Second Word — Blessings & Cursings

Text — Exodus 19:4, 20:22-26, 34:17, Lev. 26:1-2, Dt. 4:15-24, 11:16-17, 27:15
Subject — Images
Theme — Blessings and cursings associated with Idol worship.
Proposition — The blessings and cursing associated with idol worship should cause us to to eschew all idolatry.
Purpose — Therefore having considered the blessings and cursing associated

By way of Introduction this morning we note that the Law of God for His people is not cordoned off into some private space in our lives or restricted in application to our personal lives. God’s law is totalistic in its application.

That Reformed people have not constrained God’s law to some private personal sphere or limited it in its application to some Church realm has been a conviction that has been around for a very long time in Reformed Church. That God’s law is totalistic in its application is seen by a few quotes,

“It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteousness … The Bible, the great statute-book of the Kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.”

~ A. A. Hodge

“…And this generall Rule give me leave to assert and commend to your most serious considerations and consciences. That whatsoever Law of God, or Command of His, we find recorded in the Law-booke, in either of the Volumnes of GOD’S Statute, the N.T. or the Old, Remaines obligatory to us, unless we can prove it to be expired, or repealed. So it is with the Statute-Law of this Nation, or any Nation.”

Herbert Palmer – 1601-1647
English Puritan
Sermon before Parliament — August 13, 1644

“But it is questioned whether the law pertains to the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual and distinct from all earthly dominion; and there are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the beginnings of His kingdom should be aided by the sword. But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep amongst the wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection, nor tame their violence, nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church.”

John Calvin
Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses — p. 77.

I could provide reams and reams more of similar quotes. All I am seeking to establish by such quotes is that Reformed people have for 500 years insisted the God’s law is not restricted to some personal private realm nor has God’s law been seen as less than totalistic (covering every realm of life) for all people.

And the reason I take the time to note this is that there are some pretty heavy Reformed hitters out there who are insisting that God’s law does not apply to the public square but instead the public square must be governed by a Natural law that is not allowed to explicitly reference God’s revealed Law in order to inform how we are governed.

When we come to God’s law we see a parallel in the way God’s works in ordering creation and the way he works in ordering man’s social existence. As God created order in the heavens and the earth w/ Ten words (Gen. 1:3-29) so He creates order in society w/ Ten words.

In the 1st commandment the prohibition is against serving any other God

As he have noted the 2nd commandment is a prohibition on

Making images to represent the true God (32:4)
Making images to represent false gods (any likeness of anything)

The problem with Idols is it allows the Deity to be controlled by those in charge of the Idol

This is to forget it is God who controls us, not we who control God.

1.) image worship is forbidden because it reduces God

a.) reduces God’s incomprehensibility to comprehensibility
b.) reduces God’s majesty and transcendence
c.) reduces God’s nearness & covenantal intimacy.
d.) reduces God’s Sovereignty

All of these put us in control of God

2.) image worship is forbidden because it creates self willed worship

God will not only be worshiped alone but He will be worshiped alone only in and by the way he dictates.

3.) image worship is forbidden because in it we become like what we worship (Ps. 115:4-8)

I.) A Brief Word On God’s Character Seen In The Second Commandment

The Hebrew word qana [a”n’q] and its cognates are the most extensively used words for jealousy in the Old Testament. In Exodus 34:14 we learn that “the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” In Deuteronomy 4:24, God is described as “a consuming fire, a jealous God, ” giving the idea that he will judge because of his jealousy. In Joshua 24:19, Joshua challenges the people to serve the Lord but reminds them that serving God will be difficult because “He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.” In Zechariah 1:14, when the Lord is asked why he allows Jerusalem to be down-trodden by the nations, he replies, “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.” In verse 15, he continues to explain that while he intended to punish Israel for her sin, the nations have “added to the calamity.” Because of his jealousy,God will restore Jerusalem to its rightful people and will build his temple there (v. 16).This concept is also brought out in context of the last days in Joel 2:18: “the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.” The Hebrew noun is alsoused to describe a man’s jealousy for his wife ( Num 5:14-30 ) and God’s passionate anger against sin ( 1 Kings 14:22 ; Psalm 78:58 ).

God’s jealousy in 20:5 describes His passion for His Holy name. His people were to be known as God’s people so that if they committed idolatry it was God’s name (His character, His renown) that would be besmirched and seen as less glorious than it always remains. Eventually, this idolatry problem finds God removing his shekinah glory from the temple in Ezekiel 8:3. In Ez. 8:3 we have a description of an idol that was set up in the temple mount “that provokes to jealousy.”

God deigns to place His name upon us but in being adorned with His name we are not to provoke Him to jealously by involving ourselves with idolatry.

II.) The Familial Promises Attached To This Prohibition

A.) Cursings

Sanction and Blessing. To the second commandment are appended a sanction and a blessing.

We find the idea of blessings for obedience in many places in Scripture. Lev. 26:23=24 is one such example

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

In the Exodus reference we see that if the head of the family turns away from Yahweh to worship images, his entire family will be swallowed up in his self-willed worship. His sin becomes their stumbling. “The third and fourth generation” are mentioned, because sometimes parents lived to see these, and so with their eyes beheld the punishment inflicted upon their posterity for their sins, which must be distressing to them; The idea here is that these warnings might impress their minds and affect them, to think what their sins would bring upon their descendants, who would quickly come after them, and share in the sad effects of their iniquities, and so be a means to deter them from them.

Note how this reinforces Federal Theology.

That this blessing and curse are added to this commandment is significant. Lying and stealing are serious crimes, but turning your back on the Lord to practice self-willed religion is most serious.

