Developing Trust

Deuteronomy 4:15-16

Who are you going to trust? In this series on values, first we talked about developing your standards, choosing who's going to be your standard for life. Then we talked about accepting responsibility for your life. The next question that comes up is, Who are you going to trust?

There have been a lot of books and a lot of magazines and articles out recently talking about the dramatic decline in trust in our society -- that nobody really trusts anybody anymore. We are a cynical nation, a doubting nation. We tend to be wondering what is really the truth. We are skeptical of everything and everybody. A recent article I read was talking about the high price of low trust. Customers don't trust business anymore. Employees don't trust managers any more. Nobody trusts the government any more. They did a survey of the trust level in America and discovered that the least trusted professions in America are now: telemarketers, used car salesmen, and at the bottom of the barrel, politicians. On the other hand, the two most trusted professions in America are: pharmacists and pastors. (I'd like to sell you some medicine today, folks.) Let me let you in on a secret: You can't always trust pastors and you can't always trust pharmacists. People are people and they will let you down.

What's behind this decline in trust in our society? where we're skeptical of everything and everybody? We've heard all these bogus claims and we've heard all these unkept promises. Why don't we trust people?

The answer is what we talked about two weeks ago. Truth decay. Our society doesn't value truth any more. What they value is what works. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. Truth and trust go together. There is only one letter difference between truth and trust. You trust people who tell you the truth. You don't trust people if you don't think they're telling you the truth.

In a society where most of the people say, "There is no such thing as absolute truth" that means you can trust absolutely no one. You can't depend on anything or anybody to always tell you the truth if there are no absolute truths in life. We talked about that fallacy a couple of weeks ago.

That causes stress in our lives because you were wired to be a person of trust. When God made you and God created you, when He designed you, He wired you in such a way that you have the capacity and the desire to trust in something greater that yourself because He wanted you to have a relationship with Him. If you don't learn to trust God, you will create something to trust in. It may be a diploma on the wall. That gives me my security. It may be money in the bank. That gives me my self esteem. It may be a beautiful husband or wife on your arm. They are my source of significance. It may be a career, a goal, whatever. But you will create something to worship. You will create something to value. You will create something to trust in.

Definition: Any time I trust any person or anything more than God or anytime I value any person or any thing before God that's called an idol. That is a definition of idol. It's when I trust anything or anyone else more than God.

The second command of the Ten Commandments says "Don't make any idols." Why is that? Another place in the Bible, in the book of Deuteronomy, it says this "For your own good don't sin by making an idol in any form." "For your own good" -- circle that. It says, I want you to have a correct understanding of what I'm like, have a correct image of me in your mind. It's really for your own good.

This morning I want to do three things. I want to ask three questions:


Why do we do this? Instead of just trusting God, why do we start trusting in all these other things to give our life meaning significance, etc.?

The reason we create idols is we want a god we can control. We want to shrink God down so we can manage Him. We want to reduce Him to our size so we can put Him in a little box. We want to assign Him to a location -- "This is your box, God; you're over there and I'm over here -- when I need You, come help me." Really, we don't want a God in life, we want a genie. I don't want a God that I have to serve. What I want is a god who serves me. I don't want a God that I have to worship and love. I just want a god who loves me and lets me do whatever I want to, irregardless of whether it's right or wrong. I want a genie. I want to control God, assign Him to a place.

People try to do this all the time. I've heard well meaning parents, after a service and the kids are running around and the parents will say, "Slow down! You're in God's house!" This is not God's house. Even this big building, couldn't hold God. God can't be contained in the universe. In fact, the Bible says real clearly, "God does not dwell in temples made by man." God is not located in any one location. We would like this to be God's house. Then He could stay in His house while we go do what we want to do. We want God to be localized in one little place.

But He's with you all the time. He's everywhere. God says, "Don't reduce Me. Don't make an idol. Don't just try to fit Me into your convenience."

This is a very important question you need to ask yourself because it will determine your values in life. Do I exist for God, or does God exist for me? You have to answer it. Who made who? Obviously God made you. So you exist for God.

