Watch Yourself Carefully part 2
We're carrying on today in the book of Deuteronomy. Let me pray and then we'll jump in. Hopefully you've got it in front of you, Deuteronomy chapter four. Let me pray. This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Father, it is in knowing you that we know ourselves. When we know you and know ourselves we get to truly live. Oh, Father, grant to us to know you and to know ourselves. Grant to us eternal life. Amen.
Now, something huge went down in Perth last night. I'll give you a clue. It was red. I don't know if you're guessing what it is yet. It was the biggest gathering in Perth, I think. I could be wrong. 60,000 people gathered last night to watch Ed Sheeran as he arrived. For those of you who don't know, there's nothing to know really. No, that's so unfair. He's a musician, okay, and he's actually very, very good. 60,000 people gathered last night to watch Ed Sheeran. Now there are consequences for this. There's a lot of consequences. One of the consequences, if you look around you this morning, some folks will be dressed even more geeky than they usually are. Another consequence is you'll see young guys walking around with black thick rimmed glasses. They've got no glasses in them, they're just frames, because thick rimmed glasses are now cool. Above all else, you'll see a whole lot of redheaded people feeling really good about themselves.
You know, for years redheaded people in schools have been bullied. No more. Red is cool again. All of this teaches me ... For those of you who don't know, Ed Sheeran is a pop star. He has red hair, black rimmed glasses and dresses badly. Anyway, listen, here's the point, we emulate what we value. That's the point. The point is we become like what we worship. Whatever your treasure is, that thing will shape you. What you esteem to be of supreme value will shape you. What you worship will shape you. It's so true when it comes to the highest things, especially God.
What we become, hear this, we become like whatever we conceive God to be. Whatever you conceive of God, you will become like that. We will always be in the likeness of what we treasure the most. Let me say it in another way. I'm saying it lots of different ways, but this is a very important principle for today's passage. We are created in the image of what we adore the most. It can be good and it can be really, really bad. It's so important that what you treasure is good, because if it's not it's going to have horrible consequences for yourself.
This week I was seeing pictures of the Sydney Mardi Gras, you know the big, gay lesbian, bisexual, I'm sorry, I haven't memorized all the letters yet. There's a lot more letters after that. I was watching this huge Mardi Gras and I saw images of people and what they looked like. Now that is a classic case. If sex is your supreme value, if sex is your highest treasure, it will end up distorting you. You will become distorted. What you treasure will have a huge impact upon yourself. We must watch our hearts very carefully. We must be so careful about what we treasure so that we don't harm ourselves.
I'm going to show you more of this as we go along. The reason I'm saying all of this is because that's what Deuteronomy chapter four is all about. Deuteronomy chapter four is all about watch your heart very carefully. Remember, look at this slide here. Remember, look at those brackets. It says "part two". That's because it is. Watch yourself very carefully. Part one was last week. Last week we looked at this verse. Look at this verse here. Only take care. Keep your soul diligently, lest you forget and lest they depart from your heart.
Deuteronomy is saying watch your heart, guard it very, very carefully, be careful of what you treasure because that can damage your heart. Today we're carrying on that thing. Last week we saw this. The way to guard yourself, this was part one, is to treasure the Lord God's word. We looked at that the first half of Deuteronomy four. We saw two things. Don't tamper with his word, don't forget his word. We studied that last week. This week we're going to look at number two: treasure the Lord God alone.
That's what the next half of the book of Deuteronomy chapter four is all about. Notice treasure the Lord God alone, look at my underlines heading. It's still about watching yourself very carefully, because if you treasure the Lord God alone, you will end up protecting yourself. You will be guarding your heart. What you treasure will put your heart either in safety or in danger. Treasure the Lord God alone. Two ways we're going to look at it. Number one, no, number A, don't let your eyes ... Talking about eyes, I went to Spec Servers and they're coming on Wednesday. Okay, that's why I keep seeing things. Don't let your eyes deceive you. God is a consuming fire. Don't let your eyes deceive you. God is a consuming fire. That's from verse 15.