This teaches us that true religion is not a matter of voluntary choice which is w/o repercussions. It is required by God, and failure to meet His requirements leads to judgment. To assume that men are free to worship or not worship w/o radical consequences for a family and even a society is to negate the very meaning of Biblical faith. The life of a family and a society is its religion and if that religion be false, then the family and the society is headed for God’s cursings. Obedience is thus not a matter of taste: it is a question of life and death.

B.) Blessings

If there are cursings that descend upon the family for the head of the family’s sin so there are blessings. All the way to the most extended generation imaginable, God will show his favor to those who are faithful to Him and keep His commands. David’s house continued for generations, even though they were punished for Solomon’s sins (1 Kings 11:34, 38-39).

“Showing Mercy” — This idea of Mercy in this text communicates the idea of God’s loving Kindness and Devotion to His people for the sake of His covenant with them. This idea of God “showing Mercy” is a strong term that communicates God’s unfailing commitment to His people.

Scriptures also describes this covenant faithfulness as “abounding in love,” (34:6) as a “Mercy that endureth forever (Psalm 136), and as so great that it takes back unfaithful Gomer (Hosea 2:19).

What might we say here?

You can love your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren best when you love God, thus leaving Generations yet unseen a Godly legacy.

For those without a Godly heritage in their family we can still take hope because Scripture teaches us that God, being merciful often graciously interrupts this cursing of the generations. These blessings and curses are not rules that God can not interrupt for His own ends. Pious Jehoshaphat had a godless son Jehoram (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 8:16-18). Three godless sons and a godless grandson (2 Kings 22-23) succeeded God-fearing Josiah.

III.) Other Considerations Concerning Idolatry

The Impact of Idolatry On A Culture

In OT Israel the health of the body politic (commonwealth) required the prohibition of Idolatry, because the toleration of Idolatry meant the overthrow of God as God unto His people, which would result in death for the people. (All those who hate me love death).

As such in the OT Idolatry was punishable by Death since it constituted Treason against God.

Deuteronomy 17:2-7

2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge[a] the evil[b] from your midst.

Now, were we to implement this kind of procedure in our culture people would think it extreme, yet we are not inclined to think it extreme that people are put to death for treason against the State (Julius and Ethel Rosenberg).

But of course we do not visit Idolatry with capital punishment in this country but Calvinists over the Centuries have had other views.

‎”The third opinion (of Calvinism) is, that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing Heretics and Sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, doth require. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox Ancients, (vide Optati opera, edit, Albaspin. pag. 204, 215.) so it is followed by our soundest Protestant Writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a peculiar Treatise De Hareticis à Magistratu puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand [de magist. polit. cap. 2. quæst. 3. dub 2.] and other Lutheran Writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all Heretics without distinction are to be put to death: The truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this Question, that is, that Heretics are to be punished by mulcts, imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death. What is it else that Calvin teacheth, when he distinguisheth three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate betwixt brethren: others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity: a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishments?”

~ George Gillespie
Westminster Devine”

Calvin writes in his defense of the execution of Servetus:

Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church . It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affectations which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that be almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honor, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories. [12]

Philip Schaff’s comment is important:

Calvin’s plea for the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy by death, stands or falls with his theocratic theory and the binding authority of the Mosaic code. His arguments are chiefly drawn from the Jewish laws against idolatry and blasphemy, and from the examples of the pious kings of Israel. [13]

Gillespie and Calvin understood that to allow a alien law order, which allows Idolatry and all manner of sin which also is defined as criminality, to thrive in the name of some kind of enlightened pluralism was, in reality, to support the alien gods and the alien law order. To allow a law order to thrive that is alien to God’s law order to is to breathe life into the alien law order and to consign God’s law order to the garbage dump.

So, where Idolatry is allowed to have its way in any culture / social order means the eventual extinction of that culture / social order as people will disregard any social order constraints that get in the way of their self-assertion and desires. Just as Israel apart from the one true God was a nation where “every man did what was right in His own eyes,” so any nation that stands apart from the true God will have a culture where every man does what is right in his own eyes.

The only cure for this is Jesus Christ. Only Christ can provide the atonement necessary for those who have served false gods and desire to return to the only true God and the life that he promises.

Conclusion

Re-cap

The Fall & Idolatry … A Prototype Explaining The 1st Commandment’s Prohibition

We find the sin of Idolatry going back to the Garden in Genesis 1-3 even though such sin is not explicitly stated.

In point of fact when our first parents quit being committed to God and reflecting His image at that very moment they were replacing reverence for God with reverence for an Idol and were being conformed to the image of the Idol they had turned to and were reflecting its image.

To see the idolatry of our first parents we have to understand that the purpose of Adam & Eve’s placement in the garden.

Gen. 1:28 teaches that our first parents were to subdue the entire earth

“God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In having dominion they were to reflect God’s image on the earth as God’s vice regents — His Stewards. In taking dominion Adam & Eve were reflecting God’s character and filling the earth with that Character.

Genesis 2:15 continues that theme,

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

They were to serve it and guard it.

The idea of cultivating and protecting the garden was how Adam was to display the functional calling of God’s Image

Just as God subdued the Chaos they were to subdue the Garden.
Just as God ruled over all of Creation as seen in His Creative work they were to have dominion
Just as God filled the earth with teeming things they were to be fruitful and multiply themselves

This idea that Adam was set in the sanctuary Temple garden as a royal Image of God is an ancient concept that we find in other ancients contexts. Parallels from other Eastern cultures find the images of gods adorning their temples and include the idea that the King of the people is an ancient image of God.

