September 17, 2023 | Brandon Cooper

We look at the first commandment to have no other gods before God from Exodus 20:3. People seek fulfillment through idols like money, approval, and success instead of finding rest in God alone.  True fulfillment is only found by turning from idols to worship God wholly with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. One must commit to having one God only through burying idols and uniting the heart to fear God’s name. By beholding God’s perfections in Christ, one can have desires reoriented to long for Him as the greatest treasure and delight.


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Good morning, Church. Want to go ahead, grab your Bibles open up to Exodus chapter 20. Exodus 20, verse 3 Verse three is where we’ll be this morning as we continue in our series, The Big 10. Looking at the 10 commandments or the 10 words that God has spoken to his people, Exodus 20 verse three. As you’re turning there, it’s the fourth century and a young man is sneaking into a North African report. He has eluded his mom with a lie. And he feels bad about it, but not bad enough to change his mind he is leaving tonight. He’s happened to ship from Carthage for Rome, the Eternal City, which is beckoning to him across the Mediterranean like the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is beckoning to Gatsby in Rome, he knows he will find what he’s looking for. He will achieve the heights of success that he knows he’s destined for when he arrives in Rome, Augustine will indeed have arrived. Of course, that’s what he thought about Carthage also, when he left the town he grew up in and went to Carthage, he knew that’s where he was gonna find what he was looking for. Wasn’t too long, though, before it began to feel, you know, kind of provincial and, and small and backwater and all that. And sure enough, by the way, in Rome, it turns out, he doesn’t find what he’s looking for either. It’s going to be Milan, that one is really going to do it, because that’s where the Emperor lives, and he gets to work for the Emperor. So you kind of get the idea of what’s happening here right now, bit of a gamble for a sermon, I realized to start with a fourth-century African monk, but my Gamble is that that African monk just might make sense of our 21st-century restlessness, and anxiety. Because Milan is symbolic. Still, today, people will talk of Milan and you know, it’s famous for two things work and money. So this is where you go to succeed to arrive there is that sense of having arrived, when you get there, once I get there, I will be satisfied. The longings in my heart were at last fulfilled. Except, once you move, you find out it’s not all that it was cracked up to be. You’re still empty, still longing only a little more desperate than before, because now you’ve checked off one more box of things that didn’t satisfy and the list of possibilities is getting shorter and shorter. So this morning, we’re gonna be talking about that journey; a real journey for some, metaphorical for others. But why do we cross literal or figurative oceans in order to find ourselves? What is it that drives us? And why is it so often so painfully unsuccessful? That all might seem a bit strange to you because we are looking at the first commandment, which seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with that. Here’s Exodus 20, verse three, very short, you shall have no other gods before me. But that commandment, You shall have no other gods before Me raises the issue of idolatry. And idolatry is a word that explains that unfruitful search. So let’s talk about that journey. Let’s talk about the search using the language of this first commandment, this first word that God speaks, we’re going to interrogate this command with The What, The Why, and The How questions, and in each case, we’re going to have a response that flows naturally from it, you got a little fill in the blank there that fill in the blank is not an answer to the question, it is the response coming out of the question. So let’s dig into these three questions. First of all, you shall have no other gods before me. Okay. What other gods are we talking about? Exactly? What other gods, in fact, you may be reading this thinking, are there other gods? I thought we were monotheists as Christians we talk about you know, there’s no God, but one. Correct by the way, you got that right. Excellent work. But let’s bring a little nuance into our discussion and is the nuance that scripture brings. Kyle read for us earlier from Psalm 96. For Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise. He is to be feared above all gods. Okay, sounds like there are other gods then good to know, for all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens, okay, now there’s the difference. The Lord is the one true God the one who actually created all things the heavens and the earth, whereas the other gods are simply idols. Little, you know, stone statues carved by people. They’re not real gods and Isaiah 46 famous chapter on idolatry. Isaiah talks about the fact that the idols actually ended up being burdens as we speak into a people who are leaving Jerusalem because Jerusalem is being attacked. And they’re, they’re heading into exile and they have to pack up their stone and metal gods and carry them on their backs. So right at the moment when they need their gods to carry them, they have to carry their gods, they are burdens who can rescue them. And Isaiah 46, climaxes with the Lord saying, I am God and there is no other. There’s the nuance, the other gods, they’re not real beings, but they are real objects of worship. And that helps us contextualize for today. Because most of us don’t have little statues of gods in our houses, we might not bow to