Take Heed Lest You Fall, Part I

In 1 Corinthians 10:12, we read, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” You know, the devil would like people to become self-secure, to feel comfortable and satisfied. The Laodicean message attempts to shake people out of that feeling. God does not have to exaggerate to do it; it is a true message. There were some churches, as you know, about which God had nothing negative to say. But the last church has a special tendency to temptation—believing that, because they know “truth” or because they have more light than people of previous ages, they somehow are “good.” But Paul has a warning, and it is, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I have always been interested in what Paul thought about himself. He said, “I am the chief of sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15.) After preaching to others, he commented, “I have to keep myself under subjection lest I should be a castaway after helping other people to be saved.” (1 Corinthians 9:27.) In another place, he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind, I press forward to those things which are ahead.” (Philippians 3:13, 14.) It is so easy for us to reach the point where we are feeling pretty good about ourselves, but Paul says, “Take heed when you think you are standing. You may think you have the truth; you may think you are in the right church; take heed, lest you fall.” You may claim to be saved, or think you are saved, or know the time and date that you were saved. You may be planning on standing with the saved, but Paul says to “take heed lest you fall.”

Who is Able to Stand?

Revelation 6:14–17 tells about some people who were standing and what is going to happen to many people who once stood: “The sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ ”

Who then is able to stand? David tells us, in Psalm 24:4, that only he who has clean hands and a pure heart. Only he, as it is told in Revelation 14, who is without fault before the throne of God, who is clothed with the robe of righteousness. We read in Revelation and in Hebrews 12:25–29 about how the earth is going to be shaken. It says, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” That is the Holy Spirit, of course. That is the Lord through His holy word. Do not refuse Him who speaks. We are told in Proverbs 28:9 that he “who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer [is] an abomination.”

At times the Lord may send people to us, and we may turn away from these people, because we think they do not come in the right spirit, or they do not say things right or do things right. Have you ever thought about the people who were swimming around the ark and all of the excuses they had for not going inside the ark? Noah was too harsh, or he was too negative, or he used the Spirit of prophecy in a wrong way. They all had their reasons, but it did not matter. They were all swimming out there with one another.

Paul warned, “Do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more [shall we not escape] if we turn away from Him who [speaks] from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, [‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’] Now this, [‘Yet once more,’] indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God [is] a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:25–29. The Bible says that everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

Rooted and Grounded

We try so hard to win souls. That is a work God has given to us. We plant the seeds, and we try to help everyone to be in heaven. We want to help our spouses, our children, our church members, our Sabbath School members, the person on the street, the person for whom we work. We want to help everyone who will listen to be in heaven. We want to help all to accept the free grace, the free gift of eternal life that Jesus has promised, but after people accept this gift, God requires them to grow and their roots have to go down deep.

Do you remember the parable that Jesus gave about sowing seeds and how some seeds sprung up quickly but they had no roots, and when the wind, the storm, and the blasting heat came, they were uprooted? They withered and were destroyed. That represents everyone who hears the word and allows other things to crowd it out and who do not become rooted and grounded. The Lord is looking for new converts. He is looking for new people who have never before heard the gospel. He is looking for children; He is looking for adults, but He wants everyone to send their roots down deep and to become rooted and grounded.

Are You Secure?

None of us are standing very secure, if we have not grown some over the last month, over the last two months, over the last year. If we are still losing our tempers, as we were a year ago, we are on shaky ground. If we are still becoming impatient, if we are still becoming irritable, if we are still falling into the same sins that we have been falling into time and time again, we are on shaky ground. We need to be overcoming; we need to be falling on the Rock and being broken. There is coming a time, before Jesus returns, when everybody who has been a Christian, but who has not been growing, is going to be shaken out of the faith.

Only those who have deep roots are going to stand. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. I have asked people, Is there anything that could get you to turn away from the Lord, anything at all in the world? Is there a sickness, a death, a discouragement, financial difficulty, or prosperity—anything that could cause you to lose your hold on the Lord? Lack of friends or good friends turning against you or rumors or character defamation or anything? Is there anything that could get you to turn away from the Lord? Are there people in whom you put great confidence that, if they turn against you or lose their faith, could cause you to lose your faith? Is there anything that could cause you to turn away from the Lord?

We may not know, of course. We may have a lot more confidence in ourselves than what the Lord has. He may see things we do not. But if there is anything that could cause you to be lost, Satan is going to try to tempt you on that point. There is coming a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and when that day comes, it will be too late to become rooted so we cannot be shaken.

Do you remember when the bridegroom came and all of the virgins awoke? (Matthew 25.) How much time did they have then to go and get extra oil? No time; it was too late. Now is the time we have—the only time we have—to be overcoming our besetting sins.

Idol Worship

Look at 1 Corinthians 10:12 and 14. It says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Paul is here writing to Christians. They were not worshipping idols anymore. It is interesting that from then until now, except for paganism and some cultures, the devil does not tempt people with literal idols anymore. The Catholic Church still has idols, and in Africa there are places with idols, but for the most part, the devil does not tempt Protestants with idols. Have you ever been tempted to kneel down and worship a graven image? I cannot ever remember being tempted in the slightest to kneel down and kiss an image’s foot or to burn incense to an image or pray to an image. Have you?

To what was Paul referring? The early Christian church never seemed to have been plagued with literal idols and images. Those things came in after they merged with paganism. It has never been a problem with most Protestants, and it did not seem to be an issue in the early Christian church. But Paul said, “Flee from idolatry.”

Are there things that we could be clinging to today that we just do not recognize as idols? If there are idols today that are tempting Christians, that they are worshipping, is it possible to hold onto those idols and to remain a Christian at the same time?

Arsenal of Temptations

Paul tells us, in the first 12 verses of 1 Corinthians 10, about the experience of the children of Israel. He says, in verses 1 and 2, “Brethren, I do not want you to be unaware”—to be ignorant—“that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized . . . .” These people were like you and me. They were set apart by baptism. They ate the same spiritual food. They heard Moses teach day after day, and they heard Joshua, and they heard Aaron. They heard the thunder from the mount. They drank the same spiritual drink, but even the literal water they drank came from that rock which represented Jesus. And they ate angel’s food, food that had such perfect nutrition they never got sick. In the wilderness, they never got sick! They had clear minds that could think spiritual thoughts; their minds were keen. They could pray clearly. They had fresh air, exercise, perfect food, and pure water, right from the Water of Life. “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for [their bodies] were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as [were] some of them. As it is written, [‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’] Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by the serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Verses 5–11.

