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Have You Seen God Lately? – Part 1 - Exodus 20:4-6

Taught on | Topic: Idolatry | Keywords: ten commandments, law, truth, torah, Idol, Idols, Idolatry,

Children ask uncomfortable questions like, "How big is God? Where does He live? Why can’t I see Him? Does He ever come out and play?" We adults hem and haw trying to find answers because we want to know the same things! Unfortunately we don't always have good answers. The first commandment on God’s Top Ten was to ensure that people worship Him exclusively; the second commandment was to ensure that people worship Him correctly.

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7/29/2007
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Have You Seen God Lately? – Part 1
Exodus 20:4-6
Skip Heitzig
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Children ask uncomfortable questions like, "How big is God? Where does He live? Why can’t I see Him? Does He ever come out and play?" We adults hem and haw trying to find answers because we want to know the same things! Unfortunately we don't always have good answers. The first commandment on God’s Top Ten was to ensure that people worship Him exclusively; the second commandment was to ensure that people worship Him correctly.
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God's Top Ten - 2007

God's Top Ten - 2007

For thousands of years mankind has had God's list of Ten Commandments. Though cultures, languages and lifestyles have changed dramatically since Moses received these words on Mount Sinai, they are surprisingly very applicable to our daily lives in the 21st century.

Skip Heitzig explores in depth each of God's Top Ten and wraps up the series with a discussion on the most famous Eleventh Commandment given by Jesus during His time on earth.

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I. The Prohibition--What Does It Mean? (Vs4-5a)
  A. The Old Testament Understanding
  B. The New Testament Understanding
  C. The Modern Understanding:

Topic: Idolatry

Keywords: ten commandments, law, truth, torah, Idol, Idols, Idolatry,

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[THEME MUSIC PLAYING]

Would you turn in your Bibles now to Exodus chapter 20. And wouldn't you know it, the very week that I'm going to speak on having no graven images, somebody on my staff gave me, sort of as a spoof, a birthday gift. And it's a bobblehead of me. Let me do this. Look. What a big head, huh? Big head, big nose. Well, it does look like me. So anyway it's a graven image. We won't worship it, but I just wanted to show you this cool gift.

Anyway, Exodus chapter 20. That has nothing at all to do with my message. Let's pray together. Father, we do now bow our wills to you. We bow our will, and we are submitted to what your Spirit might say. And we pray that in spite of the vessel that you're using you would speak loud and clear about who you are and how you are to be worshiped.

We do love you and we want and we need to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so we pray that you'd teach us, you'd feed us. In Jesus' name, amen.

Well, there were two boys. It seems they were always in trouble in school. Two brothers. And they were creating so much trouble in their class that their mother decided to bring in the pastor of their church to have a talk with the boys.

So he came to their house one day, sat the boys down, and basically the pastor wanted the boys to know that God sees everything that they do and God is not pleased when they misbehave. But he wanted to do it in such a way that the boys would come to their own conclusion.

So the pastor started by saying, boys, where is God? And the boys gave no answer. They just sort of looked at the pastor with blank stares. So the pastor got a little more animated, and he said, boys, it's a simple question. Tell me, where is God? Again no answer, no response. Just bright wide eyes.

Third time the pastor raised his voice, almost yelling now, and said, where is God? And one brother turned to his other brother and said, let's get out of here, quick. God is missing and they think we did it.

Well, that innocent childlike view of God isn't that much different than some adults' view of God-- that is, God is missing from their lives, and they think, let's make an image to remind us or replace God in our lives.

Something about kids, they're very honest when it comes to how they view the world, and they ask very honest questions, and parents become sometimes very uncomfortable with kids' questions like well, where does God live? How big is God? What does God look like? Does He have a beard? Does He have a scowl on His face? What is He like? Because they want to know.

I grew up in a church with lots of images, and I know that I'm speaking to people today who have come out of or have become involved with worship systems that include statues and images and icons, and so I am very sensitive toward outliers. And I even teach this with some sentimental kind of a feeling, because that was my upbringing.

