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Posted in: Growth, Know God, Grow Together

10.12.22 ( Jeff Vines )

Counterfeit Gods

(Excerpt from the sermon)

Sermon Series: Heart Check

We defined happiness as the feeling of pleasurable satisfaction. In other words, we were happy making money because it meant we could move from one happiness fix to the next. Movies, recreation, vacation, eating out, all of those things, all of which are gifts from God. But Satan turns them on their head and makes euphoria the ultimate goal. So now we come to the present generation, the 20-somethings, and suddenly you're absolutely governed and controlled by the feeling of happiness. So we have an entire generation quitting their jobs because it doesn't feel good. Now, that can be honorable if you're in a work or in a job that does not honor your gifts and abilities, I understand that. However, if your primary motive in the decisions that you make is happiness or pleasurable satisfaction, you'll never feel a sense of obligation or duty to anything.

This is not the first generation to seek euphoria, drinking wine and having sex felt good to the Romans. Ultimately though it ended up destroying the family unit and brought down an empire. God created you to experience happiness in euphoria. It's okay to desire that, but that's the reason God created worship. Worship is not something God needs and therefore requires you to do it. Worship is something that he knows you need. Only Jesus is big enough to feel the void in your heart and soul. He grants you a pleasurable satisfaction because it's rooted in rumors of another world, something that is beyond, something that connects with the transcendent, a spiritual euphoria. That's why William Temple Archbishop said, "for worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness, the nourishment of mind with his truth, the purifying of the imagination by his beauty, the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose. And all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable." A life of worship, you're gonna worship something. That's why the Greek gods were so successful. That's why they were so successful in getting people to worship the emperor. You're gonna worship something, you're gonna seek euphoria, you're gonna seek the transcendent. But don't you think it's wise to seek something that is eternal, not made with hands?

Yes, you can worship alone in your closet, but ladies and gentlemen, please hear me. All through the Old and New Testament, God moved in the congregation and the sanctuary. The euphoria that you're looking for is not found in moving from happiness fix to happiness fix. It's found on the other side of obedience, which always leads to worship. Has the light come on yet? I don't know how many times I've put this passage before you, has the light turned on yet? Cause I'm going to repeat it until it does, and it's when Moses asked God, “How do I know you'll be with me?” And God said, “This is the sign that you will have that I did send you, that I called you.” He says, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on the mountain.” In other words, Moses, when you obey me and do what I've asked you to do, you're going to be so elated, you're gonna be filled with a sense of euphoria and worship. You're going to stand on the mountain and praise my name.

Are you bored? How's your worship? Do you feel numb? How's your worship? You want a heart check. Do you have a heart of gratitude for what you do have? Not displeased for what you don't? Do you sense a dependency on God? You are grateful for his gifts, but ultimately your hope isn’t in him. Is there ongoing repentance in your life and an acknowledgment that you need people, community, and others to be able to continue to say no to the counterfeit god that Satan offers that is meant to destroy the people of God. Satan understands the power of worship. So he offers you counterfeit gods of money, sex, power, recreation, and luxury. They're good. All those are good things, but they're not to be worshiped. Worship them, they'll destroy your soul and they'll also destroy your life, your relationships, your family, and your community.

Then finally, the most powerful counterfeit god of our time is identity, a counterfeit identity. Now stay with me. Have you ever heard of the Tower of Pisa? It's in Italy, and it's known around the world for its unintentional tilt. The project was flawed from the beginning because the foundation when it was built was only three meters deep and the subsoil all around it was weak and unstable. In the 1990s, engineers were afraid it was gonna collapse. They made an attempt to straighten the tower by one in one-half degrees and it worked... for a while. But you soon learn the lesson, if you don't start well you have a hard time finishing well. So, when it comes to identity, who we really are, the Bible says that if you don't begin with a doctrine of sin, you will build your life on false assumptions. Your true identity. If you are a Christ follower (this is not up for discussion), your true identity is you are made in the image of Christ, but you have a fallen nature and we are all sinners.

If that offends you as a secular person, I can understand to some degree because the gospel is offensive. But if that offends you as a Christ follower, you've been taken in by the counterfeit. You're made in the image of God, but you have a fallen nature and it happens from day one. Paul said, "I am the chief of all sinners. Yes, I've been created in the image of God, but the moment I was born, I had a disposition towards self and flesh and away from God and the spirit." Parents, can I give you some... well, it's kind of good news and bad news. Some of you, parents, beat yourself up. Can I just tell you, your children struggle with sin, not because of the fact they may have had improper upbringing? They struggle with sin because they're sinners. Adam and Eve had perfect parents, God the Father, God, that's on God, the Holy Spirit, and they still rebelled.

God tells you that you are created in his image, but tainted by the fall and the sinful nature. Now, I love my grandchildren. I would die for them, but they have a predisposition toward the wrong thing. Otherwise, why do we have to teach our children to share? Why do we have to teach our children, don't beat up their brothers? Why do we have to teach our children to wait their turn? Because there is the fall of man, the predisposition toward that which is not good. But Satan comes along and offers a counterfeit claim. He says, “You are created in God's image and therefore everything you feel and do is right.” Therefore, if something is innate, it must be righteous, but Jesus teaches that just because something is innate does not mean it's permissible. He says, “No, you have to be born again.” You have to put off the desires of the flesh and live according to the spirit. So when it comes to the sin of our time and our generation, when it comes to sexual sin and identity, Satan and the world that lies under his sway say, “You were born that way.” But again, Jesus says “You must be born again.”

The reality is we're all sinners, Don't mistake the reality. Don't think that because I've mentioned sexual identity and sins quite a few times over the last year, that somehow that's worse than the sin I have in my life. We all have it, but I have never given into any kind of temptation in my life where it brought life, on the contrary, it always brings death. The counterfeit identity that Satan offers is this, “You're not who you are. God's creation. You are what you are. Your identity is not in who made you, but in what you identify as.”

Straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, whatever it is, your identity, Satan, tells you, is wrapped up in your sexuality and since you are created in the image of God, everything is permissible. Sex is the counterfeit god of this age. It promises euphoria, but outside godly parameters, it brings anger, frustration, hopelessness, alienation, and severe identity crisis that ushers in an unparalleled anxiety and depression. You may ask, “Pastor Jeff, why do you keep talking about this? I mean, we went a few weeks, and here you are again,” it is because I love you. “It doesn't sound like love to me.” Well, let me calm down a bit. I know of no sin that I struggle with in my own life that when acted upon, brings life to me. This is not just a message for the gay or transgender community. It's for every single one of us. We are all sinners and we must be born again.

Be careful how you respond to someone that you think whose sin is worse than yours. We all have it. We are all sinners, and the calling on our life is to start over. Renounce the desires of the flesh that came as a result of the fall, and run from the counterfeit identity Satan offers you. It will not bring life. Your identity is in Christ. You are loved more than you could ever imagine. Forgiven more than you could ever see, but make no mistake, a heart given to Jesus submits to Christ and finds purpose, meaning, and ultimate identity in walking with Jesus through the struggles of our lives in a fallen world.


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About the Author
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Pastor Jeff Vines is the Lead Pastor of ONE&ALL Church. He spent twenty years on the mission field (Zimbabwe, New Zealand) planting churches and training leaders. Jeff is the author of Dinner with SKEPTICS: Defending God in a World that Makes No Sense (2008, 2011) and Unbroken: 8 Enduring Promises God Will Keep (2012). Jeff and his wife, Robin, have been married over 30 years and enjoy life with their kids Delaney & Sian, their daughter-in-law Jessica and sweet grandchildren Ada & Owen.

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