The clearest example of this is found in the Egyptian King Rameses II (1290-1224 BC) when referring to his God inscribed, thou hast fashioned me in they likeness and thy form, which thou hast assigned to me and has created.”

“I am thy Son who thou hast placed upon thy throne. Thou hast assigned to me thy Kingdom.”

J. Richard Middleton can write on this,

“The description of ancient Near Eastern Kings as the image of a god, when understood as an integral component of Egyptian and / or Mesopotamian royal ideology, provides the most plausible set of parallels for interpreting the imago Dei in Genesis 1. If such texts … influenced the biblical imago Dei, this suggests that humanity is dignified with a status and role vis-a-vis the non human creation that is analogous to the status and role of kings in the ancient Near East vis-a-vis their subjects… As Imago Dei, then humanity in Genesis 1 is called to be representative and intermediary of God’s power and blessing on earth.”

So Adam and Eve were God’s Image in His Temple Sanctuary Garden and functionally speaking by having Dominion (guarding and serving Gen. 2:15) they were to mirror God’s glorious Image. Further in being fruitful and in multiplying they were filling the earth not merely with progeny but with image bearing progeny who would be reflectors of God’s glory.

These Image bearers however betrayed the end for which they were created by choosing to serve an Idol.

Adam failed in his divine image of dominion by not guarding the garden and allowing the Serpent into the Temple Sanctuary of God, and eventually that lack of Image reflecting guardianship eventually gave way to being ruled by the Serpent. Instead of casting the serpent out He, himself served the Serpent and was cast out.

In all of this we see the move to Idolatry. Remember that Idol worship is revering and prioritizing anything but and above God. We see this in

Adam’s allegiance shifting from God to the Serpent
Adam reflecting the Serpent’s character and not God’s

Whereas Adam had been God’s truth spokesman as seen in naming the Creating, Adam now speaks deceitfully like Satan.

Whereas Adam had trusted God’s legislative word, Adam now trusts his own word as seen in trusting the Serpent

So Adam’s shift from trusting God to trusting himself to trust the Serpent meant that Adam no longer reflected God’s image but was beginning to mirror the image of his Idol.

Perhaps the highest form of idolatry seen in the fall is the determination of Adam to make his own Word to be legislative of reality as opposed to submitting to God’s Law Word. For this sin of reflecting and mirroring the Serpent, who once upon a time determined himself to do what Adam and Eve have now done (de-God God and en-God himself by ascending to the most High,) God casts them out of the Temple sanctuary garden just as God has cast Satan out of heaven long ago.

So in this we see that the root of all idolatry is in deifying our own capacities and thereby attempt to make God of ourselves and our choices and all their implications. At the root all idolatry is human rejection of the Godness of God and the finality of God’s legislating moral authority. Idolatry always works to blur the distinction between the Creator and the creature. Man, in erecting Idols, aims at injuring God and always mortally wounds himself.

The fall displays sin to be the rearranging of existence around the self conditioned self, with the result that self conditioned self is the center of all it does. Gen. 3 teaches us that all sin thus begins with idolatry and is always in service having other gods before God.

What are your besetting sins? Whatever those besetting sins are they are besetting sins because at root some Idol of self is seeking to displace the God of the Bible in your heart.

And Idolatry is always, in the end about the Transcendent Self. Even in animistic cultures where Idols are more concrete the purpose of serving the Totem or the Idol is to ensure the worshipers of their own safety, advancement and aggrandizement. In animistic cultures the Idols are served because of how the Idols can serve the worshipers and magic is introduced as manipulative alchemy to bend the gods to ones will.

In Biblical Christianity this is flipped around. The God of the Bible serves Himself by serving His people w/ the purpose that we might serve Him. God does not exist at our disposal, we exist at God’s disposal. We are not using God to advance our autonomously arrived at agendas, God is using us to advance His agenda of ruling all the Earth.

Another characteristic of Idolatry we see in the fall is the building up and protecting of the Self. The building up of the self is obvious enough as it is seen in the refusal of the self to submit to God’s ordained order. However, the centrality of the self in Idolatry is especially seen in God’s investigation of the matter. Adam protects the Idol self by blaming Eve, and Eve protects the Idol self by blaming the Serpent. Wherever you see Idolatry you see justifications and rationalizations for behavior that a repentant self would own up to.

So, Idolatry is concerned with creating a bubble of the Self (making the self look larger and more intimidating than it really is) and it is concerned with protecting at all costs the image of the self.

Illustration — Tolkien’s Gollum (Smeagol)

Ivan Provan has said in his book, “Worshiping God in Nietzsche’s World,”

“the fundamental idolatry described by the Bible lies also at the heart of the varied modern idolatries: the idolatry of the self. The self is at the center of existence as a god: ultimate significance is found in god-like individual autonomy, self-set goals and boundaries.”

All of this explains our current infatuation with the self. We worry about our children’s self-esteem and we worry about our self-image. We talk about being self-aware and encourage ourselves to have self-confidence to overcome self-doubt. And some of these might be fine if they were set against the back drop of worshiping God as God but more often than not they are set against the back drop of the self-conditioned self and are thus seen as self worship.

Application

So what are our idols?

One might suggest that one of our chief Idols is what I might call “Nowism.”

Nowism is the idea that however things are now is how they are going to always be and as such we would do well to align our thinking w/ the “now.” Some have called “Nowism,” “Historical determinism.” It is an Idol because it is believed that it controls all.

With this kind of thinking theology is re-tooled so that whatever is fashionable now is used to reinterpret the Christian faith, or Christian ethics. And so because of “nowism,” we get the attempt to add the Belhar Confession to our confessions because the multiculturalism that it reflects is seen as a trend that just can’t end.