a statue of Aphrodite, the God of love and beauty, for example, goddess of love and beauty. But goodness knows there are quite a few people in our culture, who worship the God of love and beauty, and who make tremendous sacrifices in order to achieve one or the other or both. You’re gonna sacrifice to Pluto, the God of wealth, who is alive and well and Elmhurst, by the way, you’re probably not going to sacrifice a cow to him. But you might have sacrificed some time, some energy, maybe even your family, and neglected them in order to pursue this. God, you see the point your God, it doesn’t need to be a real being your God is what you worship, serve, love, seek, the one that set you out on that journey. We might even call it a pilgrimage. Your God is what ultimately controls you. It’s interesting in Colossians, that Paul calls covetousness idolatry, because whatever it is that you covet, whether that’s money or power, or fame, or whatever, is going to be what drives you. What controls you, you’re going to seek it and therefore you’re going to serve it. So this is a little different now than statues and stone. In the New City catechism which we use here, (we’ve read two questions already) defines idolatry like this. The answer to the question, “What is idolatry? It says idolatry is trusting in created things, rather than the Creator for our hope, happiness, significance, and security. That’s the stuff we’re seeking. We’re all on a quest for those things. And we’re constantly moving toward what we think will provide it and fulfill those dreams in us. But note, then, that that also means the journey is ultimately self-centered. We don’t love our idols. We use our idols because we love ourselves. And we want ourselves to be fulfilled. Let’s not forget Genesis, chapter three, the first false god that humanity creates, is humanity. There are no other statues in the garden, right? And yet, Adam and Eve go, if we eat this fruit, we will be like God, who? First God is us. That explains why idolatry is so easy. Why we fall into it so easily because it keeps us in control of what matters most to us what we think will bring us that fulfillment. I mean, Jesus says, Hey, you got to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. That’s hard. Idolatry says if you do X, I’ll give you why. If you bring that bowl, you can have a bountiful harvest everything you ever wanted. And so it reduces our spirituality or religion to a simple tit-for-tat exchange, I did x, you owe me why. Now, it might not be a goat for gold. But well, if I put in the time and energy, that’s my doing X and I get why I get the promotion, I get the better title, I get the pay raise. If she sleeps with him, then she gets to feel lovable. She knows that somebody will care about her. There’s x for y if I exercise, then I get to be beautiful.
I get to hold on to my good looks even in my old age. So idolatry is so easy, because it gives us that illusion of control. I can get what I want. Idolatry is easy. It’s also inevitable. As a result, because we’re all seeking fulfillment and all worshiping whatever we think will provide it to our hearts (our “idol factories”, as Calvin famously said), we just keep producing them because we just keep looking for something else to fulfill us when the last one didn’t work. The quest the journey is always unsuccessful. So we got to move to a new city, Rome, Carthage, Milan, wherever it may be, and we got to find ourselves a new god. It’s inevitable. Jamie Smith says, this, he says, “We can’t not worship, because we can’t not love something as ultimate.” We love something as ultimate. That love is the engine that drives the ship and the rudder that gets the ship where it wants to go. Our fourth-century African monk, Augustine said, “My wait is my love. Wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.” And it’s the gravitational force that’s taking us in whatever direction we’re going. It’s a little bit like you’ve ever been at the pool, and you tried to squish a beach ball under the water. And what happens? Right comes right up. There’s that pole, right? That’s us with our idolatry, it’s going to go where it needs to go to get what it wants to Rome, to Milan to wherever. So just to recap, here, we all worship, because we’re all seeking ultimate meaning and significance. And it’s whatever we most love that drives us in that direction. Now, if that’s the case, the response then is clear. Again, this isn’t an answer to the question, this is the response to the question. But here’s the response. To keep this command we must love except we must love rightly. We must set our love on the only object truly worthy of it, God Himself. Remember, Jesus sums up all the commands by saying Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, love your neighbor as yourself. Well, here it is the first command, Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, make him the desire of your heart to place the gravitational pull of your heart is taking you. And by the way, that ties into the second because once we put God first, we can truly love people because we’re no longer using or sacrificing them on the altar. So God commands us to put him first to love him most. In part, though, I don’t want you to miss this. For our sakes, this is what’s best for us to love him most. We talked last week about the fact that these commands are good. They’re an expression of God’s goodness towards us. This one to God is the only worthy object of our ultimate devotion. He wants us to value supremely what is supremely valuable and that is God and God alone. So when God says You shall have no other gods before me, it’s not his insecurity or ego coming out quite the opposite. It is his love. Because the love of God most is to find rest. What if