them this:


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They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

[Romans 1:25 NIV New International Version]


Brother Bob: According to Apostle Paul, how’d he describe their mistake? He said instead of worshiping the Creator, unfortunately many opted to worship things, like I said a while ago, that were created. Who is the true God, the true Creator, who the Apostle Paul and the first century Christians recognized and worshiped? In his first letter to the Corinthians, our brethren in the city of Corinth, Apostle Paul answers that this way, because we have to know who’s the true God, right? There were all kinds of Greek temples being built and service to all these different Greek and Roman gods, and the Samarian gods, and Egyptian gods, Babylonian gods, and all these so-called gods so Apostle Paul addressed it directly, how? I Corinthians chapter 8, verse 5, verse 6. He said:


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Even if there are so-called “gods,” whether in heaven or on earth, and even though there are many of these “gods” and “lords,” yet there is for us only one God, the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live; and there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created and through whom we live.

[1 Corinthians 8:5-6 Good News Translation]


Brother Bob: According to the Apostle, who is the true God, the early Christians acknowledged how many gods? Only one. Only one is to us, there is but one God, the Father. They acknowledged only one God, the Father in Heaven and he said He is the one who created all things and He is a spirit, in state of being, that is he has no flesh and bones. He is invisible and therefore, should be worshiped in spirit and in truth. We say that as it is written in:


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John 4:23-24

Luke 24:38-39

I Timothy 1:17


Brother Bob: So to worship him, to worship in any other way is to fail to honor Him as God. To serve any other except Him alone is to serve man-made gods, is to serve idols, and we can learn that from Exodus, chapter 20, verse 3 to 5, where God prohibited that. 


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Exodus 20:3-5

Acts 17:29


Brother Bob: So then to think that He has a physical form or an image that could be molded, even if that’s molded out of gold or molded out of silver, Acts 17:29 would refer to that as blasphemy against God. Pagan worship and idolatry, however, do not originate in ancient Greece, nor in Ancient Rome. Long before the birth of western societies, the cradles of civilizations in the east, the Sumerian, the Babylonians I mentioned a while ago, the Egyptian, the Chinese had already been worshiping innumerable gods. Every city, every village, and even in the midst of every human endeavor, had some inspiring and disciplinary divinity.


The worship of the sun (that’s S-U-N okay? Not S-O-N right?). The worship of the moon and the stars known as cosmic gods, it’s common to almost all ancient civilizations. The Sumerian pantheon included, among others, Anu, the sky god, Sin, the moon god, Shamash, the sun, (again S-U-N okay?) the sun god, and Enlil the storm god. In ancient Egypt the moon was also a deity, but in their official theology the greatest of the gods was the sun. It was worshiped as the supreme deity known as Ra or Re.


Are these so-called sky gods, cosmic gods of the universe, as they were known, that have been served by others throughout history. The question is, are they the Creator, worthy of our worship? Or has the entire sky or universe, which by the way is also called the firmament, have they been created by the true Creator? God the Father. Okay, so which is it? Allow me to turn to the book of Psalms. Here in Psalms 19, verses 1 through 4.


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The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,

[Psalms 19:1-4 New King James Version]


Brother Bob: So the Bible teaches us that God is the Creator of the firmament, Creator of the heavens, Creator of the universe. Firmament is just another word for that. The stars and all that you see when you look up at the sky, He’s the Creator of it! So, and this is important and it’s kind of what prompted this particular topic for tonight. It is not correct for so many to say, especially on social media nowadays right, it’s very popular to say things like, “The universe has helped me! The universe has treated me good! The universe has done this, the universe has done that!” Giving attributes to the created universe, rather than to the Creator, which is God the Father.


Is it something new that people have begun to exchange the true Creator, the true God which is the Father, Who is spirit in nature, with other things which in fact the true God has created? Should we be surprised that people are doing that nowadays? Let’s take a look at a book entitled The Story of Civilization One: Our Oriental Heritage, written by the author, Will Durant on page 198 and 199. Let’s take a quote from his book.