If you say, "God exists for me", you don't have a God; you have a genie. You have created a little figment of your imagination. You have imagined Him. You have created an idol who serves you. This is not new. From the very beginning, man has been trying to do this. At creation, God said, "I'm going to make man in My own image." Now today, we do the opposite. We've reversed. Man says, "I'm going to make God in my image. I'm going to whittle Him down to size. I'm going to fashion Him in the way that I want. He's going to be like I want Him to be so I can do my own thing. The Bible says, "This is the day the Lord has made," and today culture's got it backward, "This is the lord the day has made" and people all around are justifying their lifestyle by their idea of what God is like. They are paring down, they're idolizing, God.

A guy petitioned the Superior Court in Morin County in the Bay area to have his name changed. He wants to be called "God". The court held a public hearing to "see if anyone could show just cause why he should not be granted his request." This isn't anything new. From the very beginning of time, man has wanted to be God. It's the very first temptation. The devil came to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. God had said they could eat of everything else in the garden but not one. It was a minimal temptation possible. He said this is one thing that was off limits. Why? So God could give them a choice between right and wrong. That's why He did it. The devil said, "If you just eat this one fruit, you will be God yourself." Man has always wanted to do that, to play God.

Since you know you can't be God, the second best thing we try to do is whittle God down to my size. I will reduce Him so that He's comfortable for me and fits my lifestyle.

This is what I call the ultimate expression of individualism. We talked about individualism in our society a couple of weeks ago. The ultimate act of individualism is everybody gets to create their own god. You create your own god to match your lifestyle and he says, "Everything you do is OK." What you don't like in other people are all the bad things. Then I create a god who says all the things I like to do are fine but all the things I disapprove of, my god says those are wrong. We each create our own little god. That's called making an idol and God says, "Don't do that!"

This has been happening for centuries. Did you know that years ago, in the Roman Empire, as the decline of the empire happened, you could create any god you wanted in order to justify any thing you wanted. If you liked to get drunk every day and party and have hang overs, you could worship a god called Bacchus, the god of getting drunk. If you liked to have sex 24 hours a day with any one and every one in any way with no standards at all -- total promiscuity -- you worshiped the god called Venus. And if you had a style, a lifestyle, a habit that you wanted to justify all you had to do was create a god in the Roman Pantheon and say, "He says it's ok."

We still do this today in America. We have some people who want to make a flag waving God, who runs around justifying all their political opinions. "God's on our side!" God, the flag and me. We have other people who want to create a status quo god -- don't rock the boat, live it the way it is. There are certain people who want to create a success god, which says, "God wants everybody to be filthy rich." So we can justify materialism. On and on. God says, Don't do it. Don't reduce Me down in size. Don't cut Me into little pieces. Don't misrepresent Me. I want people to know the truth about Me.

Do you like to be misrepresented? No. In fact when people say things about you that aren't true, you get ticked off. God gets ticked off when we say, "This is what God's like," but He's not. He wants everybody to know the truth about Him, just like you do. He says, "Don't misrepresent Me. Don't say I'm one way when I'm really another." He takes it very, very serious.

There was a book that came out recently called, How Do You Spell God? It was written by a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and the foreword was written by the Dalai Lama. You can't get more politically correct than that! HBO took the book and made a special out of it. In the book, their conclusion was, You can spell god anyway you like. Isn't that sweet? If I want to think of god as a fish, that's great. If I want to call him Charlie Tuna, great! If you want to say, "I want to think god is some `bodacious babe'", fantastic! We all create our own little god because god can be interpreted in many, many different ways.

This is one of the most popular ideas in our society today. God is anything you want Him to be. All of the expressions are equally valid and equally true. You can believe whatever you want about what God is like and its ok and it's right and it's true. Now that sounds very politically correct but we have a real problem with it. Somebody forgot to tell God. God says, "No way, Jose! This is the way I am and I don't want anybody misrepresenting Me. If you don't know the truth you can't trust Me" and if you can't trust God, you can't have a relationship with Him. So in the second of the Ten Commandments -- God's top ten -- God says, "Don't misrepresent Me. Don't make phony images of Me. Don't make idols that aren't really Me." He's very clear that when we imagine Him, when we think about Him, He wants us to think about Him in truth. He wants us to worship the truth, not some phony image that somebody has created.