The devil had a whole arsenal of temptations; some things worked on some people and different things worked on others. Some were caught up in games and playing; some were caught up in lusting after things that God had not given them to eat; some were caught up in sexual fantasies and immorality. Some were caught up with a lack of faith and with tempting Christ. When the manna withdrew, they began to complain and murmur. God was not well pleased with most of them.

Like Israel

We are like Israel. Israel had the truth—they had the truth. There was no doubt in their minds that they had the truth. They were there before Mount Sinai, and they heard the thunderous roar, and they heard God speak the Ten Commandments.

They did not have any question about keeping the Sabbath. The manna came six days a week, and on the sixth day, twice as much came. On the seventh day, it did not come at all. They had no problems with the Sabbath. There were a few who broke the Sabbath, but, by and large, they knew very well which day was the Sabbath. They were Sabbath keepers, and they knew it was God’s day.

There were idolaters all around who were worshipping the sun on Sunday, but the children of Israel were Sabbath keepers, and they worshiped the true God. They were not heathen as were the other people; they worshiped Jehovah. They had all the evidences; they had the gift of prophecy; they had the miracles of God all around them. They had the truth.

They were God’s children, and they knew they were God’s children. They were standing on truth, and they were going to Canaan—just like we are.

Only Two

But do you know the rest of the story? There were only two people, out of this vast number, who made it to Canaan. I think if you had told those people, after they crossed the Red Sea, that only two of them were going to make it into Canaan, they would have probably stoned you. They would have been certain that you were not telling the truth. They may have agreed that there might be a few who would fall by the wayside—but certainly the majority would make it. And if it were not a majority, it would certainly be a strong minority. But it was a very small minority—only two of God’s people—who entered the Promised Land!

Paul says, “These things were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world have come.” I believe, with all my heart—just as much as the children of Israel believed—that Seventh-day Adventist believers comprise the movement that God has raised up for the last days and that He has entrusted us with truth for the world today. I have not a single question. God has given us the Spirit of Prophecy; He has given us the truth, and we know the truth. We can always be learning more depths of truth, but we have the truth. There is not a question whatsoever in my mind which day is the Sabbath. Is there in your mind? I know which day is the Sabbath; it is as clear as can be in the Bible. I have seen the Lord work; I have seen miracles. We have the prophecies; they fit together as a hand in a glove. There can be no question on the part of the true church, and God’s true church is going through.

But we have been warned, time and time again. If we believe Ellen White is a prophet, she has warned us many times. We are warned in the Bible over and over again. In Testimonies, vol. 1, page 609, Ellen White wrote that only a very few of those who claim to be Seventh-day Adventists are going to be saved. In Testimonies, vol. 2, pages 401 and 402, she repeats the same thing. She says: “But a small number of those now professing to believe the truth would eventually be saved—not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God’s own appointed way.” Ibid., 445.


If there is one thing God wants to teach us in the Laodicean message and throughout the Bible, it is that it is not enough just to keep the law like the Jews kept it. We must be converted in our hearts. We must come to the place where we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We
must overcome our besetting sins; we must become like Jesus. We must be clothed with the robe of righteousness. We must have an individual and personal work of gaining an experience with Jesus. We must not go on day after day, week after week, year after year falling, falling, falling. We must be overcomers!

I am so thankful we have an Advocate who forgives our sins when we fall, but God wants to do more than just forgive our sins. He wants to make us overcomers. He wants us to be more than just forgiven sinners; He wants us to be people who overcome.

For Our Example

Some things that made the children of Israel fall are written as examples for us. Several things are listed in 1 Corinthians 10, but in Psalm 106, three specific things are given that aided in the fall of the children of Israel and are written for our examples.

“He [God] saved them from the hand of him who hated [them],”—that was the Egyptians—“And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.” Verses 10–12. Oh, they believed then! And they sang then; they sang His praise. They were so happy and so full of faith, but they soon, it says in verse 13, “forgot His works.” Oh, how easy it is to have a religious experience on Sabbath or during a week of prayer or during a camp meeting. But how soon, it says, they “forgot His works.”

Their minds began to be occupied with other things. “They did not wait for His counsel.” Verse 13. How many times we run ahead of the Lord! We cannot wait; we become impatient. We pray, but we are not willing to wait for God to answer our prayers. We feel we have to go on; we become irritated, and we can become upset.

Lust of Appetite

The children of Israel “lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request.” Verses 14, 15. Do you remember for what they lusted? It was not something bad, especially. They were not lusting for pig. They knew better than that; that was wrong. They were not lusting for camel or rabbits or mice; they were not lusting for snakes or alligators or crabs. They were lusting for things that God had said are good food to eat—perhaps not the best, but permissible food to eat. They lusted for quail.

The Bible presents that vegetarianism is better than meat eating, and that is true, but they were not lusting for something that was bad or unclean. Beyond that, they were lusting for other things on which, certainly, God never placed any restrictions—onions, leeks, cantaloupe, and things that they did not have out there in the desert. They began to lust for these things, things that God had not provided for them. They were probably thinking, How were they going to live on this manna? After all, did they not need to have variety in their diet?

The children of Israel decided that they could not live on just manna. As time went by, they came to loathe the manna. But God kept sending it. Do you think God would send something that was really that bad? The Bible says that it was sweet; they could fix it in a variety of ways—they could bake it; they could eat it raw. But they came to the place where they literally hated it. I do not doubt that some came to the place where they were about ready to vomit if they ate another bite. They probably thought, We have got to have something else or we are going to die! Our bodies reject this stuff, and we are growing thinner every day. If we do not get something different pretty soon, we are going to be buried here in the wilderness.

Leanness to the Soul

Well, it says that God gave them their request. But do you know what else He sent them? Continuing in Psalm 106:15, it says, He “sent leanness into their souls.” And do you know what happened? They did die in the wilderness. Every one of those people who ate the quail died in the wilderness. They all died eating perfectly good food—food that was technically permissible. I do not know that He sent them any leeks or onions, but He did send them the quail. They all died. He sent leanness to their souls.

There are people who want to know what they can eat and still squeak into heaven. They want to know what is technically and legally permissible so they would not actually be sinning or transgressing but doing what they could get by with!