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“…the Egyptians worshiped not merely the source, but almost every form of life. Many plants were sacred to them:… more popular were the animal gods; they were so numerous that they filled the Egyptian pantheon like a chattering menagerie. In one nome or another, in one period or another, Egyptians worshiped the bull, the crocodile, the hawk, the cow, the goose, the goat, the ram, the cat, the dog, the chicken, the swallow, the jackal, the serpent, and allowed some of these creatures to roam in the temples with the same freedom that is accorded to the sacred cow in India today.”

[Excerpt from The Story of Civilization One: Our Oriental Heritage, written by: Will Durant; page 198-199]


Brother Bob:  So nature worship dates back to the dawn of civilization. The Semites, the Egyptians, and the Babylonians they all worshiped as their supreme deities, heavenly bodies, as well as plant and animal life, things that were only created, that’s the point, things that were created by the supreme being, God our Father. So we pose together tonight this question: How does God feel about this practice? Will he say, “That’s okay! No problem!”? What can we learn how God feels by taking a look at what He said through the writings in the Holy Scriptures, Deuteronomy chapter 4, I’d like to read to you what’s recorded in verses 15 through 19. And think of the question as we read this, is it okay with God, that he’s been traded out for the universe, traded out for astrology, traded out for all of these various other gods and goddesses? In verses 15 through 19 it says this: 


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You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.

[Deuteronomy 4:15-19 New International Version]


Brother Bob: God clearly issued a warning here, what was His warning? It was about the making of what? Making of any kind of idol or so-called god right? We could see how He felt about that.


India! India is the birthplace of three major religions, what are they? Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. They’re not to be outdone. In the book entitled Major Religions of the World, the author Marcus Bach said the following on page 26, let’s take a look:


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Anyone who travels in India will be struck by the multiplicity of Hindu gods. There are literally thousands of gods. There are gods within gods, families of gods, and the wives and children of gods. Here is Krishna, an embodiment or incarnation of Vishnu. Here too is Indra, God of the firmament; Varuna, the all seeing God; Agni, God of fire; Soma, personification of the juice of the soma plant. Hinduism honors Ganesa, the elephant God, and Hanuman, the monkey God. It loves and respects Sarasvati, goddess of learning and Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, and Parvati, who is the wife of the god Siva. Hinduism has gods and goddesses galore.

[Major Religions of the World, Marcus Bach, page 26]


Brother Bob: The Christian Church, after the death of the apostles, was not spared from this prevalent, well we don’t hesitate to say, even deplorable practice. At first there was strong resistance from the faithful disciples of Christ against idolatry like this. The apostles were at the forefront of this opposition to image worship. What did Apostle Paul, I’m going to read to you an example here, an experience of Apostle Paul and Barnabas as they traveled in their preaching and healing. They healed someone and the people began treating them as if they were gods. 


Did Apostle Paul and Barnabus, did they agree to it? Or did they correct them? It was in the city of Lystra. In Acts chapter 14, verse 15. Let’s just take notice here dear friends, did they say, “Okay good, you want to treat us as gods?” Did they accept that? Here’s what they taught to them.


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“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.

[Acts 14:15 New International Version]


Brother Bob: Did Paul and Barnabus accept that kind of treatment? They did not. He corrected them immediately! He said, “We’re people just like you!” We’re here to tell you about the true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and all these things were here to tell you about Him! They corrected the mistaken belief of those and the people of the city of Lystra. But here’s the thing, by then, the seeds of deception were already sown by false prophets and after the death of the apostles and the Christian Church was thereafter, led into what history calls, an apostasy. Historian Will Durant had this to say in his book entitled, The Story of Civilization 4: The Age of Faith, page 425 and 426. Let’s take a look at it together: 


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The early church had frowned upon images and relics of paganism, and had looked with horror upon Pagan sculptures purporting to represent the gods. But the triumph of Christianity under Constantine, and the influence of Greek surroundings, traditions, and statuary in Constantinople and the Hellenistic East had softened this opposition. As the number of worshiped saints multiplied a need arose for identifying and remembering them; pictures of them and of Mary were produced in great number; and in the case of Christ not only His imagined form but his cross became objects of reverence–even, for simple minds, magic talismans. A natural freedom of fancy among the people turned the holy relics, pictures, and statues into objects of adoration; people prostrated themselves before them, kissed them, burned candles and incense before them, crowned them with flowers, and sought miracles from their occult influence.”