By the way, I just want to tell you. I don't know why this happens, but the first point is always the longest. Don't lose heart. The second one, only two points this morning, will be shorter. Point one, don't let your eyes deceive you, God is a consuming fire. Look with me at verse 15. "Therefore, watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb", that's Mount Sinai, "out of the midst of the fire. Beware, lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves in the form of any figure. The likeness of a male or a female, the likeness of any animal that's on the earth, or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, or the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water or under the earth."
What's it saying? Moses says this. Watch yourselves. Don't turn God into an image. If you turn God into an image you're going to hurt yourself. Don't do it. Don't distort both God, and as a result don't distort yourself. Now, this idea that you've just read here, I think you're pretty used to it, but that's because you live in 2000 and whatever it is, 18. You know, this was utterly groundbreaking and unique in the history of the world. I'm not talking about Christians. I'm talking about ordinary historians will tell you that this was amazing. Israel was the only nation on earth that came up with these three ideas. Mind blowing.
One, there's only one God. I mean, where did you get that from? Nobody else ever thought that there's only one God. Two, this is amazing, he's invisible. Really? I mean, how could you conceive of an invisible God? Number three, you can't represent him. This is so unique. There's a historian called Andrew Marr. I don't know if you know him. I think he's heaps of fun. He wrote a book called History of the World. I can't tell you exactly what he says, because I didn't write it down. Okay? As much as I remember I've written here. What he says in the History of the World is this, that Jewish people came up with a unique idea. This is what he calls it, "a spark of brilliance". They came up with the idea that there's only one God, he's invisible, and he can't be visually represented.
All people acknowledge that this is groundbreaking. It's out of step with every single other human culture. In fact, you know when the Romans invaded Palestine, this is about the first century just before, and actually two or three centuries before that. When they came to the temple, and this was the temple of the Jewish God, and they smashed down the doors and they went inside, they were utterly surprised because there was nothing in it. It was like this basketball court. They went into the Jewish temple, but where are the gods? They can't see any of them. They were blown away, but there's a huge curtain, the holy of the holies. Your gods must be in there. They went through and they were blown away. There's nothing in here. Where are their gods? There's a box. What's in the box? Words, just words. It's bizarre.
Folks, we're talking about the bronze age. We haven't even got to the iron age yet. Bronze age people came up with this idea. In fact, Christians in the first century were called by Romans, we were called atheists because you couldn't see our gods, so they thought we didn't have any. Where did they get this idea from? Where did the Jewish people ... We know it's historically true. Where did they get this idea from? Well it tells you in verse 15. It's got nothing to do with their own inner brilliance. Verse 15. Look at what God says. "Therefore, watch yourselves carefully since you saw no form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Mount Sinai out of the midst of the fire. Be aware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image."
The reason the Jewish people did this was because God told them. God said to them, "here's how we're going to relate, you, me, this is how the relationship works. Use your ears. Do not use your eyes." That's what God said to them. "You saw nothing. I want you to relate to me on the basis of these things. You are to listen." Now, why? Why didn't God give us an image? Why not? Why can't we relate to God with our eyes? Here's why, because everything you see distorts God because everything you see is a misrepresentation of God. He's not like that. He's not like that. He's not like that. Everything you see doesn't represent God, it misrepresents him.
Look what it says there in verse 17. "The likeness of male, female, the likeness of any animal that's on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, likeness of any fish, the likeness of the water." Nothing you find in all of creation is an accurate representation of God. Don't make an image. Actually, if you look at it closely, this is a reversal of creation. All those things that are named are put in the exact opposite order of the way they were created in Genesis chapter one. Nothing in creation can represent God. Don't make an image.
