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August 13, 2018


Have we settled for a substitute?


What happens when a sure foundation has been replaced with a shallow substitute?

There was a time when the whole world, every living human being knew the story of God. They knew that He was the highest Authority, the Creator. They knew that He was the most powerful being in the universe and that He has an ultimate claim on us as His creations. They knew that life exists because of Him and that no life could have existed without Him.

They even knew the story of their first ancestors Adam and Eve and the story of the deception of the great serpent and its effect on mankind. They knew about the sons of Adam and Eve and why the very first murder in the history of humankind had occurred. These words, the words of God that are recorded in Genesis, were common knowledge. There wasn’t a person on earth that did not know these stories!

So what happened? Romans 1:21-23 makes it pretty clear; “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.”



“Degapiyaa, no! Don’t go back out there yet!…Those colors, they are the walking stick of the evil spirits. They are a bad omen, do not look at them! They could cause you sickness or even death!” Wikipai replied… They really did believe that this is what a rainbow was, the literal walking stick of an evil spirit! We couldn’t believe that they were so afraid of something so beautiful. Something that, according to the message we wanted to bring them, had been given as a sign of goodwill and of a promise from God to Noah and all of mankind. In the Dao culture, this sign of goodwill from God had been turned into a sign of the evil spirits, something that they believed could cause them harm and which was meant to bring sickness and even death.” – From page 229 of Prophecies of Pale Skin



The first step in any society on this earth towards that society’s ultimate spiritual demise is their making the mistake of believing that they know better than God. It does not matter what we replace our Creator and His story with, whether we try to replace God with our own system of rights and wrongs or try to deny God’s existence altogether, if we replace His ultimate claim and authority over us as His creation, then we have taken the first step towards our own destruction. This is what has happened to cultures and people groups around the world from the most primitive man in the jungles to the most advanced society in Europe. From one place to another around the globe the result has been the same over and over again.

Could there be a better description of the materialistic, money-centered, sex-worshipping, God-barren type of behavior that we see today even in our own society than what we read in Romans 1?

Whether it is a man-made system of Christian culture that we elevate above God and His word to us or whether it is some other idol or system of belief that we hold up in His place, the end result is a twisted and godless society. A society that goes from one hollow thing to another just trying to suck a little bit more physical pleasure out of a dry, sand-filled cistern that can’t even compare to the cold clear spring that is Jesus Himself. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, we have become people that “have done two evil things: They have forsaken me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13)

Every person, culture and people group that exists in this world had the truth at one time, we don’t have to look much further than the legends and folk stories of any people group to see evidence that this is the case. And we don’t have to look any further than their actions to see the hopelessness, murder and sin that results in forsaking the words of life and instead sucking on old, dry, “cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all”.

So when one chooses to turn from the cracked dry cisterns that our own foolish pride has to offer and instead turns and runs to the cool, fresh, pure, clean water that is Jesus, what is the result? This oasis that they find in the desert, this water in a dry and barren land becomes the center of their attention, the very focal point of their entire life! They just can’t seem to get enough of that sweet, cool refreshing water that is God Himself. In their joy at finding this wonderful spring of life giving water they begin commending it to others, they just can’t stop talking about this rare treasure that has changed their life completely.

If we truly have experienced Jesus, if God Himself truly has become our greatest treasure and our source of spiritual life and He is the center of our universe, then the exact opposite will happen to us from what Paul explains has happened to those in Romans 1. “We will know God and worship Him as God and give Him thanks. We will leave behind our foolish ideas of what He is like and the result will be that our minds become clear and vibrant. We will claim ourselves to be fools in comparison to the all-knowing, all-powerful God that we worship! And we will turn from the foolish idols we have replaced our Creator with and turn back to our source of hope and true life that is God Himself.”

We will see Jesus for who He truly is and as a result be willing not only to turn from any lesser joy or idol and live for Him, but for the sake of making known the treasure that He can be to others, we will even be willing to forsake everything else for Him. We will go to great lengths to encourage others also to turn back to the sure foundation that they have traded in for a shallow substitute.





  1. What is your foundation for life?
  2. Why is it important to guard God’s Word as our only ultimate standard? If our society is presently turning more and more away from God as our sure foundation, according to Romans 1:21-32, what will be the end result?
  3. What are some of the shallow substitutes that compete for the place of the cool clean refreshing water that is Jesus alone?
  4. Does my life reflect to the people I am trying to minister to that Jesus alone is the ultimate treasure?


* Read Matthew 13:44-48 and ponder these verses and how they relate to your own life



Used with permission. © 2014, D.S. Phillips

The Leaf Book and the Crossed Wood is a thought provoking study on the effects of the Bible and the Cross in an isolated culture in which they had never been previously introduced. Based on the true story found in Prophesies of Pale Skin.

Along with his family, D.S. Phillips lived and worked among the very remote Dao tribe in South East Asia. The Dao tribe is a people group that before they arrived had no written alphabet for their dialect, not a single verse of scripture available to them and no church or religious organisation of any type working among them.

If you would like to purchase the book go to: The Leaf Book and the Crossed Wood


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“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” 

- Revelation 7:9-10

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