Today Derek looks at the choices we have as to who we will serve and worship. Will it be God or mammon? Scripture tells us you will love one and hate the other; you can’t serve both. Do not be double-minded. Choose today to serve and worship the one true living God with all your spirit, soul, and body.
It’s good to be with you again as we continue with our theme for this week, “No Neutrality,” a theme which will confront you with issues you may perhaps never have faced before.
In my introductory talk yesterday I pointed out that compromise has become one main characteristic of our contemporary culture in almost every area of life—personal life, business, government, whatever. Most issues today are put the test of expediency rather than morality or justice. If a thing makes money it’s really regarded as needing no other justification. There are no longer any absolutes. No blacks, no whites—only various shades of gray.
In many areas, tragically, the church has adopted the same attitude as the world. We are surrounded by terrible evils: abortion, famine, pornography, just to name three. But masses of professing Christians show little or no concern. They sit as comfortable on the fence as on their church pews. However, the Holy Spirit has power to change all this. When He penetrates a church, He electrifies the fence. People have to jump off on one side or another. There’s no more room for neutrality.
Certainly Jesus left no room for neutrality. His ministry brought into focus two opposing kingdoms: light and darkness. Between these there is no neutrality, no peace, no compromise. Ultimately, each of us must align ourselves with one or the other. We saw the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:30:
“He who is not with Me is against me: and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (NAS)
You have only two alternatives: you are with Him or against Him, you are gathering or you are scattering.
Today I’m going to share with you another aspect of the same truth: we cannot serve two masters. Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew 6:24, and the two masters that he sets before us are God and what he calls “mammon,” which some translations translate “money.” Mammon is an evil, spiritual power that motivates and controls people through money. Here is what Jesus said:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money [or and mammon].” (NIV)
Notice that word “cannot.” It’s impossible. I’ve met countless Christians who believe that it’s difficult but they’ve succeeded in doing it. It’s impossible. You cannot serve both God and money. So Jesus said our attitude to the one will determine our attitude to the other. And of course, He always put God first because that was His attitude to His Father. So He said, “If you love money, you’ll hate God. But if you’re devoted to God, you’ll despise money.” Pause and think about that for a moment. It’s a frightening thought. If you love money, you hate God. That’s frightening. That frightens me. It causes me to examine my own life and attitudes and motives. And yet, it’s true. You see, there is nothing in between. It’s hate or love, it’s be devoted to or despise. Nothing in between.
Paul said something similar in Ephesians 5:5:
“For this you know with certainty... I wonder whether you do know it. When you hear it just ask yourself, ‘Did I know that?’ For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (NAS)
Paul speaks about three things: immorality, impurity and covetousness. The alternative translation for covetousness is greediness. And Paul says either covetousness or greediness is idolatry. It’s the worship of a false god. You can make an idol out of money or you can make an idol out of food. You can make an idol out of your bank account or you can make an idol out of that juicy, 12-ounce steak that figures so largely in your thinking. Now, there’s nothing wrong in having money, there’s nothing wrong in eating. But what is wrong is to put those things before God. And I have to say countless thousands of professing Christians are guilty of doing that today.
Attempting to serve two masters is a doublemindedness and this undermines our whole spiritual life. In James 1:7-8 James talks about a person who wavers and he says of that person:
“For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord...”
You see, you may be complaining that God does not answer your prayers, you don’t get what you feel you deserve from God. Let me ask you, Are you perhaps wavering? Are you doubleminded? James goes on to say:
“...a doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways.” (NKJ)
You cannot have the benefits and blessings of the Christian faith if you are doubleminded, if you are unstable. God does not cater to you. You see, if you study the history of Israel, God’s people in the Old Testament, you’ll find that Israel consistently suffered from this disease of doublemindedness, really throughout their history. And it inevitably brought tremendous problems upon them. When they had successfully entered the Promised Land under their leader Joshua, when he took his farewell of them after they had won many victories and God had been wonderfully gracious to them, Joshua confronted them with this issue. In Joshua 24:15 he said:
“And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River [that’s the Euphrates], or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (NAS)
Joshua spoke very plainly to them. He left them in no doubt about what was the main, central issue: Whom will you serve? A true God, the true God, or a false god? Please notice that the issue is not whether you will serve, but only whom, because serve you will. It’s outside your power to refuse to serve. The only choice you have is whether you will serve the true God or idols, false gods—your money, your stomach, your bank account, your reputation, your success, countless other idols the devil has to put before you. If you serve them you cannot serve the true God. No man can serve two masters.
The word “to serve” in the Old Testament is also translated “to worship” because the two go together. Listen to what Jesus told Satan when Satan tried to tempt him in the wilderness in Matthew 4:10:
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’’” (NAS)
Notice, “worship” and “serve” go together. The one you worship is the one you will serve. If you worship money, you cannot serve God. If you worship God, you cannot serve money. They are mutually exclusive. You see, man was created to worship and serve. That he cannot change. He only has the choice of whom he will worship and serve.
Ultimately, he will end up worshiping and serving someone. His only choice is between the one true God or false gods. You see, even the atheists and the agnostics ultimately find their own gods. An atheist may serve his bank account, he may serve his business success, he may serve an ideology of some kind; but serve he will. Whom he worships he will also serve.
This same issue arose with Israel in the days of the prophet Elijah, hundreds of years after Joshua had originally confronted them with the issue. Elijah had a confrontation with the people on Mount Carmel and this is what he said to them in 1 Kings 18:21:
“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him: but if Baal is God, follow him.’” (NIV)
But notice, some god you are going to have to follow. It’s not a choice of serving God or not serving God, it’s just a choice of which god you will serve. Is it going to be God or is it to be Baal? And they were wavering between two opinions. They couldn’t make up their minds. I want to tell you the issue has never changed. It still confronts you and me today. Whom will we serve? The true God or false gods—idols of our own choosing and our own making? And if you are a waverer, remember you’ll always be doubleminded, unstable. And you are not in the category of those who can expect to receive from God.
Let me suggest to you that is the diagnosis of many of your problems. You’ve complained that God doesn’t hear your prayers, you don’t get what you believe you ought to get as a Christian. I suggest to you the reason is you are doubleminded, you’re a waverer. The Bible says such a person will not receive anything from God. Are you today perhaps wavering between two opinions. Let me give you a little piece of advice. Pray this:
“Lord, help me to make the right decision. Help me to serve you from this day forward with my whole heart.”
Will you make that decision right now, wherever you may be? If you make it, I’d like to ask you to do something: write and tell me that you’ve made that decision. It will strengthen you greatly to do that.
Well, our time is up for today but I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this same time. Tomorrow we’ll be looking forward to the day when we stand before Christ’s judgment seat and answer for our lives on earth.
My special offer this week is my book, Repent and Believe. It describes the first two steps you have to take in order to escape from the snare of neutrality. It will open to you the way to a life of fruitful and effective service. Also, my complete series of talks this week on “No Neutrality” is available in a single, carefully edited cassette. Stay tuned for details.