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How Did We Get Here: You Shall Not Make For Yourself An Idol

In our culture, there seems to be a “Jesus” for almost every group and movement. There is a democrat Jesus and republican Jesus, moralist teacher Jesus, social justice Jesus, activist Jesus, environmentalist Jesus, hippie Jesus, free love Jesus. Instead of being conformed into the image of the Son, we imagine Him to be just like us, taking some of the things we like about the person of Christ, and then mixing in whatever we want Him to be.

 
 

The second commandment is possibly the most overlooked, forgotten, and disregarded by Christians today. Because we don’t live in a culture in which it is particularly common for people to build and bow down to statues (generally speaking), it is easy to write off this commandment as being very specific to the Old Testament world. The truth about this commandment is that it, like all of God’s moral law, is everlasting, has far reaching implications, reveals our sin in breaking it, and also our need for mercy. 

The second commandment deals most specifically with something that is very serious to God, and that is the worship of Him. It is clear that Almighty God cares deeply about the manner in which we are to approach Him (Ex. 19:12) and worship Him, and with this commandment, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything…” (Ex. 20:4a), He gives us the underlying principle regarding all our worship: God is not like anything in all of creation. Once again, God’s holiness steps into the foreground; He is utterly unique, and to imagine Him to be in any way like us or like any creature, or to worship Him however we feel is right, is to break this commandment. 

Consider the extensive specifications that God lays out regarding the tabernacle, the priests, the sacrifices, the temple—every element of worship—to His people Israel. Remember the disastrous fate of Nadab and Abihu when they deviated from God’s prescribed manner of worshiping Him (Lev. 10:1-2). These were not for nothing—they illustrate the completely unique and perfect nature of God, and ought to show us that we must be aware that nature whenever we enter into His presence. 

Of course, in this period of redemptive history, we do have free access to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:2); we have a perfect mediator through whom we draw near to God (1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:25). We must not forget this; however, while the external rituals are no longer part of our worship of God, even in the New Testament, God remains very concerned with How we approach Him (1 Cor. 10:21-22, 11:27-29). 

God has not changed. His holiness has gone nowhere, and so the second commandment remains as relevant as ever. And as has been seen, when we neglect and ignore the first table of the law, the second quickly crumbles, and the effects in the culture are far reaching.

There are a couple of ways in which Christians forsake the second commandment, and one to briefly consider is the flippant, casual manner in which many approach worship. The fact that this attitude demonstrated in so many churches has had a detrimental effect on society is one that cannot be dismissed. There is an idea that God does not really care about how He is worshiped, and so churches will seek to employ worldly devices to draw people into the building; they create the church after the image of the culture. 

The consequences of this are obvious: the message is watered down, there is little emphasis on God’s holiness and justice, resulting in little emphasis on sin and repentance, a misrepresentation of God, and zero effect on the sinful culture. This man-centered worship intrinsically breaks God’s second commandment and leads to the second in which it is broken.

When God is misrepresented, even a little, very rarely does the offense remain slight. The tendency becomes to tailor make a god in our image who cares about the things we care about, is okay with the things we are okay with, and condemns the things we condemn. God is used as a tool to push an agenda, and specifically, this distortion tends to be applied to the Second Person of the Trinity. 

In our culture, there seems to be a “Jesus” for almost every group and movement. There is a democrat Jesus and republican Jesus, moralist teacher Jesus, social justice Jesus, activist Jesus, environmentalist Jesus, hippie Jesus, free love Jesus. Instead of being conformed into the image of the Son, we imagine Him to be just like us, taking some of the things we like about the person of Christ, and then mixing in whatever we want Him to be. Although no physical image is constructed, there is still an image of God being worshiped in our mind, and it is one that looks a whole lot like we do. 

There is an effort to make God more “relatable” for people; God indeed has related to us, yet we want Him, not on His terms, but on ours. And so, with this misconstrued Christ, non-Christians believe that they can choose to respect and even value whatever “Jesus” fits their worldview while rejecting Him for who He truly is—the Almighty God and Lord over all. There is no fear of God, no warning of judgment, no understanding of sin, and so no knowing true salvation in Christ. The church becomes a vehicle for various secular, humanistic agendas, while sin and the culture remain unchallenged.

With all of this in mind, we ought not be surprised at where we find ourselves culturally, given the dismissal of the second commandment. When Christians are not serious and straight-forward about God’s self-disclosure, the weight of our witness is lost, and the focal point
 
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Click here for more RCSH Blog posts.
 
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