This past weekend Annie and I were on a nice drive up north heading to an overnight getaway. When Annie was born she didn’t come with any navigational programming, a deficiency I shamelessly exploited on our road trip.
We come back again to our text at the end of Revelation 9 verses 20 and 21. The title I’ve chosen for our sermon is this: Sins Worth Keeping.
This past weekend Annie and I were on a nice drive up north heading to an overnight getaway. When Annie was born she didn’t come with any navigational programming, a deficiency I shamelessly exploited on our road trip. Having passed by our turn, unaware to her, I headed another 5 miles or so until I arrived at a previously undisclosed location: a river – the name of which and specific coordinates will not be shared. Thinking we had car troubles she asked me what was going on, to which I replied while eagerly hopping out of the truck, “I’m visiting my mistress.” Curious to see what the river held for me, I nearly fainted when through polarized sunglasses I saw how infested my aquatic “lady” was with fish. But my dilemma soon manifest when I realized this marriage enrichment excursion did not come equipped with any fishing poles. Sanity quickly began to leak out of my head when I realized there were two poles in our truck: my seven year old son’s 2 foot long Spider man pole and his little sister’s 2 ft long Frozen pole. I wanted the Spider Man pole for purposes of masculinity, but, the line was old and so, fish-fever peaking, I grabbed the Frozen themed pole and banked that landing a fish with it would restore any lost masculinity from using it in the first place (not to mention my name in a book somewhere).
After several casts, some fumbling, and the line becoming more of an accessory to my outfit than any help hooking up, I realized that there was no way this little kid pole was ever going to bring one of those feisty fish to shore. It would snap in half sooner than I could tell Annie “Turn the camera on!” Which, she already had, and, so far had plenty of footage to embarrass me for years to come. Regardless, I kept casting. I knew it was hopeless. I knew $10 would be the cost to replace my daughters pole if I was blessed enough to even hook on to one. But, regardless of the cost, knowing what price I would pay, I still did it anyway.
In our passage today we are going to see the people of the world keep going in the path of sin even though they know it is going to cost them.
The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is writing down in the book of Revelation everything he saw and heard. These verses his commentary on a future generation living during the Tribulation period – a generation of people who very deliberately have chosen their evil and sin instead of God. Worth more to them than loving God and obeying Him as their Creator and Savior is their continued expression of their evil. This even in the face of the most nascent judgment on humanity, the 6th Trumpet Judgment, which wiped out one-third of earth’s population – an event that the other two-thirds is fully aware occurred because of the One Seated On the Throne. They know every third person died because of God’s judgment. They know they are guilty of the very same sins as the other people who died. But, those sins, as far as they are concerned, are still worth committing. Stubbornly in love with their sin they have no intention of giving it up. Nothing can be allowed to intercept their evil momentum – nothing will get in their way. What is it they are so in love with? What are their vices? There are five sins listed here: Idolatry, Murder, Immorality, Magic Arts, Theft. Together they are what I call Sins Not Worth Quitting. They are the Five Sins Worth Committing. They are Five Sins Not Worth Quitting for God.
Now, I want to single eac one out. But I need to mention this. The text is telling us about a future generation, the most evil generation. Probably not since the days of Noah has a generation been so corrupt as that Tribulation generation that is coming. But the profit of studying these verses is not in being able to describe how evil they are – and they are – but rather in recognizing that these are sins that have been committed by humans ever since the Fall back in the very beginning. What this means is we don’t want to walk away from a sermon like this convicted of their sin, but, on some level, feeling a personal conviction in identifying with them. The fallen human nature, corrupted by sin, exists in us as them. The propensity to act out the sin within is our propensity as well as theirs. The love of gratifying our sinful desires is a love we have just like they. The difference is that we know Christ and we want to live for Him, and we hate sin and the fact that more often than not we love our sin enough to express it. Their commission of these sins will be an outright rebellion, a defiant posture, a “in your face God” choice. Our battle is with the pride that blinds us to our weaknesses, our failure to call on God in temptation, our momentary insanity when we indulge an impulse to sin. So there is for us a danger in the human heart to ever be watching for. The danger of
First is idolatry. This gets the most ink. Notice the last half of verse 20 what it says, “they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk.” The future does not belong to atheism. Quite the opposite. The world we see is going to be intensely spiritual. It is now and it will only be more so in the final days. By design man is a worshiping being. Something in him compels him to bow. And Satan does not strive to squelch that instinct, but, channel it away from the true God. Towards himself. And many during the final days of the age, during the Tribulation, will obstinately refuse to worship the only worthy One – the living God – and instead they will give their reverence to another. The Antichrist. And to the power behind him: Satan.