I need to warn you of what's called syncretism. It's a very prevailing philosophy in the world today. Syncretism is the idea of combining a bunch of ideas from many different philosophies and ways of life, put them all together and that will become your philosophy. That becomes your religion. Get an idea here and there, throw in a few of yourself, make them up, and that's what God's like. We have this all the time in our society. People think it's very cool to do this.

What happens when you take a little bit of Christianity, a little bit of what the Bible says, you take a little bit of Eastern thought, Buddhism, Daoism, throw in a little science fiction, throw in a little more of high technology and what do you get when you mix all that together? You get Heaven's Gate. That's what these guys believed. They took a little bit from the Bible, and a little bit from eastern thought, and a little bit from science fiction, and threw in some of their own cooky ideas and mixed it all together and came up with a cult.

People do this all the time today. They think this is just as legitimate as any other way. The so called New Age has nothing new about it at all. There is not one single new idea in this New Age thinking. All it is is a combination of very old lies that have been around for centuries, named by other things -- paganism, naturalism, pantheism and all these different things. You reformulate them, throw the all in and go out on a limb and you've got New Age. God says, Don't do that. It's just a combination of old lies. When I get into that kind of stuff, it inevitably leads to disappointment and domination and eventually destruction of my own life. I lose my own identity. I stop becoming what God made me to be.

So then, the second question is: WHY DON'T I TRUST GOD MORE? Why do I end up trusting all these other things instead of trusting God? The answer is because I really don't know God.

You don't trust somebody you don't know. And neither do I. If a stranger comes up to you on the street, "You'll live 50 years longer if you put your shirt on backwards." You go, "Who are you to tell me how to live? Who set you up as the big authority? I know what's best for my life. You don't know. You're just a stranger." And you're not going to give that any validity at all.

The same is true with God. If you don't know God and you don't know what He's really like, or you've got some of these phony ideas about Him that you've picked up who knows where, you're not going to trust Him. When God says things like, "I thought up sex and it's to be reserved only for marriage." If you don't really know God, you're going to go, "Who are You to tell me what I'm to do with my sexuality? Who set You up as judge?" You're not going to trust Him. When God says, "I want you to tell the truth even on your taxes." "Why in the world should I do that? I don't know who You are. On what basis should I trust You?" If you don't know God, you tend to question all the things He says to do.

On the other hand, if you really know God and you really know how much He matters to you and how much you matter to Him, and if you really know what He's got in store for your life and if you really understand that He has your best interest at heart, then you don't have trouble at all following what He says. It doesn't make sense to me, but I know you always do the right thing when you follow God. He created the owners manual and He made me and I figure He knows more about life than I do. He's just trying to help me avoid some pain. It all comes down to, Do you know Him?

That's why God says, in the Bible, I want you to make sure that you really know the real Me, not some phony image or some idol. That's a problem today because most people spend more time in front of the television than they do reading God's word. So, we get most of our ideas about God from what I call talk show theology. There are a lot of popular myths out there that just aren't true. For instance -- some common concepts of God:

God is the cosmic cop. He's the great big, bad policeman in the sky, judge and jury. His whole goal in life is to watch my life and catch me doing something wrong and then He gets to punish me. Some of you were raised in a religious system that ingrained that into your life. That God is somebody who all He's basically doing, is looking to hurt you because you blew it. Who wants to serve a God like that? Nobody. Who wants to love a God like that? Nobody does.

At the opposite extreme of the cosmic Cop is the guy I call God, the Celestial Santa Claus. The Celestial Santa Claus never says you do anything wrong. This guy is like the feeble grandfather who sets in his rocking chair in the sky and doesn't have any teeth left, and he kind of mumbles and he's half senile and he benignly smiles at you and pats you on the head and no matter what you do -- it might be the most despicable thing, he'll say, "That's ok. Go right ahead. Boys will be boys." He couldn't make you stop doing something if he wanted to because he's basically impotent. He's an old man who has no power and he's senile. No matter what you do, God goes "That's just fine." What kind of God is that? Don't misunderstand me. God loves you no matter what you do. But God does not approve of everything you do and God wants you to change some of the things you do. If I have a child I know is doing something that is self destructive, yes, I love them and that's why I want them to change. I know what it's going to do to them.

