Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 3) – The Homemade Mashed Potatoes of Modern Beliefs

Posted: January 28, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 12:1-32 (Part 3 of 4)
The Lord’s Chosen Place of Worship

Before I came to the cross, I was like most people. I thought of Jesus as this cool, hip, anti-establishment hero. Others see him as one of many in the long line of prophets that the Divine Power of the universe has sent to earth to carry the message of peace and equality and love are part of the fabric of the universe and that we upset it when we hate. All roads lead to heaven, right? Prosperity gospel is out there too – your economic well-being is a reflection of the depth of your spiritual walk with the Lord. You can believe a lot of different things if you let the world around influence you. There are false religions and there is even false doctrine espoused by those within Jesus’ church. It is easy in this world to mix religions and distill out a pattern of belief that works for you. You can delude yourself into believing that you have found the “secret sauce” of the universe that leads to becoming one with that which good and right in the universe. You become OK with taking the best of this religion and that religion because believing in one religion full-on is too hard and too restrictive.

For me, I grew up as a preacher’s kid as you guys already know. However, if I fault my dad for anything, it was that after we became about 10 years old, he no longer really pushed the Bible and devotions and study of God’s Word like he did when we were younger. In fact, our house was very secular in those years. Maybe, my dad was just tired from all day long at the church dealing with churchy stuff with churchy people. Maybe, he did not want us growing up as one of those programmed preacher’s kids that were not in any way, shape, or form, normal. Maybe, he just dropped the ball on nurturing our faith. Maybe, I just didn’t listen. Therefore, when I went off to college at the very liberal, liberal arts college known as Furman University, the challenges to my faith abounded – even in my general education requirements-required course, Old Testament. In this course, the professor and the study Bible that we used all of it was to deconstruct the miracles and explain them away as natural phenomenon or get us to see that the Judaism had added the miracles. My psychology class and its denegration of all religions as the opiate of the mind. Virtually every class challenged and weakened my faith and there was nothing I was getting elsewhere that would help me save what little faith that I had.

Thus, to amalgamate my childhood (I did not want to just throw away all that my dad stood for as a preacher) and accept these new views of religion as being some relic of the past and an easy way to explain away the truly tough questions about the universe and man, I created my own view about Jesus Christ and who He was.

I saw Jesus as this revolutionary guy. He was this guy who called a spade a spade and it got Him killed. He saw the oppression of the Roman occupying forces and spoke out against it. It got Him killed. He spoke out against the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious establishment for being puppets of the Romans and for enforcing the status quo and for marginalizing the poor, the middle class and the handicapped. He blasted them for turning religion into their own personal power play. It was his revolutionary thought on class struggle and hypocrisy of wealth mixed into religion that got him killed. To me, it was his radical political thoughts that got him killed not that He was the Son of God.

I saw Jesus as this radical rabbi who was trying to get Judaism back on track. I saw him as that voice crying in the wilderness. He was this ultimate prophet of the long line of Jewish prophets. He was the best of them all. It was his harsh rhetoric against the religious elite that got him killed. I saw Jesus as this political revolutionary that threatened the very détente between the religious elite and the Romans. His truth was a threat to what everyone wanted to ignore – how the religious elite was trying to placate the Romans and keep their hold on the day-to-day power in Israel. Jesus was upsetting the apple cart with his truth and it got him killed. People will do crazy stuff to keep their hold on what power they have. Jesus threatened all that and it got him killed. I did not buy into this hell thing and wasn’t real sure about the whole heaven thing either. I acted as if this was all there was because I just couldn’t wrap my head around the cosmic battle between good and evil and eternity hanging in the balance.

This made Jesus cool to me. For Him to die on the cross as a martyr and not as some sacrifice for my sin made a lot more sense to me. I needed to keep Jesus as something to believe in (because of my past and because I still went to church even with all these challenges to my faith) so I molded Him into what I wanted Him to be – a nice guy with radical thoughts on how to live your life that got him killed. I loved that he martyred himself for what He believed in. That was the Jesus I made up for myself. A political revolutionary, a radical rabbi, a philosopher, a social commentator. That was my Jesus. I couldn’t buy into the whole Jesus as the Son of God performing miracles thing.

