Revising God

January 7th, 2018

David Sorn



You may not realize it, but all of us are tempted to revise God when life gets difficult.



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TRANSCRIPT


HAITI OFFERING (Put up Haiti Mission Trip Slide)

Morning.  My name is David Sorn.  I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.  Morning to you. 

Before we get started this morning, I want to take a few minutes to inform you about something really important that we are doing in just two weeks.

Just about every January, we take a Special Offering for our projects in Haiti.

Our team will be headed to Haiti January 30th to February 6th 

And one of the things we almost always do…is find a way to fund their projects there.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere…and so there is a lot that we can do to help…

And even if you’re not going…this is a way that you can be a PART of this.

This year, our team of 11 people will be helping to build a public bathroom…which will be set up right next to World Wide Village’s (that’s the organization we work with) newly constructed medical center.

Now, that might not seem like a big deal to you.

Maybe you’re thinking, “A bathroom, really??”

But this is a HUGE deal…it’s a dignity of life thing.

I’ll never forget the first time I went to Haiti in 2011.

We were walking through a village, and a mother in her 30’s came out of her house…walked away from us about 15 feet, and just went to the bathroom.

And I thought, “Oh man, I’m not in Blaine anymore”

(Put up Special Offering SLIDE)

Our aim is to construct a Public Restroom Facility with 8 toilets and 4 showers.

Which is something that basically no one in the entire community of 16,000 people has access to.

In Haiti, people have to bathe either in the river (which makes it hard to maintain modesty) or with a bucket in their backyard.

We think this is a great way for our church to bring dignity to the community.

And also health as well.

As you might imagine, there is waste everywhere…kids have fungus in the hair (because they can’t get showers)…and more

On the screen behind me, you can see there are a number of specific ways you can help in this project…and my request is that you begin praying about this.

And talking with your spouse about it if you’re married.

We will be receiving the special offering for Haiti in 2 weeks.

The Goal ($12,800) is a decent amount higher than we’ve ever raised before for something like this.

But that’s what they need…so we’re going to pray…and see what happens. J

 

WHEN GOD DOESN’T DO WHAT WE WANT

Let’s get into our message from the Book of Exodus.

(RESCUE SERIES SLIDE)

When we last left Exodus in the middle of December, we were on chapter 24.

Chapter 25 begins a new section on the instructions for how to construct the Tabernacle (the place of worship for the Israelites)

There are 13 chapters of Exodus devoted to this topic (chapters 25-31 and 35-40).

The instructions for the Tabernacle are quite detailed and include instructions such as how long to make each pole.

So, what we’re going to do…is take all the chapters on the Tabernacle, and do ONE message on it at the very end of this series in a few weeks.

So today, we’re going to jump ahead to chapter 32.

(Page 70)

(Renovation App)

This takes place only 40 days after the Covenant Ceremony we studied in chapter 24.

In chapter 24, Moses had ascended Mt Sinai with the elders, and then he goes even higher on the mountain for 40 more days

We’re going to take a look today at what happens down in camp at the bottom of the mountain…at the end of those 40 days.

(Exodus 32:1-6) – NIV

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

(Message Title Slide)

So, here’s what happens.

Moses, their leader, is up on the mountain for 40 days.

The people are not really sure where he is.

They’re not even really sure he’s coming back.

Remember the context here.

They were leaving Egypt and they were supposed to be marching towards the Promised Land.

And now…they’ve just been STOPPED. 

Camped alongside this mountain for 40 days…

They left Egypt in a flash, in the middle of the night…

And now they’re standing around…and Moses and God are doing who knows what!

Plus, these are people with families.  

Stuck in the middle of the desert.

No homes.  No jobs.

They could be attacked at any point….

They’re thinking, “Let’s keep this thing moving here!”

“God, What are you doing?!?”

Now, God’s plan is just fine.

He’s doing something important.

He’s writing the ten commandments on the two stone tablets for Moses and going over the Covenant Law.

But, just like us, the Israelites don’t see all of God’s actions nor are they aware of all of His plans.

And their impatience, their fear, and their feeling that God maybe has withdrawn from them…causes them to make a very unfortunate mistake

And this is us.

Have you felt this way?

Feels like God is taking a long time to come down from the mountain and let you know what He’s up to…

So often, when we feel that way in our lives, we’re susceptible to revising God into an image that we feel more comfortable with

And that’s exactly what the Israelites do.

They make a golden calf and they worshipped it as the “god that led them out of Egypt”  

 

 

HOW & WHY THE ISRAELITES REVISED GOD IN THEIR OWN IMAGE

Now, when you dive into this text, you discover that the Israelites actually didn’t disavow the Lord.

It’s not like they said, “Hey!  Who needs God!  Let’s completely forget about Him and worship a brand-new God instead!” 

I think often we are too quick to label this passage as the quintessential example of regular old idolatry, and it’s not.

They didn’t replace God and worship something completely different in his place!