Idolatry is serious stuff. Prohibitions in Scripture against idolatry are everywhere. The first commandment says: You shall have no other gods besides me”. (Ex. 20:3) The second one says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneaht or in the waters below.” (Ex. 20:4) Up in the New Testament we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Flee from idolatry”. Later in 1 John 5:21 the command is issued again “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” The LORD is jealous and will not let what is His be given to another. He told Israel in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”
What is idolatry? Idolatry comes from a word that means “empty”. The thing that someone thinks is there really isn’t there, and, they worship something the believe is there but in reality it doesn’t exist. So, the statue, or figure or image they keep bowing to, bowing and thinking it represents a supernatural reality, it’s only imagined in their mind.
So we read in Revelation 9 verse 21 that they made images of their gods and bowed down to them as though they really were gods. Idolatry is misplaced worship. Idolatry is worshipping something that is not god. Idolatry is honoring something that is not God as though it is god. It is giving the glory due to God to someone else instead. Idolatry shows how man has been separated from God and either refuses to worship Him or doesn’t know to worship Him. Idolatry begins in the head or the heart of man, imagining a god of one’s own making, who in reality does not exist. It is the kind of god someone in wants to worship as seen from their sinful appetites. Then, once the head conceives the likeness of this god, the hands go to work and begin to fashion and form images of this god.
Now here’s the thing: idolatry is demon worship. “No, but the sacrifices offered by pagans are offered to demons, not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). The man who doesn’t know that the idol he worships is not only an empty thing; that he is worshipping a god that is not there. It just simply doesn’t exist. But the person believes it exists. So you know what happens? A demon comes in and pretends to be the god that person believes in. In Revelation 9 the people of the world will be full blown demon worshipping. They will worship the antichrist and Satan. Turn to Revelation 13:4 and 8 with me.
Annie and I had the chance to get away overnight somewhere Friday night and stay at a nice lodge on a lake. Winding down the evening we flipped the TV on and came to the History channel, which was running a show on the identity of Satan. They began by exploring the myths around the world throughout history and showing how Satan has been seen as evil, corrupt, malicious and all things nasty.
Where I really perked up was when they began to make the case that Satan was actually good. I will note here too that they asked a lot of questions: “Could it be that …?” and “Might our understanding all this time have been wrong?” and “What if Satan actually was trying to help….?” The show, after posing questions like this for awhile ended up making some bold assertions that Satan had intended to bring mankind hidden wisdom that would allow humanity to mature and advance and help man reach his divine potential. That he defied God in doing so, because God was holding out on man, didn’t think man was worthy of advancing to be like God, and so he revolted against God for the sake of mankind. Satan’s consequence, we are told, is that God hurled him to the earth out of heaven, and, wanting to tease the thought even further, the narrarator said What if the bad reputation Satan has had throughout history is actually a form of judgment God brought on Satan?”
This show has all the elements of Satan’s lies as seen in Genesis 3. Questions are used to cast doubt. The character and goodness of God towards man is brought into question. The hidden path to greater wisdom apart from God is offered. Satan, in the garden as well, reversed him and God in man’s mind: God is the liar holding you back and Satan is the good, helpful, benevolent friend of man. The outline for the History Channel’s show could have been lifted right out of Genesis 3.