Agustin says our hearts are restless until they find rest in you. God is the only city where when you get there you go. I’m staying put. I don’t need to go anywhere else what Carthage and Rome and Milan didn’t offer or maybe today it’s Manhattan and London and well, still Milan, the City of God, the New Jerusalem does provide. Of course, I’m making an assumption and somebody you know, I cheated and you’re questioning me right now? Because I just keep saying you only find rest in God not in other idols. Is that true? Well, what’s wrong with all these other gods and idols? Let’s talk about that second question. You shall have no other gods before me, but why shouldn’t I have them? Why shouldn’t I have any other gods? So we are all worshiping because we’re all seeking we’re all on this quest for ultimate significant security meaningful filament. But this quest is a little bit like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. Some of you did these. And the problem with those “choose your own adventure books” is that almost every adventure you chose ended in your untimely death. There were really only a few good paths while he was here, there is only one path only one adventure that doesn’t end in tragedy and despair because these other gods, these other idols cannot give you what you’re seeking. They’re not big enough to fill the vacuum in your heart. And they are so tenuous, whenever you get hold of them. Anyway. David Foster Wallace brilliant novelist who knew something about this and then despair that results from seeking after a false God says this in a commencement address. He was speaking to a group of kids at a college he says, “There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships.” We just said that that’s the last point, right? The only choice we get is what to worship. And he goes on to say, “You really got to choose carefully.” And he’s not a Christian. So it’s kind of an odd explanation that says, you know, you got to choose some spiritual type thing. Almost a Jesus, okay. But you know, he says, Why do you have to choose a spiritual-type thing? Why do you have to choose Jesus? Because pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. And again, that’s not a Christian saying, this is not the Bible. This is just a learned experience. He says, “If you worship money, it will never be enough.” So you’re always gonna have to get more and more, there’s always gonna be something newer, something better that you gotta have, you gotta always make more money. Is it beauty? Well, you’re gonna cling to it, especially as it fades as wear and tear starts to show on your body. And he says, I love the way he puts it, he says, You will die 1000 deaths before they ever plant you in the ground. You are one mistake away from losing your career. You are one injury away from losing your athletic lifestyle that you cherish so much. You are one fickle human away from the end of the relationship that matters most to you. And humans are fickle. We know that. Man, you have gotta have approval. That’s, that’s mine. If I’m going to a different god, that’s the one I’m going to think of. How painful. And the criticism will be devastating when you hear it, or even religion. We forget the grace stuff that we talked about last week, and you’re trying to earn eternity, God’s favor or something like that. You’re just one failure away from it all falling apart. And we tend to fail. So this is scary. It’s never enough. It’s never enough. That’s why you got to go from Carthage to Rome, to Milan, to the American dream, by the way, right there, isn’t it? That’s all I’m describing for us. You know, you’re in high school, you’re like, I just can’t wait till I get to college. Finally, get out of my parents get to college, and it’s fun for a while and you’re like, I can’t wait till I get out of college. And I can start my career. And you get your career. And you’re like, what will be awesome is a spouse near your spouse and you’re like, but I need a house near your house. And you’re like, actually, this career is kind of a bummer. We should do a series on vocation. Here’s some time and I want a new career. And you get a new career and then a bigger house and then you put some kids in it. And then you discover the marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So you try a new marriage. And you never got there. You never got there, did you? It’s never enough. And it’s never secure. It’s like resting your whole weight on a bridge made out of pretzel sticks. On a rainy day like today. It will collapse. The whole thing will collapse underneath you and what then? And remember, idolatry is ultimately self-centered. Especially in our culture, right? You shall have no other gods before me is not the first commandment in our culture. The first commandment in our culture is to follow your heart. Follow your heart. But you can’t save yourself. You can’t give yourself what you need. Because if you could, you would have it already. So I think we’ve failed to reckon as a culture with our undeniable dependence. We can’t declare ourselves good. It’s like declaring yourself the winner of the World Cup or something like you can do it. But it doesn’t matter that you said it. And you know, it doesn’t matter and everyone else around you knows it doesn’t matter if wee can. This is Otto rank. He was a German psychologist, a disciple of Freud, but he broke from Freud in some really important ways. One of the things he says is you can’t… we can’t affirm and accept ourselves from within ourselves. That’s so important. We can’t be the ones to say, “Good, you did it. You made it.” We need an external verdict. And we’re all looking for that external verdict. Does this dress make me look fat? Closer to home. What did you think of the sermon?