Do you know what God wants us to say? “Lord, what would please You the most? I want to learn to eat such a diet that will please You the most, that my mind will be the clearest and I can serve You to the best of my ability.” God will bless that. But to the person who says, I have got to have something else, God will say, Go ahead, but you know what will come with it—leanness to the soul.

Diet was one of the shortcomings of the children of Israel. They did not eat unclean food, but they were not satisfied with what God said was the best.

Symbol of Jehovah

When Moses went up on the mountain, he was up there a lot longer than the children of Israel had anticipated. How long could it possibly take to climb up a mountain and come back down again? But he did not come back on the first day or the next, and there was thundering and lightning on the top of the mount. They thought per-haps he had been killed—struck by a bolt of lightning or something. Time went on, day after day after day, even week after week, and soon over a month of time had passed! For over a month the people had been waiting, sitting around with very little to occupy their time.

The adults as well as the children were growing restless! Can you imagine? There were no recreational activities in the desert, and it was becoming boring! What in the world was there to do?

The people went to Aaron and declared that they had to do something! As for Moses, they could not imagine what happened to him, but they could not stay stagnant forever.

“Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which [are] in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters.’ ” Exodus 32:2. Well, that was a step in reformation! “So all the people broke off the golden earrings which [were] in their ears, and brought [them] to Aaron. And he received [the gold] from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This [is] your god, O Israel.’ ” Verses 3, 4.

They believed they really were still worshipping Jehovah. As we consider some of the things the children of Israel did, we wonder how they could do such things! In this situation, they did not think that they were rejecting Jehovah. The golden calf was simply a symbol of Jehovah; that was what they had grown up with in Egypt.

In fact, today, if you talk to Catholics who worship idols, do you think any one of them would admit to worshipping an idol? They will tell you that the idols are only symbols to which they kneel down; they are not the real things. And that is what the children of Israel had, a symbol.

Verse 5 continues: “So when Aaron saw [it], he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to . . . .’ ” To whom? Was it a feast to the golden calf? Whom were they going to worship? In your Bibles, if you have a King James Version or a New King James Version, the next word, Lord, is spelled in all capital letters. What does that mean in Hebrew? Jehovah. “Let us have a feast to Jehovah!”

Do you think they had rejected Jehovah? No way! They must have figured that if they were going to enjoy themselves, at least they should do it in the name of God, and worship the Lord while doing it.

They were making great progress! They had gotten rid of their jewelry, and now they were going to have a great feast to Jehovah.

“Then they rose early on the next day,”—they could not waste any time—and “offered burnt offerings . . . .” After all, that is what God had told them to do. I want you to notice that they were following the Lord in their actions here. God had told them to offer burnt offerings, had He not? They were doing what God had said. This was a holy convocation. “And brought peace offerings;”—they needed peace offerings! All these offerings were not Egyptian offerings. The calf may have been Egyptian, but their worship was totally to Jehovah. The peace offerings were not from Egypt; the Egyptians did not have peace offerings.

To be continued . . .

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.

The Pen of Inspiration – A Lesson on Covetousness

As Jesus was departing from a certain place, a young man came to him with the inquiry, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him. If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” [Matthew 19:16–22.]

Jesus quoted to the young man five of the last six commandments, also the second great commandment, on which the last six commandments depend. These he thought he had kept. Jesus did not mention the first four commandments, which define our duty to God. In answer to the inquiry, “What lack I yet?” Jesus said to him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

Idol Revealed

Here was his lack. He failed to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Jesus touched his possessions. Said he, “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” This pointed out the young man’s idol. His love of riches was supreme; hence it was impossible for him to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind. And this supreme love for his riches shut his eyes to the wants of his fellow-men. He did not love his neighbor as himself; therefore he failed to keep the last six commandments. His heart was on his treasures, swallowed up in his earthy possessions. He loved the things of earth better than God, better than the heavenly treasure. Jesus tested him to see which he loved most, riches or eternal life. Did he eagerly lay hold of the eternal prize? Did he earnestly strive to remove the obstacle that was in the way of his having a treasure in heaven? Oh, no; “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:23, 24.]

It is God’s plan that riches should be used properly, distributed to bless the needy, and to advance the work of God. If men love their riches better than they love their fellow-men, better than they love God or the truths of his word, if their hearts are on their riches, they cannot have eternal life. Some would rather yield the truth than sell and give to the poor. Here souls are proved; and, like the rich young man, many go away sorrowful because they cannot have their riches and a treasure in heaven too. They cannot have both, and they risk their chance of eternal life for a worldly possession.

All Things Possible

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” “With God all things are possible” [Matthew 19:26]; but he will not permit the rich men to selfishly hoard their riches, and yet enter into his kingdom. Truth, set home to the heart by the Spirit of God, will crowd out the love of riches. The love of Jesus and the love of money cannot dwell in the same heart. The love of God so far surpasses the love of money that the possessor breaks away from his riches and transfers his affections to God. Through love he is then led to minister to the wants of the needy and to assist the cause of God. It is his highest pleasure to make a right disposition of his Lord’s goods. He holds all that he has as not his own, and faithfully discharges his duty as God’s steward. Then he can keep both the great commandments of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” [Matthew 22:37, 39.]

In this way it is possible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” [Matthew 19:29.] Here is the reward for those who sacrifice for God. They receive a hundredfold in this life, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Reward to Come

“But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” [Matthew 19:30.] Some who receive the truth do not live it. They cling to their possessions, and are not willing to use their means to advance the cause of God. They will not trust God’s promises. Their love of this world swallows up their faith. God calls for a portion of their substance, but they heed it not. They reason that they have labored hard to obtain what they have, and they cannot lend it to the Lord, for they may come to want. “O ye of little faith!” [Matthew 6:30.] That God who cared for Elijah in the time of famine, will not pass by one of his self-sacrificing children. He who has numbered the hairs of their head will care for them, and in days of famine they will be satisfied. While the wicked are perishing from hunger and thirst, their bread and water will be sure. Those who cling to their earthly treasure, and will not make a right disposition of that which is lent them of God, will lose the heavenly treasure, eternal life.

There was a time when there were but few who listened to and embraced the truth, and they had not much of this world’s goods. Then it was necessary for some to sell their houses and lands, and obtain cheaper, while their means were freely lent to the Lord to publish the truth, and otherwise aid in advancing the cause of God. These self-sacrificing ones endured privations; but if they endure unto the end, great will be their reward.