Look at the text again.

(Exodus 32:5-6) – NIV

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

I want you to notice two things.

1) Aaron (Moses’ brother) says this festival (of worshipping the golden calf) is for the LORD (their God)

2) They sacrifice burnt & fellowship offerings

This is a part of the OT we haven’t covered yet…but those are specific ways to worship THE LORD…not another god.

What they’re doing, is not inventing completely new gods, but they are revising the LORD to their liking.

They’re saying, “This golden calf is a physical version of our deity…that we didn’t have before”

They even attribute to the calf the things that THE LORD did for them! (like brought them up out of Egypt)

And now, because the Golden Calf is shaped and crafted by the Israelites…THEY now get to decide exactly what God’s like and What God will do and say.

The Golden Calf has a lot of similarities to the Lord…but they’ve made some revisions…to “improve” God of course

For example, we’re told in verse 1, that the Golden Calf is going to go before them…

In other words…The Golden Calf will get them moving again…on to the Promised Land!

No more waiting by the mountain!

We also see that after they worship the golden calf, they engage in revelry.

The Hebrew Word here connotes massive sexual sin.

So apparently, this new “god” doesn’t restrict them from “doing anything they want”  

Now the actual course of action that they took (making an idol and worshipping it) feels completely foreign to us.

My guess is that if God feels rather far away to you right now, a lot of you aren’t looking at your friend’s earrings and thinking, “Man, I feel really tempted to melt that and turn that into an idol right now”

Perhaps making an idol feels foreign to us…but the Israelite’s progression of revising God to their own liking oughta feel quite familiar to you.

                           

 

HOW WE REVISE GOD 

This is most often seen when we’re in the tough seasons of life. 

It’s in the hard times, when we are pretty susceptible to revising God.

When God doesn’t act just as we want…it’s all too often that Christians decide to make some revisions to who God really is.  

My guess is that almost 100% of you just internally said, “I never do that.”

But almost 100% of us do this, so it’s important that you listen carefully to the WORD today. 

Open your heart to His Word today…

Pray, “God, show me where I’m doing this.”

I can think of at least three ways Christians often do this, and I’m sure there are way more.

Firstly, you don’t see this a ton in Blaine, but one of the most common ways this happens around the world today (especially in developing countries) is through what’s called the Prosperity Gospel

It’s the heretical version of Christianity that’s being pitched to the poor all around the world.

They are told… “Is God not doing what you want?  Are you struggling to put food on the table…is He “Long in coming down the mountain?”

Then, just tithe the right amount to our ministry, and pray some magic prayers, and He will make you rich!

And what are they doing?

They’re REVISING God into an image that they can control for their own purposes (just like the calf).

Secondly, others, who get steeped in decades of religion, often struggle with wanting to revise God into someone who will reward them for all their good deeds…

…rather than a God who only saves by grace through faith.

However, I want to spend the majority of the time focusing on the third way I see this happening.

Because, I think this one (out of the 3 examples) is by far the biggest temptation for the people of Renovation Church in 2018

Many people (and perhaps you would include yourself here) at times feel uncomfortable with the Biblical representation of God.

Maybe you wouldn’t say it out loud in your small group…but…

Perhaps, God feels too violent for you.

Maybe too forgiving.

Or you don’t like His views on sexual ethics.

They you like how Jesus talks about money

Or the fact that Jesus talks about hell and everlasting judgment.

And so…we decide that it would be easier to worship God…if we could just make a few revisions.

I remember, early on in my ministry, I met with a couple who wanted me to officiate their wedding.

As a church, we have a policy that we don’t marry people who are sleeping together…because Scripture is incredibly clear that marriage is meant to be the coming together of one flesh.

And as I tried to gently walk them through that…with as much grace as I possibly could.

I’ll never forget what the woman said to me:

She said, “Sorry, I just disagree.  That’s just not how I see God.”

Now, that’s not really a knock on her…Our entire culture for the last generation has been brought up to believe that we each define our own truth.

But we must come to a realization that this type of thinking is 100% illogical.

Was it logical to make a golden calf, and then say, “Israelites, this is the God who brought you out of Egypt?”

I hope there’s not a person in this room that thinks that is logical.

The golden calf didn’t even exist before that day…and how does a golden calf do anything?!?

Now, that’s an easy one because it’s foreign to our culture.

Think about a more modern example:  Our culture believes we each get to revise God and let him be “the god of our own understanding”

But that’s just as silly.

If I leave this room, and you were each told to write down on a piece of paper a 10 description of David…

It would be ridiculous if some people wrote down, “He’s 6 foot 7…Has a long beard…and is 75 years old”

Could you defend yourself by saying, “That’s the David of my understanding?” 

Could you say, “That’s just who David is for me?”

No!

And neither can we do that with God.

We don’t get to revise Him to our liking.

He’s very, very, very REAL…and He is a specific being with specific character traits.