It is only through the Holy Spirit that we learn the true identity of Jesus as the coexistent part of the trinity that existed before time began. Jesus did not just come along. He was with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as the perfectly complete trinity. The Holy Spirit reveals to us that we are sinful creatures and have been almost since the moment of the creation of man and woman. It was this sin-nature that has been passed down from generation to generation. However, we also know through the Holy Spirit’s action in our hearts and souls that God is perfect and holy. There is no imperfection in him. And in order to be in His presence we must be perfect and holy to be in His presence. Not just more good than bad. We must be perfect. We must be completely holy. The problem though is that sin, just one sin, makes us imperfect and unholy. So, with our sin nature passed down to us from Adam and Eve and the fact that we commit our first cognitive sins very early in life not to mention that we commit sins by the truckload in our lifetime, we are basically screwed. For those that are unholy and sinful, we are cast out of God’s sight because we must be perfect and holy to be there. We deserve the sentence that is out there for those that are imperfect, sinful beings. We deserve to be away from God’s present permanently in a place called hell where there is gnashing of teeth and burning of flesh eternally. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the reality of existence beyond this plane. We realize that we are in need of an intervention if we are going to exist with God in eternity in heaven. We must have Jesus. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sins through His action on the cross and through His resurrection we have new life. We must believe that He is the Son of God. We must believe that He is part of the Trinity. We must believe that He came to the earth because God so loved us and wanted there to be a way to reconcile us to Him. That reconciliation is Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are made holy and perfect before God. We are now the best part of Revelation – chapters 21 and 22. All things are made through Jesus Christ for those who love Him and believe Him to be the only way to the Father.

It was my own bastardization of my belief system to allow for Christianity and agnosticism, science, and cultural currents to co-exist in my belief system. That’s what I thought of when I read through Deuteronomy 12 this morning and how God seemed pretty darn adamant about the Israelites completely eradicated the symbols of the belief systems of the Canaanites. Let’s focus on those verses this morning as we re-read chapter 12:

12 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.

15 Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. 16 But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and olive oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. 18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns—and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. 19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

20 When the Lord your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you, and you crave meat and say, “I would like some meat,” then you may eat as much of it as you want. 21 If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want. 22 Eat them as you would gazelle or deer. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat. 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. 24 You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water. 25 Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

26 But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the Lord will choose. 27 Present your burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord your God, both the meat and the blood. The blood of your sacrifices must be poured beside the altar of the Lord your God, but you may eat the meat. 28 Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.

29 The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.[a]

Here, we see God giving some pretty severe instructions on getting rid of the vestiges of idol worship and false gods of the lands they were going to conquer. He did not want His people getting mixed up in these false religions. He knew how we as humans are. If there is something false that looks pretty, smells pretty, and acts pretty we are going to fall for it even if it is a siren’s song that brings our own destruction. He wanted the Israelites to cleanse the land of any evidence of false worship so that it would not cry out from the shores for the hearts of the Israelites.

The takeaway for me this morning is that it is so easy to make our faith bastardized into something that is easy and palatable and works within the society in which we live. Our society wants easy. So, we mix and match tenets of the various religions out there to create a concoction of beliefs that work for us but are contradictory by nature. All religions cannot be right all at once. Each one contradicts one another with their basic beliefs. Only one can be right. Think logically about that. Only one religion can have gotten it right from beginning to end. Everything else that does not get it right from beginning to end is false. Thus, only one can be right – the one that is right from beginning to end. That is through Jesus Christ. Nothing else is right. Jesus claims to be the Son of God. As C.S. Lewis stated, Jesus “is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord.” We can’t mix and match this thing. Either Jesus is completely right or He is completely wrong. You can’t pick a little Islam, a little Judaism, a little Hinduism, a little New Age, a little Christianity, and make into the home-made mashed potatoes of your own religion. These religions are fundamentally different and inconsistent with one another. If you mash it all together. You are actually believing in nothing but yourself.

Even non-believers pray. They pray to something. So, pray that the truth about Jesus Christ be revealed to you. Just pray for that and pray for that earnestly. When you let the white noise of the world and your own misgivings about religion drop away, listen and pray for Jesus to be made clear to you.

Amen and Amen.

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