But it's very simple, really, what is allowed in worship and what is not allowed. What about crucifixes and crosses and statues? What if an image or a painting actually helps me focus on God? What's so bad about that? Why is that wrong if it evokes those feelings or reminds me of God? What about a picture that depicts Jesus? What's the big deal about this commandment?

Well, let's actually look at the commandment, and then we'll make some remarks on it, go through it and teach it. The second commandment begins in the fourth verse, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them nor serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands to those who love me and keep my commandments."

I'd like you to complete in your minds this sentence. I picture god as blank. You fill in that blank. I picture god as what? In your minds. You don't have to say it out loud. Because that's precisely what people will do and will say. I picture God not as a just judge but I picture God as a very benevolent, warm, smiling, tolerant you can do anything you want kind of a being.

Or, I picture God as detached and aloof, and not really involved in life as we know it. Or, I picture God as some mystical being. Or still others would say, I don't picture God as a Him but a her. I heard that last night on television. A gal said, now and I pray to God, I say to her such and such.

J. I. Packer once said, "Metal images are simply the consequence of mental images." So people will make images based on what their mental conception is of the god they worship. So that's why I say complete the sentence, I picture God as such and such.

Now let's, just by way of review, remember the last couple of weeks we've just been going through the Ten Commandments, and we noted that there's two sources of information about God. Number one, revelation. Number two, imagination. And you fall in one of those two camps and one only.

Either we take what God said about Himself in the revealed Word of God and all that we know about the character and nature of God is derived from biblical revelation. Or we decide to throw that out and have nothing to do with it. And now we're left with our imagination. I think God is, I picture God as.

So its important, as fundamental, to go through the Ten Commandments. And this is the second one. If the first commandment says that God has to be worshiped exclusively, then the second commandment would tell us God is to be worshiped correctly.

If the first commandment tells us the whom, then the second commandment tells us the how God is to be worshiped. If the first commandment is against false gods, then the second commandment is against false worship of the true God. False worship of the true God.

Now I see really the second commandment as dovetailing beautifully with John chapter 4, where Jesus said to the woman at the well of Samaria, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in" what? "spirit and in truth." God is spirit, and if you want to worship God, who is spirit, you worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Now I've decided that we're not going to take this commandment in one week, but we want to really understand it, so we're going to break it up in two, and this is part one. Next week we'll continue it. And there's just a couple of things I'd like to look at with you today.

First of all, the prohibition itself, the commandment itself. What does it mean exactly? Second of all, the problem. That is, why do people break this commandment? Why did God think it was so important that it's number two on the top 10? So we want to look at the prohibition and the problem, what it means and why people do it.

Go back with me to just the first section of this, verse 4 and just a snippet of verse 5. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image." So it necessitates a three-dimensional image, something you're going to derive out of wood or stone.

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is an earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them."

Now what does that mean? That's pretty straightforward, isn't it? It's pretty easy to understand. But if you'll allow me, I want to flesh this out by taking you back to the Old Testament, just a little bit of something in the New Testament, and then to the modern era and how this is perceived, this prohibition.

In the Old Testament, and we're in it, Exodus chapter 20, it's as old as you can get as far as Old Testament. This commandment isn't just given once and thrown out there. It's actually repeated, reiterated, and amplified several times throughout the biblical narrative. We just read the first instance of that in verse 4, 5, and 6, but I want to show you something else.

Go with me, the same chapter, to verse 18. Verse 18. Now the Ten Commandments are done. God gave all 10, but watch this. Now it's all over, but it says verse 18, "Now all the people witness the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. And when the people saw it, they trembled and they stood afar off.

Then they said to Moses, 'You speak with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die.' And Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.' So the people stood afar off but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was."

Now watch the. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel. "You have seen that I talked with you from heaven."'" Did you get that? He didn't say you have seen God, but you have seen that I talked with you from heaven. "You shall not make anything to be with me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves." So you saw lightning and you heard thunder and you heard my voice speaking, but you saw no form.

