Today we are continuing on The Best Life Possible. And we do want the best life possible. I want the best life possible. I’m going to say it. I do, I want to live the very best life I possibly can. And I was taught the secret to that by my father when I was a teenager, when he taught me the Ten Commandments. And he taught them positively. I didn’t see these as things that we’re going to steal my joy and steal my fun as a teenager, but rather I saw them as something that would bless my life, that would bring happiness to me, that would bring joy to my life, and protect me from pain and heartache and hardship. And so I embraced the Ten Commandments as God’s gift to me, and I am eternally grateful for that.
And so I want to make sure that you all have a chance to learn them the way I did as a teenager and so last week was week one, the first commandment, and it was, “have no other gods,” or as we like to say here at Crystal Cathedral, believe in the God who believes in you. Don’t you want to believe in the God who believes in you? And God does believe in you. That is the God of the scripture, the God who said I am who I am. That is the God who we believe in at Crystal Cathedral, and that is the God of the bible.
The Ten Commandments are wonderful, wonderful gift to us and that’s number one. It’s foundational. Having God, Yahweh, the great I Am as your God, your one and only God, that’s what this commandment teaches us.
So we continue today with commandment number two: “You shall not make a carved image, said God, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.” So don’t make, in other words God says, don’t make a carved image or likeness of anything that I God have created, and then bow down to them and serve them. So this second commandment is really all about not bowing down to a false god, it is about bowing down to the true God, it is about worship.
Today, I want to tell you that I believe the positive interpretation of this commandment is this: Positively reflect on the true image of God so you can positively reflect the true image of God to others. As I reflect on God, as I think about Him, as I pray to Him, as I read His word, as I’m constantly praying without ceasing, as I’m reflecting on Him, then I can be a positive reflection of Him to others. And that is worship. Think about it. That is worship. Continually reflecting on God and reflecting Him to others. That is worship. It’s not like you come here on Sunday mornings or anywhere on Sunday mornings, and you sing some praise songs and then go home and leave the worship behind in the church. That is worship, but that’s not all that worship is. Worship is much bigger than that. Worship is how we live our lives. It’s a continuous outpouring of who we are, of praise to God wherever we are in multiple ways, as we will see.
But what image do you worship? Let’s start there, because we all choose to worship different things. Worshipping different things meaning what is really important. What drives you? What do you get up for in the morning? What do you worry about the most? What do you think about? That is who you worship. That’s the image that you worship. For some of us, lets be honest, its appearance. It’s how we look. We want to look good. For some of us, it’s so important but what happens then when your beauty fades? Beauty is a false god. Beauty will mislead you. Beauty will steal your joy if it’s too important to you.
And what about success? You know this is one I wrestle with. I’m real honest about that. I wrestle with success. I don’t want to be a failure. And I work really, really hard to try to be a success. I put a lot of effort, a lot of time. I think a lot about what I’m doing and how I can do it better, because I want to be a success. But if I’m not careful, success can become something that I worship, that becomes too important to me, that it becomes more important than God. But what happens when I fail? What happens when you fail? Yes, everybody, even the biggest success in the whole world has had a failure here or there. In fact most people will say I’ve learned more through my failures than I have through my successes. So what happens when you worship success and you face failure in your life?
And what about family? People say family is the most important thing in my life Sheila, and I say great. Family is important to me, too. But let’s be careful that family doesn’t become our false god because family will disappoint you. And what happens then?
Money. Money is important. We need it to live. But if it becomes too important, if it becomes a false god, what will you do when the dollar crashes? What will you do when you lose your job? What will you do when your retirement account takes a nose dive like it has? Money can be a false god, as well. We all have false gods that we constantly have to be asking ourselves about. It is part of who we are as humans.
