Sunday, September 27, 2020

Jeremiah's Call to Return to God, Away From Deception

How often do we say, "What do you want me to do, Lord?"  Especially in times of national crisis, as we are experiencing now, the burden of doing something positive for the Kingdom of God becomes keen.  

But it always starts with me.  With you.  Oh, it may feel grand to go out into the streets, attend a church that defies wearing masks or gathering together to sing hymns outside despite the police asking you to hand over your identification and you refusing to do so.  

Beware of the snare of pride, brothers and sisters.  Don't cloak your pride in "I don't have any fear" (are you insinuating that I do if I wear a mask?) or, "I am more spiritual because I don't wear a mask" (insinuating that if I do, my faith is weak?).

God has made it very clear what we are to do:

He has told you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion),

And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? (Micah 6:8 AMP)

Whoa. That says it all.   How do we walk humbly in this age of inflammatory language, opinions parading as facts and words spoken under the guise of Christianity, but seem to be a far cry from the Lord we profess to follow?  James weighs in with how poisonous our tongues can be, and in this age of social media, our words can become especially hazardous:

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. (James 3:1-6 NLT)

Perhaps you don't consider yourself a "teacher."  But as a follower of Christ, you are.  You teach others what a follower of Christ looks like, sounds like and acts like.  But isn't James being a bit dramatic, when he compares the tongue to being set on fire by hell itself?

No. Our pride is the open door that Satan uses to make an incursion, and to whisper in our ears how wonderful our opinion is, and how everyone is entitled to it.  Why?

  • Because we have Jesus, and they don't.
  • Because I am the smartest person in the room.
  • Because I can cut through all the muck and murk when others are deceived and I know the truth. 
  • It's my job to let others know how misled they are.

Once our pride is the driver for our tongues, all sorts of awful things can come out, even out of the mouth of people who love Jesus.

Our pride is at the core of our human nature.  Our ancestors--Adam and eve--picked their own way of viewing the world, by eating that fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  That other tree, the Tree of Life, would have made Adam and Eve eternal sinners, so God exiled them out of the garden.

Ever since, we have had an enemy whispering to our pride, "Did God really say?"  So, instead of God's way of good, which He consistently outlines in His Word, we choose the way of evil: that which our fallen nature says is good.  We follow our way, keeping the precedence set by Adam and Eve.

So, right now we are having a bumper crop of fleshly fruit in America, and not just in those who do not know the Lord:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Spot-on.  We could take each fruit in these verses and have no problem finding those in the church and outside of it who are bringing that fruit to the public square and passing it off as somehow acceptable.  Truthful.  Spiritual.  Progressive.  

Jeremiah weighs in on how the people of Judah conducted themselves, speaking on God's behalf:

"My people bend their tongues like bows
    to shoot out lies.
They refuse to stand up for the truth.
    They only go from bad to worse.
They do not know me,”
    says the Lord.

“Beware of your neighbor!
    Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
    and friend slanders friend.
They all fool and defraud each other;
    no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
    they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
They pile lie upon lie
    and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
    says the Lord. (Jer. 9:3-6 NLT)

I stand stunned how much this sounds like America today.  Another translation of verse 6 reads, 

"You live in the midst of deception;
    in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:6 NIV)

We become deceived because we hear something that sparks our sense of self-righteousness, our prideful thinking, so we listen more and more, not questioning why this something is so appealing.  Soon, we are knee-deep in "Oh yeah!  How could this be wrong?  It seems so right and explains everything!"

Uh-oh.  But the Word, what God says, is the standard whereby we measure what we hear and the truthfulness of it.  Until we are grounded in His Word, our need to let our words be heard by everyone should be reined in:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1:19-26 NIV) 

Wow.  Again.  Maybe instead of going to social media to get the latest whatever, go to the Word.  Not as exciting, to be sure.  Appealing to our sinful nature will win out every time if we let it.  But the Word is the rock upon which we build our house, for the storms, wind and rain are coming.  
I would like to be standing when all this madness is over.  I am sure you would like to be, too.   

True faith?  A good witness to those who don't know Jesus?  James gives us a striking definition:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)












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