I think that I've mentioned before that this is my favorite season of the year. Mainly because it's the season that brings us Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays. I have a personal name for this season and I call it the "Food Season." Would you agree with me that there just seems to be an abundance of good things to eat during this time?
The next time that you're dining out and are perusing the menu and making a choice from it, notice something stated on it, usually at the bottom. It's a little two word phrase advising you that there are "NO SUBSTITUTIONS!"
What exactly does that mean? It means that the owner of the establishment has decreed that those who dine there cannot mix and match foods different than they are listed on the menu. As an illustration, you cannot trade your "mixed vegetables" for a piece of Peach pie. When it tells you that there are NO SUBSTITUTIONS, that's exactly with it means.
You see, the owner has placed the items on HIS menu in the order he wants them and people dining there have no authority to change anything on HIS menu. Only the owner has that authority. And, if we take this thought a step further, one item does not equal another. IE: One thing is not as good as the other. Now, parabolically speaking, let's take a known and familiar thing such as a "menu" and see if we can't apply that to a spiritual aspect say, "The Bible" or "God's Word."
I don't know about you, but I have no problem seeing The Bible as God's Menu. And when we look at it in that respect, I think that there are a couple of areas we can consider here today. I suppose the most apparent one would be the substituting or exchanging of man's laws for God's laws.
Some of the things that man likes to do, as far as "being religious" can be what we might call "slight" in nature. As opposed to something of a "radical" nature. "Slight" might be something as simple as the way we praise Him in our song worship and "radical" would be seen as worshiping idols or including some paganistic ritual in the worship service. Perhaps we could even define this area as being of "minor" or "major" exchanges/substitutions.
I'd like you to remember this: the degree of substitution is not what matters here. The principle involved with "minor" or "major" is the same as a "little white lie" or a "big black lie." Either one is a lie. The degree does not matter with God. Thus, a "minor" substitution is just the same as a "major" one. We "diners" have no authority to change His "menu" in any way, shape or form. Remember the old saying: "It takes as much authority to change a law as it takes to make a law." When one takes it upon themselves to "change" one of God's laws, they are literally putting themselves on the same level as God. Bestowing on themselves the same authority as God. That, my friends, is a scary proposition to me.
When we look back at the Law given to Israel, we find that they were specifically told to not change anything the Lord told them to do in worshiping Him. Not to exchange (or substitute) one thing for another in the manner in which they were to sacrifice/worship Him. Check out Lev. chapter 27 and Ezek. 48 and see if I speak correctly about this.
But, we also know from our studies of ancient Israel that they made numerous "substitutions" in The Law and in so doing, basically made the Covenant with them of no effect. The Prophet Isaiah called them on this when he told them that the reason their "land" had become "defiled" was because the "inhabitants had changed the ordinance" and "broken the Covenant." (Isa. 24:5)
In actuality, what they did was the same as Paul talks about in the first chapter of Romans when he talks about "those who changed the truth of God into a lie." He goes on to say that, when "they" did this, they worshiped the "creature more than the Creator." When we extrapolate this on out, wouldn't the words of Paul there apply to those who "substitute" their own form of doctrine in place of that delivered by Christ. Would not they, in essence, be making themselves equal with God and then worshiping themselves. I see it that way.
Let's talk just a moment about another "area" of "substitutions." This area deals with people's propensity to "substitute" going to worship service for some other endeavor. And we see those "substitutions" falling into the realm of "charitable events" or participating in some "social organization" benefit of some kind. And these things, in of themselves, do not fall under the category of "bad" things and a lot of the time are really good and benevolent things.
They are things that have good causes like addressing tragic diseases or the relief of some calamitous event. People just seem to feel that being involved in these sort of activities is just as good as "going to Church." You see, they're doing something "instead of" what God tells us we are to do on the first day of the week. Did you notice that "instead of" is the same as "substituting?"
Yes, unfortunately, there are many people who believe that being involved in a social organization is equal to being a Christian. Is equal to doing what God commands that we do. Those people are doing nothing more than "substituting" what they want to do in place of what God says we are to do.
In closing: when God says on His Menu "NO SUBSTITUTIONS" that is exactly what He means. Revelation 22:18-19 tells us what the penalty is for assuming that we have the authority to "substitute" or "change" our laws for His. We have no more right to make "substitutions" to God's Menu than we do to get a piece of pie in place of stewed carrots. The café owner says "NO SUBSTITUTIONS" when it comes to his menu and God says the same regarding HIS!