Of course, I ask my wife every week. I can’t say, “I was good.” I need somebody else to say it. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Do people like me? Some of you know what I’m quoting right there. So we’ve got no foundation because we’ve got no final, accurate, dependable word. And that’s why we keep searching and why we keep moving from city to city to city, but there is a better way. No more pretzel bridges. Okay? I love the way Thomas Watson puts it – a Puritan preacher. He says “The immovable is undisturbed by any commotion.” That’s what you want for the foundation, right? The immovable is undisturbed by any commotion. No amount of rain is going to make it wash away. Only God is a sufficient foundation to build our trust upon. Trusting God is to rely on his power as creator, and his love as father. And that is all the information we need, by the way. He can and he wants to. If God declares his verdict over you, it’s finished. That’s the final word. What does he say to Jesus? It’s what he’s willing to say to all of us if we are in Christ, by grace through faith. This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. That, by the way, is a picture of a soul at rest. No more hamster wheel, no more vain, striving, no more moving to the next city. But rest. So, the response is clear. Again, why should we have these other idols? Because they’re not going to work! So what’s the response? Turn, turn, turn from your idols to the one true God. Put those idols away because they are killing you. Turn from your false gods to the true God. And we have ample reason to do this, to trust him enough to make this choice. Verse two, which we looked at last week, gave us the reason, ” I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Verse Two is the reason. It’s the explanation, the motivation for verse three, this first command. It’s the foundation for all the commands actually, God has already rescued us. So we can trust Him. We are safe in him. And notice, too, if we know the story, the backdrop behind this, he rescued Israel from false gods because there they are in Egypt. And you get the ten plagues. And each plague exposes the powerlessness of one of the Egyptian gods. Who was their most prominent God? The Son God. And then the Lord (who made the sun) goes to darkness. Which God do you want to trust now? I think,  the real one would be good. God is the Lord of all, because he’s the only one that actually exists. Really, this doesn’t just take us back to Exodus. It takes us all the way back to Genesis. The first of these Ten Words is the first word of the Bible in the beginning. God created the heavens and the earth. So why would you worship,  love, and seek what God made, instead of the God who made it? That doesn’t make any sense. To turn from idols to God is to turn from insanity to sanity. It’s to switch from having your feet planted in mid-air to planted on solid rock and unshakable foundation. What gets your love? What gets your trust? Where do you go when a crisis hits? And is it solid rock? So, easy choice? Right? Easy choice: turn from the false to the true. From what will eat you to what will fill you from death to life. We make that choice. The next question, of course, is, alright, how do I do that? How do I live before him? Last question. So when it says, “You shall have no other gods before me” that word “before” is ambiguous. It could mean, you know, in front of me, or it could mean like, you know, there. It reads literally against my face, in Hebrew, meaning in his presence, in other words, when God says “You shall have no other God before me”, it doesn’t mean you know God first and then all your false gods can be numbers two, three, four, five and six. It’s not “Prefer me but only me.” Which means this command is more than get rid of your idols. The Westminster Larger Catechism says (and this is a point we’ll come back to throughout the series because we got to know this), “Where a sin is forbidden, the contrary, duty is commanded.” So it’s more than just don’t murder, but you know, you should probably work for life. So I will talk about this throughout the series. But what does that mean? It’s not just you shall have no other gods before me, but you must put me before all gods, That you got to actively put me “first and only” in your heart. The image here, of course, is marriage. This is what your spouse is looking for,  not “I hope that you romance me more than all the other women. But I hope you’re only romancing me.” Can you imagine the absurdity of a guy coming home, you know, wife’s cook dinner, it’s out on a table for him and says, “By the way, I want you to meet so and so this is my mistress. She’ll be joining us for dinner tonight. Don’t worry, baby, I love you most.” Try that out. Let me know how it goes. I’m really curious. You probably got to write an article for The New Yorker if you do it. So the absurdity of that is exactly what we do every day. Isn’t it? Because we bring our mistresses, our false gods, before God, against