I. One of the local restaurants used to make wonderful chocolate-chip cookies. They were a bit expensive, but I would buy a dozen or sometimes more for the family. I used the past tense, because they changed their recipe. I suspected it the first time I saw them. I knew it as soon as I ate one. They substituted shortening for the butter. It wasn’t the same. What a let down!
A. It is rare to find a substitution that improves things.
B. Usually we are trying to make things more convenient for ourselves or trying to save money.
II. As we peruse our Bibles, we find substitutions being made that have disastrous results.
A. Leviticus 10:1-3
1. In those days, matches had not been invented. Lighting a fire from scratch was difficult, so people kept a portion of the previous fire with them to start another fire. Usually it was coal kept in a bed of ashes to keep the coal warm and burning slowly.
2. To carry these coals, people would use a censor or a fire pan. It was a metal container with a few holes to let some air in. You could carry it with you for a convenient fire starter.
3. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, decided to offer incense before God. Instead of getting coals from the altar, placing them on the altar of incense and adding the incense there; they took their firepans, put a fire there, and sprinkled incense on it. We don’t know where the fire came from, but God called it strange (or foreign) fire. It wasn’t the fire that God used to personally light the first sacrifice (Leviticus 9:22-24).
4. The substitution did not please God. It wasn’t what He commanded.
a. Notice what God said, the priest had not treat God as someone holy (set apart as special).
b. They did not respect God and give him honor.
c. If God can be worship any old way that man wants, then He has been cheapened.
B. II Samuel 6:3–7
1. David substituted a new way to move the ark. He decided to use a cart instead of having the priests carry the ark on their shoulders.
2. God showed His displeasure by causing the ark to tip on level ground. Uzzah died trying to keep the ark from falling.
3. Notice that Uzzah was said to have died for his irreverence. He did not treat God’s things with respect. He was moving God’s ark like a common piece of furniture.
III. The world cheapens honorable things with cheap substitutes
A. Marriage is honorable - Hebrews 13:4, but people live together without the covenant of marriage.
1. God calls this a sin – fornication.
2. Couples are pretending to be married, but they have not made a lasting bound between them. It is a cheap substitute.
3. The excuses are endless.
a. It was cheaper than renting two places.
b. We can’t afford to get married (as if marriage changes the cost of living in a home).
c. We are not ready. Yet they pretend that they are.
B. Similar are those who substitute sex for love
1. The old “come-on” line: “If you really loved me, you would do it.”
2. Sex within marriage is an expression of the love between the couples, but sex is not love.
3. I Corinthians 13:4-8 gives a wonderful definition of love, but there is no mention of warm-fuzzy feelings or butterflies in the stomach.
4. Instead of an act of beauty between a committed couple, it is cheapened to an instinctive act of two animals.
IV. In the name of religion, people have offered cheap substitutes.
A. We could make an endless list of the changes denominations have made to the ways of God, but I want to look at things a little closer to home.
B. God has defined the work of the church and we can classify its duties into four realms.
1. The church brings worship to God
a. I Corinthians 11:18-34 - Coming together as a church to partake of the Lord’s Supper
b. I Corinthians 14:26 - Coming together for singing and teaching
c. Yet today, there are several churches that are substituting instrumental music for that singing. It is a substitute because it is used without anyone singing.
2. The church spreads God’s Word to the lost
a. Philippians 1:3-4; 4:15-16 - They supported those who taught.
b. Individual Christians went out and taught the word - Acts 8:4
c. Yet today, I get letters asking for donations to support the missionary work of various college’s Bible departments.
d. By what right can we substitute a college for God’s holy church or individual Christians.
3. The church strengthens its members
a. The church is organized to build up its members - Ephesians 4:11-15
b. Older Christians are to teach younger members - Titus 2:2-6
c. Yet a habit is developing to send young men and women off to schools to learn Bible.
d. I just received a letter asking if we have members interested in taking Bible courses at the facility of a local congregation to get an Associates Degree in Bible.
(1) The congregation was not doing the teaching, just hosting the program.
(2) The teaching and the degree is being conferred by a school.
e. So we have brethren again substituting a school to do the work of a church and its members.
4. The church gives aid to destitute members
a. A gathering for needy saints - Acts 11:28-30; I Corinthians 16:1-2; II Corinthians 9:1-2, 11-14
b. Individuals are to do good as they see opportunity - Galatians 6:10
c. Yet we get letters asking for money to be sent to organizations like “The Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Organization.”
(1) It is a substitution of an organization for the work of the church and its members.
d. It can go the other way as well. The church is limited to who and when it can help - I Timothy 5:3-12, 16
(1) Yet some wish the church to be a welfare organization
(2) We constantly get phone calls from individuals who are shocked that the church doesn’t hand out money to anyone who asks.
(3) Sometimes brethren feel the same way, but we cannot substitute the church for a work belonging to an individual.
V. God knows exactly how he wanted his worship to be conducted. He knows how the church is to be organized and its work is to be accomplished.
A. Some of God’s choices seem odd to men - I Cor 1:18-21
B. We shouldn’t fool around with God’s recipe.