Turn to the book of Deuteronomy. And if you don't know where that is, just keep turning right. You'll go down a few blocks, you'll see it. Chapter 4. Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 15.

"Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb," or Mt. Sinai, "out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure, likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish in the water beneath the earth.

Take heed lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day."

Same book. Go to chapter 27 of Deuteronomy. This is the last one I'll have you turn to. Deuteronomy chapter 27. Now let me set it up. God anticipates they're about to go into the new land, the land of Canaan, the land of promise, and the first thing He says you do when you get there is you go to the middle of the land where there's two mountains. And you divide the people up and you read blessings and you read cursings.

Now watch this, verse 12 chapter 27, "These shall stand on Mount Gerezim to bless the people when you've crossed over the Jordan. Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse. Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulon, Dan, and Naphtali.

And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel. 'Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsmen and sets it up in secret."

So we see that this second commandment is given and repeated and amplified throughout the Old Testament narrative. OK. It's equally important to understand Moses' reaction the first time the children of Israel broke this commandment. Remember how he reacted? Remember when he came down the mountain with those Ten Commandments, all shiny, his face is glowing, and he comes down and the people are doing what? They are worshiping a golden calf.

And Moses doesn't say, wow, to each his own. You remember what Moses did? He broke the commandments. Well, let me read you the verse. This is out of Exodus 32. "He cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them. He took the calf, which they had made," you can turn to it, but I'm going to be done by the time you get there. "He burned it in the fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and he made the children of Israel to drink it."

That's his reaction to the first time they broke the second commandment. He had that bull, that image that they had made, ground to powder, pulverized it, put it in the water and said drink up. This is like reverse Alka-Seltzer. You take Alka-Seltzer, it settles your stomach. This would have naturally upset them. I think the message was clear. Idolatry ought to make you sick to your stomach, because it certainly is sick in God's eyes. He made him drink it.

Well, as time goes on, the 12 tribes of Israel split up, 10 in the north, 2 in the south. And when they break up, a guy by the name of Jeroboam sets up not one but two golden calves-- one at Bethel, 11 miles north of Jerusalem, and one in the top of the country Dan. And he tells the people in the north, these are the gods which brought you out of Egypt. The Bible says this thing became a sin to the people of Israel.

Because of all these verses, all of these instances, Judaism has been called the aniconic religion, or the worship system without icons, without images. According to Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, he said, "The ancient Jews were more ear people than they were eye people." It's an interesting description. They were more auditory than visual.

Images distort who God is, so they were people of the book, the revelation that God gave of Himself. They were aniconic, without the aid of icons. Now that's interesting in the light of Romans 10:17, which tells us faith comes by hearing, not seeing. Faith comes by hearing. So that's a thumbnail sketch of the Old Testament's view of this commandment.

When we get to the New Testament, there's a little bit of difference. Well, in the Old Testament I counted the word idol, idols, and idolatry appear 111 times. In the New Testament they only appear 22 times. And it could all be summed up, you might say, by John in 1 John chapter 5 verse 21. It's the last verse of that book. He simply says, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." keep yourselves from idols.

When Jesus Christ walked this Earth and He confronted the Jews in Jerusalem, they had their own view of these commandments, which was very rigid. Now you know who was the governor of Judea when Jesus was walking around the place. It was Pontius Pilate.

Well, did you know that there were two instances in Pontius Pilate's career based upon him breaking the second commandment that in part led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? You see, he had been governor for five years, and then he made a couple of dumb mistakes. Let me tell you about them.

First mistake he made was he brought banners, ensigns into the city of Jerusalem, big signs on poles that had an image of Caesar on the banner, and he marched these through Jerusalem. When the Jewish leaders saw these, they demanded those signs be removed, because he violated the second commandment.