But the Idol of “Nowism” means also we reinterpret what is modest in light of the prevailing tendency. Nowism means that we reinterpret worship through the lens of Top 40 music and self-help psychology because that is what attracts people.

However, the Idol of “Nowism,” is a unsure thing as history is not dictated by trends that can not be overcome but it is dictated by God who is the judge over history. Imagine how inevitable “Nowism” must have been in Sodom 5 minutes before God’s judgment.

Another oldie but goodie Idol is “401K’ism.” (You can not serve both God and mammon)

Americans tend to have us much confidence in the future as they have money in the bank. We can tend to measure our status and importance by what we have that others do not have.

But 401K’ism doesn’t afflict only the wealthy. The poor can be and often are afflicted by this as seen in their envy and hatred of the wealthy simply because they are wealthy. This envy — this delighting in the failure of others even if we aren’t helped by their failure — is seen and ginned up in every political cycle as voters are reminded how unfair the economic order is.

Does your Mammon own you or do you own your mammon?

Another Idol is the Idol of power

This is seen in the domineering husband and father who rules the home not with a servants heart but with a tyrant’s intent. It is seen in the shrew and wench of a wife who will have her way no matter what and so seeks to undercut the authority of her husband at each turn. It is seen in the Boss who views his employees as his playthings or in the employee who is always conniving to displace the rightful authority of the Employer.

It is seen in the modern messianic state that claims ownership of all things, and claims the right to formulate laws without any reference to transcendent moral absolutes. Because it is a Idol of power it seeks to reduce other authorities to impotence such as local magistrates, family, and Church.

Another Idol is the Church and what passes for Christianity

It is an Idol because of its compromise with the idols of the age and its refusal to serve no God but God. When we so prioritize the Church simply because it is called “the Church,” that we turn a blind eye ourselves to the idols of our age we have committed Churcholatry.

Of course anything can become an Idol. We can love our family so much that it displaces God and so we are guilty of familolatry. Many men have been guilty of workoltry, and yet work is a positive good. In our culture there seems to be a tendency towards Celbrity-olatry, but I think we could file that also under Nowism since the celebrity reflects the “now.”

It may be the most difficult thing in life to constantly keep our Idols in check. We are self-deceivers and it is difficult for us to see the truth about ourselves. But if we are to press on in Christ likeness we have to be careful of idols we might create.

Conclusion:

G. K. Beale

“God has made humans to reflect Him, but if they do not commit themselves to Him, they will not reflect Him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: We either reflect the Creator or something in creation…. All humans have been created to be reflecting beings, and they will reflect whatever they are ultimately committed to, whether the true God or some other object in the created order…. We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.”

The Magical Worldview & Modern Man

Text — Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:10-11; Isa. 8:19; Micah 5:12; Mal. 3:5; Acts 8:18f; Acts 13:4-12; II Tim. 3:8, Gal. 5:20

Heidelberg Catechism — Q. 94-95

Q. 94. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

A. That I must avoid and flee all idolatry, Magic, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures because of the risk of losing my salvation. Indeed, I ought properly to acknowledge the only true God, trust in him alone, in humility and patience expect all good from him only, and love, fear and honor him with my whole heart. In short, I should rather turn my back on all creatures than do the least thing against his will.

Subject — Magic
Theme — God’s forbidding of Magic
Proposition — God’s forbidding of magic should cause us to look to see if a magical worldview impinges on our thinking today as modern men so that we might forswear it.

Introduction

We are not talking this morning about Magic as entertainment. Not talking about Card tricks, pulling rabbits out of hats, or illusions.

Magic — Definition

“Any action of man whereby he attempts total control over the powers of nature and other men so has to manipulate nature and men to a unnatural end.”

Magic is the attempt by man to gain control over the world of man, nature, and the supernatural. In magic, man attempts to become god over all things and to assert his power and control over all reality. According to Kurt Koch:
At the threshold of human history stands the command of God: Replenish the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). The task and right of man was the peaceful conquest of the earth’s powers in agreement with the will of God. In opposition to this command, Satan, the great master of confusion, made the arch-temptation: Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). The antithesis of the command of God is magic, hunger of knowledge and desire for power in opposition to the will of God. With this, young mankind found itself at the crossroads.
Kurt Koch — “Between God & Satan”

Its purpose, according to Scripture, is to divert people from God to man (Isa. 8:19).

Magic thus becomes a religion in as much as it is attached to controlling reality through the control of Idols.

Religion — “Submission to that which is ultimate” — Dr. Paul Tillich

Biblical Religion — Man submitting to the triune God moving in terms of God’s law Word and handling all things in light of God’s Word.

Magic — Man submitting only to himself through his Idols and seeking through manipulation total control over all reality.

Pagan man sought that control via incantation and what we moderns consider strange rituals.

Modern man seeks that control via social manipulation by any and all means. What is important though is that in both cases what is being sought are the instruments to control via one’s own fiat word other men and all reality in a way that is not in harmony with God and His Word. In both the animistic or ancient world and the modern world magic is a means of deception whereby man seeks, by power of his fiat word, to alter real reality.

Modern man laughs and scoffs at the Shaman, Witch Doctor, or Druid in the third world with their slain chickens, and feathers and bones and yet modern man seeks every bit as much to leverage Magic in order to manipulate his reality to move in terms of his fiat word as the Shaman, Witch Doctor and Druid.

And yet Modern man engages in his own type of magic in order to manipulate & control his world & the world around him.

Modern man still looks to Shamans, Witch Doctors, and Druids to leverage magic in order to manipulate reality to move in terms of his fiat word.