Sacrifice for God

God has been moving upon many hearts. The truth for which a few sacrificed so much has triumphed, and multitudes have laid hold of it. In the providence of God, those who have means have been brought into the truth, that as the work increases the wants of his cause may be met. God does not now call for the houses his people need to live in; but if those who have an abundance do not hear his voice, cut loose from the world, and sacrifice for God, he will pass them by, and will call for those who are willing to do anything for Jesus, even to sell their homes to meet the wants of the cause. God will have free-will offerings. Those who give must esteem it a privilege to do so.

Some give of their abundance, yet feel no lack. They do not practice self-denial for the cause of Christ. They give liberally and heartily, but they still have all that heart can wish. God regards it. The action and motive are strictly marked by him, and they will not lose their reward. But those who have less means must not excuse themselves because they cannot do as much as some others. Do what you can. Deny yourself of some article you can do without, and sacrifice for the cause of God. Like the poor widow, cast in your two mites. You will actually give more than all those who give of their abundance; and you will know how sweet it is to deny self, to give to the needy, to sacrifice for the truth, and to lay up treasure in heaven.

Learn Self-Denial

The young, especially young men, who profess the truth, have yet a lesson of self-denial to learn. If these made more sacrifice for the truth, they would esteem it more highly. It would affect their hearts, and purify their lives. Too often the young do not take the burden of the cause of God, or feel any responsibility in regard to it. Is it because God has excused them? Oh, no; they excuse themselves. They do not realize that they are not their own. Their strength, their time, is not their own. They are bought with a price; and unless they possess the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, they can never gain the immortal inheritance.

Said the great Teacher, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” [Matthew 6:24; Joshua 24:15.]

Review and Herald, September 16, 1884.

The Ten Commandments, Part V: Idol Worship is Bad News

As we look at the various forms of idolatry which were practiced in Old Testament times by heathen worshippers, it seems almost inconceivable that the children of Israel could be caught up in something that was so obvious a departure from God. They knew who the true God was. They had revelations of the true God; they had prophets who told them about the true God, and yet it seemed almost too easy for them to get caught up in the worship of idols. The reason they got caught up in the worship of idols is, basically, the same reason why modern Israel gets caught up in idol worship today.

Ellen White wrote: “Through deceptive means and unseen channels, Satan is working to strengthen his authority and to place obstacles in the way of God’s people, that souls may not be freed from his power and gathered under the banner of Christ. By his deceptions he is seeking to allure souls from Christ, and those who are not established upon the truth will surely be taken in his snare.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 295.

The devil’s plan for each of us is to catch us in his snare. So the Lord, in an effort to prepare us to escape the snare of the devil, pleads with us to follow the counsels that He has given to us in His Word.

“Thou shalt not make thee [any] graven image, [or] any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:8–10.

We read in these texts that God is a jealous God. In a previous article, we considered this concept of jealousy. The original Hebrew word for jealousy, qanna’, indicates the jealousy of a husband for the purity of his wife, whom he loves with an affection that will not tolerate any rival. We find that all through the Scriptures the relationship between God and His people is represented by a marriage, a pure relationship that excludes all other gods. There are to be no rivals.

God does not expect us to love only Him and ignore all of our fellow human beings, but He wants us to focus on Him as our Husband. We are His bride; He is our Husband. This is the kind of relationship, the kind of divine jealousy, which runs throughout the whole Bible. We need to understand this.

The Song of Solomon and Psalm 45, as well as other places in Scripture, allude to this marriage relationship that we are to have with God. An elaborate illustration is given in Ephesians 5 of the husband/wife relationship Christ uses to teach His people of the love He has for them.

Idolatry, then, in its final analysis, is really infidelity to the most sacred of vows—the divine marriage vow. When we are born again, when we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour, we are counted as the bride of Christ, and we are to be faithful to Him in all that we do. When we are counted as His bride, we take vows in this marriage covenant which, in reality, are the Ten Commandments. This is God’s will for us. This is what God expects us to follow. But many times we find ourselves, like many others today, having eyes that are casting about in other directions from where God would have us to look, and we become unfaithful to our marriage vow to God.

If we have the covenant relationship, the Ten Commandments, ever before us, we are going to be faithful to Him—not because we have to be, but because we love Him as God. I have never known anyone who really loved his or her spouse to be unfaithful to the marriage vow. If they really love their spouse, every other consideration dims, as they focus on that relationship, and then there is no temptation to commit adultery.

Gross and Refined Forms

The gross forms of idolatry practiced in heathen lands are practically unknown in the United States. But we do have what we would term “refined forms of idolatry.” These refined forms can be just as captivating to us as the gross forms are to the heathen.

In heathen lands, we see this gross idolatry being practiced in the forms of images, temples, shrines, and altars that are of a very imposing nature. People are captivated by the beauty of these things, and they are drawn to them. In the United States, it is slightly different. We have refined idolatry, which is probably more displeasing to God, and because we have such great light shed upon these kinds of things, we are going to be held more accountable.

In review, the second commandment tells us that we are to have no images or anything that is to be in the place of God. We have learned that idolatry is serving or worshipping the creature more than the Creator. To worship the creature does not necessarily mean to worship a living organism, but it is inclusive of everything that has been created. Whatever or whomever we love and serve more than God becomes an idol to us. We can love someone, but it is when we love him or her more than we love God that the problem occurs. I would hate to think what a husband/wife relationship would be if it was devoid of love and if it was believed, “I cannot love you, because I have to love God instead.” God tells us not to love them more, not to put them in the place of Him. Are we guilty of idolatry, as far as the divine definition is concerned?

When the apostle Paul visited the city of Athens, the Bible says that his spirit was stirred when he saw that the whole city was given over to idolatry. (Acts 17:16.) I wonder how Paul would feel if he were to walk the streets of the United States today, such as New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Would he recognize the forms of idolatry that are there, or would he just be looking for those gross forms of idolatry? Would these different forms of idolatry deceive him to the extent that he could not recognize them?

Let us look at some of the things the apostle Paul might see today, if he were on tour. Paul said, of the idolaters of his day, that they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:21, 22.