He, Pontius Pilate, wasn't Jewish. What do they care? They cared because it was their city. You know what they did? They sent a delegation from Jerusalem to Caesarea, which is the headquarters of the Roman government at that time, demanded Pontius to remove those ensigns. He refused and herded them into that great theater in Caesarea-- some of you have been there with us-- and said, I'm going to cut your heads off.

You know what the Jews did when he said that? They laid on the ground, bared their necks, and said, cut away. Go ahead. Chop our heads off. We'll die for this one. But you remove those signs. Now Pilate knew that he was dealing with what he thought was an irrational group of people. They won't stop at anything, this is so important to them. So he removed them so not to create the drama.

Second mistake was a few years later. It seemed that Pontius Pilate had special shields made for his soldiers in the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem. And on the shield was an image of Tiberius Caesar, the new reigning monarch in Rome. He wanted to ingratiate himself with him. He had these shields placed in the Antonia Fortress, and later on in the palace of Herod in Jerusalem.

The Jews revolted, wrote to Caesar, demanded they be taken out. Caesar rebukes Pontius Pilate personally, saying, boy, you can't govern these people very well. This is two times that they have rebelled against you. So this put him now on probation, so that by the time Jesus Christ is on trial, and Pontius Pilate reviews the case, he says to the people, I'm going to let Him go. I find no fault in this man.

Remember how they responded? They said, if you let him go, you are no friend of Caesar. You know why they said that? Well, let me finish the statement. If you let this man go, you're no friend of Caesar, for whoever makes himself a king is not Caesar's friend.

This was a not-so-veiled threat. Caesar has your number, bubba. This is going to be strike three against you. You already messed up twice, you're on probation, you let this guy go, we're going to let Caesar know about it. So that's one Pilate capitulated to the will of the people and said, Do whatever you want. I find no fault in Him. I wash my hands.

So let's move from the Old Testament through the New Testament to modern times. How do modern worshipers view the second commandment? Well frankly, most don't really care. I think the view of most modern worshipers is, hey, if it leads me to God, if it reminds me of God, what do you care?

But do you remember Paul, when he was in Athens and he saw those images of all the gods of Greece, and it says he was grieved in his heart by what he saw? And you could say, well, those were false images of false gods. But then he stood on the Areopagus, on Mars Hill, and this is what Paul the apostle said, Acts 17, 29 and 30.

"We ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone or something shaped by art or man's devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent."

So naturally the first question people have in hearing all this is, isn't it OK to have art? What about engravings? Or what about drawings? After all, the astute Bible student would say, what about the tabernacle. I mean didn't God violate His own commandment by having ornate depictions in the tabernacle?

You remember on the veil in the tabernacle were drawings of cherubim, angels, they dwell in heaven. On the menorah, knobs and flowers. On the ephod of the high priest, engravings of cherubim. And what about the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant? It was a graven image of two cherubim with their wings outstretched and touching each other.

Did God violate His own command? No, He didn't, and here's why. None of those things represented God, number one. And number two, according to Hebrews 8 and 9, the tabernacle was an earthly depiction of what was going on in heaven, simply a reminder of what was going on in heaven.

So here's the synthesis of it. Here's the bottom line. Here's the irreducible minimum. This commandment refers to worship. It really doesn't have a whole lot to do with art, but it has everything to do with worship. And the commandment is saying this. God is spirit, and nothing material could ever represent God adequately. If God is spirit, then anything people make in the material world, by necessity, could never encapsulate or represent all that God is.

So the idea here is not art, but I'll say this. If art leads to an image in your mind that lessens who God is, it's wrong. Any image that lessens who God is and His nature and character is wrong. I'll give you an example right out of the Bible.

Let me refresh your memory. A story that happened in Numbers 21. The children of Israel were in the desert. They're murmuring and they're complaining. They did it a lot. God sent snakes into the camp to bite them, and they start falling off like flies. They start dying.

So God says, Moses, quick. Get a brass serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. And as people look to the brass serpent by faith, they'll get healed. That's the cure. He does that. It worked because the people looked at it by faith.