Different Modern Expressions of Magic

I.) Much of Psychology is nothing but a form of Magic

Remembering that we have defined magic as the attempt to use raw power (consider Simon the magician’s desire for power in Acts 8) to gain total control over men and / or situations with the purpose of manipulating them to move not in terms of God’s authority but in terms of man’s fiat (self-legislating) word.

And this is what much of Psychology / Psychiatry / Counseling does. It does not look to God’s word for authority and insight but rather seeks to control men through theories that come from a worldview that is distinctly non-Christian. The humanist psychologist seeks through his fiat theories and therapeutic word to magically create alternate realities whereby his patient is magically cured.

The Shaman … can be viewed as a early psychotherapist.

Herbert Benson M. D.
Harvard Professor

There is abundant evidence in many forms of modern thought, especially the so called “prosperity” psychology “will power building,” and systems of “high pressure,” salesmanship black magic has merely passed through a metamorphosis, and although its named be changed, its nature remains the same.”

Manly P. Hall
Masonic, Hermitic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy — pg. C1, C11
Cited from Dave Hunt’s Occult Invasion, pg. 432

We too often forget that psychology as a discipline originated in the attempt to understand man without taking into consideration the God of the Bible. Previously man had been understood in terms of God, but with Psychology man would now be understood without God and the elite would be able to control man through this understanding of man. Psychology thus became a kind of magic that accepted almost unquestioningly in all of our institutions, including our Churches.

And so this discipline that began with feeling the bumps on people’s heads as become a form of magic consulted in how to manipulate people to act in ways that are uninformed by God’s revealed word. The psychologist, like the Shaman of old, uses incantations and rituals in order to alter someone’s perception and to gain control.

We remember that we are talking about magic, and in order to reinforce our understanding of what magic is we offer another definition from M. Stanton Evans,

“In it’s most fundamental terms pagan magical mentality is an effort to obtain the secret knowledge which will give one mastery over nature and other people. As such it has long been a component of the modern outlook. Much of what passes these days as science, (Scientism is the more accurate term) is in fact magic in modern dress. Scientism and magic appear together at the age of the Renaissance … and have been ingredients in secular thought ever since.”

II.) This definition of magic thus brings us to another modern expression of Magic in the modern world and that is Scientism.

Alduous Huxley’s book Brave New World” opens in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The year is a.f. 632 (632 years “after Ford”). The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning is giving a group of students a tour of a factory that produces human beings and conditions them for their predestined roles in the World State. He explains to the boys that human beings no longer produce living offspring. Instead, surgically removed ovaries produce ova that are fertilized in artificial receptacles and incubated in specially designed bottles. The Hatchery destines each fetus for a particular caste in the World State.

Science is being used, in Huxley’s novel, as magic in order to give sovereign man the ability to have totalitarian control over his world. Man is the idol and science is used as magic in order to control the idol.

But, Huxley’s BNW w/ it’s use of science as a means of magic is not that far fetched from our own world. We don’t quite control birth by caste yet but we do do things like abort 90% of babies diagnosed in utero with downs syndrome thus taking into our own hands the prerogative of God. The push for abortifacients by our Federal gov’t. in our name is nothing but magic seeking totalitarian control. Interestingly enough “pharmakiea” (poisoner) is the word used for “sorcery” (a aspect of magic) in Gal. 5:20

According to Luther (Luthers Works, Vol 27)

“According to Jerome sorcery is called the poisonous art; for the Greek word ‘pharmakon’ means poison or medicament. Hence a sorceress is called poisonous. Therefore the apostle is referring to magicians, wizards, enchanters, and any others who, by means of compacts with devils, deceive their neighbors, harm them, and steal from them.”

Further we use science to control people through drugs and there is work going on in developing designer medicines in order to bring forth a particular personality profile for certain occasions.

I would submit that there are times when there is more sorcery about science than there is science about science.

Of course Science is good and pleasing to God as it is consistent with a Biblical worldview but when Science seeks to overthrow Biblical theology and seeks instead to absolutize itself it becomes a form of magic as it seeks a control that is inconsistent with God’s Word.

Remember, Science is only as good as the Theology it descends from. So, when Science goes outside the bonds of Biblical theology it is serving some other god or gods and when it becomes absolutized so that by its power it seeks total control of man it becomes a form of magic and is thus to be supped with, with a long spoon by Christians.

III.) Another Modern Expression of Magic is our Political Structures

Rose L Martin in her book High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A, 1884-1966, quoted G. D. H. Cole as stating that an objective of socialism is the “abolition of God.”[2]

Remember we said that the purpose of magic is to divert people’s attention away from God and His word and as the State seeks to be the all encompassing arbiter of good and evil legislating for against it the politicians and bureaucrats who comprise the state become a league of magicians.

On this point R. J. Rushdoony could say,

“(The State) plan(s) to abolish sin and guilt, poverty, disease, and hunger, even death itself, and create a new paradise on earth. The new politics is a politics of total control, and it therefore hates God, because God represents a roadblock to power. God is the enemy who must be destroyed so that man can become his own god.”

Non-Christians like Orwell and Huxley in their novels “1984” and “BNW” both understood this totalitarian and magical aspect of the State in defiance of orthodox Christianity, and the reality that the State seeks to use fiat legislative magic to overthrow God explains the hostility of the State towards those who are epistemologically self conscious Christians.

When the Bureaucrats and legislators create and enforce fiat humanist legislation that is unrelated into God’s law they are preforming a kind of magic whereby they are seeking, by means of deception, to use their power to control men. Their words in their legislation thus becomes a kind of “magic spell,” which is cast in order to get people to do their bidding.