How would Paul feel if he found himself in a sports arena where, as the teams ran out onto the field, the whole crowd stood to their feet screaming and yelling for them? Would he recognize this as a form of idolatry? Certainly it can become a form of idolatry.

How would he feel if he found himself at a rock concert? Many people today think nothing of a rock concert. When they started gaining popularity in the 1960s, people were appalled by what they saw. Now, when rock concerts are advertised, they just gather a protracted yawn from most people. Yet, when you consider what transpires at a rock concert, as far as the performers are concerned, is this, indeed, not a form of idolatry? Billions of dollars are spent annually to gather the music as a shrine, so it can be played over and over again.

What about movie stars? As they parade out on stage to receive their trophies at the annual awards shows, to the applause and cheering of the audience, would Paul recognize this as idolatry? Do we recognize some of these things as a violation of the commandment that says we should not bow down to these kinds of idols?

Those are some of the more obvious ones, but what about the marvelous discoveries of modern science that have increased the worship of the works of man? In this age of invention and discovery and scientific progress, we find that these categories can open up a violation of this commandment, when we see the exaltation and the deification of human achievements that present a god before which millions bow in reverence and admiration.

No longer do we need to depend upon God for life, health, or happiness. Are you growing old? Are you wearing out? Modern techniques of medicine can fix you up better than new. Do you need a new hipbone? Well, one can be put in that will last almost forever. What about a new lung? A new heart? Medical specialists can even give you a new heart, and we fall down and serve the creature rather than the Creator, in exalting medical technology.

But who is really responsible for all of the progress for which man takes credit? The Creator seems to stand humbly in the wings while the creature takes the bow on center stage.

Worship of Self

Although I have read 11 Timothy 3:1 many, many times, I present it now in an effort to bring this into a context in which we can understand the dangers that we face in light of this second commandment. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”

Often, people have the idea that these perilous times are referring to wars and rumors of wars. That is not what it is talking about. This is the thesis sentence of what is to follow, and Paul very specifically tells Timothy what those perilous times are all about: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves . . . .” In other words, there is going to be extreme selfishness. Self is all that is being considered.

“Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous [desiring what belongs to someone else], boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Verses 2–4. Do you suppose that is idolatry? “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Verse 5.

This is a graphic description of idolatry. Every one of these words and phrases fall into a category of idolatry—worship of self. Probably one of the greatest problems we face today is coming into contact with people who are so selfish. I would much rather be in Iraq, feeling my way along through mine wires, than to be in a setting where all that is mentioned in these texts are present. You might be able to make it through the minefield, but you may not be able to make it through this minefield of idolatry.

Many marriages today fail, or are failing, because of the worship of self. Instead of the marriage relationship being that of total giving, it has become a total getting experience. “What can I get out of this relationship?” is usually the question being asked, rather than, “What can I give to this relationship?”

There is probably nothing more responsible for this than the modern media—music, films, and all the rest. What can I get out of this relationship? It is this concept that is pounded into the minds of young people today. It is a philosophy that comes directly from the headquarters of evil.

Christ is not able to find any corner to stand in or any chair to sit down on, in those whose hearts are filled with self, and unless Christ is the center of the marriage, it will become a “getting for self” experience rather than a “giving experience.” How wrong is this kind of philosophy!

Selfishness is a malicious ruler. It cannot be satisfied through simple appeasement. It clamors for more and still more, and the person who worships self is not even aware, many times, of the terrible dangers and eternal consequences that come through this kind of sin. If you look at the Law of God and make application of the second commandment, self dies, and Christ takes up residence.

We know that Jesus is the very embodiment of humility. On the opposite extreme, selfishness is the very spirit of the satanic. Indeed, I can say that perilous times have come upon our generation in the fulfillment of this Bible text.

Antidote for Selfishness

According to the Spirit of Prophecy, one of the greatest antidotes for the disease of selfishness is to work for the salvation of others. (See Review and Herald, August 16, 1881; December 10, 1901.) And, yet, this too can become a deception. If we think that we want to guard ourselves against selfishness by going out to work for others, we need to make sure that we have the right motive. If we do not have the right motive, it can turn into a system of works for self’s sake.


Self can center its expression in fashion. Fashion, in its broadest sense, embraces idolatry. The word fashion means to conform to the prevailing modes, practices, and customs of the world.

We need to have more education with concern to fashion. I mean this in a loving way, but some Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians—and even historic Seventh-day Adventists—take the counsel relative to fashion and interpret it to mean that they have to go about looking like scarecrows! They think they have to dress like one in order to avoid being fashionable. We are made in His image, and God does not intend for us to look like scarecrows. We will scare everyone away to whom we are trying to witness if we look like that!

Fashion can become an idol when the thoughts and the intents are: How can I be like the world? How can I acclimate myself to all the customs and the traditions and the dress and the ornamentation of the world? This can, but does not need to, become an idol. You can look representative; you can look modest; you can have a pure deportment, but that does not mean that you are being fashionable. Let us make sure that we have a right understanding of what it means to be dressed as a Christian versus what it means to look like a scarecrow. We have to be able to know the difference, so we can rightly represent the Lord in all of this.

Worship of Others

Along with the worship of self comes the worship of others. For instance, there are many parents who make gods of their children. This is an area about which we must be very careful. Our children are never to become idols of worship to us, but there are many people who devote their lives, as parents, serving and obeying their children. In these homes, the children are indulged and pampered and defended until they become so self-centered and such bigots that they expect everybody to bow down to their every whim and to their every wish. You know them, and I know them. Where does it all start? It starts in the home where the children are made an idol of worship.

It is a travesty that children are allowed to control what happens in a home. The home is where the parents are to be in control and where the children are to be obedient to their parents. I have never read in the Bible or in the Spirit of Prophecy where parents are to be obedient to their children and are to honor them. It is the other way around. The children are to obey and honor their parents.

People can worship other people, and this is a form of idolatry. This is one of the reasons why the Lord Jesus stated, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37. This revolves around the second commandment concept.

Can we love father and mother? Yes, we can. Can we love son and daughter? Yes, we can, but this love must be kept in its proper perspective.

Lovers of Pleasure

Paul mentions, in his list, those who, in the last days, are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. What would he say today if he could see the advertising in the United States which seems entirely directed toward making us lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? Professed Christians spend more time and money in the shrine of pleasure than they do in the house of God and at the altar of prayer. In this pleasure-mad age, thousands of people live only to satisfy their cravings for fun and frolic.

