Violation of the First Commandment

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Matt Bennett is founder and CEO of Christian Union, a Christian leadership development organization. A native of Houston, Texas, Matt earned B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Cornell University and holds a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He resides in New York City.

What does it mean to you that God is a jealous God? Does that sound like a good thing or a bad thing? Is it okay to be jealous? Isn't it a sin to be jealous? It is a lot of the times, but not always. I mean even in human relationships, you can think how there can be a good form of jealousy. If you think about a spouse, and if one is concerned that their spouse has a greater affection for somebody else—you don't want them to be just jumping on them all the time—but it is a genuine concern if you have a spouse and they have a greater affection for somebody else. That's not the way it should be. In that sense, it is good for a husband or wife to be jealous. They deserve and are owed the number one affection of their spouse. And God is the same way.

So when the Bible says that God is a jealous God, it means it in that sense. That we are designed so that He is our greatest affection. There's only Yahweh. He is the only God, and He deserves our full affection. This is really key for us for our walks with the Lord. My name is Matt Bennett. I'm the Founder and CEO of Christian Union. Our focus is Christian leadership development for national revival and reformation. A lot of our work is at a number of the nation's most secular and academically intense universities. We operate at Columbia University here in New York, where I live. We have a team up there and a ministry center just a block from campus to facilitate that as well as Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford out on the west coast, Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, and some other schools.

Our focus is that these students would be developed as Christian leaders to positively impact the nation and bring revival. This is a week of talking about sins, and America's greatest sins in my view, and what we need to repent of as the coronavirus bears down. Here in New York city, we have almost 120,000 cases, including in my own building. I live a few blocks away from the Empire State Building here in Midtown. And it's really weird walking around and seeing things ... Things are quiet and things aren't normal. But I pray, pray, pray that as a nation we as Christians return to the Lord with our whole hearts, and may it be that we all do and may He pour out His Spirit in a Great Awakening. It's what's happened in the years past in this nation. We've had five major moves of God in this country, always proceeded by prayer, fasting, and repentance.

So may God do the same, and that's what these videos are designed to help and audios as well for those who listen to the podcasts. So, as we consider this message, I want to look at a few passages that establish the expectation that God be our all-in-all, our only devotion, then I want to look at three areas that can be of concern for us even as Christians here in the United States that can cause problems that way. Knowing these boundaries and expectations, sort of like knowing the boundaries and expectations if you have a spouse, is really helpful because you know what offends the other party. You need to know what offends the other party. Some things are absolutely crystal clear, and some things aren't. And we need to know what is pleasing to the Lord and what is not pleasing to Him so that we don't anger God, and that we delight Him and that He responds with His favor and His grace and His blessings on us and our lives.

We are in the new covenant and we have this great and glorious gospel. We've been brought into the new covenant and He has expectations for that relationship. The expectations and demands of the new covenant are higher than the old covenant in terms of our loyalty and devotion. He gives us the Holy Spirit to succeed in this, praise His great and holy name. So, a couple of verses here that establish God's expectation. Leviticus 19:31 says, "Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God."

Here's another one. "You shall be holy to me, for I am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine." Leviticus 20:26. And here is probably the center passage, because it is the First Commandment of the Ten Commandments. The Second Commandment I'm also going to read because it's closely related. Exodus 20:1-6. "And God spoke all these words saying, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God." There's that phrase, jealous God, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." So this is God's expectation. He is a jealous God. We're to have no other gods before Him, only Yahweh are are we to worship and adore and praise and love in every way. May His name be praised through our actions. It's not just that we shouldn't have carved images. I think most people know that and most Christians would not bow down and do that, but it says we're not to serve them. We're not supposed to be involved with them in any way, have any connection with them in any way.

And this is a problem even in the new covenant, you see that people are involved, new Christians, with these kinds of ceremonies and situations in the new covenant. And they need to kind of pull back and not sacrifice food to idols. If you remember these passages in the New Testament about that, because just by participating in big meals and ceremonies, they were participating in the sacrifices, the demons, the Scriptures even say. And we're to stay far away from that in every way, and in no way participate in that. And this is where we can get in trouble.