But did you know that the people of Israel didn't throw it away? They kept it as a sacred icon for years. And as years went on, they didn't look at that icon the same way they once did, by faith. They looked at it superstitiously. So we find it again in 2 kings 18, where we're told, "King Hezekiah broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it and called it Nehushtan."

See what was happening? The symbol became the substitute. They weren't looking at it by faith any more, as just a symbol of what God did in the wilderness, but they were worshiping that symbol, and the symbol became a substitute.

That can happen, by the way, with any symbol. That can happen with the cross. People have crosses and look at it superstitiously. I forgot my cross today. I'm not wearing it. OK, so what? So what? It's my lucky cross. They have imbued it with some kind of mystical power almost.

By the way, did you know the cross was not the first symbol of Christians? Never was. The cross doesn't even appear, the crucifixion scene as a depiction in Christian art, till the 7th century AD. It was never an early symbol. It became a symbol, but the earliest symbol of Christianity was a peacock and an anchor and a fish. There were several of them. You find in the catacombs in Rome.

And for a very good reason. Keep in mind the cross was an implement torture, capital punishment. The earliest Christians 2,000 years ago wouldn't have hung a cross in their assembly any more than we would hang an electric chair in ours.

But what the cross came to represent is wonderful and holy. And people have noticed over the years, I notice you don't have a cross on your church. What kind of a church doesn't have a cross? I'm not opposed to it. You find a great cross to put up there, I'm not opposed to it. I know what the symbol represents.

But I'll tell you one thing. We preach the cross. And I've met a whole lot of people and even churches who get hung up on having a cross, but they don't live under the cross. They don't preach the cross. And they don't live a witness of Jesus Christ. It's all about the sacred symbol and the icon.

Listen to the words of George McLeod. He said, "I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as the steeple of a church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves, on a town garbage heap at a crossroads of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek.

At the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. But that is where He died. That is what He died about. And that is where Christ's men ought to be and what church people ought to be about."

So I think we've exhausted that first point, this prohibition. We understand what that means. It was an image constructed for worship that people would bow down to in their worship system. Well. Let's discuss the second, and that is the problem.

Why are people driven to break this commandment? God must have known something that it's number two on the top 10 list. And it's repeated and amplified throughout the Old Testament.

There's a few different problems that would push people toward the use of images. Number one is peer pressure. Now keep in mind, pretend for a moment you are a Jew living in ancient Israel. You've just been delivered from Egypt. Surrounding you all day long were images of false gods in the pantheon of Egypt.

You just got out of that. You come into Canaan, and you find the same thing, only different names, different gods. It's very tangible. And the belief system of ancient Canaanites, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, is that the spirit of their god actually resided in the image that they made. So once they carved it out and they dedicated it to their god, whatever happened to that image happened to the god.

That's why you read accounts of ancient peoples washing their gods and dressing up their gods and placing food in front of their gods, because the god would derive energy from that food. So that the spirit of the god or goddess resided in the image that was crafted.

Well, the children of Israel come from that to that. They don't have any images. So they see a very tangible religious system around them. They see gods and goddesses dotting the landscape. And the people of Canaan say, well, where are your gods? Here's our gods. And over time, that peer pressure caused Israel to worship Baal and Ashteroth and Molech, et cetera.

In fact, in Psalm 115 there is a hint of this peer pressure. The psalmist writes, "Why should the Gentiles say, 'So where is their God?'" And then he answers it. "But our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands."

Can you hear that peer pressure? They get into Canaan and people say, well, where are your gods? Here's our gods? The psalmist says, I'll tell you where our God is. He's in heaven. He is sovereign. He made it all. Your worshiping a bunch of false nonsense. And our God does whatever He wants.

Second problem. Personal loss. When a person makes an image, he's making a statement. He's saying, no longer do I have the conscious awareness of the presence of God. I now need an image to remind me of that God. And casting that idol is a desperate measure to recover that which was lost.

