A United States senator preached a sermon (this was several years ago) in a Methodist church in Los Angeles. He said that patriotism is a false god to many people, and he was right.
“Love of country can transcend the love of God,” he said, “and we must, in time of stress, avoid making patriotism a religion.”
Among the idols professing Christians worship, he cited, prosperity, science, patriotism, peace and some people actually make an idol of the Bible, strange as that may sound. Some, he said, worship the Bible for itself, not as containing truths necessary for salvation.
What is your idol? What are you really dedicated to? Is it earning a living, making money? What absorbs your mind, your thoughts, your time, what are you really devoted to? Is it God, above all else? Or is it your hobby, your wife or husband, your children or grandchildren, your home, your sports, or amusements and entertainments? What do you keep your mind on most of the time? What most occupies your interest? Is it friends, society? Is it people, or is it things?
It surely couldn’t be God, could it? Probably not. And, if not, then it is an idol. You are breaking the first commandment. You have this other god before Him.
Just what is religion? Is it merely an incidental interest, secondary to many other things, such as earning a living, your home, your family, your friends, hobbies, sports, entertainments?
Religion is your connection with God – your relationship with Him. Religion is realizing the purpose of your life, the reason why God had you to be born, the reason you draw the breath of air, exist, the purpose or end-goal of your life, and how to live that life so as to arrive there.
There are seven laws of religion, yet most people do not know, or practice, or apply, a single one of them. The first is to have the right goal. That goal, God’s purpose for having put the breath of life in you, is that you be born of God, to share with Him the Glory of creation, to inherit His divine nature, to be like Him, to do what He does, to accomplish what He accomplishes, enjoy what He enjoys – peace, happiness, joy and resplendent glory in life everlasting.
No other goal could be as great. It is superlative. But what are you, now? Just a mass of matter, put together like a machine. Your present existence has to be constantly sustained. You have to keep drawing a breath of air into your lungs about every two or three seconds. You have to eat food on the average of at least three times every day. You have to take care of eliminating the impurities from food, and of bathing and cleansing your body. You have to maintain and sustain your physical anatomy to keep on existing, and even then you are aging and degenerating every day and every year, and the most certain thing in this existence we call “life” is that this machine process is going to run down and you are going to die.
Actually, we have to simply keep pumping life into ourselves constantly, daily to continue existing, to continue consciousness.
Yet most people keep on, day after day, year after year, pumping that existence into themselves, with no more purpose than to try to be comfortable, free of pain, and to be pleasing the five senses, with their minds on the passing physical and material things of the moment, things that are not lasting, and are soon gone.
Unless God’s own character is being formed and developed in your mind and your life, replacing the carnality that is there now, you shall have missed your goal. God’s purpose is to create within you, during this life, a new and perfect character, so that you may be given eternal life, self-existence, inherent life.
If you are converted, that is, if you do once establish actual contact with God, He supernaturally puts within you His Holy spirit. This impregnates you with His life – begets you as His child, actually yet unborn. Actually, what many professing Christians call “being born again” should be termed “being begotten.”
Technically, to be “born of God” means to be changed in composition from flesh and blood matter to spirit, no longer mortal, no longer human. But it does put within you a new nature, entirely opposite to human nature with which you were first born. You are, as Scripture says, given “exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). Of course the old human nature remains; and your mind makes the continual decisions whether to yield to the downward pull and appetites and established habits of human nature, or to resist it by yielding to the new divine nature, to be led by God’s Holy Spirit. This then, becomes your very life!
You can only succeed if your goal is kept constantly, continually before your eyes. When you drive a car, if you take your eyes and attention off what is in front of you even for two or three seconds, you may find yourself “coming to” in a hospital, dying and saying “it all happened so suddenly!” Driving carefully means being alert, being diligent every second, and keeping your eye and your mind and attention on the matter of driving, not on conversation or other things.
In the same manner, if you let other interests, material pursuits, steal first place in your mind and heart and interest, even for a few days, you are endangering a spiritual smash-up that will let you wake up being plunged into the lake of fire, which will mean eternal death.
That is why God doesn’t want you to have these other gods before Him. For your own sake, in your own interest, you must keep Him enthroned and enshrined constantly above all. You must study His Word in order to be instructed by Him.