Then there's the George Burns image of God. The old God, God. God is basically just another human being who walks around in tennis shoes and he's got a few more powers than we do but he's kind of a bubbler. He's got the same faults, failures. He doesn't know all the answers either. He's kind of like us. And that's really whittling God down. When you think God is George Burns you've really made a reduction.

Then another really popular image or idol of God today is "God is the Force. May the Force be with you." Enjoy Star Wars the movie but don't get your theology from it. It's a great flick. I've seen it at least fifty times. It's terrific. But it's just a movie. It's just fiction. It's filled with pantheism. A lot of people buy into that. It's real popular today. God is an energy force. This energy force flows around us and in us. There's a good part and there's a bad part -- God and the devil. God flows through everybody and everything. Everything is in God and God is in everything. In fact, God's in me, so I'm god! That's exactly what Shirley McLain and a bunch of other people teach. You're god! If you're God, let me see you part the Red Sea! Let me see you raise yourself from the dead three days from now. You're not God and you know it. You're just kidding yourself.

God is not in everything. You hear this all the time. Everything is in God and God's in everything. That's a bunch of baloney! God is not in everything. God created everything. No doubt about that. But God is not in everything and everything is not God. That is called pantheism. It's about 5000 years old. The most ignorant groups of people bought into this.

What happens when you buy all that stuff and put it all together? You get Heaven's Gate and a lot of confusion and a lot of problems. These images that I've just talked about they're not systems that you really want to trust and love. Who wants to love The Force? That doesn't draw any love out of you. But even if you don't accept those, you might have your own. How do you imagine God? When I say "God", what do you think of? What do you conceive of? How do you imagine God?

"I like to think of God..." You like to think of God like...? I don't want to be disrespectful but who cares what you think? You're just guessing. Just because "you like to think of God..." doesn't mean that's the way He is. You're just guessing. In fact, what you're more likely doing is creating an idol of convenience who justifies what you do. That's not the truth. What matters is not what Rick Warren thinks God is like. And what matters is not what you think God is like. What matters is what God says He is like. And He's very clear about it in His word. What matters is truth. Truth matters, not just what I think up. If you base your life on how I like to think of God, you're living in a fantasy world, not reality. I suggest you check back into reality. You've got to know what God says. That's why God says, If you don't know Me in the true way, you're worshipping an idol. If you don't know the truth about Me, you can't trust Me. If you can't trust Me, we can't have a relationship. All relationships are built on trust and truth. If they're genuine. If they're not, it causes all kinds of problems. The alternative to trusting God is worry, conflict, and feeling like you've got to control it all. That is a very stressful, miserable way to live. God says, "I've got a better idea. Trust Me!"

Why should I do that? WHY SHOULD I TRUST GOD COMPLETELY with every area of my life? Four reasons:

What I'm talking about today is not just for those of you who are seekers but for those of you who have been Christians 20, 30, 40 years. You've never really given everything in your life to God. You've held back your finances. Or you've held back your career. Or some other area. Your sexuality. "I know better than God in this area. I can't afford to do what God says." On the day when you jump into His arms and say, "One hundred percent God, I'm going to do whatever You say. You tell me the truth and You love me. I don't care if it's popular. I don't care if it's hard. I don't care if I don't understand it. I don't care if it's difficult or there's problems with it. I'm going to do what You say in my finances, in my relationships, in my time, with my life, with my dreams. And God, I give it all to You. I give You all the things I'm ashamed of in my past. And I give You all my hopes and aspirations for the future. I'm jumping into Your arms." It will be a rush you've never known.


Take that step of faith today. What are you waiting on? Start trusting God. Pray this prayer in your mind. "Dear God, I want to get to know You better, so I can trust You more. I don't want to accept all the phony ideas and images about You that are floating around today. I want to base my life on the truth about You, not just what people imagine. Would You please forgive me for the times I've thought I knew better? When I decided what was best for me, and not what You wanted and what You knew was best? I realize that that was foolish and arrogant. Forgive me for looking to other things and to other people for my self worth and significance and confidence and purpose. Help me to do what You say even when I don't understand it. I want to trust You and I want to trust the truth of Your word to be my standard for making decisions from this day forward. If You say it, I'm going to do it."