his face all the time. Keep in mind, every time you sin, every time you go against God’s will for your life. It is because you’ve got another God in your heart. And right there, you’ve decided, I’m gonna trust this God, I think this God will give me what I’m looking for not you, Lord, and is equal chapter 14. God gives the prophet Ezekiel a picture of the elders of Israel. These are the religious leaders who are coming before the Lord in worship. And then it says, “These men have set up idols in their hearts.” So they might not have a shelf with a bunch of statues of idols in their living room. But they do have a shelf in their hearts that is stacked full of spiritual idols, and they’re always with them, which means they’re always bringing them into God’s presence. The danger there, (by the way, we’re going a little deep here, but just track with me) is that when we do that, God Himself becomes a means to an end. We’re not worshiping what we should use. And using, we should worship the one we should worship. Here’s what I mean. Like it’d be an example. So it makes sense. Imagine coming into God’s presence with the idol of approval in your heart. And you’re praying to “God, you know, Lord, would you deal with my unfair critics? Break the teeth of the wicked?” Now, what’s happened there? “Lord, what I really want is people’s approval. Would you help me get what I want?” You see what I mean? How dangerous idolatry is, it makes God into a means to an end. And Jesus gets right at this problem in the passage that Merritt looked at earlier. This is Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God,” and here he says “money”. But you cannot serve both God and fill in the blank. I don’t think we believe this. So what? Let’s just talk about this for a moment. So imagine we’re back in the days of you know, lords and ladies and servants and things like that. So you’ve got to lords, you know, these are dukes, or earls or something like that. And there they are walking down a path, and they just have one servant behind them. And you’re there, you know, you’re plowing your fields or something because you’re a peasant. Let’s face it, that’s the most likely case scenario in this case. So you’re plowing your fields, you see these two fancy lords walk by with their one servant behind them, and you’re going, “I wonder which one the servant belongs to. Because it looks like he’s serving both.” Both lords. They are both. If a man’s thirsty, the servants can bring them both water right up until there’s a fork in the road. When the two lords part, the two masters part. Now we know which way the servant is going. Now we know to whom the servant really belongs. This is what happens to us. I think we often have two gods, and one of them’s Jesus and we’re feeling good about it. We’re like, “Look, I’m behind Jesus. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m behind Jesus.” And then the road splits and we go “Oh, now I see. I was actually following the other guy. It just looked like I was behind Jesus.” Are you ever surprised when you sin? Because we probably shouldn’t be because we’ve been walking behind the guy the whole time. We just got confused because Jesus was there also. So, you got to a dad, for example, who loves sports. Nothing wrong with that.  I love sports. You know, he maybe watches it more than he should but, okay, kind of thing, right? He’s got kids. Gets his kids into sports. And you know like it’s a good thing. You got the teamwork. You get the competition. You get the disappointment of losing. All important thing. As dads, maybe living a little vicariously through them. That’s the danger, you know. And then it kind of intensifies. You’ve seen this movie before, where it was, you know, Park District on Saturday mornings, just kind of fun. One practice a week. And then it was travel ball, and everything bumped up. And now it’s Sunday morning games. And after a little while, you realize that you not only have casually de-churched, but you’ve casually detached your entire family. You thought you were walking behind Jesus, you were walking behind sports that whole time and everything that sports gives you. And the road split. Now you look back, and you go, “Where’s Jesus? Where’s Jesus now?” So you had an idol in your heart. He thought you could serve two masters, and you can’t. You can only serve one, you see. We don’t have a Jesus problem as Christians, I don’t think,  not most of us in this room. That’s why you’re here. We don’t have a Jesus problem. What we have is an “and” problem. Jesus and….” And we want Jesus and the spouse. We want Jesus and good health. We want Jesus and a bigger house and preferably with a smaller waist. And we might think we’ve got the order, right? God’s first, don’t worry, that’s only number two, never get more, maybe, maybe, maybe not, maybe, but it’s still isn’t God alone, which means you’ve got other idols before Him, in His presence and against his face. We have to deal with that. The way Jacob dealt with it, just Abraham’s