Have a look at this. Isaiah chapter 40. He's got this wonderful little passage. Nothing represents God. "To whom then will you liken God", says the prophet Isaiah, "or what likeness compares with him? An idol?" It wants you to go, "yeah, right", because it's hard to capture in the English, but it's like, "Really? An idol? Are you kidding me?" "A craftsman casts it, a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains." It's very glittery. It's very valuable. It's very precious, but does that represent God? He who is [inaudible 00:14:50], but if you're too poor, you can use wood. Okay? He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood. What's the problem with wood? Make sure it doesn't rot, okay? We don't want your god to rot. I mean, the whole thing is in a mocking tone.
"He seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol". What's the problem? It won't move. You know, the batteries have gone flat. The whole thing is a joke. It's mocking. Nothing can represent God. Don't trust what your eyes see. Let me put it to you another way, because I think everyone is going, "Can we move on now? I've never made an idol." Think with me. I want to say it this way. Don't let your eyes give you your heart's treasure. That's getting a big closer to home. Listen again. Don't let your eyes tell you what your heart must treasure. That's the lesson for us.
Look at verse 19. Moses says the same thing in verse 19. What does it say in verse 19? "Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, the stars, all the host of heaven, you will be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that your Lord your God by judgment has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." What's he saying? He's saying don't let your eyes tell your heart what to treasure. Don't raise your eyes. Look at the sun, it's so impressive. Look at the Milky Way, it's huge. You look at all these things. You go, "Whoa". Don't let your eyes tell you what to treasure or what to value.
That raising your eyes, we know that language. That's what Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Eve raised her eyes. What did she see? She saw this fruit. It looked delicious. This is before graphic designers who can make even McDonald's look good on a poster. This was really beautiful. She looked at it. There was this fruit, and she thought, "Oh my goodness, that looks amazing." It tells us in the book of Genesis it looked desirable. Lot did the same thing lot raised his eyes in Genesis chapter 13. God said to Abraham, "Live over there. I'm going to give you that land." Lot lifted up his eyes and says, no, that's got lots of rivers and there's a good surfing point. He didn't say that, but that looks amazing. It turned out to be Sodom and Gomorrah. My point is don't let your eyes tell your heart what to treasure.
Let me apply this. You don't have to pay extra. This is for free. All the single ladies in the house. Oh, that sounds a bit like a song. All the single people, everyone single here today, hear these words. Don't let your eyes tell you who to marry. That's what the Bible is saying. Don't let your eyes tell you who to marry. I don't care how handsome he is, don't let your eyes tell you who to marry. Why can't we have a treasure that we can see? I'm going to take you to one of the most profound verses in the Bible. Why are idols and images ... No, no, not yet. Thank you.
Why are idols and images so bad? Why? God has got his image. God has already given us a representation of himself, and it's there in verse 20. Look at verse 20. "But the Lord", watch this language. "But the Lord has taken you and brought you" watch these words, "out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day." What's that verse saying? What comes out of an iron furnace? An idol. That's how you make an idol, a smelter. God is saying you're my idol. My people are my image. You're the ones that I've brought out of the iron furnace to be my own inheritance.
In other words, hear me carefully, God's saved, God's redeemed people are recreated in his image. If you treasure kite surfing, you're treasuring something less than yourself. God has made people, whom he redeems, to be in his image. That's why we don't worship or treasure anything else. If we do, we corrupt ourselves. This is what I meant by guarding yourself. Let me try and explain this as clear as I can, because I feel I'm not being very clear. If you get God wrong, you will get yourself wrong. If you distort God, you will distort yourself. No human being can rise above his or her concept of God. That's what I'm trying to say. Guard your hearts carefully.
The Greek gods, have you read about the Greek gods? It's like, I don't know why they have home in a way and they don't have Greek in a way or whatever. Those Greek gods, they never stop lying, they never stop fighting, they never stop cheating, they never stop committing sexual immorality. They're bad, and so what was Greek culture like? Well, it was made in the image of its gods. You know, most Muslims are peace loving good people. That is true, but Islam will never free itself from violence, ever. Never has and it never will because its highest treasure is a violent person: Muhammad. Muhammad was very, very violent. History knows this, Islam knows this. You never rise above what you value the most. No one can do it.
