Audio Version faux-faith.mp3
Reading through the book of Jeremiah hits like a sledgehammer. His mission to call a whoring people back to their first love is chillingly contemporary. Sadly, it is too easy as God’s people for us to sing words to Him for an hour or so once a week, calling out for help occasionally as a last resort, then resume building our lives on personal preferences, social convenience, or cultural trends. Unless we have a fearless shepherd in our little world who is willing to expose our faith-faltering hearts, we are impoverished by our hypocrisy without the slightest sense of its danger. Illusion blankets us with counterfeit security and comforts us with cancerous distortion of truth. We think the problems we face are “out there” when they are actually “in here” – our heart and its connection to God (or lack thereof). So we keep putting bandaids on arterial wounds by doing our church time, Bible studies, and throwing out a prayer now and then, while insisting that we will do that “thing” God convicted us about tomorrow. We swindle ourselves by confusing intention with action. That kind of lifestyle will force God to send a Jeremiah into our life. His message to Judah was terrifying, but their hearts were so immersed in idolatry, greed, and oppression that their ears were closed to the message. And anyway – they didn’t have to listen to that radical preacher when they had their own prophets assuring them everything was ok. God, however, did not evaluate their faith by their church attendance but by their horrific treatment of people around them, especially the vulnerable.
We do not want to drift into that same morass of God-indifferent worldliness, so tethering our hopes and aspirations to a perishing world system that it will require extreme measures to extract us. That is not only bad for us, but also for our neighbors who desperately need rescuing from the grips of our common mortal enemy. We cannot bring others into a kingdom that holds little interest for us. Insipid uncommitted “faith” is a joke to the world and a reproach to the Lord. We tend to read about those backslidden Jews from the perspective of spectators instead of as participators.Yet these things are written for us as an example so we can learn from their mistakes and live differently. To persuade them, God had to send a terrifying enemy who invaded and destroyed the homes, money, and idols they had trusted in. Their self-absorbed lifestyle was ripped away and they became the poor, destitute, abandoned people they had ignored in their comfortable prosperity. Relationship with God was a compartmentalized issue, relegated to a small corner of their life, not immersing their thoughts or hearts, and certainly not the “practical” decisionos. God told Jeremiah: “So when they ask you, “Why has the Eternal done this to us? Why would our one True God treat us this way?” remind them and speak to them My words: ‘Because you have rejected Me and bowed down to foreign gods in a land that was yours, now you will bow down to a foreign people in a land that is not yours.’” Jeremiah 5:19 Voice
The path is clear. It starts with idolatry – god replacements right in front of His face while continuing the rituals and traditions that were supposed to keep them focused on Him. While we might be amused by the wood and stone idols they traded for the Creator of the universe, remember there was sex involved with the ceremonies and soothing cultural approval. If everybody is doing it can it really be that bad? Idolatry was the gateway sin that led them ultimately to such self indulgence that greed, selfishness and oppression slid naturally into their thinking without any resistance. “God, through His prophet, speaks about the ills of a greedy people who have forgotten how much the poor and orphaned matter to Him. The stench of injustice has become unbearable. For God, it is time to act.” (Excerpt from Voice Bible- Jeremiah 6)
Wow! That couldn’t be us, could it? Ask yourself when the last time you have wept before God mourning your selfish self-preoccupation? The last time you begged Him to reveal to you what you are putting before Him – success, relevance, family, security …? The last time you neglected to do that thing God asked of you? The last time you opened your home to someone in need? The last time you gave of your time (God’s time, really) to help someone, visit someone, write someone, call someone who God had put on your heart? If you are like me, it would be embarrassing to answer out loud. Oh, sure, we all do some stuff – usually the things that don’t stretch us too much, affording some comfort to a nagging conscience perhaps. When I read God’s indictments of injustice I think of the refugees fighting to survive, the homeless, the displaced – and want to help. So I support appropriate organizations. Some can participate in the relief effort physically, but all of us have poor orphaned souls in our own little worlds who we can serve. They just aren’t as obvious, their hurting hearts and abandoned souls masked by anger, depression, or even a smile – people around us we could offer a hug, a listening ear, a promise from God’s Word, a cup of coffee together, money, or whatever God leads us to do. We can be attentive, intentionally concerned with something besides our idol of self! I love Bruce Wilkerson’s little book God Pocket where he encourages us to prayerfully set aside a specific sum of money that is available when the Holy Spirit prompts us to give it to someone. There are some great stories in it about the blessings of being the hand of God in someone’s life.
Here is a soul challenge: we can stop perpetrating heart injustice on our neighbors by refusing to belittle and look down on those who are different from us, building bridges instead of walls. We can stop judging our fellow Christians who serve God differently than we do. We can volunteer and see firsthand what we can learn from those we deem (secretly) as “less than”. We can expose our minds to the views of those we disagree with and work to understand why they are thinking that way. We can put a guard over our lips to speak carefully and lovingly to and about our wounded neighbors. We can challenge our friends to do likewise. We can plan for healing. There is plenty of injustice in our society, and it starts in our ‘spiritually correct’ little hearts. It’s not enough to do church. It’s not easy to be real with God. It will not happen accidentally. Our souls and those God has entrusted to our influence hang in the balance. So let’s unreservedly trust and cooperate with God’s gracious invitation to become the kind of people with whom He can build His kingdom.
When He comes will He find this kind of faith on earth? Hope so!