In the parable of the sower, the pleasures of this life are said to be thorns that cause the seed to become unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22.) Where, on any given day, do you suppose you would find most people if they had to choose between missionary work and play? What would most of them be doing? You would probably find most of them at play.

Is there anything wrong with taking time to play? No. It is not my intent to take away anyone’s playtime, but we need to make sure that we have things in their proper perspectives.

The kind of recreation, inspiration tells us, in which a Christian should participate is that which is of a quality that recreates the body and the mind. “There are modes of recreation which are highly beneficial to both mind and body. An enlightened, discriminating mind will find abundant means for entertainment and diversion, from sources not only innocent, but instructive. Recreation in the open air, the contemplation of the works of God in nature, will be of the highest benefit.” The Adventist Home, 496. “Recreation, when true to its name, re-creation, tends to strengthen and build up. Calling us aside from our ordinary cares and occupations, it affords refreshment for mind and body and thus enables us to return with new vigor to the earnest work of life.” Ibid., 512. This is what recreation or re-creation is all about. Unless it does this, it should not be labeled as recreation.

Perverted Appetite

One of the other plagues of idolatry can be found in perverted and uncontrolled appetite. Paul identifies this area, which is part of the refined idolatry of the day: “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” Philippians 3:18, 19.

The idolatry of appetite embraces, in its broadest application, all the appetites of the flesh. There are many people today—thousands, perhaps millions—who live to eat rather than eat to live. This is one of the reasons why many Americans experience such poor health. On every business street corner and even into suburbia, we find restaurants appealing to the appetites of the people.

There is nothing wrong with eating. I enjoy eating, but there are people who make eating the center of their lives. Many belong to supper clubs where the supposed finest cuisine is served—most of which should never be consumed.

Eating and drinking, as a means of health and strength, should be practiced by every Christian, but eating and drinking as an end in itself is a foolish, dangerous, and deadly practice. It is legitimate to satisfy a normal, temperate appetite, and doing so should be pleasurable.

The Lord has given us a tremendous amount of counsel concerning proper eating and drinking—not only from the standpoint of health but also from the standpoint that if this is a pleasure that has taken the place of God, then it is in violation of the second commandment.


Another idol that is worshipped today is the goddess of sensuality. There is no question in my mind that we have arrived at the anti-type of the days of Noah when the earth was destroyed with the flood—the time when the earth was so corrupt before God that every imagination, every thought, and every intent of the heart was only evil continually.

As we read, in the second commandment, the Lord will punish generation after generation after generation who hate Him and are not following His commandments. This does not mean that God is going to punish children for the sins of their parents. Ezekiel 18 is very, very clear about that. But what it does tell us is that there is a proliferation from one generation to another of the traits and the characteristics of the former generation. Just by virtue of beholding, we become changed into that which we behold.

We must make sure that we are always following the Lord and not following the dictates of the household, if they are different from what the Lord has instructed us. It is an unfailing rule of justice that the iniquities of parents are visited upon their children if they follow their footsteps.

Think about that for a moment. Parents’ ideas of religion are usually accepted by their children. This can be a sobering thought. We would wish that it would be wholly positive, but it can be just the opposite, if the parents’ ideas of religion are skewed.

The parents who say they will let their child decide what religion he or she wants to practice when he or she grows up, will usually find that their child will reflect their philosophy. Ultimately, no one is saved. The parents are lost, and the child is lost, because neither has a definite belief regarding the Saviour.

How do you worship God in your home? Is it consistent? Is it spiritual? Is sin rebuked, or is it condoned? Whatever attitude you are fostering is the attitude with which your children will grow up, whether you realize it or not.

The law that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” proves true every time. Proverbs 22:6. But there is a contrast. Sin is visited unto the third and forth generations (Exodus 34:7), but the contrast is greater than the sin. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20. Notice what the commandment says: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9, 10. In other words, sin is visited unto the third and fourth generations, but the reward of obedience reaches to a thousand generations. I like this positive aspect that, if we are serving the Lord, these effects can be felt right on down through generations to come. Sin will eventually run its course; it will become extinct, but virtue and loyalty and righteousness will never, ever die. Obedience to God’s Law, both moral and those that involve our well-being, brings a rich reward in character and happiness.

“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he [is] God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” Deuteron-omy 7:9. There is a limit to God’s wrath that will be poured out upon the sins of the third and fourth generations, but a thousand generations beyond that will experience His love and His mercy. His mercy reaches far beyond His wrath.

What is Permissible

We could go on about the prohibitions of image worship or idolatry, but let us look at one image that it is permissible to worship. This image of worship is not only permitted, but it is actually commanded as the only means of salvation.

Because the Father knew that it would be difficult for man to worship an invisible God, He sent His Son into the world to become Emmanuel—God with us. The incarnation of Jesus, as the Son of God, was God manifest in the flesh. Christ was declared to be the very image of the invisible God. (Colos-sians 1:15.) His character is described, and it is that which is promised to be reproduced in us as we worship Him. By beholding Christ, we become changed into His image. (11 Corinthians 3:18.) We must learn of His attributes, His character, His love, His long-suffering, and incorporate these into ourselves by beholding His image. This is the only acceptable image worship, because it is all righteousness.

The chief ambition of every Christian should be to worship the only true image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ, and have His character likeness reproduced in his or her life. This form of worship is not idolatry. It is Christianity.

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” 1 Corin-thians 3:18. We have a tendency, as human beings, to think that our wisdom is okay if it centers upon the things of the world to the neglect of Christ. But we have become fools, if that is the case. We need to understand that there is a God in heaven Who has commanded us, Who expects us to respond to His command, and that by beholding Him, we can become changed into His likeness. That is where true wisdom is found. The rest is all foolishness. Solomon called it vanity: “Vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2.

The only responsibility of human beings is to “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. May that be our vow to God, and may we be determined to serve Him to the end.

To be continued December 2005 . . .

A retired minister of the gospel, Pastor Mike Baugher may be contacted by e-mail at : landmarks@stepstolife.org.

The Ten Commandments, Part III: Idol Worship is Bad News

According to what God has told us, upon the Ten Commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Testimonies, vol. 2, 43.) So all instruction really emanates from His Word, His Law, His character, and His love. We need to gather the principles contained in His Law and then apply them to our lives that we might not sin against Him.