Instructed in what? Instructed in true knowledge, knowledge of God’s purpose for you, knowledge of and about God and knowledge of how to live. Jesus Christ said you must actually live by the words of the Bible. It is your guide to living, your instruction Book the Creator sent along to instruct you how to operate this mechanism that is you.
More, you must study His Word, the Bible, to find what you now believe that is wrong, and what you are now doing that is wrong, to be corrected and reproved by it. You must study it to let it instruct you in the ways of God’s righteousness, His way of life. And then you must devote yourself to living it!
Still, without regular and constant prayer, you cannot maintain contact with God. And when that contact is broken, you are cut off from Him, and His spiritual life, love, and very nature cease flowing into you. For, understand, these divine attributes of His Spirit do flow! They are in motion. They do not stagnate. You either grow spiritually, in knowledge, in grace, in God’s character, or you deteriorate back toward becoming a mere physical animal, to die in eternal punishment in the lake of fire.
But if God, and the things of God, His revealed knowledge, His law, His love, His way for you to live are constantly foremost in your mind, your thoughts, your interest, then you are praying always, that is, in a constant spirit of prayer, a constant mental attitude of prayer. Contact with God must be perpetual!
This kind of Christian life, the only kind that truly is Christian requires, as the Bible emphasizes repeatedly, zealous diligence. You must concentrate on it. You must be dedicated to it. It requires utter consecration. It requires total earnestness. It requires the application of the other six laws of success, education, in which the Bible is the main textbook; good physical health; drive, or concentrated diligence and effort; resourcefulness; sticking to it, enduring; and continual contact with, and the guidance, help, and power of God.
True spiritual mindedness is not a sticky sentimentalism. It is not a certain emotional mood. It is not the use of a certain religious phraseology, saying constantly, “Praise the Lord,” or “Glory, Hallelujah.” People like to talk spiritual but their hearts are far from God as the prophet Isaiah said (Isa. 29:13).
Jesus Christ was a perfectly spiritual man. But He did not go about using such mushy language. He was not a girlish, effeminate, sentimental or emotional weakling. He was a strong, virile, masterful, yet kind and gentle man. He possessed leadership, strength, purpose, supreme strong will and yet these masculine qualities of strength and power were perfectly blended with wisdom, judgment, knowledge, understanding, justice, and also patience, compassion and mercy. He was filled with peace, love, and faith. And His will, strong as it was, was totally yielded and obedient to God. All this was the character of God. Jesus Christ is our pattern, we must imitate Him – copy Him.
Look at the men of God in the Old Testament, Abraham, Noah, David, Joseph, Daniel and Elijah. They were all different from Jesus Christ in one respect, in which you and I must also be different, they had human weaknesses, and all did sin, yet these men all repented and strove to overcome. But they were all men of strong purpose, strong will guided by God, all possessed leadership, but also love and faith and a consecrated obedience to the will of God. But they were not effeminate, sentimental men indulging in an effected, put-on, religious-sounding way of talking.
Look at the Apostles Peter and Paul. They were the same. You don’t find any of this pseudo “spirituality” in them, yet they were truly spiritual men, devoted to obeying God and serving the needs of the people.
But one thing to watch and guard against every second in the way of attitude is resentment, bitterness, hatred. Don’t let anything, no matter how unjust make you sour and bitter. That is the deadliest mental and spiritual poison. We must love even our enemies who perpetrate the greatest outrages, though we do not condone their evils.
If you ever think (we in the ministry) are wrong about anything, don’t get sour and bitter about it, let God correct and punish us, vengeance is His, you know. Resentment against us won’t either punish us or benefit you, but it could consign you to eternal punishment!
Remember what a glorious goal we have before us! How grateful we ought to be! How our hearts ought to be flooded with love and gratitude to the Great God for His matchless love toward us. I’m sure we don’t grasp what a supreme price He paid to make it possible. He wants us to be changed, to overcome and root out this debasing, rotten carnality we all have in us, and to grow into His righteousness, that we may share His Glory.
We, the Church of God New World Ministries, believe God wants and longs to share the supreme Glory that He has with you! Make it your supreme over all life vocation and work hard at it! Let us work hard at our calling and mission of being real Christians. We shall succeed, with God’s help, in final and eternal Glory!