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Sunday, October 31, 2010 am            Return to Sermons 

 ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES

                 Every once in awhile, we will hear commercials which challenge us to “accept no substitutes.”  The premise of such ads to encourage the consumer to consider the original item instead of some “knock-off” or generic brand in its place.  The implication is if you go with the “substitute” you will be settling for something inferior. 

                In life, there are times when a substitute is fine.  There are many instances where I am just as satisfied with the generic item (and I save money as well), as I would be with the name brand.  On the other hand, there are times when only the “real thing” will do.  For example, when it comes to buying replacement parts for your automobile, you have to weigh whether to buy the “dealer item” (i.e. “genuine Ford parts”) or a manufactured after market part.  Both options have their strengths and weaknesses.  You have to make a decision based upon your needs.

                Another example of a substitute that comes to my mind is “sugar substitutes”.  In this case the substitute is intended to provide  a desired sensation (sweetness) but avoid the undesirable result (calories).  So in essence you could say that even though you are on a diet, you can have your cake and eat it too – all thanks to sugar substitutes (and then you get to pick which one you want).

                In life, such substitutes might be perfectly acceptable, BUT are substitutes acceptable when it comes to serving God?  In our lesson this morning we want to notice some examples in scripture of individuals who tried to offer substitutes to God and note how they were unacceptable.  THEN we want to make some applications where substitutes are offered to God today.

 I.                    Substitutes in the Bible

a.        Cain offered a substitute – Gen. 4:4-8.  Cain offered to God an offering of the fruit of the ground.  We know from this text God had given some instructions which Abel followed correctly and what Cain offered was a substitute instead of following it.  God rejected his offering.   Sadly, rather than repenting, Cain became angry and killed his brother, Abel.  This became a curse to him.

b.       Abram and Sarai offered a substitute – Gen. 16:1-4 record’s Sarai offering her maidservant, Hagar, to provide offspring as promised by the Lord.   However, it was NOT what God had promised.  In reality, with good intentions at first, they were trying to help God (i.e. proper motives, etc.).  BUT God didn’t need their help and didn’t ask for it.  Their “help” was actually wrong and it resulted in untold difficulties for their descendents in the centuries to come.  Immediately there was jealousy and strife.  And throughout history, Israel had to deal with the descendants of Ishmael (he had 12 sons who became princes – Gen 25:13-16).  It is generally agreed that the Arabian nations are descendents of Ishmael (also the Islamic nations).    His daughter, Basemath, would marry Esau (Gen. 36:2-3) and become father of the Edomites (Gen. 36:9).

c.        Nadab & Abihu offered substitute fire – Leviticus 10:1-3.  They were sons of Aaron.  Nadab was his oldest son, and probably first in line to become High Priest.  But on one occasion, they offered a substitute for the required fire for burning incense and sacrifices.  Because of this, what they offered was described as “profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commended them.”  (vs. 1)They were burned to death right there before the Lord. 

d.       King Saul offered a substitute sacrifice – 1 Samuel 13 records an occasion when Saul was king of Israel.   They were engaged in conflict against the Philistines.  Before going to war, Israel awaited at Gilgal for the prophet Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice on their behalf.  When Samuel did not come in the allotted time (7 days), Saul offered burnt and peace offerings to God.  It was a substitute for what God permitted (only Levites could offer these sacrifices).  As soon as he finished offering the sacrifice, Samuel appeared and rebuked Saul (vs. 11-14).  Note how in vs. 13 Samuel said, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you.”  As a result of Saul’s sin, he was told his kingdom would not continue (for generations).

e.       Jeroboam offered a substitute place for the worship God demanded of Israel – 1 Kings 12:23-33 describes Jeroboam, king of Northern Israel (as opposed to Judah) being fearful that if the people went to Jerusalem (in Judah) to worship God as commanded they would turn back to Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) and kill him (Jeroboam).  Therefore, he created places of worship in Dan and Bethel, with golden calves and his own priesthood.  He told the people, “it is too much for you to go to Jerusalem.  Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (vs. 28)  This, of course, was unacceptable to Jehovah God and we read in vs. 30, “Now this became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan…”  Jeroboam took the worship prescribed by God and made something similar – a substitute – with a feast, a priesthood, sacrifices and a place to “worship” God.    This substitute worship would become a curse and a snare throughout Israel’s history.  Good intentions or not, God did NOT accept this worship because it was NOT what He had authorized.