[The Story of Civilization 4: The Age of Faith, Will Durant, page 425-426]


Brother Bob: So what happened to the true Church founded by Christ? It succumbed to the pressure from its pagan surroundings and eventually grew to become the Roman Catholic Church, embracing idolatry during the time of Constantine the Great. And this practice continues up to our time period in Catholic masses and rituals a number of objects of worship and adoration are being used which include as mentioned: the cross, holy relics, pictures, and statues of their so-called Saints. The Catholic faithful venerate graven images of these Saints, as is forced upon them by their religious authorities. What do they admit though? This is recorded in the Catechism of Christian Doctrine, I repeat the question, it’s not we who are saying it. What do they openly admit, themselves? Catechism of Christian Doctrine, the Catholic church writes:


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What is a Saint? A saint in the strict sense of the word, is one who is in heaven, and has been presented by the church for the public worship of the faithful…

[Catechism of Christian Doctrine, page 94-95)


Brother Bob: Consider that, what we just read there. It is…


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presented by the church for the public worship of the faithful… Is the worship of the Saints confined to their persons? The worship of the saints is not confined to their persons, but it extends also to their relics and images. … Ought we to worship holy images? We should have, particularly in our churches, images of our Lord, as also of the blessed virgin and the Saints.

[Catechism of Christian Doctrine, page 94-95)


Brother Bob: This is their admission, so in conclusion, it is indeed really and truly unfortunate that a great majority of the people in the world today practice idolatry and pagan worship. They choose to set up their own way of returning to God. Instead of serving and worshiping the only one true God, they have chosen to channel their devotion to things that He has created and the images allegedly representing them. And do you know that by doing that, there have been grave consequences? This is something that if you carry it with you from our study together, I hope you will get this. What are the consequences? Apostle Paul wrote about it in Romans chapter 1, verse 18, as well as 28 to 31. Again this is not our words, these are the words of our Lord, written by Apostle Paul. Romans chapter 1, verse 18.


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For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

[Romans 1:18, 28-31 New Revised Standard Version] 


Brother Bob: These are not my words, these are the writings of Apostle Paul. Is he not describing the world that we see around us right now? What important thing did he say? He said these things came about, why? Because people have exchanged the true God and the truth about God for a lie. What’s the truth about God? He is a spirit, the Father is the only true God. What is the lie? To change that to anything else; call it the universe, call it astronomy, call it statues of the Apostles, statues of so-called saints, call it the gods of the pantheon of ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Whatever mankind has exchanged for the true God, has caused…you look in the news and you see all these things that are happening out there. Why? God is so angry because man refuses to serve Him and has chosen to trade Him out. 


The evil that abounds in the world today is brought about due to man’s stubbornness. What is God looking for from us, okay? Once we realize now that He’s been traded out and people are serving money, they’re serving all kinds of other things, they’re hesitant to even use the word God, they want to trade it out for the universe or something. What does He want from us? What really is God looking for? I’ll cite this time in 1 Timothy chapter 2, verse 4 and 5. The Bible answers this:


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who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

[1 Timothy 2:4-5 New King James Version]


Brother Bob: What does God want? He wants people to know the true God, He wants people to know the truth. He wants you to know that Jesus is the mediator to the Father. Dear friends, join us here inside the true Church Of Christ where we serve only the true God, the Father in heaven and we serve Him in spirit and in truth. But I know you may have a lot of questions, to learn how we do this, return. Return to more Bible studies just like this. We always post up the verses, you can read the Bible verse yourself.


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Is Your Devotion to God Misguided?