March 4, 2019
A substitute teacher was trying to make use of his college psychology background in a middle school classroom. He began the class by saying, “Everyone who thinks you’re stupid, please stand up.” Right away, little Johnny stood up. The teacher said, “Why do you think you’re stupid, little Johnny?” “I don’t, sir, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself!” I guess substitute teachers (and all teachers as well) have to be careful what they ask for in class. Many mornings when I arrive at school, the topic in the office among the principals is centered around, “Do we need any substitutes today?” On some days, here at FCS, substitutes are a vital part of the educational process, but in reality, substitutes in the classroom are not as good as the real thing. In our daily lives many of us accept substitutes when it comes to sweeteners, generic drugs, or store brand groceries. The question would be, when are substitutes acceptable and when will no substitute suffice?
In our worship as believers, God demands that we worship Him only, no substitutes allowed. Exodus 20:4-6 says “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” In Moses day people were worshiping the sun, moon, stars, metal, wood, stone, and anything else that could be turned into an idol. Today idols can be money, possessions, power, position and a multitude of things that are a substitute for God. But God promises blessings only to those who faithfully serve the one and only true God whom there is no substitute for, and even promises to pass those blessings on to our future generations.
The prophet Jeremiah addressed the people of Israel who had begun placing the temple itself above the God of the temple. In Jeremiah 7:12-15 God said, “Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.” Shiloh is the place where the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines. After that defeat the Israelites took the Ark of the Covenant with them everywhere they went, because they had learned that it was only with the presence of the one and only true God that they could not be defeated.
Why do we as believers in our Christian lives today often feel defeated? Could it be because in our churches we are sometimes more consumed with the programs, grounds, music presentation, atmosphere, form of worship or the building itself than we are with the object of our worship? These are all unacceptable substitutes for a jealous God whose desire is for us to build our relationship with Him in Spirit and in truth. Most importantly, there is no substitute for Jesus, who alone offers salvation to a world which desperately needs a Savior. Paul reminded the Colossians of who Jesus is. He emphasizes that because He alone is God, it is He alone who can reconcile the world to Himself. Colossians 1:15-20, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” No one can accept any substitute for Jesus for their salvation. He is the only way we can relate to God, and anything we accept as a substitute will prevent us from knowing Him in His fullness. Acts 4:10-11 “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
In our school, substitutes are acceptable, but not preferred. In our relationship with the Almighty God, no substitute is acceptable, we need the real thing. Have you allowed a substitute to enter into your relationship with God? Why not “call in” to God as you begin your week. Confess that without Him you cannot be successful. Acknowledge that His presence is more important than all of your plans, and that most of all His salvation through Christ is the most important lesson you could ever teach or receive this week. Let’s keep all of the substitutes out this week and rely only on the real thing. NO SUBSTITUTES ALLOWED!