f.         The Israelites were offering to God substitute for the quality offerings God demanded – a tragic development throughout the histories of both Israel and Judah would be their half-hearted worship.  Even after returning from captivity, Israel did not wholly and consistently worship God properly.  While the priesthood and sacrifices were restored, Malachi 1:6-14 records how they insulted God by offering Him (substituting) leftovers instead of the best.  In fact, they offered to God that which was inferior and damaged (blind and lame).  They also treated these feasts and sacrifices as drudgery. (1:13) God was greatly insulted and called for someone to shut the doors of the temple (1:10).  He wanted NOTHING to do with their sinful conduct.

g.        The Jews tried to offer to God what Jesus called “vain” worship – the unacceptable attitudes and substitutes continued during the ministry of Jesus on this earth.  Matthew 15:1-9 records an occasion when the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and asked why His disciples transgressed the traditions of the elders.  His answer was, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (3)  He cites an example where they set aside God’s command for children to honor their parents by offering “a gift to God”.  They had SUBSTITUTED God’s command with a way out (i.e. they had created a ‘loophole’).  Jesus then said, “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your traditions.” (6)  He then quotes Isaiah 29:13 and declares that their worship to God is in vain.

h.       The Galatians were considering a substitute gospel – Galatians 1:6-9.  Paul marveled that they would even think about something different than the gospel he had preached to them.  Galatians 3:1 says, “O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?  In very short time, they were willing to substitute the truth they had learned for the next thing to come along. 

 

Sadly, even though we have seen that the Bible is full of examples of those who sought to substitute God’s laws without success, yet there are many today who seek the same thing.  For sundry worldly reasons, many are willing to substitute the truth for the inventions of men.  Let us consider some examples of this:

 

 II.                    Substitutes today

a.        Some substitute human creeds for the Bible – In our religiously divided world, there are many creeds of men circulating.  Denominations are following the doctrines and commandments of men.  It is seen in their disciplines, manuals, and catechisms. 
This is contrary to what the scriptures teach.  2 John 9-11 warns that if one comes bringing a different teaching (than God’s word) we are not to receive him at all.  1 Tim. 1:3-4 found Timothy being charged to command those in Ephesus, “that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in the faith.
When man either adds to or takes away from what the Bible says he has substituted the simple truth of the gospel with his own teachings (cf. Rev. 22:18-19, 1 Cor. 4:6, Deut. 12:32, etc.). 

b.       Some substitute churches of men for the Lord’s church – It is no secret that our world is religiously divided.  There are hundreds of different churches, all claiming to follow after God.  But they teach diametrically opposed doctrines on just about everything.  Such cannot be pleasing to God.
Jesus came to build ONE church - Matt. 16:18, Eph. 4:4, 1:22-23, etc.  What we see today is division as condemned in 1 Cor. 1:10-12. 
The PROBLEM with this (in addition to all the false doctrines being taught) is that man often chooses a religion based upon what HE wants instead of what GOD wants!  The result is that they substitute the ONE true church with what they want.
We need to seek unity based upon what God’s word teaches and not what we want – John 4:24, Matt. 17:5, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!

c.        Some substitute a different way to heaven than the one outlined in scripture
In Matt. 7:13-14 Jesus said the way to heaven is narrow and difficult.  Today, far too many believe that they will make it to heaven, even though they have no intention of LEARNING what the Bible tells them to do, much less obeying what it says.  Some say that all they need to do is be a good person or simply believe in God (or Jesus).  Even Jesus said this was not enough (Matt. 7:21-23).

d.       Some substitute “faith only” for God’s plan of Salvation - In reality, there is only ONE plan of salvation.  It involves God’s grace, our faith AND our obedience.  Yet many today substitute “faith only” with the obedient faith outlined in scripture. 
We understand that faith is absolutely essential to one’s salvation, but that faith MUST obey God and do ALL that He commands of us.  This includes: hearing the word (Rom. 10:17), believing in Him (John 3:16, Mark 16:16), repenting of our sins (Acts 2:38, 17:30-31), confessing Jesus as the Son of God (Rom. 10:9-10) AND being baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16, 1 Pet. 3:21, Mark 16:16, etc.).  We CANNOT substitute God’s plan with one that removes any portion of what He has commanded.  NOTE that James 2:24 is the ONLY time in scripture that the expression “faith only” is found and it says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and NOT by faith only.”  The ONLY faith that saves is the faith that obeys God.