Now, if we, his people, redeemed, are being recreated in his image, we all know we're imperfect. Where's that pointing to? Where's the perfect image of God? Okay, let's play a game. Where's God's idol? Well, let me show it to you. Have a look at this verse from the New Testament. The son. The son is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. What's this telling me? Listen, it's telling me that Jesus Christ is a perfect image of God. He is an exact representation of God. Can I be ... I'm going to put this badly. Jesus is God's idol. He perfectly represents the invisible God.
Let's put it all together. Let me put it this way. If you make any representation of God that isn't Jesus, you'll get God wrong and you'll get yourself wrong. You will not only dishonor God, but you will harm yourself. Let me give you an illustration. I've got two images for you. Have a look at this. Here are two images. Now we have people listening online so I'm going to have to tell them what's in front of them, what's in front of their ears. There are two images on front of you. On the left is Adolf Hitler. He, you all know. He needs no introduction. There's an image of Adolf Hitler. On the right is Mother Teresa. There's a picture of her.
Now tell me, look at those two things, which one would you rather your children idolized? Imagine you go into your son's bedroom. You walk into your son's bedroom, and like all teenagers you haven't been there for years. No, no. Anyway, you walk into your son's bed and on every wall is just pictures of Hitler. It's just Adolf Hitler over every wall. Then you look at your son. You suddenly realize he's growing this little thing under his nose. You look at your son and he's always wearing brown. Then your son starts talking badly about black people or about Jewish. Tell me what you're thinking. You're very unhappy because you're a parent. You love him. You're starting to get jealous for him.
Then you go into your daughter's bedroom and on every wall there's a picture of Mother Teresa and all the children that she loves. Your daughter says to you, "Mom, you know what I've decided to do? When I've finished school I'm going to take a gap year and I want to go work in an orphanage somewhere." She's modeling herself on the things she treasures. Now tell me, which one would you rather your children idolize? How much more should we treasure and value Jesus Christ, the perfect human being? When we do that, it will shape us and we will guard our hearts. Thanks.
As a parent, you can understand jealousy and anger. Jealousy is a good thing, anger is a good thing, if it's from the right place. When we dishonor God, devalue ourselves, God is the best parent, and he gets jealous for us. Have a look what Moses says. He says that in verse 21. Look what happens. "Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you and he swore that I would not cross the Jordan, I would not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for inheritance. I must die in this land. I must not go over the Jordan", which makes you realize how serious God is about sinning. If Moses can't get into the promised land, how will we? Moses is teaching us here that the wages of sin is death. In fact, it's very interesting that the mediator shares in the penalty that the people deserve. Where's that pointing to? Oh, wait, I can think of another mediator who bore the penalty of his people's sins.
Anyway, here's the point though. Look what Moses says verse 23. "Take care lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you." Why? "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire." What's he saying? If you dishonor God, hear me out, if you treasure anything more than Jesus Christ, the perfect image of God, then you're dishonoring God, you're distorting yourself, you're devaluing yourself, and all that's left for you is a consuming fire. It's that serious. It's that serious. God says if you ruin my children, if you distort my children, you're going to find me a consuming fire.
It's like when your little girl has a princess party. You know. You have a little princess party and you work so hard. What you do is you buy these little mold, these little ponies, and you put them in the oven. What are you making? You're making little pretty cookie ponies. I'm sure I'm getting this right. Anyway, there you go. You bake these little cookie ponies. Would you believe it? The mold is all wrong. The mold is bad. All of them come out not as pretty cookie ponies, but demented demons. There's your little daughter with all her friends in tutus. You're going to give them demented demons. What are the other parents going to say? What do you do with those cookies? They go back in the oven or they get thrown away or whatever.
