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There may be no more unpopular response to the question about how many gods exist than the Christian response that there is one true God. In a culture that screams for tolerance and inclusiveness that idea of someone claiming that there is only one true God and all others are false gods is likely to upset people. But the bible is clear that there is only one true God, Yahweh. Consider the passages below:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. (Jeremiah 10:10)

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens. (Psalm 96:4-5)

Now let me identify three ways in which the Christian claim of monotheism makes people uncomfortable.

Only One God is Worthy of Worship

First, notice the words of Psalm 96 above. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, he is to be feared above all gods.” Words like “praised” and “feared” are words connected to worship. The psalmist is telling us that we are not entitle to respond to God is neutral. Atheism and agnostic are just as offensive to God as Buddhism or Islam. The God of the Bible, Yahweh, alone is worthy of worship. Sin is not just a matter of worshiping other things, it is also a failure to give God the worship that He is rightly due.

All Other”Gods” are Worthless Idols

If the Psalm 96:4 makes people uncomfortable or irritable, the next verse is likely provoke an argument. It is one thing to claim that your god is superior to all other gods, but to claim their gods are “worthless idols” is something else entirely. I mean think about it. If I said that my favorite sports team was better than yours, you might be a little offended. However, if I claimed that my team is not only better than yours, but all other teams are gutter trash and shouldn’t even be compare to mine, you would probably be even more offended.

Yet here the psalmist claims that other “gods” do not even deserve the title, because they are ultimately false gods or idols. Even more, while Yahweh is deserving of “great praise” these idols really do not deserve any. After all, they are “worthless.” Who in their right mind would offer worship to something that has no worth? Yet the reality is that we all do. Someone once described the heart as an idol factory. In our fallen natures, we are prone to replace God with other things. We try to replace the “great” God with things that are by comparison “worthless.” It is the height of folly to exchange the greatest treasure for junk. It would be like selling your most prized possession for counterfeit money.

Unbelief Does Not Change Reality

Finally, notice the end of Psalm 96:5 – “the Lord made the heavens.” How easily people attend to avoid the offensiveness of the first two claims (that God is superior and that their idols are worthless) by trying to make it relative. I’m sure you have heard it before: that’s your opinion, but I disagree. You can believe what you want, but I don’t believe that is true. You may believe that there is only one God, but they believe that it is okay for people for having radically divergent views about God.

Many people, at least in western cultures, have embraced the notion that we are the determiners of what is real. Like Descartes once said, “I think therefore I am.” We tend to believe that thinks are true or false because we have thought them. I have faith in one thing or believe in another and so they must be real. After all I would never place my faith in something unreal. We become the creators of reality, but the reality is that God is the creator of us. He created the heavens, and He created you and me.

While many people have convinced themselves that what they believe is simply a matter of personal choice, the reality is that it is not a neutral choice. When we choose to believe God, we give him the respect and honor, He is rightly due. However, when we choose not to believe God, when we choose to believe lie, we dishonor God and place ourselves in opposition to Him. While what people believe may ultimately be their choice, God will hold them accountable for the choices they make.

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I started reading A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy : The Attributes of God  for a small group that I am a part of. The other night we met and discussed the first chapter. In reflecting on the first chapter their are a couple of ideas that really stand out to me.

  1. The Overall Importance of Theology

In opening the chapter Tozer writes:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (p. 9)

This statements definitely runs counter-cultural. If I took a survey of what people think is the most important characteristic of an individual, their religion would likely not be at the top of the list. In fact, for many religion is a taboo topic. It is nice to talk about in private with some friends, but it does not belong in the midst of public discourse.

Yet since the fall in Genesis 3, the fundamental problem with mankind has been a deficient view of God. The words first spoken by Satan in the garden echo today: “God has not said…” The form of attach has changed over the years, but calling into question the truths God has reveal about himself is a constant strategy of the devil. We must fight for a right view of God.

2. The Importance of Theology for the Gospel

Later in the chapter, Tozer connects the dots for us on the importance of knowing God for rightly grasping the gospel. In speak of the gospels power to lift the burden of sin and guilt, Tozer writes:

“The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for  the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them” (p. 11, emphasis added)

This is a pretty bold claim. A proper view of the gospel demands a proper view of God. Let me identify three examples of how a wrong view of God weakness/destroys the gospel.

First, a wrong view of God affects how we understand the fundamental nature of the relationship between God and man. While the Bible paints the picture that man was created to worship and serve his creator, our contemporary culture tends to view God as someone who exists to worship and serve us. As a result, a gospel message that focus on the need for sinners to repent and deny themselves is replaced with a therapeutic gospel in which God exists to meet our needs.

Second, a wrong view of God affects how we understand sin. Again our current culture attempts to tell us that sin is normal. After all to err is human. We all make mistakes. The real problem with sin is that it gets in the way of our fulfillment, our success, and our happiness. It impedes the “American Dream.” Or at least that is what the world would have us believe. The reality is that sin is ultimately a violation of God’s law not man’s good. It is an affront to God’s glory and diminishing of his character. Sin does not just make as bad people, it separates us from God and makes us enemies with Him.

Finally, a wrong view of God distorts the great blessings that come to us in the gospel. When we see God as someone who exists to serve us, the gospel becomes God helping us help ourselves. When sin as a violation of our happiness, the gospel becomes about satisfying our deepest desires. However, if we see God as a holy God and sin as an affront to His glory, then the gospel is about God preserving His holiness and preserving His glory, while at the same time dealing with the punishment that we deserve. The gospel becomes good news, because we regain access to God, who alone is worthy of worship.

The bottom line: How we view God will shape how we view everything else, including why sin is bad news and what makes the gospel good news.

At first blush, this question may not seem theological at all. After all when it comes to prioritizing and ranking people or things. We have our favorite sports teams and our favorite flavors of ice cream. We prefer to spend time with some people more than others. People cannot go through life without developing preferences for some things over other things.

Yet the most pressing issue that we all have to deal with is what is the most important thing or person in life. What is it that should take precedence over everything else? For some people, this is a person; maybe a family member or a close friend. For others, it is a job or an activity to which they devote all their time and energy. And still for others it is a material object; something that they could not live without.

However, the reality is that most people are busing make gods after their own desires, but unwilling to acknowledge that there is one true God who should have the supreme place in their lives. According to the Scriptures, there really is no question about who is first and best of all. “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts; ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god” (Isaiah 44:6). Regardless of what we try to replace God with, there is nothing that can compete with God.

Consider the words of the Psalmists: “For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” (97:9, emphasis added). And again, “For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised, He is to be feared above all gods.” (96:4, emphasis added). Clearly, God expects us to prioritize Him above all else.

For me there is no more profound statement regarding the superiority of God than Psalm 73: 25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Here the Psalmist reaches the conclusion that there is nothing on earth or in heaven which compares in value to God. The reality we have a tendency to look for strength and fulfillment in created things rather than in God. We settle for lesser things, instead of that which matters most.