Apart from that and a dozen or so errors of fact concerning the Bible’s teaching on Satan and demons, what we see here is an overt promotion of the heroism of Satan. Right on our TV screens we are blatantly told God is bad and Satan is good and progress as human beings is predicated on following Satan. The History Channel! Where will we be 5 years from now? Ten years? During the Tribulation it will be open widespread rejection of the God of the Bible and worship of demons. Open demon worship is here and it is going to grow.
Apart from grossly offending God, idolatry is offensive because it degrades the person who engages in it. Hosea 9:10 God says, “When I found Israel it was like finding grapes in tehdesert, when I saw your fathers it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.” We were created by God and designed to worship Him alone. Any perversion of our worship will have a perverting effect on our spiritual condition. Satan offers man a false potential, but, the true potential of man is found in his worship of the One True Living God, the Lord God Almighty.
There are shades or nuances within the sin of idolatry. It’s not just the carved statues either. Idolatry is worshipping something else as God that is not God. For instance, we may not carve a little figurine of some ‘god’ that we bow down to, but, are we looking to something other than God for things that God says He provides us with? That’s a faith issue: we’re trusting something other than God. Are we making other things more important than God? Is our loyalty, love, and commitment to certain things in our life greater than our loyalty, love and commitment to God? What are we allowing in our life to command us where God’s voice has no effect? Is it ourselves? Our physical pleasure? Our personal ambition? Does something mean too much to us and causes us to stagnate in our walk with God? Do those things cause us to be indifferent about growing as a Christian?o they cause us to care less about learning more about God and His ways because we’re too busy caring about those things?
I remember one guy who is a big outdoorsman tell me that he decided to take the whole year off from sports – no fishing, no hunting no nothing. Zilch. Instead he dedicated that time to reading and studying the Bible. He said he learned more that year than he ever had before. It was like his capacity for learning the word doubled. But not just for learning – he was loving every minute he was in the word, like his capacity for loving the Bible went through the roof too. And as for hunting and fishing, he said he didn’t miss it once the whole year.
How can I tell if something is an idol? You depend on something for a need you have because you doubt God will care for it. Or, something may be an idol if it always comes first before everything else. You prioritize it in your schedule, your thoughts, your finances above everything else. If you didn’t have it you feel like your life would be pointless or come crumbling down.
What are modern day ways to commit idolatry?
- People today still make statues. You see Buddha statues everywhere. Pictures of Hindu gods. Animal gods such as that in native american spirituality. Expect more of these as the New Age keeps growing in our society and within churches.
- Perhaps you’ve seen the Hindu Sanskrit word for Namaste on bumperstickers. This is idolatry. Why? Because namaste is a word that means “The god in me bows to the god in you.” Calling yourself god and another human god is idolatry.
- Belief in evolution is a form of intellectual idolatry. It replaces God as the Creator with naturalistic causes. It says that we came from lower life forms when the Bible says we came from the Highest Life form.
- Swearing allegiance or oaths to a god, such as is often done in secret societies, is idolatry. I’ve had relatives in the Masonic Lodge who when pursuing the 17th degree of the Scottish Rite had to swear an oath to Abbadon, whom we just studied last week, the demon king over the demon-locusts imprisoned in the Abyss. My relative was the leader of the Shriner’s band. The Shriners are a group of 32nd Degree Masons who make a blood oath to the Muslim god, Allah in order to join the Shriners. The first requirement in the first ritual to join the Mason’s requires you to admit that you are without the Light and you need the Light of the Freemasons. If you have Jesus, who is the Light of the World, how can you say you don’t have the Light and the Mason’s are going to give it to you? What one learns if he searches Masonry is that the light of Masonry is Lucifer, as its divines explain in their writings. Idolatry.
- Roman Catholicism, despite denying it, commits idolatry by worshipping Mary. Mariology is a fundamental doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church where Mary is said to be a co-redemptrix alongside Jesus.