But we miss out when we don’t worship the true God, and the true God is the God, the great I Am, the Yahweh. He is a liberating God. He is a forgiving God. He is a God who loves you. He’s a God who wants you to have the best life possible. He will never leave you or forsake you. He’s not going to disappoint you. He’s not going to fail you. He’s not going to crash on you like the markets and the money. God, you can trust God. In God you can trust.
But you know it’s so interesting because in the bible it’s full of stories about the Israelites and how they wavered. God would call them back and they’d repent and they’d say I’m sorry God. They’d come to Him and God always was merciful. He always took them back. And then they began to worship another false god again. Time after time, they worshipped gods they created with their own hands, and as I talked about last week, is that creator versus created, we worship the creator, only the creator. Be careful, do not worship the created. What He created.
St. Paul wrote about it in Romans 1, verse 25. He said, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie. They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised.” The Psalms, there’s two verses in the Psalms, verse 115 verse 5, 135 verse 16. Those two verses in the Psalms are the identical words. Let me read them to you: “Not to us, the Lord, not to us, but to Your name we give glory. Why? Because of Your steadfast love and faithfulness. But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands.” Listen to this verse. “They have mouths but cannot speak. They have eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear. Noses but cannot smell.” What a weak, impotent god that is. Why would the Israelites choose that over God the creator? And yet, they did it time after time after time. I find it absolutely heart breaking to think that people would worship something they made out of their own hands versus the Creator, who created everything.
The prophet Isaiah also talks about it and takes it even further. In Isaiah 44, he says this: “All who fashion idols are nothing and the things they delight in do not profit.” And then he talks specifically about the iron smith. “The iron smith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm, then he becomes hungry and his strength fails. He drinks no water and is faint. Well they’re describing this guy who’s a maker of an idol, a false god. How weak is this. He’s becoming faint. He needs water. Again, another person that they describe in Isaiah, the carpenter. “Now he plants a cedar, and the rain nourishes it and it becomes fuel for a man. He takes part of it and warms himself because he kindles a fire and bakes bread with it, but then he also makes a god and worships it and falls down before it.”
So I brought you a little visual aid, you know how I am with these things. Imagine this carpenter that I’ve just talked about in Isaiah 44. I planted a seed. Who made the seed? Did I make the seed? No but I planted a seed and the rain has nourished the cedar and it’s grown into this big tall tree, which is only possible to grow because of the chlorophyll and the sunshine and everything else that God has created. Then once the tree grows, the carpenter goes out and he fells the tree and he cuts a block of wood and he’s got this block of wood. Okay? So this is what Isaiah is describing. He’s got a block of wood. He takes this block of wood, he cuts it in half and with one half, he puts it on the fire for his food and warmth, and with the other half, he carves an idol and he falls before it and says oh you’re my god, I worship you, I adore you. Save me, protect me, block of wood. Does that not feel a little silly to you? This is how Isaiah.. so this half of the wood, I guess, is not a god and this half is. But that’s what Isaiah says about the folly of a false god. Be careful who you worship, be careful who you follow. Who is it that has the power to really, truly redeem you and liberate you and forgive you and love you? Worshipping the God, the creator, the one who created the rain, the one who created the tree, the cedar, the one who created the wood, the one who created the carpenter, the one who created the iron smith.
Isaiah continues and here now we switch to the voice of God speaking, and I want you to hear this because this is God speaking to you today. Just listen to these words from the Lord. “I the Lord, I the God, I the Yahweh, I the great I Am have formed you. You will not be forgotten by Me, says God. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist.” They’re gone. “Return to Me, says God, for I have redeemed you. So sing, oh heavens for the Lord has done it. Shout, oh depths of the earth, break forth into singing, oh mountains, oh forests, and every tree in it. Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, who formed you from the womb. I am the Lord who made all things. Who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” That’s the God I worship! That’s the God I praise. That’s the God I bow down before.
