Good morning! I took what I thought was a permanent leave from blogging. I must confess I was tired. But what has ensued since? Covid-19 with its rather relentless pursuit of us; BLM, protesting, Antifa and wanton destruction; police ordered to stand down in the face of destruction; more and more the belief that Trump is the root of all evil; and the beat goes on.
A dear friend of mine and I have been meeting and studying Jeremiah together. Holy wow! The verses we are reading have taken our breath away. Not in a "look how every verse is a fulfillment of newspaper headlines and we are definitely in the End Times!" kind of way. We see America and its hardened heart in the verses. We see how America, like ancient Judah, has turned its back on God and it now being warned of impending judgment. Yet the verses are also filled with God's devastation at the unfaithfulness of His people and His call to come back. He reminds His people of all the blessings He has given; the protection and the beauty of His presence among them and how repentance and obedience to His Word will restore the relationship.
When did this hardening of America's heart begin? My friend and I labored over a timeline.
The early 1960's with its removal of prayer from public schools? Not to honor other faiths, mind you, but the ranting and raving of an atheist whose argument caused the Supreme Court to agree.
The 1960's with the introduction of the Pill? Sex without consequences, commitment and its message that pleasure is the sole goal of humanity?
The 1970's with its skyrocketing divorce rate? Families and marriage were pitched into the abyss of "I am not happy" and fathers and mothers left in droves. Kids waited for the parent who would never return.
The 1980's with its title of the "Me Decade?" The wealthiest decade America had yet experienced but with AIDS, drug use and an endless pursuit of pleasure marring the gaiety.
The 1990's with Columbine and the message that if you are not happy, people must die.
Gay rights. Gay marriage. Transgendered rights. Fluid labels of sexual identification. Now happiness is determined by sexual orientation; if you are not happy it's because you are not free to express who you really are.
BLM. Racism. Your happiness is being taken away by oppression. Remove the oppression--cops, Trumps, whites and their privilege--and all will be well.
Happiness is the sole goal of humanity now, and whoever or whatever gets in the way is evil and must be removed.
Have I oversimplified the argument? Yes, but the underlying current of "You do you" has made the legitimate argument of reform, accountability and reasonable policies drown. "It's all about me!" is the modern battle cry and if America must be burned to the ground, so be it.
Where is God, His Word and His reformation of our hearts in all of this? Jesus and Paul never stood on a street corner decrying slavery, Roman oppression and immorality in all its forms. Why? Because they correctly identified the source of the problem: the human heart.
Jesus said, "For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matt. 15:19-20 NLT). He was responding to His audience's deeply held belief that without ceremonial washing, a man is defiled. Jesus quickly corrected them. The human heart, unreformed and uncleansed by His blood and the Word will never lead to anything positive personally or societally.
Paul too, knowing well what His Lord said, reiterated that our flesh--our sinful heart using our body to act out its sinful desires--must be changed:
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:1-10)
There it is. If Jesus changes the heart of a person, then that person will not seek happiness as the only goal in life, but will seek a life pleasing to God.
Racism will be disdained. Violence will be cast aside. Identity will be in Christ. The cry for "Rights!" will be replaced with a cry for repentance and a life lived in God's will.
Overly simplified? No. We make reform way too complicated, and it rarely starts with us. It always starts with something or someone "out there."
Let's start with the heart--yours and mine.
Join me as I pursue the message of Jeremiah and his call for repentance and reform of his nation. You will hear my friend and my heart's cry for our nation as we meet on Saturday mornings and labor over the Word. You will hear the plan for change as Jeremiah weeps over the sin that has polluted his beloved nation.
God's judgment is always preceded by words of warning and of hope.
Are we listening?