You see, anybody who lives in communion with God doesn't need a reminder. Its not like you're walking into the house one day and you see your idol, oh yes, god. I'm glad I saw that, because I had forgotten. See, if you live in communion with Him and He is a reality in your life, you don't need a reminder.

Friedrich Jacobi, in the 1700s, a German philosopher, wrote something I want to share with you. "Where idolatry ends, there Christianity begins. And where idolatry begins, their Christianity ends."

How would you feel if somebody said, I want to spend some time with you, and they walked into your presence to spend time with you, but they brought an image of you? Well Skip, I want to spend time with you. Now watch this. I have a few things I want to share with you.

Now you're standing there and you're watching this person carrying an empty-headed plastic doll. Wouldn't you feel a little put off? Hey wait, wait. I'm over here. You want to talk to me, don't talk to that. Talk to me. Have a relationship with me. You don't need that image. We have an ongoing thing here.

Let me just back up and define an idol in modern terms. Because any of us could think this a great message, but it has nothing at all to do with my life. I don't bow before images. I don't carve things in my backyard and set them in my front yard and worship them every time I leave the driveway.

An idol is simply anything or any one that replaces God. Or let me restate it. Anything or anyone that takes supreme devotion away from God. It's an idol. You can drive an idol. You can live in an idol. You can date an idol. You can marry an idol. You can raise idols. If anyone or anything takes away supreme devotion to God, anything can become an idol. So John said, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

There's a third problem that I think drives people to this. And that is the problem of an invisible God. We just have a hard time relating to a person we can't see. We're a visual people. Samuel said man looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart, but we look at the outward appearance. We're visual.

How do you have a personal relationship with a person you never see? Remember the H. G. Wells story "The Invisible Man"? The story is that a guy, through science, discovers how to make himself invisible, which sounds really cool at first. You can be in places and listen to conversations, find out what people are doing, push things around in the room. sounds pretty fun.

After a while, the invisible man discovers it's not so fun, because he discovers people don't trust somebody they don't see. So Isaiah says in chapter 45 of his prophecy, "Verily, you are a God who hides Himself." Moses said, "Lord, just show me your glory. I've seen your acts. I've heard your words. I've seen the thunder. I want to see you."

We can relate to that, like the little boy said, Mom, are you sure God's up there? Yep, I'm sure he's up there. Don't you wish, Mom, He's just poke His head out every now and then and show Himself. We all do.

That is why every Christian has a deep longing for Jesus Christ to return. That's our hope is that one day we're going to see Him face to face and be totally changed. No longer do we have to live by faith, but we'll be able to see Him. We don't have to hold on to a promise in Scripture and say, I can't see it, but I believe it. You'll see him.

Titus chapter 2, "Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." So the bottom line is people want a God they can see and touch. And one day you will. Until then, we walk by faith and not by sight.

Let me close on this thought. Invisible doesn't mean unavailable. Just because you can't see God doesn't mean He's not there or available to you. Peter said, "Whom having not seen, yet you love and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

The most important thing is not that you see God, but that God sees you. David declared, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up into the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, behold, you are there."

But I can't see God. But He can see you. But how do I know? He knows all about you. And that's where you reach out with that touch of faith and get in touch with all of the promises of the invisible yet powerful God.

Years ago on television, it was done live and televised, it was a circus act and part of the act was a Bengal tiger show. They had a large cage in the middle of the circus ring filled with Bengal tigers and tiger trainers.

So this is how it would work. They'd all get into the cage, the doors would be locked shut. That would feel awkward. The spotlights would come up, the cameras would zoom in, and the show would begin. And one night it began just fine as the trainers put these tigers through their paces.

Then suddenly, without warning, all the electricity went out, and it was pitch black. Now imagine you're the trainer locked inside of a cage in total darkness with Bengal tigers. You know they're cats. They can see you in the dark but you can't see them. What a relief when those lights, 30 seconds, long seconds later, went on.

