Continuing from our previous message, let us be reminded that God calls us into His limitless love. May your tired souls find comfort and rejuvenation in the vastness of His infinite grace. I fervently pray for revival and that your hearts overflow with love and joy.
In my previous sermon, “A Good Time to Love,” we heard the invitation of love from God. Today, I would like to share a message titled “Loving Only One God.” In the Song of Songs, we witness the love between God and the Church. Today, we desire to cultivate a profound and individual relationship with God. As a church, our spiritual pursuit is to worship only God and not allow our faith to be diluted by other beliefs. It is crucial to remember that idolatry is the act that God detests the most – worshipping gods other than Him.
As an illustration, imagine that our church has a cross-shaped banner with four additional banners surrounding it, each displaying an image that goes against God’s teachings. If we were to worship these images alongside Christ on the cross, wouldn’t it be appalling?
In the past, the Israelites worshipped both God and Baal, as well as Asherah according to their preferences and inclinations.
Nowadays, we must also examine our faith to see if it has been tainted with any worldly influences. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit does not intend to talk about other religions. Surprisingly, there are individuals who have been saved without ever attending church. Do people of different faiths automatically go to hell? Absolutely not. Even those who follow different religions can attain salvation if they wholeheartedly revere and love the living God. It is truth according to the Bible’s teaching.
The Holy Spirit cautions us about the dangers of not knowing God. It is unsafe to love something that is deceitful and to rely on delusions. As mentioned in 1 Chronicles 16:26, all gods of the nations are worthless (vain), whereas the Lord created the heavens. All other gods are man-made, and it is not as if there are countless gods other than the real God, and God competes with them by comparing Himself with other gods. Religions created out of human fear and greed are mere illusions. God is the only true living God, not a religion created from human fears. Our faith should not include idols carved out of wood or stone to flee from our fears. As a church, we must have discernment and differentiate between what is genuine and what is not.
As Christians, we must be cautious not to serve both God and an illusion, something that is not real or lacks substance. This can lead to dangerous consequences. Some churches may even develop strange beliefs or practices that, while claiming to worship God, ultimately prioritize satisfying their own desires. It is important for us to remain vigilant and avoid running such risks.
The first idol we need to be vigilant about is a lie. According to John 8:44, Jesus identifies Satan as the father of lies. Ignorance or a lack of knowledge about God can harm our souls, especially when we fail to fully comprehend God’s love. When we do not understand God’s love, we may end up idolizing things that are futile and created in vain.
Second, the idol we must guard against is fear. This often stems from a lack of trust in God. Giving in to fear can cause us to become double-minded, as warned in James 1:6-8. Instead, we don’t want to minimize God’s love and trust in His promises. As 1 John 4:18 states, love has the power to overcome fear. If we allow our fears to take over, we may eventually lose our love for God.
The third idol we must guard against is stubbornness, as stated in Philippians 3:19. The verse reads, “Their god is their stomach,” although some translations interpret it as referring to their appetite rather than their stomach. If we prioritize our desires and preferences over God’s teachings, even if we want to live a life of faith, it can become an idol. Therefore, we must be vigilant against stubbornness and strive to align ourselves with God’s will.
The fourth idol we must guard against is complacency, as we can easily become satisfied with our religious attitudes. Amos 6:1-7 warns, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion… the sound of your feasts will cease.” This passage describes those who neglect to care for the weak around them and deceive themselves into thinking that their religious observance is enough. However, true relationship with God requires actively loving our neighbors. When we fail to do so, we break our connection with God, even if we maintain our religious practices. Unfortunately, complacent individuals often fail to recognize their spiritual condition and do not expect disaster to befall them. Therefore, we must actively love God and our surroundings to avoid complacency and maintain a healthy relationship with God.
“How should we live? How can we lead a holy and healthy life of faith? How can we love and serve only one God?” These questions cannot be fully answered through our own efforts. We need God’s grace.
Grace 1 – Word + Holy Spirit: No matter how many times we read the Bible; important points can be lost without the help of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). While we can use various resources such as scientific knowledge, humanities, literature, and commentaries to understand the Bible, it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us the essence of God’s teachings (John 14:26). When we read the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can experience the living Word of God.
Grace 2 – Prayer + Holy Spirit: Our prayers can become meaningless religious rituals without the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. However, when we pray in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), we can realize God’s love more deeply. During this kind of prayer, all the lies and idols within us disappear, and our soul becomes a holy temple. It is within this temple where our true and deep love for God can flourish. Ultimately, it is through God’s grace that we can live a holy and healthy life of faith, and love and serve only one God.
Grace 3 – Good Works + Holy Spirit: Focusing solely on good deeds without God’s Word and prayer can result in empty actions without a meaningful message. This can lead to forgetting God’s grace and love, leaving only a sense of obligation. However, when we do good works in the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3:3), they become a genuine expression of our love for God and an opportunity to share the gospel with others. When our desires align with the Holy Spirit, good works come naturally, and it becomes difficult to be ruthless towards others.
This is the conclusion of my sermon. Even if our thoughts and actions may seem vain and unreal at first, if we repeat them continuously, they can become our habits, shaping our faith and religion, and leading us to become attached to them. Eventually, these habits may manifest themselves in the form of material possessions such as money, children, or even a church building.
So, let us reflect on our church and ourselves. Are our souls pure? Do we love only God, or do we also cling to worldly desires? Are there any banners or symbols within our church that conflict with God’s teachings? Let us examine ourselves and strive to align our thoughts and actions with God’s will.
God’s invitation is one of pure love. Are you ready to let go of falsehoods and the worthless and embrace the love of the living God? For those who serve no other vain idols and love God wholeheartedly, He promises to clothe them in white and radiant cloak, as described in Revelation 3:4-5, 7:9, and 19:11-16. These individuals will follow Christ alone, both now and throughout eternity, and will not experience the second death. I will explain more about the second death at a later day when time is allowed. In essence, for those who are pure in their Christian faith, fear will be completely eliminated and only love, and peace will prevail, both now and forevermore. May God’s love and peace be with you now, always and everlasting!
Third Sunday of Easter, April 23rd, 2023, Exodus 20:2-5a
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church