This second commandment, “you shall not make a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or the water below the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” This commandment is all about worship, just like I said earlier. Reflecting, as I reflect on the image of God, then I can reflect Him to others around me continuously and that is worship. Then it is no mystery who this God is. God came to show us who He is, when He was born, as Jesus Christ was born, His one and only begotten son. Jesus is the image of God. We know that. It says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” He Jesus, the word. He Jesus, the word. “Was with God in the beginning and through him all things were made. Through Jesus, all things were made,” this verse says. “Without Him, nothing was made that has been made.” Word, Jesus is the word.
So what is the image of God? The image of God is Jesus. And you and I can be an image bearer of God. You and I can be an image bearer of Jesus. You can reflect Jesus. You can reflect God. That is worship, as we learn in this commandment.
Hebrews 13:15 says this: “Through Jesus therefore, let us continually..” it doesn’t say every now and then, once in awhile, it says, “let us continually offer to God a worship of praise, the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Meaning, we praise the word. We just said the word was Jesus, right? We praise the word with our words.
Hebrews 13 continues in verse 16: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others. With such a worship God is pleased.” So in other words, worship is praise using our words, using our lips like we do here on Sunday morning. But it is also our service, our hands, the works of our hands that we do when we help others. That is worship as well. When we do missions, when you go on a mission trip and you build a house and you serve the hungry. That is also worship. So we use our words to praise the word, but we also use the works of my hands to reflect His handiwork. Let’s say it one more time. I will use the works of my hands to reflect His handiwork.
So that is worship. Worship is using our words. Worship is using our works, using our hands. Worship is continual, praising Him without ceasing. And the result of worship is this because there’s a benefit. Remember, this is the best life possible, if you follow these commandments, and this is the benefit from worshipping God this way. You will be positively transformed; positively transformed by Christ to be positively transforming for Christ. What a wonderful benefit to be positively transformed. To have my life completely changed positively. So it’s the best life possible and then the result of that is that I in turn help others.
So worship, continual worship means our lives are transformed. But first you need, as dad would say, a self image transplant and that’s how dad interprets this passage.
Several years ago, I had a friend of mine who went to this church. We shared a lot about what we were doing with our families, what we were going through, our challenges. Jan was a foster mother and had babies as well as teenagers that she took into her home. And then one morning, received a phone call, it was about 4 a.m. Jan had been rushed to the hospital. She was only 45 years old. She’d been rushed to the hospital. They thought at first it was a stroke but it turned out to be a brain aneurysm. The severity of the damage to her brain was such an extent that they said there’s no hope. We’re going to have to take her off life support. And Jan’s husband Larry said, you know Jan was a very loving and giving woman, and indeed she was. And he said she would want her organs to be donated to save other lives. And so Jan’s organs were donated. Somebody got Jan’s heart. Somebody got Jan’s liver. Somebody got Jan’s kidneys. I can’t tell you all the different organs and the people who received new life because Jan gave her life. And through her dying, other people had new life.
We received a year later, all kinds of letters from these families saying thank you for Jan’s gift of life. My mother got Jan’s heart, or whatever they were. We received letters from all of the different recipients, the donor recipients. Jan’s story is a metaphor for how it is with Jesus Christ. When dad says get a self image transplant, dad is absolutely correct. But when I stop and I think about Jan’s recipients, when they received Jan’s heart, when they received Jan’s organs, Jan’s organs were good. They weren’t damaged but before Jan’s organs could be put into their bodies, the doctors first had to remove her damaged, dying organs to make room for Jan’s gift of life.
And so it is with us. If you want a self image transplant today, if you want a heart transplant today, you need to give God permission to remove your old damaged, dying heart, and put in its place, the heart of Jesus Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, says the scripture. Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, it says in Colossians. And also in Romans, “Do not conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” People, today get a heart transplant. Get a self image transplant. Ask Christ to take your old dying, broken heart. Take it out. And have it replaced with a beating, loving, healthy heart of Jesus Christ.
So say it with me. Christ live in me. Christ transform me. Christ transform others through me. I no longer live. You Christ live in me. Amen.