IV.) Another important area where magic prevails today is in art.

Here I am borrowing from RJR’s chapter 12 in Law & Liberty

T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, in his study, Mona Lisa’s Mustache: A Dissection of Modern Art, observed that “modern art is not modern at all. It is a revival of one of the oldest systems for getting power. It is a revival of magic.”

The modern artists are totalitarians who despise man and liberty. As Robsjohn-Gibbings noted,

According to the futurists, “Man has no more significance than a stone.” We find Kandinsky, the leader of expressionism, writing haughtily of “the vulgar herd,” and “the mob,” we find the surrealists insisting on the “greatest possible obliteration of individuality,” and Picasso, the leader of cubism, calling for “a dictatorship of one painter.”

To men such as these, art could be only a medium through which they would gain power over the fellow beings they consider so insignificant. So art becomes like a Kewpie doll used by a Voodoo Witch Doctor in order to inflict disorder into people’s reality.

The modern magical artist hates above all to be moral, law-abiding, and meaningful; he belongs in his imagination to an elite group whose purpose is to smash the present order and remake it totally in terms of their own elitist plans. According to one artist’s manifesto, “The artist ‘should be understood as a contemporary magician … How are we to wield power; how are we to influence:’ and not ‘Are we scientists or poets?’ is the question to be posed … Seers, we are for the magic of life.”

Modern art seeks to destroy God’s meaning, to obliterate it from man’s mind, so that man will no longer see God’s order in things but will relearn all things as taught by magical art. Its purpose thus is total brainwashing.

Modern art thus becomes a kind of visible sorcerer’s spell by which the viewer is hexed into accepting the meaning of non-meaning as cast by the Artist.

The magic of the Artist is found in his ability to thrust a hexed people into chaos where integration into the void is the goal by the means of a artistic spell that leads people into concluding that meaning, at best, is person variable. The hope of the magician Artist is that out of chaos order will arise. Those who are deceived by the Sorcerer artists’s hex will increasingly discard meaning and order as declared by God’s interpretation of reality but will instead re-interpret reality according to the spell of the Sorcerer Artist.

It is a form of magic … sorcery.

Conclusion

We fail to see how we are given to magic in our culture because we tend to think that the magical worldview belongs only to animistic cultures. We don’t take seriously God’s word or the Heidelberg Catechism’s injunction against magic because having become so used to the magic around us we fail to see it for magic.

I John 5: 18-21 Sermon

Subject — Affirmations
Theme — The final affirmations of John

Proposition – The final affirmations of John reminds of three basic fundamentals to the Christian faith he has been laboring to teach in his Epistle

Purpose — Therefore having considered these final affirmations let us take to heart these matters so that we might find ourselves ever more exulting in our Christian faith

Re-cap of Chapter 5

The subject of this Chapter has been that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This theme is teased out in Chapter 5 when he begins by stressing the unity that exists between God and the believer as engendered by faith in Christ. Believers in Jesus Christ overcome the world and they reveal their love for God — a love engendered by faith in Christ — by their love for the Brethren, by their obedience to God’s commands.

John has told us that Jesus Christ came with the authority of Baptism (water) and shedding of blood (Cross). These were both events given the imprimatur of God’s voice. Not only do we have the testimony of Spirit, water and blood but we have the testimony of heaven. All this testimony confirms that Jesus is the Christ and has need to be received by men. Some men reject this testimony, thus making God out to be a liar, and some accept the testimony and are filled personally with the content of that testimony which is eternal life, so that the testimony of God is in them.

We have the assurance that God hears our prayers as we ask according to his will. Part of our prayer life includes asking for the Brother who has fallen into sin, though John tells us that there are those who are beyond the effectiveness of our prayers for them. John closes the chapter with a series of Affirmations and one vital admonition.

In his closing remarks John summarizes three facts that he has covered. He begins each of these summary statements with the phrase, “We know,”

It is interesting that he thus casts the Christian faith in terms of the understanding. By recapitulating what he has said he brings them back to a kind of Catechism. The Christian life is the life of the mind, of knowing. If we have no interest in knowing God, knowing the great truths of our Christian faith then we would be better served by calling ourselves something besides “Christian.”

I.) Affirmation #1 — The Christian Life Is Not Characterized By Habitual Determined Sinfulness (18, cmp. 3:6, 9)

As we have learned this affirmation may have need to be repeated by John because of the immorality of the Gnostics who, because of their belief system, were not concerned with the sins characterized by satiating lust and fleshly desires.

That John does not mean that the Christian never sins is seen by his reminder that if we sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. John is not dealing with the Christian who realizes he sins every day in word, thought, or deed, but he is warning against the kind of Christianity that is unconcerned about sin.

What John says here, is parallel w/ what Paul says when in Romans 6 he talks about being raised to newness of life.

A.) Hallmark of the Christian Community is that having been saved from Sin by Christ it distinguishes itself by its increasing, though never arrived at, Christ-likeness

It is interesting that more and more I see Churches selling themselves by advertising that their gathering is safe because it is a haven for sinners. And it is true that the Church should be a safe haven for sinners. However, the sense I often get from some who go by the name of “New Calvinists” that sinning is not something we should sweat about since we are righteous in Christ.

These folks take offense at Christians that articulate that the Christian life looks like something that resembles the ever increasing obedience of and respect for God’s commands. These new Calvinists have so redefined sanctification that if it exists it becomes largely immeasurable, unknowable, and unseen. I can not help but think that they would be put off with John’s call to not sin and to keep God’s commands.

