Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Who is Your Lord?
You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.
Question 105 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the First Commandment?” In the eighth part of the answer, it says, “The sins forbidden in the First Commandment are… praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and his commands….” Last week we looked at the sin of being lukewarm. This week we consider the many ways we can deny Christ’s lordship over our lives.
As we continue to examine Question 105’s exposition of the First Commandment, notice how all of the sins listed in today’s section are sins of worship. That is, even if we profess God to be the only God and our God, even if our intention is to glorify God alone, and even if we regularly engage in acts of private and corporate worship of the one true God we can still be guilty of the sin of having other gods! First, we sin against God when we pray to Him in such a way that we give part of the glory, which He alone deserves, to a creature. Some branches of the visible church allow and even endorse the invocation of saints, whereby Christians are taught to “pray” to certain other Christians who are dead, in order to have the dead Christian intercede to God on behalf of the living Christian. Here different Latin words are used to try to maintain an important distinction between worshipping God and honoring the saints. Strictly speaking these churches deny that they are teaching “prayer to the saints.” They say they are only advocating living Christians to “ask” departed saints to pray for them. The problem is the only way a living Christian can “ask” a dead Christian to pray for him is by praying to the dead Christian! Contrary to what these churches intend and teach, the doctrine of the invocation of the saints does give religious worship, which we owe to God alone, to the creature.
Surely very few Christians in America today are intentionally making compacts with or consulting the devil, or are seeking to hearken to his suggestions. However, there are many ways in which Christians foolishly open themselves up to demonic influences. Here we must remember that Satan and demons are real and they can do great harm to us spiritually. Whenever we seek their counsel, we dishonor God and doubt His Word. Thus, Christians have no business consulting horoscopes, reading fortune cookies, having their palms read, playing with tarot cards, using a Ouija board, etc., even for “fun.” These kinds of activities were considered gross idolatry in the Old Testament and were capital crimes. The reason for this was not because God is afraid of the demonic or that we should be or anything like that, but because such consulting of the forces of darkness corrupts our hearts and minds, even if we do not believe they exist! You cannot trifle with demonically inspired ways of knowing or shaping the future without, by definition, opposing and distrusting God’s sovereign and good governing of all things. Therefore, we must not toy with these things and think it is harmless, for it is a great insult to God, one for which He may give you over to those powers you are foolishly courting (2 The. 2:9-12).
Finally, we consider the sin of making men the lords of our faith and conscience, and slighting and despising God and His commands. Surely this sin is as prevalent among evangelical Protestants as the former two are rare. Few of us may pray to saints or read our horoscopes, but how often do individual Christians or whole Bible-believing denominations make some man or group of men the lords of their consciences? So, there have been churches that have made it a sin to wear makeup, watch television, drink wine, or to keep or not to keep certain fasts or “holidays.” These things and others like them are not inherently sinful and no Christian should be constrained by anything other than his own conscience in doing or not doing them. Whenever we allow men or manmade laws or traditions to rule over our hearts we slight God and despise His commands, for we are saying to God, “Your laws, Your Bible is not enough. I need to improve on it by adding requirements or prohibitions.” May God grant that we humble our hearts before Him and never allow anyone or anything to usurp any of His Lordship over us!