grandson and, you know, fell into idolatry plenty in his own life that he was at a crisis point in his life, his daughter had just been violated. And because he did nothing about it, his sons took matters into their own hands, and they slaughtered the guilty and the innocent in a town. And Jacob has come face to face with his very real failures as a dad, but just as a person, that that that crisis point that he decides not just for himself, but for his family that he’s going to deal with his literal idols. Again, they’ve got the actual statues and stuff there. So he goes with them as they’re going to Bethel, which means literally “the house of God”, this is the place where Jacob met God, that whole ladder with the angels, you know, ascending and descending the house of God, he goes on, he says, We’re not going to bring any idols with us, give me your idols, and it says this Genesis 35, verse four, and they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had, and the rings in their ears, which would be like magic charms, basically. And Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Do you see what just happened? He held a funeral for his fake gods right on the spot. By the way, right where they would have been worshipped. Otherwise, you did pagan worship under big oak trees, of course. He held a funeral for him. I love the way Jen Wilkin talks about this in her book “10 Words To Live By”. She says, “We need to, like Jacob, we need to bury our both ends. That’s what needs to happen. We need to bury our both ends. And so the response here is so clear, isn’t it? And this one really is the answer to the question. How do I live before him? Commit. Commit is the response. One God, one God only. Enough double-mindedness. Enough trying to follow two masters at once. Enough of our divided desires. We have to be like the psalmist in Psalm 86:11, who prayed, “Give me an undivided heart, Lord, that I might fear your name.” It’s one of my most common prayers. So, just let you know that right now, unite my heart to fear your name, identify your idols, then take them out back and bury them under a tree. So, what Joshua said of the nation of Israel at the end of his life.  God rescued them out of Egypt, delivered them through the wilderness, providing for them for 40 years, gives them the promised land there. There, they still had foreign gods with them. And Joshua says, throw them away, choose this day, whom you will serve. If it’s Baihl, and just do it, just worship Baihl, go that direction. Stop pretending. But if it’s the Lord, let it be him and him alone. In quote, Thomas Watson again, on this point, he says this choosing is an act of mature deliberation. Having viewed the supreme excellencies in God, and being stricken with a holy admiration of his perfections the Christian singles him out from everyone and everything else to set his heart upon. Above that of love, the phrase mature deliberation does not sound like blind faith does it? Mature deliberation. In other words, Watson saying, just make the smart choice here. Follow your desires to their perfected end. And all those roads lead to the city of God, not to Milan not to Carthage, not to Rome, not to anywhere else. What are you looking for? You will find it in Christ. You want love? I’m not sure I depend on a fickle human. How about the one who said, I have loved you with an everlasting love? You want money? Maybe not the stock market then how about the riches of heaven, which are yours in Christ? every spiritual blessing poured out upon you? How about achievement? Okay, maybe maybe you get there. People don’t have to care that much. That was the only problem. How about you work for the accolade, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter your master’s joy?” We need to have God’s goodness and His glory before us, in our hearts, in our minds, right? That’s the supreme excellency of God, the holy admiration over his perfection when we see that that’s what transforms our desires and reorients our love so that that gravity’s pulling us right where it should be pulling us to Jesus. Antoine de Saint Exupery Lee, the guys know him as the author of The Little Prince, (a lot of you probably read that little book) in the book he said this. I love this. He says, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work. But teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” That’s what we’re talking about here. We’re just not talking about boats, right? Like, you gotta set your eyes on the goal, the perfection and the beauty of Christ. Don’t finger wag your snow white knuckle, your sin, but like read a tour guide of the city, you’re headed to the New Jerusalem, the city of God. This is what we do as a community, by the way, we don’t talk about the tasks we’ve got to do. We talk about the immensity of the sea and how desperately we want to be sailing on it. That’s why we’re in community groups and journey groups. And parents, this is a special word for you. That’s what you give your kids. We’re not trying