This New Calvinism focuses hard on Christ’s work for us emphasizing that all our obedience will arise from that and there is truth in that idea but obedience can’t flow from Christ’s work if the believer isn’t told from God’s word what obedience looks like. And this is where new Calvinism falls down rather definitively. New Calvinism doesn’t want to explain to people what the Christian life looks like so that John’s affirmation “the believer does not habitually sin” looks like something concrete.

The Church ought to be a safe haven — a hospital — for sinners. A safe haven and hospital for recovering sinners where the elixir of eternal life is given in word and sacrament. But, as we’ve seen in 1st John it is a place where God’s people are instructed that they are to love the Brethren and they are to keep God’s commands and where they are told that Christians do not involve themselves in habitual . It is a place where God’s people are to be encouraged to put off the old man and put on the new man. It is a place where the foundation of doctrine (indicative) is laid and the path of duty (imperative is pointed towards).

So, when we sell the Church as a “safe haven for sinners,” without also mentioning that we look for sinners to become progressively incrementally more healthy we are involved in false advertising for the Church.

Why do Churches do this?

No one can say for sure but it should be observed that such advertising and soft pedaling on sin makes it comparatively easier to build big churches and take in large offerings. If God’s law, as a guide to life for the Redeemed sinner, isn’t articulated, and if sin isn’t closely defined then people will have no reason to quit attending or quit giving.

B.) This Christian life is not one of habitual determined sin because Christ keeps His people (John 17:12, 15)

That Christ keeps His people doesn’t mean that His people don’t sin. That Christ keeps His people doesn’t mean that His people don’t struggle with besetting sins. That Christ keeps His people means that He gives them a regard for sanctification.

Text — “He who is born of God” (Does this refer to Christ who keeps us, or does this refer to the believer who keeps himself.

The word touch means to harm or injure a person

This text also reminds of the preserving power of God for His people. Being born of God we are sealed unto the day of redemption. We can be confident, not because of our holiness, or our ability (those would be very foolish things to place confidence in) but we can be confident because that God, of whom we are born, is the God who keeps us until the very end. (Perseverance of the saints).

II.) Affirmation #2 — We Know That There Is A Difference Between “Us,” & “Them” (19)

Mankind is divided into two great parties or special interest groups, those which belong to God and those which belong to the world (those in Adam).

Scripture teaches that God’s people are His portion and that he has made Jacob His inheritance (Dt. 32:9), while the rest seek to throw off his chains. Those opposed to God are not all equal in their depravity and so not all as epistemologically self-conscious in their hatred towards God (I John 5:10) and God’s people but there is this divide, this antithesis of which we must be constantly aware.

“whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”

This is another way of saying that those who are outside of Christ are under the dominion of Satan. It is not saying that the world belongs to Satan. Satan can not lay claim to creating and owning the Cosmos, though he can lay claim to holding sway over all those in Adam.

Yet, though the world lies in the sway of the wicked one we know that this same wicked one has been bound and despoiled of his goods (Matthew 12:29f) by virtue of the Lord Christ’s bringing of the Kingdom through His death on the Cross. Jesus has come to drive out the wicked one and Jesus claims the world now which rightfully belongs to God. We, who have been born of God, are the first fruits of those who have been delivered from this present evil age but we anticipate that the Kingdoms of this world becoming the Kingdoms of our Lord precisely because they are already His Kingdoms.

However, we must keep in mind that there is a antithesis between believer and unbeliever.

Further it would be wise to understand that with the passage of time the antithesis becomes more and more pronounced. Those in Christ go on in Christ-likeness and those outside of Christ become increasingly consistent in being under the sway of the wicked one.

III.) Affirmation #3 — The Son Has Come And Has Given Us Understanding

The idea of “Him who is true.” (True in opposition to what is fictitious)

Given us understanding — Christian doctrine of illumination
Given us understanding — Christianity as the life of the mind
Given us understanding — Eternal life is wrapped up, not in experience, not in emotion, but in knowing God

Dispute regarding text — How are the pronouns to be read

Application — Lack of emphasis on knowing God in the contemporary Church as seen in the despising of Catechisms and Confessions.

“In Him who is true” — Spiritual Union of Christ with the Body (Head & Members) Pneumatology / Christology

IV.) Exhortation — Idols

It may be that John’s reminding them of being given the understanding of the true God leads Him to the final Imperative.

False gods
False conceptions of God

Remember what he is fighting are those who are selling false conceptions of Jesus Christ (Gnostics) and so false conceptions of God.

Of course the temptation to idolatry has always been the bane of God’s people. Calvin could say that the human heart was an idol factory. We are forever prone to make God out of just about anything — even the best of things which are ruined because we turn them into idols, esteeming the gift more than the giver.

Application

What are our Idols?

Leisure
State
Church
Family

Conclusion

The encouraging matter of all this is that while we may be convicted of our idolatry tendencies that God promises His people that they will continue to look to Christ for forgiveness and will continue to be renewed so that we are more and more God centered and less and less self and idol centered.

Re-cap
Purpose statement.

I John 5:9-10 … God’s Testimony & Man’s Response

Subject — God
Theme — God’s Testimony of Christ
Proposition — God’s Testimony of Christ reveals that men have no reason not to believe upon Christ.
Purpose — Therefore having seen God’s testimony of Christ let us challenge all men everywhere to believe Christ.

Intro

Re-cap from previous weeks.

Background

In 5:9-13 John Comes to some concluding thoughts on what he has been saying regarding the “Son of God.”