You know God can see in the dark. You can't see Him, but He can see you. There's no secrets with Him. And He's not a tiger, but He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And He is all-powerful, and all of His resources, whether you feel or see or not, that's all irrelevant. God says, this is who I am. No other gods. And all of these other accouterments to worship you don't need. We have a relationship. We'll explore this much further next week.

Let's pray. Our Heavenly Father, we have briefly looked at this commandment, what it means and why people are driven to it. And we've just discovered that you have the right to call the shots, to make the rules, as the creator, as the sustainer and as the Savior. You have the right to declare who you are to us and how you are to be worshiped.

As the Lord Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." I pray that our worship would be pleasing to you, that our hearts would be right before you, and if we have lost any relationship or closeness with you, that, by faith, we would get it back again and walk in step with you and have a real and abiding and daily relationship with the living God. For we walk by faith and not by sight. In Jesus' name, amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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7/15/2007
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God's Top Ten List
Exodus 19-20
Skip Heitzig
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Today as we begin a new series of studies on the Ten Commandments - God's Laws which transcend time and culture. Think of it - of all the things that could be considered as the most important precepts for life, these are the ones God picked! These truths were designed to elevate our lives above a mere animal existence and provide a blueprint for a purposeful life.
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7/22/2007
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First Things First
Exodus 20:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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The first four commandments are vertical ones: they define our relationship to God. The second six are horizontal: they define our relationship to others. The first commandment on God's "top ten" is the most basic building block for anyone who would claim or seek any relationship to God at all. Every one of God's requirements for mankind flows from His character and nature as Sovereign God. So why is God so exclusive? And why is this the most important command?
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8/5/2007
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Have You Seen God Lately? – Part 2
Exodus 20:4-6
Skip Heitzig
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The second commandment was given so that God's people would worship Him correctly, in the way He directed rather than in the way they wanted to worship. God's uniqueness requires unique devotion. Today we discover how we best leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren—by worshiping the right God in the right way.
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8/12/2007
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God Is Not a Swear Word
Exodus 20:7
Skip Heitzig
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Most folks haven't a clue as to what this third commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, means. Most guesses would make it to say, "Don’t say bad words!" It may infer that in part, but goes to a much deeper level. Notice the progression of emphasis in the commandments so far: 1st, What we believe about God; 2nd, How we worship God, and 3rd, What we say about God. It's sobering to think that the use of our mouth is the concern of the third in God's Top Ten!
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8/19/2007
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Relax! - And That's an Order! Part 1
Exodus 20:8-11
Skip Heitzig
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If ever there was a commandment tailor made for the workaholic, this is it! God gives permission (in fact an order) to take R and R. What a gracious God we serve to write this into the Top Ten. But this fourth commandment is a controversial one. Some have made it a burden rather than a blessing to keep. Is the Sabbath regulation for the modern Christian or just the ancient Jew? Did the Sabbath get changed? Are we breaking the Sabbath if we worship on Sunday? We’ll explore these issues in the next two weeks.
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8/26/2007
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Relax! - And That's an Order! Part 2
Exodus 20:8-11
Skip Heitzig
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Has the Sabbath Day been changed? Is Sunday the New Sabbath? Are those who worship on Sunday guilty of compromise and succumbing to paganism? Does it even matter? What about those who whose jobs require them to work on Saturday or Sunday? All these questions and more have become the controversy that surrounds this fourth commandment. The real issue however is much more basic and spiritual: Do you honor God by worshipful rest, expressing thankfulness to Him and becoming refreshed so you can serve Him the rest of the week?
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9/9/2007
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Because I Said So! - Part 1
Exodus 20:12
Skip Heitzig
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Every child has challenged a parent with the question, "Why," only to hear the response, "Because I said so!" This commandment deals with both authority and submission. But there's something much deeper and more profound than mere compliance to a parent's mandate. The commandment implies the supreme value of a godly and healthy family. Today and next week we will consider this fifth commandment and what it means in a culture that is defiant towards it.