to teach them to behave a certain way. We’re trying to teach them to long for the immensity of the sea. We’re trying to teach them too long for the beauty of Christ. You get that right? The behavior will sign itself. Talk about it. Kelvin said we owe God four things. From this first word, you shall have no other gods before me. Adoration, trust, invocation, and gratitude. adoration. Whom do you worship? We like and compliment a great many things. My wife, my kids, sports heroes, whatever. But who gets the highest praise? That is who is really the treasure of your heart? Trust, whom do you count on? Like, I am grateful for all sorts of people that I do depend on doctors, for my health colleagues, for the ministry, but on whom will I stake? my very soul? Probably the one who’s never failed me yet. And never will. Christ alone, our cornerstone, whom do you call for that invocation? Right? When you need answers or help, do you look to cable news to politicians, do you turn to your phone for joy? You turn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and then gratitude – to whom do you think we all have reasons to be grateful? One of the reasons I am a believer is because we all know we should be thanking somebody and that means there must be a somebody there. Are you thinking blind chance or dumb luck? Are you thinking of the Sovereign God who has ordered your very life? When Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, Oh, God, and our hearts are restless until we find rest in you, “He’s not making a theoretical, theological, dogmatic claim. He is sharing with us a hard-fought epiphany after trying everything else as Jamie Smith put it, because he had tried everything else right. He had been in Carthage, and then he went to Rome, and then he went to Milan. And it wasn’t in any of those places. At least it wasn’t meeting the emperor in Milan where he found it was not with the emperor, but with his pastor in Milan, St. Ambrose, who preached Christ. What he found in Milan, was Jesus. And that’s when his heart was at rest. That’s the hard-fought epiphany. We’re talking a little bit like the prodigal son. You guys remember that story? The guy says to his dad, “Dad, I wish you were dead because then I could have your money. Could you pretend like you’re dead and give me the money now?” and the dad does. I’m not sure why. Good luck kids, it is not happening. No inheritance anyway, so. So he takes the money and runs, and he squanders it on wild living on drink, on prostitutes, on gambling. He’s got all sorts of friends because he has all sorts of money until he comes to his senses because a famine has hit. And so now he’s bankrupt, which means he’s also friendless. They might not have loved him for who he was. It turns out like it didn’t work. There’s the epiphany. Again, it didn’t work. So what does he do? He comes home. The father sees him from a long way off and runs to him, embraces him and restores him to sonship. That’s exactly that’s what we’re talking about today. The first commandment, as I said, it’s not an expression of God’s insecurity or petty jealousy. The first commandment is an invitation to come home, to come home, or choose this day, which you will serve as just another way of saying, find rest in what you’ve been looking for all along. As we close, I have bad news and good news for you. The bad news is that because we left home to find what we already had, it’s a little bit like Genesis three, like we left the Garden of Eden, and now we can’t get back in. There is a block between us and God, there’s this great chasm. So we’re there kind of like Augustine across the Mediterranean, like we can see where we want to go, but we cannot get there because there is no boat. Agustin says this. And he says, “So that we might also have the means to go, the one we were longing to go to came here from there. And what did he make a wooden raft for us to cross the sea on, for no one can cross unless carried over to it on the cross of Christ.” That’s the invitation. Leave your gods there on the other shore, get on the raft, hang on, and come home. You shall have no other gods before him because you’ve got no reason to have any other gods except him. Let’s pray to him now. Father, you are the one in whom our souls delight. You are our chief desire, the longing of our hearts. We don’t always recognize that we confess how quickly we fall into idolatry because we think these lesser gods will give us what we’ve been longing for, looking for ,all these years. But then we come to our senses. What would you wake us up so that we come to our senses to realize we still haven’t found what we’re looking for? Except when we sought it in you? All that we need. All that we want is in you. Would you reorient our hearts, order our loves, so that you are our first and only now our hearts are pulled towards you? And we might enjoy you forever and glorify you as our greatest delight. It’s in Christ’s name we pray, Amen.


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