In 5:1-4 the emphasis was on Faith in God’s Son
In 5:5-12 the discussion has been on the necessity to accept God’s testimony regarding the Son

In his concluding thoughts in this section regarding the Son of God John specifically states the content of God’s testimony concerning His Son, thus eliminating any misunderstanding concerning the Son.

I.) God Has Given Testimony Concerning His Son (9)

Note the continued emphasis on objective evidence. The greek word for “Testify” is used 10 times in verses 6-11 teaching us that John is concerned with the validity of the divine testimony to Christ.

This necessity for Testimony was essential in God’s economy. Jesus himself lays claim to it.

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

In vs. 9 the testimony of man that is being referred to is likely John the Baptist’ testimony.

John 5:31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

But John, noting that Jesus has Man’s testimony, insists that God’s testimony is greater. And this line of thought is consistent with the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel.

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

This greater Testimony was given, as John says, with “The Spirit, water, and the blood.”

But this Testimony of God would also include

God’s voice speaking from heaven sanctioning the Work of His Son.

Baptism

“and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Entry into Jerusalem

John 12:18 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Mt. Transfiguration

5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

So, John seeks to establish the validity of Jesus and His ministry by appealing to the very requirement that God’s word gives us for seeking to establish truth. All of this reminds us that our faith appeals to objective evidence and not merely subjective inclination. We do not have faith in faith (existentialism), rather the faith we have rests in the Testimony of God.

Illustration — The Faith that will walk off a 50 story bldg. vs. the Faith the Scripture advocates. Not faith in faith.

Now, this evidence is true, but the evidence itself does not convert. Remember the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16

He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said to him,
‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’

“He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’

The Rich man want’s Lazarus to go back and Testify to his brothers, but Father Abraham says not even that testimony or the testimony of line rising from the dead would by itself lead to persuasion.

The point here is that Divine testimony to the truth of Christ does not guarantee that people will believe in Christ. The proof of something does not always lead to persuasion. God’s testimony is valid but that testimony and that evidence does not by itself convert because before the testimony and evidence can be seen for what it is men must be given eyes to see and ears to hear.

So, when we are dealing with those who know not Christ, our role is to do what John has done and to lay out the testimony… the evidence … the proof, but the persuasion belongs to the Holy Spirit.

And as John says in the next verse, some will not receive the wittness of either man or God.

II.) The God Given Testimony Has Been Accepted By Some And Rejected By Others (10)

A.) Accepted by Some

What John writes in 5:10 harmonizes nicely with what Paul writes in

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Once we look to Christ, once we are born of God, the witness — the testimony is not merely external to us but we have the Testimony of God in us. Sooner could we deny our own Mothers than we could deny Christ or the Christian faith.

By way of application we might say that in having this testimony in us becomes the great animating engine for our whole lives and all that we do. This testimony is a restless passion that desires all to bow the knee to the glorious Lord Christ. This testimony fills us with the longing to Know him ever more that we might make Him known. This testimony in us works in us to love God’s law and to desire to set forth the beauty of God’s grace in reconciling Himself to sinners. The Testimony of God in us, makes we ourselves the Testimony of God to others regarding the person and work of Christ.

Note also in vs. 10 that for John that Faith is the constant bond between the believer and Christ.

Here we have the doctrine of faith alone emphasized. This idea of faith alone is central to Biblical Christianity.

B.) Not Accepted by Others

John says of those who refuse to believe God have made God out to be a Liar.

Liar is another one of those words that John likes

I John 1:10, 2:4, 2:22, 4:20, 5:10

Sometimes he applies the “Liar” label to men (i.e. — men are liars), and other times he says that men who act a certain way are calling God a “Liar.”

1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

5:10 Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Now to make God a “Liar,” is to attribute to Him a cornerstone attribute of Satan.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

So, those who make God out to be a “liar” have inverted reality. They have become those who call evil, “good,” and “good,” evil.

We see hear a foundation premise on the part of the unbeliever that colors their view of all the rest of their reality. If they have made God out to be a liar then all of reality for them, in principle, is a tissue of lies. One cannot make God out to be a Liar and discern the true truth about anything else.

Note that when they make God out to be a liar they have attributed to God the foundational characteristic of Satan who our Lord said was “a liar from the beginning.” With this characterization of John of unbelievers in Christ “making God out to be a liar,” we see both the tendency for the unbeliever to call “evil,” “good,” and “good,” “evil” and we see the antithesis in action. Either a person accepts God’s testimony of Christ and so is epistemologically whole in their ascertaining of the rest of reality or they don’t accept that testimony of Christ and so have taken up league against God. In making God out to be a liar, they have made themselves walking incarnations of lying and liars. They are indeed, children of their Father the Devil, who was a murderer from the beginning.

Such a sin as “Making God out to be a liar,” is the sin of the Garden and is the sin that all those outside Christ are chiefly guilty of. For man to “make God out to be a Liar,” means that such men have claimed for themselves the position of Deity because in making God a Liar they are accepting their Word over God’s word on who God is.

This is the Reformed Anti-thesis once again. Those outside of Christ who do not believe the God of the Bible have made God out to be what Satan is… a Liar. The contrast between belief and unbelief could not be made more stark.

Calvin offers here,

“John makes the ungodly to be guilty of extreme blasphemy, because they charge God w/ Falsehood. Doubtless nothing is more valued by God than His own truth, therefore no more atrocious wrong can be done to Him, that to rob Him of this honor.”

The truthfulness of God is not a take it or leave it proposition. If God’s testimony is rejected man will become twisted and distorted much like old Gollum living in the roots of the Misty Mountains. If God’s Testimony is accepted then man will become increasingly human.

We conclude then this section by noting with John Stott that

“Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.”

Conclusion,

Re-cap