- Then of course there are the statues of saints, and, like prayers to Mary, the prayers to saints. What are your needs? There is a saint for every need in Roman Catholicism. Travel safeties? Pray to St. Christopher. If you are a father, a carpenter or social justice warrior pray to St. Joseph. If you lost something pray to St. Anthony. Diagnosed with cancer? Pray to St. Gerard if you’re a mother, or, if you have a mental disorder pray to St. Dymphna. Going even further and praying to angels the Catholic Church urges people to pray to the Archangel Michael for help defeating Satan.
If you think this is inocuous, think again. The Israelites set up ashterah poles and hilltop altars to foreign gods not becasue variety is the spice of life but for their real human needs. Fertility, health, rain, abundant crops, military protection and might, wealth, prestige. Daily needs, community needs, national needs were brought to different gods for help. They didn’t stop worshiping Jehovah. They just brought in some more gods along side of him. Which, now that I think about it, is ceasing to worship Him. They sought other gods for what they should have sought the true God for.
Do you see the heart of what’s going on here? Like in Israel, what people should be looking to God for instead they look to others. They treat foreign gods and saints like they are the ones who provide for them, protect them, help them in things that God says He does for them.
It drills deeper in the NT down into our spirits. Paul says that greed is idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). Why? Because its obsession with money. Guess what Jesus said? You cannot serve both God and money. You will hate one and love the other. People, in their hearts, and by their actions show, they love money, and therefore have made money their god. Idolatry. Displacing the true God of His rightful place in their life.
You know wherelse this is coming up today? Psychology. Many Christians today think their problems are dealt with by secular, humanistic philosophies in psychology today. I can’t tell you how many times in 8 years I’ve heard people say things like: “The Bible can’t help me. It helps some people, but, my problems are unique.” Or, I’ve heard, “You’re a Pastor, you don’t know how to help people with their real problems.” What I’ve found is that the problem is not in my ability to help this person identify the problems in their life and show them that the Bible speaks volumes to their problems. No, the problem I’ve seen is in the person’s pridefulness. I see a lot of people today want sympathy, relishing their victim-mentality, which is facilitated by endless labels of so-called mental disorders and prescription medications. Pride in that many people refuse to acknowledge their fault in a situation, and submit to God’s Word and pastoral wisdom. People keep going to broken cisterns and drink from polluted waters. Like Proverbs 1 says, “Wisdom calls aloud, and if you reject her she will laugh when your foolish ways bring disaster on you. She warned you and you didn’t listen.”
Now that’s from people who identify as Christians, that is “believers”, saying they don’t believe the Bible is relevent to their issues. So they excuse themselves from the authority and power of God’s Word and submit themselves to Frued, Rogers, Mueller, and other Atheists and Occult practitioners. This submitting to worldly authorities and treating them as experts of your mind and heart displaces God who should have that role. Don’t sing Christ revealed and I am healed when you don’t believe He can heal you. Don’t sing Jesus carries your burdens when you’re not even going to Him with them, or you don’t believe He can carry them. Isn’t that what Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for? They profess me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Hypocrisy. Idolatry.
Idolatry can be seen in our priorities too. Do we place something before God in our lives? Not something bad, it can be a good thing, but, that good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes the first thing in our lives and shoves God to number 2. If in the last 5 years you’re better at golf, hunting, fishing, basketball, baseball, video games or whatever else but you haven’t gotten any better as a Christian, it’s time to consider if you’ve got an idol. Idols get a hold of us, and, we get ahold of them. Netflix binging. Social media complex. Sports obsession. That good thing can even be a someone. Someone important to us that we ought to love and care for like a child or a spouse. But we dare not make them number 1 and make God number 2. Jesus said “If anyone loves son or daughter, mother or father more than me that person is not worthy of me.”
Next we see Murder. Revelation 9:21 says, “Nor did they repent of their murders…” Murder will be normalized on the earth during the Tribulation. Life will be very cheap. The world, still feeling the effect of the 2nd seal judgment, where peace was taken from the earth and violence swept across human communities, is only becoming more and more violent. Like in the days of Noah, Genesis 6, all of mankind was corrupt and had corrupted their ways, and had filled the earth with violence. As the times are worsening, food supplies, apocalyptic chaos happening all around, desperation to survive has terrorized every heart, people will murder for resources, for hate, for the Antichrist, and more.