God is serious as this. If there are any human beings who distort themselves by treasuring something more than Jesus Christ, they'll go back in the oven. God will turn out to be a consuming fire. I'm not talking about believing in Jesus, because I'm so scared someone is here this morning going, "Whew, thank goodness I believe in Jesus." We're not talking about that. We're talking about idolizing Jesus, treasuring him, valuing him more than anything else, and so over time becoming more like him. When you become more like him, what will you become? More and more human, because he is the perfect human being.
Perhaps I should close with this thought. I was chatting to a lady this morning after the morning congregation. She came up to me. Her son is a horrible drug addict. She so related to what I said. An alcoholic is the same. When you look at a drug addict or an alcoholic, you see somebody for all that they say who treasures their drugs, who treasures their alcohol more than God, more than their friends, more than their family. Look at them and see what their idols have turned them into. That's what Moses is saying. Guard your heart. Treasure Jesus only.
Okay, Dwayne, well that was heavy. I'm definitely guilty. I'm standing in front of you all and I'm thinking, "Well, I've treasured kite surfing and I've treasured surfing, and I've treasured surfing, and I've treasured kite surfing." I'm guilty. You're probably sitting there thinking ... I've got such good news for you. Look again with me at verse 24. "The Lord your God is a consuming fire". It's true. He's a jealous God. Can I tell you another truth? Just as true, but so beautiful. Look at verse 31. "For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget his promises, the covenant with your fathers that he promised them." How good is this? What does the gospel do? God is a consuming fire and we're all guilty, but he doesn't stop there.
The next half of Deuteronomy four tells us God is merciful. What makes the change in God? It's the same God. The answer is, you're going to see, verse 25 to verse 31, is that if you turn back to him. That makes all the difference in the world, and that's our second thing. Much shorter. Don't stop seeking him, because God is merciful and faithful. It's wonderful. Have a look with me at verse 25. When your fire, uh when you. See, I went to spec service and it's coming on Wednesday. I keep seeing "your" when it says "you".
"When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image", if you prefer kite surfing to God or anything else, "in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger," just let me pause there. See what Moses says. Why does he say when you grow old? These things don't happen overnight. You don't come to church on Sunday and go, "Oh, I love Jesus", and you wake up on Monday and you love something else. It doesn't work like that. It takes time to drift.
Let me tell you how it works. You love Jesus. You really love Jesus. Then you get your first job, so you buy a car, because you must. It's a good thing to do. You really like your car. Then you work hard. You earn more money. What do you do? Well, you get a better car. Why? You're earning more money, so you can. [inaudible 00:31:31], okay, great, but you love Jesus. I love Jesus. Then you keep working. You get a promotion. You earn more money. What do you do? Well, you get a better car. Why? The other one was fine. I know, but well this one's got go faster stripes on it, or whatever. You know, but you love Jesus. Then you earn more money. What do you do? Well, you get a better car because you earned more money. You deserve it. What's going on? You're drifting. You're lying to yourself. By the time you're all done you treasure stuff more than God. You still believe in Jesus totally, but you've drifted far in your heart. That's what Moses is talking about. Watch out when you get older.
Look what he says, "I call", verse 26, "heaven and earth". This is a [inaudible 00:32:20]. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed." The wages of sin is death. I'm not joking, says Moses. You will be destroyed. Verse 27, "And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples". Do you want to live like the others? Okay, fine, be like them then that's what God says. You won't be my treasures possession. You'll be like everyone else. You want to be like them? Be like them "and you will be left few", verse 27, "in number", which is the opposite of the Abraham promise. God said to Abraham, "I'll make you a multitude of people". No, no, now you're going to be few, going to be a few of you left.
Now here's the hardest verse to hear, verse 28, "And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell." God says do you want idols? Fine, have your idols. It is a horrible, horrible judgment when God gives us over to something that's less than he is. What's the problem with idols that can't hear, eat or smell? They can't save you. Dwayne, cry out to your kite surf, you know your kite. See if it'll save you when you're in trouble. That's what God is saying. If you treasure anything more than me, let that be your savior, but remember it can't eat, see, hear or anything.