e.       Some substitute infant baptism for the baptism of the Bible – In the Bible you do NOT read of infants being baptized.  Infant baptism is not documented in history until around the 4th or 5th century.  It was a result of the false doctrine of “original sin” which began to be greatly circulated in the 4th and 5th centuries.
 Baptism is an act reserved for believers - Mark 16:16, Acts 8:35-39.  An infant or young child is incapable of understanding why he is being baptized. 
Anyone who is baptized for a reason OTHER than because they believe in Jesus Christ and need their sins washed away (Acts 22:16) is seeking a substitute.

f.         Some substitute sprinkling or pouring for immersion – baptism is accepted in various modes today – pouring, sprinkling and immersion.  The Bible speaks ONLY of immersion.  In fact, the word for baptize is a transliteration of the Greek word, (βαπτίζω, baptizo) which means “to dip” (Vine’s) “immerse, submerge” (Strong’s), etc.
Rom. 6:3-4 describes the act as an immersion.  So does the example of the Eunuch in Acts 8:38-39.

g.        Some substitute “once saved, always saved” for accountability – one of the great false doctrines of much of the religious world today is “once saved, always saved” which teaches that it is impossible for the believer, once saved, to be lost.  Not only is this contrary to dozens of scriptures (2 Pet. 2:20-22, Gal. 5:4, Heb. 10:26-31, Rev. 2:10, Heb. 10:38, etc.) it removes any REAL sense of accountability in one’s life.   Many will preach that you OUGHT to obey God’s instructions, but this doctrine removes any real consequence from disobedience.   Such teaching cheapens the life the gospel calls for and relegates it to mere will (i.e. if you want to do it).

h.       Some substitute instrumental music for the singing commanded in the Bible – In the New Testament, every passage of scripture concerning worship in song mentions singing exclusively.  Consider Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, 1 Cor. 14:15, etc.   Today, as for the past many centuries, man has substituted singing with playing instruments of music in worship to God.  History records that instrumental music was not introduced into worship until several centuries later (i.e. 600s or 700s A.D.).  God did not authorize such and it is nothing more than a substitute for God’s prescribed worship.

i.         Some substitute entertainment in worship for the reverential occasion we read of in scripture – What started a few centuries ago with an organ, has now progressed in many places to turning the worship service into an outing that is commensurate to a date at the movies on Friday night or going to a concert.  The reverence and solemn natures of the worship service has been replaced with “anything goes as long as it attracts the crowds”.   Far too often, such a mindset makes taking up the cross optional instead of at the very foundation of our faith and service to God.
Such conduct is SO contrary to scriptural worship.  First, we must never forget WHO we are worshipping – God.   We have seen earlier in this lesson that God EXPECTS us to follow HIS instructions, as exact as possible, in worship to Him (cf. Cain and Abel, Nadab and Abihu, King Saul, etc.).  Worship is NOT about what is fun for you.  John 4:24 – our worship to God must be “in Spirit and in truth”.  Mal. 1:13  - condemned Israel for being bored and griping about how God said to worship Him (Is worship boring to you? Why?).   John 6:66 says, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”  This is the conclusion of His rebuke because many followed him for the meal instead of the message AND His strong words that offended some of them. 
Heb. 13:15 says, “Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
1 Cor. 14:33 says God is not the author of confusion (dealing with worship assemblies) and “let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
Furthermore, where is the soberness that is to accompany the life of a Christian when our worship is driven by entertainment and social activities? (Rom. 12:3, 1 Pet. 1:13, Heb. 12:28).    Is that really what Jesus died for?

j.         Some substitute merely being present for the dedicated life God demands – while attendance is necessary to be pleasing to God (Heb. 10:25), it is equally necessary that we understand there is more to serving God than “going to church” a couple of times a week.  Romans 12:1-2 calls for us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him.  We must understand that Christianity is a way of life, not an occasional act.   If you think that attending a few services and taking the Lord’s Supper will purify your continued sinful life, you better rethink your whole purpose for serving God.  I don’t mean to discourage whatever efforts one might be putting forth in service to God, but I want us to know that it is time to WAKE UP!  Romans 13:11-14 says it plainly!

 

                We could add many more examples of this, but these are sufficient to show that substitutes are just as prevalent today as they were in Bible times.  In closing I want to make a couple of observations:

  1) In every example of a substitute for God’s word, the reason was motivated by what man wanted instead of God. 

  2) God was NEVER pleased with such substitutes.   He didn’t just overlook them and say, “At least they are thinking about Me.”  The consequences of setting aside God’s instructions brought about His wrath rather than His blessing.  We cannot ignore that!

                Can we expect any different today?  Let us always seek to do “Bible things in Bible ways.”  Nothing more or nothing less (1 Cor. 4:6).  In such matters God accepts no substitutes and neither should we.  Think about it!