What is the greatest sin in the entire Bible? Is it murder? Adultery? Homosexuality? Theft? Lying? Disobeying parents? Which is most condemned throughout both the Old and New Testament? The amazing answer is that none of these are the greatest and most heinous sin in the entire Bible. The answer: IDOLATRY.
From Genesis to Revelation, idolatry is the one overarching sin that is condemned more than any other. We see it most fully expressed in the first of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:3 God emphatically says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” In the very last verse of John’s First Epistle we find these words: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Most parents would agree with me that parenting is sometimes hard work!! Most of us never attended “Parenting for Dummies” and find ourselves clueless at times when it comes to raising our children. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul gives parents a simple charge filled with amazing implications. He writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
There are two primary commands in this passage—one negative the other positive. First of all, negatively, we as parents are not to provoke our children to anger and give them cause to be despondent or discouraged. We must be consistent in our parenting and discipline so that our children will not have to express a righteous anger at our parenting. How in the world do we do this on a consistent basis?
Let me give you seven exhortations that you as Christian parents can embrace that will help you not enrage your children.
I am thankful for our wonderful hymns of the faith that articulate the rich truths of Christianity. “There is power in the blood…” “Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die…” “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins…” “What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus…” “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…” “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died…”
Christianity is a bloody religion which focuses on the atoning death of Christ on a cruel cross for sinners who are under God’s righteous wrath. But our culture today often mocks the idea of the blood of Christ. Some liberal theologians have decried the cross of Christ as “divine child abuse”. The doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of our Lord is under vehement attack today. And yet it is one of the most crucial truths we can embrace as those who claim to be Christ-followers.
What exactly is penal substitutionary atonement?
As Americans we love to be comfortable! We don’t like to have to suffer, experience pain, or endure hardships. We want an “our best life now” where “every day is a Friday”. I remember the days of my youth where I actually had to get up from the couch and turn the knob on the television to change the channels (back when there were only about 5!)
When Christ called us to Himself in salvation, did He ever promise us that life would be comfortable?
Many of you probably have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor during World War II who was very vocal against Hitler’s Nazism and genocide against the Jews. He was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo and spent a year in a German prison awaiting his execution. He was hanged in April 1945 just 23 days before the Nazi’s surrendered. He wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship” and you’ve probably heard his famous quote: “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. … we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. … When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
As believers we need to have this truth drilled into our souls: Obedience to Christ is far more important than temporary comfort.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? In today’s Christian culture, we don’t often mention the fear of God. Yet over 300 times in the Bible, we are called to fear the Lord. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “fear” normally meant one of two things. First of all, there was the “terror-fear” of the Lord where people would quake in utter panic at the presence of the Lord.
In Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, they hide themselves in fear of the Lord. Moses in Exodus 3 would not approach the burning bush for fear of the Lord. This is the terror-fear of the Lord where sinners are confronted with their guilt and they are afraid to approach the living God.
Yet also in the Old Testament, the word for “fear” can also mean a reverent awe and submission to God which results in obedient worship. This can be characterized as the “worship-fear” of the Lord. This is illustrated in Psalm 33:8 which states, “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Again, the Psalmist addresses the worship-fear of the Lord in Psalm 103:1: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”
As believers in Jesus Christ we do not relate to God with a terror-fear, but instead, we respond with a worship-fear.
Who exactly is the Holy Spirit? There is much confusion among evangelicals today as to the role and attributes of the third Person of the Trinity. J.I. Packer writes, “So I plead: Never think or speak of the Holy Spirit in less than personal terms! My heart sinks and I wince when I hear Christians calling the third divine Person an ‘it’ instead of a ‘He’…For you cannot understand the Spirit’s ministry till you have grasped the fact of his personhood, and it is where no strong sense or clear grasp of the Spirit’s work is found that his personhood comes to be denied…Look at liberal and radical Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, Unitarianism, and Christian Science if you need proof of that.” (page 63, “Keep in Step with the Spirit, by J.I. Packer).
From the Scriptures we learn that the Holy Spirit is not an “it” nor is He an ethereal force. He is a divine Person who shares full equality and eternality with God. Allow me to offer a brief listing of the personal attributes of the Holy Spirit.
First of all, He has understanding and wisdom. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. And I wholeheartedly agree with him. There are so many things in our lives that we elevate to the position of “god” because we think those things will give us meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. And many of these things may be good things such as a spouse, family, a career, or a worthy cause. Ezekiel 14:3 says, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.”
If there is one theme that we see repeated over and over again in the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another and that idolatry represents one of the gravest of all sins. When we think about idolatry, many of us picture a pagan person worshipping a statue or bowing down to a carved image.
But for us in America, what we worship is more subtle. I want you to think about those things in your life that consume you. Those things that you are obsessively passionate about. Those things that if they were taken away, you would have great fear, dread, and major disappointment. After a close analysis, those things may have become an idol in your heart.