Paganism, Prosperity & the modern church!
God's people are fickle, we know the truth, but the battle with our fallen nature is ever-present. Have we ever stopped worshiping these false gods?! We have depersonified them, erased their names but their worship is still very evident in our culture and even our churches today. But before we get to that, lets take a look at some of the history.
In ancient Canaan, there were two major pagan gods. Baal & Asherah. First there was El, he created everything. His mistress was called Asherah (we will talk about her in a moment) and she gave birth to the god Baal. Baal worship grew as he defeated all of the other pagan gods known at the time and he became the most powerful, even to the point of El being forgotten. Baal means LORD and his realm is best described as power and influence. People worshiped Baal because they wanted to be like him.
How did they worship Baal? well they made sacrifices of sheep or bulls, but when times were desperate they resorted to sacrificing their first born children. The Hebrew/Christian God YAHWEH called this practice detestable (Duet 12:31) and any sane person would agree. It turns our stomaches to think of offering our children as a sacrifice, right?
Then there was Asherah, she was first the mistress of El, but then after seeing the success of her son Baal, she also became his mistress. She was a fertility goddess and to worship her, people had sex with a priest or prostitute near tree groves or Asherah poles, this was supposed to cause them to be fertile and have children. This act of "worship" was also detestable to the true God because it perverted the beautiful gift that He had given to His people, namely sex in the context of a healthy God-pleasing marriage.
It is easy for us to condemn these actions as they seem so extreme and foreign. but if you strip away the strange names and places of worship, you will find that these very things, though detestable to God are common in many Christian churches today. We worship Baal the god of Power and Success when we work 80 hour weeks to make money and climb that ladder, all the while sacrificing our children and our families, abandoning our parental duties and leaving them to be taught and led solely by television and public school systems. Then, we wonder why our children stop going to church after leaving home.
We privately worship Asherah, the goddess of fertility and we keep her pornographic images in our computers & phones. We let our lust for pleasure and sex destroy our marriages and families. We go to church on Sundays, but we spend more time looking at porn throughout the week or reading erotica than we do reading God's word. These practices are alive and well today, precisely because we are quick to wander from God and we return to our roots...Paganism.
But why? Well pagan worship really isn't about the god or goddess, (we know that they don't even exist, there is only one God) but it is about the "worshiper."
It is the most ancient rebellion against God.
It is self-worship.
Getting what WE want.
If we have to make a sacrifice or do something forbidden, we will do it if it pleases us. That is the core of rebellion. That is how we fell from relationship with God in Eden and it is still how we do it today. We flee the structure that God has given us for our own benefit and we run to chaos thinking we know what will really make us happy. But that road leads to death, it always has.
Prosperity Gospel is an example of another ancient pagan practice, modernized so that it doesn't seem so foreign. Pagans give things to their gods (offerings & sacrifices) so that he will do things for them (crops, money, success). Anytime we try to manipulate God into giving us what we want, we are on a slippery slope of rebellion & paganism. We find ourselves worshiping a god who is not worthy of our adoration, because he is easily manipulated by the bribes of men.
We are meant to surrender to God's will, not manipulate it. True worshipers worship him because of who He is not what he can give them.
Suffering and hard times may come, but He is good and we will trust in his goodness and know he has a plan for our lives. Search your heart. Is your relationship with God built on surrender and trust or manipulation? If it is the latter, confess that to Him and let him lead you into a more healthy view of God. Surround yourself with people who have remain faithful to God even through suffering, they can always give us perspective on how to be faithful no matter what.