4 minute read

The god of the City

By Rev. Tim Pauls

Part way through the City of God conference in August, we hit the Seattle waterfront. And there, amid the tourists, piers and jellyfish, we came face-to-face with a sermon from today’s favorite deity. High up on a wall, someone had chalked in big letters, “you are god.” It may sound like the midnight mission of a nut-job, but I snapped a picture. It’s truly the religion of the 21st century.

Not that it’s anything new: Satan tempted Eve, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5); and from there to Babel (Gen. 11:4) to now, man has wanted to take the Lord’s place. It’s the god of the city—no, not specifically Seattle. It’s the god of Babylon—the city used in Revelation to symbolize unfaithfulness against the one true God. It’s the site of idol worship, immorality, excess and more; and it all comes crashing down in judgment (Rev. 14:8; 18:21).

Consider that statement, “you are god.” It sounds like a good deal. If you’re god, then you establish what’s true. You determine your code of behavior; and if you sin against your own law, so what? Write in an exception. You can take the Bible and decide what’s good. And frankly, “you are god” is the belief behind the notion that all gods lead to heaven, because you can only teach that madness if you think like this: “All gods lead to heaven because we say so, even if the gods say different. And if we decide what gods say, we’re bigger than they are.” That means that God is nothing more than a mental puppet, and you’re the one pulling His strings. In the short-term, “you are god”looks sweet to sinners.

Sinners are very good at looking at immediate gratification, but not at looking ahead, say, until Judgment Day.

Because if “you are god” is your creed, then you must put yourself to the test. Have you created all things? Are you faithful to your word, eternally unchanging? Can you heal diseases? Can you defeat death? Can you raise yourself from the dead? If you can’t, then you’re a pretty lousy god. Do you really want a god only as big as you? Shoot, if I were good enough to be my own god, then I wouldn’t need one. But I can’t raise myself from the dead, so I certainly don’t want to settle for myself.

It’s a common problem, though, trusting in gods that are failures. Back in 2 Chronicles 25, King Amaziah defeated the Edomites; then he took their gods and made them his own. The Lord sent a prophet to the king, who asked, “Why have you sought gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?”

In our day and age, we ask the world, “Why do you trust in yourself, when you can’t deliver yourself from death?” For now, though, “you are god” is the pop creed du jour. The world will promote this until the Lord returns, though it might abandon it for a while if disaster strikes. Not for long, though. When calamity hits, the world decides “there is no God” for a while. Then it says, “If there’s no God, it’s up to you.” Then it gets right back to “If it’s up to you, then you are god.”

As Babylon continues its urban sprawl—as society continues to turn its back on the God of truth, we continue faithfully to confess the Word, rightly dividing the Word of truth between Law and Gospel. We keep speaking of the one true God so great that He created all things, yet humbled Himself to become man and die in our place. Be warned: there’s one thing Babylon doesn’t like, and it’s the proclamation of the one true God who exposes false gods and frauds. The Church won’t be popular. Along the way, though, many will come out of Babylon, saying, “I’m not god after all, but a poor sinner. Lord have mercy, for Jesus’ sake.”

So here we stand, and with joy; because with Abraham, we’re just passing through, waiting for that city, which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). We’re passing through because this isn’t all there is. This isn’t all there is because we’re not gods. Rather, we are blessed to be children of the one true God. He’s the One who created all things. He’s the One who heals diseases. He’s the One who has already proven His love for you at the cross. And He’s the One, the only One, who raises you from the dead.

You’re not god. But you are God’s. And for the sake of Jesus, God is not ashamed to be called your God.That’s why He’s prepared His city for you (Heb. 11:6).

Rev. Tim Pauls is associate pastor and acting school administrator at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho. He is an editorial associate with Higher Things.