I want to mention three areas a lot because we don't necessarily think of them. Very few Christians will think it's okay to sit down before a statue and pray to it or something like that. But we still, in many ways, we violate this first commandment. And therefore arouse God to a righteous jealousy for our hearts. He wants us to be Holy, completely devoted to him. So the first area, you might call it a cultic area, and I'm not talking about full out, demonic worship, of course that would be included, but things that we naively don't necessarily think are a problem, and they are a problem. People sometimes fool around with the ouija board, or they might just think it's fun and games to do a fortune teller at a party or something. Or even tarot cards, a palm reading or even astrology sometimes.

Sometimes people do divination. And this might sound odd, some people will contact the dead, a relative that had passed and, "Oh, it's okay, I just want to talk to Aunt Sally," or whatever it is, or something, or astral projection. But these things are all setting our affections on the occultic world, on the demonic world. And this is all very real. Everything you read in the Bible is real about the spiritual world. Many in the West just kind of don't think about the spiritual world, or think only rationally, but everything we read in the Scriptures is 100% true. And this is all very real. And it's especially real for those who do a deliverance type ministry, which I do. Deliverance is ejecting demons out of people, and a lot of Christians in the United States, the West, don't do this regularly. Think it's a weird, think it's freaky. Believe me, I thought the same thing years ago before I had a lot of exposure to it.

But now it's a regular part of my ministry, as odd as that may sound to some Christians. And I minister to mostly Christians, I know some have questions of whether Christians can be demonized or afflicted. That's a larger subject and I respect the fact that people want to get answers for that, but there are many Christians who do believe and know that this is the case. A good book you could read is Deliverance From Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt, They Shall Expel Demons from Derek Prince. There's a number of good books out there that you can read, see all, learn about all of this, but Christians can and are afflicted by demons. And I've expelled demons from pastors here in New York City, Christians, elders, all sorts of folks.

That's why we're told to be on our guard, to watch against them. And a lot of times they come in from people who've kind of innocently participated in these activities and after the client or person repents of it, then that gives a person greater leverage and the authority in the name of Jesus Christ to expel them. It's really remarkable. This is a benefit of the gospel that was not true of the old Testament. One of the benefits of the gospel is in the name of Jesus, we have authority over evil spirits. [That] did not exist if you read the Old Testament. So it's really, really incredible to have this and it does a lot of freedom. So a lot of times people have participated in these things, kind of not knowing their danger. And yes, I've seen, I don't know how many evil spirits come out of people as a result of this first area.

I want to mention a second area here of where our love gets off course, and is not fully aligned with the Lord, and that is the whole area of Freemasonry. This has been declining in the United States, thank you, Lord, but it's still prevalent. And I know Christians who've had a past in this and some who are even offended that this would be suggested that there's something wrong with this. At the lower levels of this, it presents itself as a social club, but as you go up higher, you see more and more that they worship this god called Jahbulon, if you Google it, it'll all come up. And people don't like to hear it sometimes, but I'm saying this for people's own good. They go by a number of names, kind of related organizations. Freemasons, Masons, Elks Lodge, these sorts of things. Even some women's related associations, Shriners, Rainbow Girls, this sort of thing and stuff. These are not things Christians need to be involved with. And if you are involved, repent of it. If you have any objects related to it, get rid of them. It is a false religion and false gods. And yes, this, like the first category, I've seen many repent of it, Christians, and the demons come out of them when this happens. And when the evil spirits come out, sometimes it's calmer. Sometimes it's just like you read in the Bible, just like it, with the rolling on the ground, vomiting, demons speaking through them, the whole nine yards.

It's just like you see in the Scriptures. The Scriptures are our guide. They show us how to live, what the spiritual world is like. And it does so much when people are freed of all of this. They have so many afflictions that have been in their lives, sometimes physical and bodily. Sometimes tormenting their minds, and they never knew this is where it's from. So that's a second category where we Christians can be guilty of violating the first commandment.

And then thirdly, I put a category of, sort of, all sorts of Eastern-type religions or practices in some ways. This includes, as we get more people from around the world immigrating to the United States, people get invited to maybe go to a wedding or a practice or a ceremony or something like this from this Hinduism. People may even, out of the artwork, have a statue of a Buddha in their home, even though they don't worship it.

