Friday, 17 February 2012

Who Rules?

Last night our son's small group meeting took place here, and after supper they asked us to join them. I wasn't feeling well so I joined later. They talked together for a while. At one point F. said that the only two places in the German translation of the New Testament where the word 'Gottesdienst' = religious service or worship can be found, are in Romans 12:1 and James 1:27 and neither of them are talking about a religious meeting. He said that Christians had perverted the meaning from its Hebraic significance to a Greek, pagan significance. This got quite a reaction from three of the young folk in the group. F. pointed out the strength of this emotional reaction and asked them what they were afraid of.
The important point is that all three have a significant amount to lose if the system of religious goods and services is pulled down.

It got me thinking. Seven years ago, I was confronted with the same truth.  My first reaction was to feel threatened and afraid. When I asked the Lord why I was afraid, He said, 'Because your security is in church and not in Me.' In praying and thinking about this over the next few months, we both came to realise that we didn't need religious services, we just needed Jesus to be King every day of our lives. I.e. we needed the Kingdom of God; not religion. So we left the system. We lost friends, position and reputation. "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." Philippians 3:7-9.

This is why people react to the truth about the Kingdom; because somewhere, they have built their own kingdom or security, their own strong tower, their own lie; set up their own idol to worship it instead of the liberating King and Saviour, Jesus.
There are so many examples of this in the Bible. Adam first sinned by putting his security and trust in the lie and therefore the Liar, who had deceived his wife, presumably because he valued peace with Eve more highly than he valued fellowship with his King and Creator. He didn't want to rock the boat. Subsequently, when God called him in the cool of the day and asked where he was, his fearful reaction was to feel threatened, to run away and hide. He no longer 'knew' the One who loved him.

Cain and Abel.
Abel brought a sacrifice from his flock; a lamb, presumably, because he believed in the promise of a coming Saviour who would Himself be sacrificed for him. Cain, not accepting that a Lamb would cover his sin, brought the fruit of his own works and sweat, which was not accepted, so in reaction, in anger, guilt and shame he killed his brother.

Laban and Jacob.
Laban's idols, which symbolised his security, were stolen by his daughter Rachel, presumably so that when Jacob had vanished with all his flocks and family, Laban wouldn't be able to curse Jacob or harm him by calling on his gods. Laban reacted by hounding Jacob until he found him and would probably have hurt him had not God intervened by appearing to Laban in a dream and forbidding him to harm Jacob.

Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph's brothers hated him because his divine dreams of his future prominence threatened their own superiority as his elders. Their position and the favour of their father, Jacob, was their idol. They were jealous of the love Jacob had for Joseph and saw him supplanting them in their father's affection. After all, he was the only son of their father's true love, Rachel. He was a threat to them. They must have been afraid that Jacob would perhaps disown them (he took the birthright of the firstborn from Reuben) and take Joseph as his only blessed son - evidenced by the multicoloured robe Jacob gave Joseph. Their reaction was to take Joseph captive and sell him to the Ishmaelites, who sold him in Egypt.

Pharoah and Moses/Israel
Pharoah's whole political/religious-idolatrous system, his own cult position as son of the sun god as the personification of Ra over Egypt, was his security. Moses' God threatened it. So, when challenged, he reacted by increasing the oppression of the Israelites even more.

Gideon and the people of Ophrah
The security of the population of Ophrah lay in their fertility worship of Baal and Asherah, demons -  because of which, God had told the Israelites as they came out of Egypt, He was using Israel to eliminate the Canaanites from the land Israel was to enter. Their worship consisted of infant sacifice, including drinking human blood, sodomy and bestiality, incest, and heterosexual immorality, all perversions and abominations which polluted the human spirit and the land. We see the results of such perversions in our own day all around us, in broken families, hearts and twisted lives which abuse and pervert others in their turn. Sooner or later, a culture which indulges in occult practices and sexual immorality will fall. The people of Ophrah reacted to Gideon's destruction of the altar of Baal and their Asherah by demanding his death.

Saul and David.
Saul's security and idol lay in his position as king over Israel. David threatened it. Saul had a lot to lose, so he reacted by trying to kill David.

Jezebel and Elijah.
Jezebel's security and idols were also Baal and Asherah. Her position as queen was bound up in her belief that hers were the true gods. She had grown up as the daughter of the King of Tyre, the High Priest of Baal and King Eth-Baal, (who had murdered his predecessor). She saw YHWH's challenge to her through Elijah as a threat to her position and religious system, so she reacted by murdering YHWH's prophets and trying to murder Elijah.

The Prophets.
Subsequently, these were a constant threat to the corrupt political and religious status quo of the state system of Israel. State-sanctioned idolatry couldn't allow threats to its dominance, so in reaction, it persecuted, imprisoned and murdered the bearers of the message of truth. Isaiah, for example, is believed to have been sawn in half, by the orders of King Manasseh.

Jesus and the religious-political system of His day.
Jesus said that in Him, something greater than both the Temple and the Sabbath (in which the religious authorities had put their security) was now here. The religious authorities, Pharisees and Sadducees, reacted by handing Him over to the ruling Roman authority, saying that as Jesus claimed to be a king, He was 'threatening the rule of Caesar'. Very clever.
Rome's security and position was threatened and reacted by having Him crucified.

Who Rules? Who is King? God, or the idols of man; i.e.; his power, position, security, etc?
It's all about the place of the Kingdom of God; the rule and authority of God alone in our lives, rather than that of either the world or the religious spirit.

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