Friday, October 6, 2017

The Church has a Hearing Problem

Probably the most common expression in my lexicon of spoken words is “huh?” You see, I’m hard of hearing. Not deaf, but I have a hard time with the frequency range of the spoken voice. Sometimes, my wife says, it seems to be selective.

So let’s talk about Jeremiah [I know—that wasn’t a very smooth segue].

Jeremiah’s ministry took place during the sunset years of Judah: late seventh century BC, early sixth century. God was bringing judgment upon His people (very important point: on His people) through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian juggernaut of an army. Just before the hammer fell, God extended to Judah the final offer of clemency: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.” (Jeremiah 7:3, NASB95)

But it was falling on deaf ears: “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—that you may do all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 7:8–11, NASB95)

The chapters that follow double-down on exposing Judah’s apostate behavior. “At that time,” declares the Lord, “they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their graves. They will spread them out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served, and which they have gone after and which they have sought, and which they have worshiped. They will not be gathered or buried; they will be as dung on the face of the ground.” (Jeremiah 8:1–2, NASB95)

“Which they have loved … served … gone after … sought … and worshiped.” Whoa! It was a thorough-going departure from the true and living God. Note well: these are God’s people turning from God. In a very memorable turn of phrase, their apostasy is described in these words: “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord.For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:12–13, NASB95). God says of the depth of the sin of His people, “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, And they did not know how to blush; . . . ” (Jeremiah 8:12, NASB95)

They did not know how to blush. Wow! God’s people, no less.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of believers making noises about “God’s judgment on America, because of America’s sins.” This is a refrain that is commonly heard after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, and unnatural disasters, such as the mass killing in Las Vegas.

And I want to say, “Not so fast, Christian.”

You see, God will (and does) judge the sins of mankind generally. Prime example: the flood. Another prime example, the Canaanites. But there is in Scripture the principle of a preservative, a preservative that delays judgment upon a wider people. Remember the conversation God had with Abraham shortly before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah? If only ten righteous men could be found there, God would restrain His judgment (Genesis 18:32). Was that a one-time deal, a spiritual blue-light special? No, because God says something very similar in Jeremiah: ““Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, And look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, If you can find a man, If there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, Then I will pardon her.” (Jeremiah 5:1, NASB95). This is a double-barreled statement, we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Clearly, if there was one (not even ten!) righteous man in Jerusalem, it would be spared.

Here’s the point: God’s judgment was falling because His own people were behaving like the unregenerate nations around them. I’d like to suggest that we, the Church, should consider whether or not WE are the cause of judgment in our day: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NASB95). It might be wise to take a second look at the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3.

Maybe it’s the Church that has the hearing problem. How many are sitting in the auditorium on Sundays and engaging in secret sin on Mondays? How many Christians are ignorant of their Bibles, not because they are dumb but because they have no desire to read them? I’m amazed by the number of people I talk to who are living together, and/or having sex outside the bonds of marriage, and yet call themselves Christians. How about the Christian parents who are diligently teaching their children to worship sports, relegating corporate worship to a secondary priority that happens only if their team has no game on Sunday morning? How about those Christians who live for camping on the weekends, and tolerate corporate worship only if the weather is bad?

How about the coldness and hardness in my own heart?

By the way, I am well aware that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6). God’s people were, in Jeremiah’s time, a mixed multitude. But so is the visible Church. The visible Church today has many who say “we are delivered, we prayed a prayer,” who then go on thinking they may safely continue in their sins. What exactly did you think Jesus was saying in Matthew 13? “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.” (Matthew 13:47–48, NASB95)

At the very least, we believers have failed to be a preservative in our own nation. Perhaps we shouldn’t blame the abortionist and the homosexual for God’s judgment. Those are sins, to be sure. But the real answer might be a lot closer to home. Do we, the Church, even know how to blush over our own sins?

Oh, and one more thing. That righteous man God was seeking in Jerusalem, whom if He found He would pardon His people? God did find Him—or, rather, God sent Him. His name was Jesus.

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