And no one gets to revise Him to their own preferences

What we know about Him is from the revelation of Scripture…not our own ideas.

 

 

YOUR REVISIONS WILL NEVER MEASURE UP

And so there’s a warning here for all of us.

Who are you worshipping?

Are you worshipping God as He really is? 

Or are you adapting Him for your own purposes?

Is there anywhere in which you’ve read the Bible and gone, “Nah, I don’t like that…I don’t believe God is like that.”

If so…that’s a revision.

And revising God is absolutely…illogical.

See, the problem is, we think…that’s we’re really smart.  Really wise.

In fact, we think we’re wiser than Scripture.

When we read about God…sometimes, we think we just know better.

But trust me, we don’t.

All we often know is what our culture has taught us.

Why did the Israelites pick a calf idol, anyway?

Well, because that’s how the Egyptians worshipped their gods.

The Egyptians had “gods/idols” that were right there with them…and that they got to kind of “control”

And so the Israelites (who are a product of their culture) thought…maybe that is a better way to REVISE their God…THE LORD.   

When things get tough for the Israelites, and they’re wondering if Moses is dead…and will they be stuck in the desert forever…

They revert back to their comfort zone.

They revert back to the only cultural practices most of them had ever known. 

Now, you may not make your own physical, literal images of God when you’re stressed…but every one of us has felt the temptation of revising God into an image we feel more comfortable with.

And guess what, just like the Israelites, often our “newly revised God” looks like “the god” the CULTURE AROUND us worships.

Think about this!

Aaron, the brother of Moses, just rolled over at the idea of building an idol.  “Okay, let’s do it.”

We think that’s crazy, but why wasn’t it crazy to him?

Well, Aaron had grown up with idols all around, maybe he even had worshipped a few during his lifetime…to him, in his culture…it didn’t feel that wrong.

Kind of like, sleeping together before marriage  doesn’t feel that wrong to our culture.

Or, thinking of God as one who is just loving and sends no one to hell (completely not a Biblical idea), but it doesn’t seem that wrong to our culture.

And often, when we feel stressed, or down, or even pressured by society, we revise God to an image we feel more comfortable with

Let me give you an example of this:

Most Bible believing Christians would say that God thinks abortion is wrong…

But when they (personally) have an unwanted pregnancy…or their adult child has one…

It’s within those moments of stress (when God is a long time coming down the mountain)

It’s in those moments…when we are most tempted to revise our version of God…to one we feel more comfortable with

To one that looks more like our culture’s version

But we must accept God for Who He Is…exactly Who He Is.

Renovation Church…we must be a church that fully believes in the Word of God…and Who God is according to Scripture.

Otherwise…all we have left is some mish-mashed revision of God who we crafted according to our own wishes!

And that is not much of a God!

All we can know of God is found in Scripture.

And we must construct our truth of Him from there…not from what we feel we need or makes us more comfortable.

If we do that, we’re no different than the Israelites making a Golden Calf..

Eventually, in Exodus 32, God tells Moses that He better get down the mountain because the people “have become corrupt”

And we’re going to see God’s anger burn against the Israelites.

In fact, we’re going to cover the second half of the passage in House Groups this week…as 2nd semester starts this week.

By the way, if you’re not in one of our incredibly popular House Groups yet…this is the perfect time to start!

They are groups of 20-30 people, that meet weekly, and they are an incredible way to grow in your faith!

80% of our adults are in one!

The beginning of 2nd semester is a perfect time to start.

You can sign-up in the hallway or on our app.

But watch how upset Moses is (and again, we’ll talk about God’s anger in House Groups)

(Exodus 32:19-20) – NIV

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

Yikes!

Throw your idols on the ground! 

False versions of God are essentially still idols.

That’s why God calls them idols.

If I say Jesus is my Savior and died for my sins…but I believe that Jesus doesn’t care about how I live and is fine with me committing as many sins as I want…

I’m not really worshipping Jesus…but a revised (false) version of Him.

Which is basically like creating an idol

I’ve revised God into an image that I feel more comfortable with.

The only difference between that modern-day example and the Israelites is I didn’t actually make something out of gold. 

But your Revised version of God will never give you what you truly want.

Just like an idol of sex, money, or power can’t give you what you truly want.

You were created to be connected to and be fulfilled by the REAL God…not a revised version.

A revised version of God will always pale in comparison to the real Almighty God.

And so I plead with you…trust the Scriptures.

Trust the Bible.

Let go of the temptation to revise God to your own liking.

Church, will you commit with me, to relentlessly trusting in the God of Scripture?

Trusting that, even if there are days where He is hard to understand…

And we can’t (with our limited human minds) figure out why He’s taking so long to come down the mountain..

And we can’t understand why He does some of the thing He does.

Will you trust with me, that the REAL God of Scripture is infinitely better than anything else we could ever revise in our heads? 

God is good.

Let’s trust, not in ourselves, but always in Him.

Let me pray.


Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN



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