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9/16/2007
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Because I Said So! - Part 2
Exodus 20:12
Skip Heitzig
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A couple on the way to the hospital to have their second child heard their 6-year old son say, "Be sure and get a receipt, so if it’s a girl, we can return her!" But we know children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). We don’t return them. Nor can we exchange our parents for other ones. The ones we have are the ones we must obey and honor, or we must learn to. A child contributes to the health and happiness of the home by the act of obeying and the attitude of honoring.
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9/23/2007
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Getting Away With Murder
Exodus 20:13
Skip Heitzig
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People are getting away with murder every day! I don't just mean the violent, premeditated and vicious slaying of innocent lives but also by deep seated attitudes of hatred and spite. Murder has always been a problem with our race but there's something much deeper and more profound than the act of taking a life. Today and next week we will examine this commandment and it’s ramifications into several areas of society.
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9/30/2007
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A Time To Kill?
Exodus 20:13
Skip Heitzig
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You are alive! You will die! Those two absolutes are as basic as it gets. But since life is a gift from the Creator, what right does anyone ever have in taking it from another? One of the commandments on God’s Top Ten list is, "Thou shalt not kill!" Is there ever a time to kill? Does the justice system of a land or an army ever have the right to kill? How can we as responsible Christians ever come to a balance regarding this very difficult issue?
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10/7/2007
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Weeds of Unfaithfulness in the Garden of Love
Exodus 20:14
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"You shall not commit adultery," is God's way of putting a protective hedge around marriage. Every married couple needs to tend the garden of their love. That means of course pulling out the weeds that would lead to unfaithful behavior. Many a married couple has been "burned" by the fire of Adultery. The flame of passion must burn only for one's spouse. Let's consider how our marriages can stay "Adultery-proof."
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10/14/2007
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Bandits, Beware!
Exodus 20:15
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It is estimated that 90% of our total population has shoplifted at some point in their lives. Maybe it was a piece of candy with a school friend or a magazine when no one was looking in our adolescence. But some people never stop and with everyone, it seems the lines of right and wrong are getting fuzzier rather than clearer. Let’s get a fresh look at this age old mandate.
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10/28/2007
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The Truth, the Whole Truth & Nothing but the Truth!
Exodus 20:16
Skip Heitzig
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Myron Boyd wrote, "A half-truth is a dangerous thing, especially if you have got hold of the wrong half!" I’d venture to say that we have a whole lot of half-truths bouncing around in our brains that we’ve picked up without ever trying to find out the rest. The ninth commandment is about telling the truth, the whole truth. We’ll find that this mandate infers at least three things.
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11/4/2007
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Affluenza!
Exodus 20:17
Skip Heitzig
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No it's not a typo! Affluenza is a social malady that has reached epic proportions in our country. Its germs infect the very young and its symptoms recur even in old age. Solomon nailed it 3000 years ago when he said, "No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied!" (Ecclesiastes 1:8). This last commandment is a different from the other nine in that it probes the heart and touches on our desires. It deals with what we want, not just what we do. This week and next we'll probe what is perhaps our culture's biggest problem.
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11/11/2007
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Affluenza! - Its Cure
Exodus 20:17
Skip Heitzig
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Affluenza is a highly contagious social and spiritual condition that is result of over-abundance. The cause of this malady of the soul is covetousness, the very thing the tenth commandment forbids. So what is the cure? What is the spiritual antidote to this widespread illness? It is a lifestyle of contentment--the satisfaction that God knows my needs and provides for them.
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11/18/2007
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The Eleventh Commandment
John 13:34-35
Skip Heitzig
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"Now hold on just one minute! There are only TEN commandments, not eleven!" Correct, but listen as Jesus sums up the commandments of the Old Testament with the New Testament directive of "loving one another." As believers under the New Covenant, our study of God's Top Ten would be incomplete without this authoritative addendum by the Lord Jesus Christ.
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There are 16 additional messages in this series.