(* SPOILER ALERT - - material will be used for Sunday Sermon Introduction)
Satan knows something we often forget - - idolatry starts in the mind.
So he will imprint onto your mind false images of God; and there are two main ones he has people walking a tight-rope between. On one side he wants us believing that God is hard-hearted, mean & nasty: He is not for you! In Matthew 25:24 Jesus tells a parable about a man who hid his one talent in the ground, and when the master came by and asked him why, he said, “I knew you were a hard & stern man.” This is the view of God the nuns in my elementary school had me believing. Last week in my sermon, I said how as a kid I thought the purpose of church was to be ‘Miserable.’ And when you think God wants you miserable, Satan grins with pleasure. (Because he wants you to not want to be with God.)
But as we saw in Jesus’ first miracle last week, this view of God is categorically untrue. He made wine out of water, he joined in a marriage celebration, and he provided needy people with more than they could “ask for or imagine.” Hopefully, last week’s message completely destroyed that first lie in your mind? But Satan is crafty, if he can’t get you one way, he will push you completely the other way. The other side of the tight-rope is to convince you that God is a wimp: He is naïve, soft & impotent (meaning he is an old man that won’t lift a finger against our will and desires, “Ah, go ahead sonny, do whatever you want!”). Psalm 10:11-13 describes this view plainly for us: "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees."
Personally speaking, I walked this tight-rope: As I grew older I outgrew the nuns' threats of doom; and slowly without ever realizing it, my friends became the main influence on how I thought about God. Instead of associating God with Sister Joan of Arc’s ruler; my new image of God was a raised glass of green beer.
This wasn't brought to my attention until my senior year in college during St. Patrick ’s Day Weekend. In almost every student’s mind, from Thursday afternoon to Saturday Night, it was your obligation to skip class so you could participate in the plethora of St. Patrick Day parties around campus. “Green Beer was everywhere: a 20 kegger on Thursday, a 50 kegger Friday, a 25 kegger on Saturday.” If you ever wondered where the makers of the “Walking Dead” TV series got their idea, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the writers visited my college on that St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Needless to say, Sunday morning was awfully quiet around campus as people slept off their weekend of a "hops & barley headache." I can remember feeling compelled to go to church on Sunday at the campus chapel. Noon starting time allowed enough leeway for those who wanted to cover their guilt and shame to make it out of bed and arrive for mass. I was surprised because it was relatively full; as the half-awake students sat in their padded pews I will never forget what the priest said, “I know most of you are in no condition to really pay much attention so I will say a quick prayer and let you go home early.” As I looked around the chapel, students were smiling and murmuring to one another, “What a cool priest! Man, this is great, he really gets us.” As people filed out, I just sat there because one word haunted my mind: Hypocrite!
We all like nice Jesus - - but is that who Jesus really is? 2 Corinthians 11:4 hints at the idea that many false teachers use Jesus' name, but it may not be the Jesus who actually exists (mental idolatry). The Jesus the Bible describes is dangerous: He drove people out the temple when they were using God's house to make a profit. He yelled at Peter and called him "Satan" when Peter didn't want him to go to the cross and die. Jesus is coming again to earth in blazing fire flanked by his army of powerful angels (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). And...Jesus is Holy.
With that being said, we also should be holy. In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul was hypothetically speculating on what our human response should be if Jesus actually never rose from the dead. One of his answers was to "Eat Up and Drink Hearty, because we are all Doomed to Die" But Paul's whole point of chapter 15 was to persuasively argue that "Jesus did Rise from the Dead;" therefore we must live differently. He puts it like this in verses 33-34: "Do not be misled; Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God - I say this to your shame."
One last question: When Jesus made a whip out of cords, was he just foolin' around?