People will do acupuncture thinking it's innocent, transcendental meditation, these sorts of things. They are not of the Lord. They are spiritual counterfeits that the devil is using to lure Christians away from their living God. And it causes afflictions, problems, brings curses on a person's life, brings demonizations in a person's life.

I think of yoga, which is popular. People even call it Christian yoga, but you have to remember that this was created as a routine to imitate and commune with the various Hindu deities. And the positions that people take represent looking to these different deities. And if you go on YouTube or Google, you'll see this stuff comes up. And almost everybody who's come out of Hinduism, they know to stay away from this stuff because they know it's religious in nature. And the intention behind something in the spiritual realm matters. Of course, if you're just on your own, if you were to strike some pose that happens to correspond to some yoga pose, that's totally fine of course.

But to participate in something and to call it yoga and to go through these motions that were all invented, in a way, to sequence, to give homage and respect to these different deities, that's another matter. Stay away from it. And I have cast out demons related to Hinduism, people who have yoga and Ganesh and Shiva and Vishnu and Kundalini spirits, et cetera, et cetera. So it is dangerous and again, some people don't want to hear it, but at the end of the day, people have to make their own choices before the Lord. But troubles and problems and afflictions a person may have may be because of that, because we're participating in something. Even if it's not 100%, we're still dabbling in things that the Lord detests and He does detest it. He doesn't want us to be around any of this. He's a jealous God. He wants us to be wholly devoted to Him.

In terms of intent, I think of the story, remember when, in Numbers, when they were being bitten by snakes, and they had to put up that bronze serpent and they had to go and look to it and they look to it, they were healed? Remember that this was happening? And when the Israelites were in the desert, well they had this for years, and it was a good thing, it was a fine thing. But then in Hezekiah's time, and Hezekiah was hundreds of years later, the king, the people were looking to it and making it idolatrous. And so he burned it because of it and got rid of it. And just so you can see kind of symbols that can have meaning and situations based on what people give to it. And yoga was created with a bad meaning, so you don't want anything to do with it, because of it, even if you try to think that it's okay.

So I say that to you as a person who cares about you and wants you to be wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord. So this includes going and participating in even wedding ceremonies. I have a friend who participated in an Indian wedding ceremony but it had religious aspects to it. And she got afflicted and was afflicted for 10 years until the demons got expelled and she was healed and she repented of it. So it might seem like it's a nice thing to do, almost a Christian thing to do, to partake in these sorts of things. But don't do it. Just say, "My devotion to Jesus Christ, my religion, prohibits it." Do what you can. Maybe send a gift or whatever else, but do nothing to participate in any honoring of any false god. The Lord absolutely detests it. And the enemy's just trying to lure you in so he can afflict you and cause you trouble in some way.

So those are examples of how many Americans today are increasingly violating the first Commandment. And this dishonors the Lord and may be keeping the Spirit from being poured out in your life and your city's life and in the nation's life. And so I encourage you to repent on your behalf if any of these things have been true of you. And repent on behalf of America, which increasingly brings these things in. I mean, heck, some churches even have Christian yoga in their churches. This is where we are as a nation. Just this constant syncretism involving these non-Christian practices. So may the Lord purify and help us to be devoted, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and that is it.

Oh one last thing to be wary of too in all of this, is that people will pray to saints or people who have gone before. Can't do that. Only to the Lord Jesus Christ, only God can hear us. Only God can answer our prayers. No person who's passed has the qualities of a deity to be able to hear the prayers of thousands of minds and millions of people. That's imputing to a human or a person, even if they've been in heaven, deistic qualities. Cannot do that either. Repent of that as well so that the Lord will bless you. He is a very jealous God. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, that is it. And in no way exalt or elevate anything or anybody up to the level of our living God.

So may the Lord bless you. May He strengthen you. May you walk with Him in holiness and truth. May He be pleased by your action and may you be pure before Him. As we turn to Him, as we seek Him with our whole hearts, He will do wonderful and extraordinary things.

This has been a series of sins of which America needs to repent. I've listed four so far, this is the fourth one, and we'll have the next two coming up. God bless.


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