A large percentage of those murder victims are shown to us in chapter 6 during the breaking of the 5th seal, where many souls of those who were murdered for their faith are gathered beneath the heavenly altar. Much later, in chapter 20 we see that many will be decapitated during the Tribulation for refusing to worship the Antichrist and their reward will be that they will be raised to life and rule the earth with Jesus.
The people of the earth will just simply refuse to quit murdering. They won’t stop. Murder is on the top 10 commandments. Murder is ending someone’s life. Why is murder wrong? Because we do not have the authority to end someone else’s life on our terms. We’re not the Creator, who alone has the prerogative to give and take life. We set ourselves up as god when we murder because we act in a way that only God has a right to act. Furthermore, by killing another human being we are attacking God. Humans are made in God’s image. God will demand an account from anyone who is guilty of taking another person’s life.
Jesus took it further and said that to hate someone and be angry with them was to commit murder in your heart. We ought to guard our hearts as believers. We ought to cherish life in other humans because they are a creation of God, made in His image. And we know that life is why Jesus came – that we might have it truly, spiritually, eternally and abundantly.
Third, we see Magic Arts. The Greek word here is pharmekia, where we get our english word pharmacy. The word is translated in several different ways to show how some activities are all related. You will see this word show up in English as: sorcery, magic arts, witchcraft.
Drugs have always – always – been a fundamental part of the occult. Altering your consciousness to open yourself up to spiritual experiences is part and parcel with the occultic routines. To facilitate shifting one’s consciousness, and, thus ability to hear from spiritual beings in another dimension, drugs have always accompanied occultic practice. Occultism, drug use as a spiritual experience, will reach its zenith in the Tribulation.
And the road to such a drug-addicted society is quickly being paved. We are quickly becoming a more drugged up society. Not just in the legalization of marijuana, but, in legal drugs. The prescription drug addiction problem far exceeds that of other illicit drugs.
It ought to give us pause to see the strong connection between psychology today and the occult. How much of the framework of viewing and treating humans in psychology are rooted in people whose worldviews were intensely occultic and anti-Biblical? More and more people are turned into zombies being told they need drugs. Each year more and more “problems” people experience we are told can only be solved by psycholigists and medications. Growing increasingly accustomed to the use of drugs as the answer to life’s problems will only pave the way for drugs to be seen as the portal into spiritual awakening.
A fourth sin the world will see is worth continuing is sexual immorality. “And they didn’t repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality...” Here is a broad phrase referring to all sorts of sexual expressions that violate God’s order for purity. People, like today, will in the future, refuse God’s authority in matters of sexuality, and determine for themselves how they want to express their sexuality, engage in sexuality. Sexual perversion is always the evidence of rejecting God as God, as the Creator, and as the Judge. Romans 1, far from showing that a warped sexuality is the result of worshipping God, actually shows us that rejecting God and worshipping idols leads to a corrupt sexuality. “Sexual liberation” is not a Biblical virtue. What is thought of as liberation, in breaking from the structure for sexuality setup by God, is actually a plunge into bondage. Take note the Church, sadly, seems to be following the world and what we see going on today in the world we will probably see in the Church tomorrow. Do we want to be a testimony for Jesus? Let us do so by our purity. Let us be committed to virginity, waiting until we’re married, keeping the marriage bed pure, not setting our eyes, our hearts or minds on lustful things. Let us shine in our purity like starlights in the dark night. Let me take it further: let us strive for modesty, not acting or dressing immodestly so as to provoke sexual thoughts in others.
Finally, there will be theft, a sin the world will see as worth continuing. The scarcity of resources will cause desperation. The Antichrist will control the economy and only those with his mark will be able to conduct commerce and buy and sell. People will steal out of hatred, justifying it because those who are stolen from don’t worship the Antichrist and aren’t loyal to him – so its not really wrong to take from those kinds of people.