The Second Commandment

“Thou shalt not make thee [any] graven image, [or] any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me, And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:8–10.

The first commandment is very short and to the point. The second commandment is a bit longer, but the first and the second commandments are closely related in that they both prohibit idolatry and false worship. There are, nevertheless, very distinct differences between them. Let us take a look at some of these differences.


The first commandment deals with the question of Who is the true God. The second commandment deals with how the true God is to be worshipped. The second is not a repetition of the first, as some would have us to believe. As we look at Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican catechisms, we see that the second commandment is removed or, with very small type, is included under the first. Then the second commandment is given as, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” The third commandment is given as, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” And the tenth commandment is divided in half to fill the void.

The distinction between the first and second commandments is as much as that which exists between any of the other ten. The first commandment reveals the object of true worship. It tells us Who alone must be worshipped. The second tells us how He must be worshipped or how He must not be worshipped. The first prohibits the worship of false gods; the second forbids false forms of worship.

No Tinkering

Ellen White tells us, “The Lord has not placed before one individual the trade of becoming a church tinker.” Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, 40. With what should we not tinker? We should not tinker with the form of worship! Is it tinkering because we are not following a certain kind of liturgy, or is it speaking to greater principles than this? I think that it is speaking to greater principles. When we are counseled to not tinker with the form of worship, it involves the fact that the attention is not to be given to those who are directing the worship but rather to the One who is the object of the worship.

In the early years of my ministry, I attended, at my cousin’s invitation, a special musical program in a Nazarene church. During the program, I noticed one individual, a gentleman, who seemed particularly enraptured with the presentation.

The musical presentation was followed by the “Ministry of the Word,” but at the conclusion of the music, this man left. He had no interest in the preaching. He only wanted the “high,” the sensuous emotion that the music had apparently given him. He did not have any further interest in hearing the Word.

We can tinker with worship to the extent that it becomes almost a sensuous experience; we become wrapped up in all the choreography and the details of the presentation and forget Whom it is we have come to worship. Such are the kinds of things to which this commandment speaks.

The first commandment deals with our conception of God. The second commandment addresses our external acts as manifested in worship. It directs against the false worship of the true God. He must not be worshipped through idols or images—visible manifestations to represent the diety.

Negative Implies a Positive

We must not think that the Ten Commandments are wholly negative. Many of them begin with “Thou shalt not,” and there is a tendency for us to bristle just a little, because we do not like to be told what not to do. This is part of our sinful, fallen, human nature. Yet, we perceive a negative aspect to the second commandment, because it leaves more of a negative impression upon our minds than it does a positive. This is, again, a result of human nature.

There are many things that we accept being told to do, but there are very few things that we enjoy being told not to do. However, if we are told not to worship in a certain way, it is because there is a positive way in which to worship. The negative command, “You shall not,” always implies the positive command, “You shall.” Sin forbidden indicates righteousness commanded. “You shall have no other gods before Me,” implies the command, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only should you serve.” (Matthew 4:10.)

Internal Belief/External Acts

Both the internal belief and the external acts are involved in worship. These are distinguished by the first two commandments. The outward acts of worship reveal the thoughts and the intents of the heart. Outward acts are fruits; they are one of the things we can judge. We cannot judge the intents of the heart, but the intents of the heart are usually revealed in the outward actions. This is where a lot of people get into trouble. They do not want to be judged, but they present themselves before people in such a way that there is nothing else that can take place, because we are called to be fruit inspectors and to judge from that standpoint. As a man thinks in his heart, so is his conduct. (Proverbs 23:7.)

False or True

The distinction between false gods or false forms of worship needs to be recognized, because, as fallen human beings, we can very easily be caught up in worshipping idols and things along with or in place of the true God.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He told her that “the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” John 4:23.

This is a positive aspect of the second commandment. True worship is far more than religious forms and ceremonies. This is one of the principles of this commandment that we need to consider.

True worship can become perverted and degraded by those who are occupied with the externals and substitute them for the spiritual experience. This is one of the problems with churches which apparently feel that the louder the noise and the more physical movement that occurs, the more they are worshipping God.

One of the reasons many Seventh-day Adventists are worshipping independently of the organized church is because of the inroads the celebration movement has made into Adventism. This is one of the reasons I am no longer employed by the organized conference.

A Stand for True Worship

I had preached a sermon about the celebration movement and the inroads it was making into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Shortly thereafter, the local conference academy wished to sponsor a rock radio station on its campus. Some of the church members, who knew my stand on the matter, asked if I would accompany them to talk with the conference leadership concerning this station.

We prepared a packet of materials that outlined Christian standards of music and sent a copy to each member of the Conference Committee 30 days before the scheduled meeting. They laughed us to scorn in the meeting.

The church members decided they were going to see to it that this issue was put on the agenda for the constituency meeting, which was to be held in three months. At the appointed time, I was the only pastor who stood before the assembled constituents and spoke against the music that would be played on the campus of the academy by this proposed radio station.

In the three months following this meeting, the little conference of 6,000 members missed its budget by $150,000. The leadership sent out a letter, inquiring whether any of the pastors knew why the giving had diminished so drastically. Upon receipt of that letter, my wife and I drove to the conference office and said, “You have asked a question; we have an answer.” We told them what we felt the answer was, and they again laughed us to scorn and declared, “It could not possibly be.”

A few months later, the conference president called me to his office and told me he would like to discuss my new responsibilities. I had been in my current church district for seven years, and I knew it was getting close to the time to move to another district. We did not think we would be moved clear out, but we were. The conference president said, “We have four positions which must be cut because of the finances. One pastor has taken a call to another conference; one has retired; one has gone back to Andrews University. This leaves one more position, and that is yours.” If I was in trouble, it was because I stood for principle on issues, not because I was involved in moral problems or other personality difficulties.

As far as I was concerned, this change was fine. God had called me to ministry, so my wife and I started an independent ministry. We have continued in the Lord’s work ever since.

Forbidden Images

The second commandment, as given to the Israelites, forbids the making of images or any likenesses of any created object in heaven or earth for the purpose of worship. There are people who believe that this commandment forbids photographs—pictures of Jesus or relatives or anything of that nature. They say that such pictures are graven images. They do not believe we should display these things in our homes, because the commandment forbids it. Well, the commandment does not forbid this kind of thing. If indeed such was the case, then Moses, when commanded by the Lord, shortly after this commandment was given, to embroider figures of angels, to be placed in the Sanctuary to beautify it, was under divine injunction to transgress this commandment!

