Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Jeremiah 4: Which Message?

Recently, our church had Dr. Christopher Yuan come and speak, along with his mother and father.  I read his book, Out of a Far Country, many years ago, and was very moved by it.  Having been molested by a neighbor, Christopher would later tell his mother that he was gay.  His mother, whose marriage was on the rocks, decided to take her own life in the face of such overwhelming news.  Christopher had been on the fast track to receive his doctorate; three months shy of completing it, he dropped out of school.

Travelling to her destination, where she would take her life, his mother had a tract in her purse, and she pulled it out and read it.  It was about hope.  Forgiveness.  Life.  Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation.  Then and there she received Jesus.  She did not take her life but was given new life.  

She then started on an eight year campaign to pray for her son.

Meanwhile, her son started using and then dealing drugs.  One day, DEA showed up and Christopher was arrested and was given many years in a federal prison.

He found a Bible in prison and started reading.  He admitted that he was intrigued by the Bible's message, but he desperately wanted to find a biblical justification for his homosexuality.  He read and read, and was dismayed that the Bible did not compromise or alter its message that homosexuality is a sin.  He went to the prison chaplain, who offered him another book that did say being gay was not a sin.

He struggled and struggled with these two incompatible messages.  In the end, he accepted the Biblical message.  He went on to tell us that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality; it is God's holiness.  His identity is not to be based upon his sexual orientation but on his being a child of God.  

He spoke powerfully.  He spoke with conviction.  He spoke the biblical message of salvation in Jesus Christ and how He wants us to be holy, as He is holy.

Wow.  Please read Christopher's article on the subject:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-opposite-of-homosexuality

Sitting in that prison cell, not so many years ago, Christopher had two books, two messages.  One message fit his desire to remain as he was; another message was calling him to new life.  One message was replacing biblical morality with a man-made, softer version of how to live.  The other message was a call to radically walk away from where he was, to a place of peace, reconciled and born anew in Christ. 

Christopher was given two choices.  He could only pick one.

Judah was given the same opportunity.  It was given two choices.  It could only pick one. 

God said, 

"If you, Israel, will return,
    then return to me,”
declares the Lord.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
    and no longer go astray,  

and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
    you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
then the nations will invoke blessings by him
    and in him they will boast.”

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

“Break up your unplowed ground
    and do not sow among thorns.

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
    circumcise your hearts,
    you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it." (4:1-4)

Later in the chapter God says, 

 “My people are fools;
    they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
    they know not how to do good.” (4:22)

Whoa.  Pretty harsh to our modern, tolerant, culturally relevant ears, huh?

What if Jeremiah had come with the same soft man-made version of God's message that was in the book the chaplain gave Christopher in prison?  It might have gone something like this:

Judah:  I get it.  It is hard to ignore how green and abundant Canaan is, compared to the deserts of Egypt.  It is a land, after all, that flows with milk and honey.  So, could all those Baal worshippers be wrong?  They pray to him, and look what happens!  Abundant crops!  Large herds!  Lots of baby everything!  So, let's not get too hard-line on this idolatry thing.  Yes, God has made it clear He does not tolerate being worshipped alongside other gods--He is God alone.  BUT:  Let's be real, here.  God doesn't want you to ignore how you really feel--you feel that there is a truth behind this Baal worship.  

Fair enough.  But let's lighten up on the child sacrifice thing.  That's extreme, and no self-respecting Yahweh follower would be caught dead (no pun intended!) at a child sacrifice.  Stay home that day.  You're outnumbered by the Canaanites--just tell them that you can't afford to throw in your own kids, but you certainly appreciate how they do and how their devotion benefits the whole society. 

The temple prostitute thing?  Well, don't overdo it.  Go only a few times a year.  Yes, it violates God's rules for marriage, but a few times a year can't hurt. Again:  Could all those Canaanites be wrong?

Finally, stay positive.  Negative vibes from God's prophets just make you feel sad.  Just listen to the ones who encourage your need to be happy, healthy and prosperous.  Ignore the ones calling you to holiness, dependence on God and a life lived that reflects His presence within you.  

Oh yeah, I guess that means me, huh?  I better get online and download some better messages from those people who know how to grow a church.  The Word of God can be a real bummer to those seeking peace with who they are.  God wants better for us; but could all those Canaanites be wrong?  Can't argue with success, can we?   

Pragmatism, majority views and seeking your truth never saved anyone.  In fact, the culture in a fallen world is by definition, going to mislead, lie and misdirect away from God's Word.  It all comes down to that lie whispered millennia ago:  "Did God really say..."

A compromised truth isn't.  We do no one a favor by redefining sin as something else.  Sin is meant, just like its author, to "kill, steal and destroy."  

Jeremiah knew this.

Do we?














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