You know that this is what's happening in our society today. I don't want to spend much time on this, but one of our idols in western culture, just chatting to a lady who has come back from a different culture. She'll tell you how different it is. One of the things we treasure in the west is sex. It has become our value. What do you think will happen to us when we worship that? Well, what we're seeing. Sydney Mardi Gras, people completely confused about sexuality. They don't even know if they're a boy or a girl. How is that happening, because you've distorted God and made an idol of sex. You're distorting yourself.
This is what Romans has said. Claiming to be wise, they become fools. They exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. What's the result? God gave them up. He give you over. You want to serve idols? Have your idols. He gave them up to the lusts of their hearts, to impurity. Here's the saddest thing, to the dishonoring of their bodies. You end up dishonoring yourself, and nobody is happy. It's not making anyone happy. Watch yourselves. Thank God he's not like our idols.
Look there with me at verse 20. Uh, what does it say? Verse 30. Look at verse 30. When you ... Oh no, I can't see properly. Verse 29, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God. You will find him if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul." This is so wonderful. After all we've done, God says, "But if you seek me, you will find me. I'm not going to hide from you. You will find me." Verse 30. "When you are in tribulation," I.e., when it hurts. I was chatting to that same lady and I quoted this verse to her. I said, "When your son is a drug addict decides that he's in tribulation, when it hurts him enough, he might come back to the true and the living God."
That's what Moses says. When it really hurts, "and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice." The latter days are from Pentecost till today and tomorrow. It's all the days that God pours out his Spirit and draws his people from idols to turn to the living God and wait for his son from heaven, Jesus Christ. Here's the good news. Look at verse 31. Why does God just take us back? We just assume he will. How many times will your wife accept sorry? Why does God just take us back? Look at verse 31, "For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He won't leave you or destroy you or forget the promises he's made, the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them."
God is so ... This is why we don't want to have images. Whatever you turn God into, I'm telling you, is not going to be as nice as God is. Why would you want to distort God? He's so amazing. He's merciful, kind, and keeps all these promises. You don't get better than that. Turn back to him. This morning we're going to come to communion. Think about the ways you've treasured other things more than him. We've all done it. Know that when you do that, God will present himself to you as a consuming fire, but know that if you turn back to him you will find him to be merciful and kind.
Now, where is that most clearly seen? Where can you see God as a consuming fire, and at the same time merciful? Where can you see it together? It's on the cross, when Jesus Christ died on the cross. What you see there is consuming fire. Look what God did to Jesus. Look what God did to Jesus when he carried your and my sin. Look what God did to Jesus. Consuming fire. At the same time, look at God's mercy, because ... No, keep back where you were. Look at God's mercy. You see how Jesus dies in our place for us. Consuming fire, mercy all on the cross.
I've got something even better to show you as we close. Think about this. When we distort God, when we treasure anything more than God, we distort ourselves. Humanity gets distorted. The most perfect human being that ever lived was Jesus Christ. Would you believe he was distorted? Would you believe that he was changed because of our sin? Look at this incredible verse from Isaiah 52. They're talking about Jesus on the cross. "As many were astonished at you", watch this, "his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance." This is astonishing. Here is the perfect human being, perfect image of God. Guess what happens to him? He gets marred. He gets distorted. They put a crown of thorns on his head, they whip him, they beat him. What's going on? He's being turned because of our sin. That's what we've done to ourselves. By dishonoring God, we've changed ourselves.
Jesus did it for us. Look what it says, "His form beyond that of the children of mankind". Jesus was completely marred. Why is he doing it? Look at what it says, "So shall he sprinkle many nations." Jesus did that to clean us. Jesus did that to wash us from all that idolatry, from all that valuing other things, from all the harm we've caused ourselves, he washes us clean by undergoing it for us. That's why we come to communion. When we come to communion we think about what Jesus did for us. I'm going to give you a few moments, just a bit of silence. Think about these things. Then I'll pray and I'll explain what communion is all about. Have a few moments just to think about these things.