The principle of this commandment centers on worship. If you have created a shrine, where you bow down and worship, and the shrine includes a photograph of someone you adore and worship, then yes, this is wrong, and the second commandment addresses that. Memory’s hall, where we have photographs and pictures of loved ones, has nothing whatsoever to do with this principle.

Anything in the Heavens

Many people interpret “Thou shalt not make . . . any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above” as not making a picture of Jesus. After all, He is in heaven above. But let me just ask you a question: Are we to worship Jesus? Absolutely! This commandment is not forbidding the worship of Jesus. (Although, as presented previously, it does forbid worshipping a graven image of Jesus.) He certainly is worthy to be worshipped.

This commandment is referring to the planets in the heavens above us, to which people have attributed the status of gods. People have bowed down and worshipped Venus, Mars, and the sun. The Lord tells us that we should not worship these heavenly bodies or make any graven images of them. Neither should we worship angels, which are in heaven. They are not worthy of worship. (See Revelation 22:8, 9.)

Dead gods are not worthy of worship. Let us be honest; there are dead gods. They were known and called such, but they were believed to have immortal souls. We are forbidden to make graven images for the worship of these gods.

The second commandment is a prohibition against the worship of the work of our hands.

In Place of God

An idol is any creature or created thing put in the place of God. Idolatry is creature worship rather than Creator worship. Of all the forms of idolatry, the most degraded and senseless is the worship of the mere image of the genuine.

Think about this for a moment. Man is always superior to that which he makes, and in worshipping the works of his own hands, he is worshipping that which is inferior to himself. If you fashion a little doll or an image—perhaps a statue of the Virgin Mary—it is something crafted by your hands. It has no life or energy. It cannot help you. It is actually beneath you. It would be one thing to worship a living human being who is on your same level, but it is altogether different to worship something which is beneath you.

Image worship is even worse than the worship of what God has made, because what God has made has at least come from His hand. Image worship is the worship of something from the hand of man.

Heathen Gods

When the law was given to the children of Israel at Sinai, they had just been delivered from a country where some of the worst forms of idolatry had been practiced. They were on their way to a land that was equally corrupt. The chief gods, which the Egyptians worshipped, were the likenesses of Osiris and his wife, Isis. Osiris was known as the god of the dead. All heathen gods were men and women who, after their deaths, were deified and worshipped. In many places, they are still worshipped.

In Egypt, along with the worship of human forms, the people also worshipped the ox, heifer, stork, crane, hawk, crocodile, serpent, frog, and fish of the Nile. Every living thing was a god, and a god was in everything. This was a form of pantheism.

As far back as can be traced, the worship of all pagan deities originated with the worship of dead men and dead women. The Bible speaks very plainly concerning the worship of the dead and the familiar spirits of the dead. Do not seek after those that peep and mutter, the Bible says. (Isaiah 8:19.) (See also Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10–12.)

All graven images of worship usually represent dead heroes, ancestors, or, as we find in modern forms of this idolatrous worship, the saints and the Virgin Mary. Interestingly, in the Catholic structure, a person does not become a saint until he or she is dead.

Immortality of the Soul

This commandment forbids the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. If it were understood correctly, there would never be the concept of the immortality of the soul.

Can you see why, on the Ten Commandments hang all the law and the prophets? Immortality is not spoken of in the Ten Commandments, yet the foundation of it is found there. This is why it is never to be entertained as a doctrine, because the second commandment forbids the consideration of the immortality of the soul. Only God is immortal. To represent God, an image must represent someone who is immortal as well.

In the book, The Origin of Pagan Idolatry (A. J. Halry, London, 1816), the author, George S. Faber, states that the gods were holy men and the sun, moon, and stars were regarded as intelligences, because they were the abode of deified men. The gods were the souls of men who were afterwards worshipped by their posterity on account of their extraordinary virtues.

Since the dead are unconscious and know not anything and have nothing whatsoever to do with anything that is done under the sun, pretended spirits of the dead are really the spirits of devils or evil angels impersonating the dead for the purpose of deception. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) The worship of idols constitutes demon worship and is so designated in the Scriptures.

The Great Apostasy

Idol worship denigrates the idea of worshipping God to the level of worshipping goats and devils. What an abomination to our Creator!

Idolatry is Satan’s effort to substantiate the lie to Adam and to Eve when he said, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day that you eat of this tree, then your eyes will be opened, and you will be as gods.” (Genesis 3:4, 5.)

The great apostasy, or falling away, which was mentioned by the apostle Paul during the early Christian centuries, was a return to heathen idolatry under the disguise of a Christian exterior. The apostles were scarcely dead before the early Christians began to make images of them to venerate the relics of apostolic days. The apostasy ripened into its full fruitage between the fourth and the eighth centuries.

Edward Gibbon, in his book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (reprinted by Allen Lane The Penguin Press, London, 1994), wrote that the sublime and simple theology of primitive Christians was gradually corrupted and the monarchy of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology which tended to restore the reign of polytheism, the worship of many gods.

At the first, the experiment was made with caution. As the church leadership began to bring this practice in, they did it very carefully at first, because they did not know what the reaction of the people was going to be. The venerable pictures of saints and martyrs were discretely allowed, and before the end of the sixth century, these images were the object of worship and the instruments of miracles. By the beginning of the eighth century, the more timorous Greeks were awakened by an apprehension that, under the mask of Christianity, they had restored the religion of their fathers.

Temporal or Eternal

It is so much easier to be carnal than spiritual! This explains the general demand for ritualism on the part of unspiritual people. They seem to feel that a great outward show of religion makes up for the lack of an inward experience. This is one of the things commanding the attention of human beings today, especially in the area of fashion. The less spiritual experience a person has, the more they are drawn into the field of fashion. They do not seem to realize that these “things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.” 11 Corinthians 4:18. This is why, “The just shall live by faith,” not by sight. Galatians 3:11. (See also 11 Corinthians 5:7.)

The most lasting and valuable things of life are invisible. Love, joy, peace, righteousness, and character cannot be seen, yet they are more precious and eternal than all the things that are visible to the naked eye.

To be continued . . .

Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by e-mail at: mikebaugher@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.