Read Jeremiah 16:1-21
The opening verses of this chapter must have been so disheartening to hear for Jeremiah. As an obedient servant of God, he had just found out in Jeremiah 15 that he would not escape the coming judgment God was sending upon His people. These people had turned away from God to worship idols and had fallen into all kinds of sin. But Jeremiah had not followed them into sin, instead he became God's prophet to warn them of what would happen if they didn't return to God. Now God is telling Jeremiah not to get married or have children because they would die gruesome deaths. He also tells Jeremiah that if any of his friends or family die that he must not mourn with them or for them. Why? Because they had turned away from God. Talk about harsh!
All the chapters in Jeremiah thus far have been God warning His people to repent and return to Him or else face the consequences. Ultimately, they chose to face the consequences rather than return to God. The result was that many died through famine and by sword, and were eventually taken captive to a foreign land (Babylon). God punished His people who had turned away from Him to worship other idols and who indulged in the practices of the heathen nations around them. Yet, He didn't punish each person individually, He punished the whole Jewish nation. Clearly, not everyone had turned away from God (the prophet Daniel lived during this time and was also taken captive), yet everyone was punished. Why?
It becomes clear at the end of the chapter. When the Gentile nations saw what the Jewish God did to His own people, many of them threw away their idols and turned to God instead (Jeremiah 16:19-21). God used the Jews disobedience to make Himself known to other nations. By punishing them as a nation it would result in the Jewish people permanently giving up idol worship and other nations believing in the one true God.
After the return from Babylon, this was partly fulfilled as the Jews entirely and permanently renounced idols and many Gentiles turned from their idols to Jehovah.”[i]
So how can this chapter apply to us today? If you are a parent you will understand how disobedient children can be. Sometimes they just won't listen! And mom and dad have to become pretty inventive with the appropriate punishment that will drive home the point, never to disobey again. Our children think our rules are because we "just want to be mean." They don't understand that we are trying to protect them from themselves. This is why God had to punish His children. He wasn't being mean, He was being a Dad. That old saying "this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you" is true. God didn't want to punish His children. He loved them. But He could not let them continue on destroying their lives because where they were headed was eternal life without Him. They had to be punished and set on the correct path. The result, as I said, was Gentiles turning to Him and Jews finally giving up idol worship.
Today, we have the book of Revelation warning us about what is going to happen as we get closer to Jesus' return. The warnings were written about thousands of years ago and many of the prophecies have started to come true. We could be the generation that ushers in Jesus' return, which is a frightful thing because before He returns, horrible judgments upon the earth will happen. And the final judgment to come when we stand before God isn't just for one nation. It is for the entire world. Yet, for the most part, people continue on as if everything is okay and nothing is going to happen. They are behaving like Jeremiah's people were.
It is the responsibility of all Christians to continually sound the alarm, no matter how crazy it makes us sound, that Jesus is returning and with His return comes judgment Yet, we rarely hear a sermon on Sunday morning about the horrors that await those who will suffer through the tribulation. So it would seem that just like the leaders during Jeremiah's day, they are ignoring the warnings.
It doesn't help that false teachers are preaching "everything is awesome" type doctrines today and people are following them blindly. Prosperity teachers continually rant about how God wants the best for us and so they feed people a delusion that God is so enamoured with them He will rain down wealth, health and all manner of good things if they will just believe it and claim it - all while knowing what they are preaching is not even biblical. Will God punish these false teachers? Most definitely. Will He also punish those who follow them? Of course He will, unless they repent. If He did it with Jeremiah's people, He'll do it with Christians too. Our God is consistent and will do what needs to be done to bring His people back to Him.
If God would punish an entire nation of His disobedient chosen people, why would He not do the same with disobedient Christians? It may not be outright idol worship, but willingly following a false doctrine is still disobedience to God and His Holy Word. We are all responsible for what we choose to believe. If we do not examine the Scriptures to find out the truth of our beliefs, it is our own fault. The Jews of Jeremiah's day knew that they should not worship false idols, yet they chose to anyway and suffered greatly for it. False doctrines are the modern-day equivalent of false idols in the church today and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 seems to confirm that:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
And what does God say about people who listen to false teachers and follow their doctrines?
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
If you are following and listening to a false teacher like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer or Kenneth Copeland for example, you are sharing in their evil deeds.
Come away from them or share in their punishment (2 Peter 2:1-22).
[i] MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV
I don't know why, but my study of Jeremiah seems to be having a theme that centers around false teachers and bad politicians, and yet this is not the theme of the study I'm following. I believe I already mentioned I'm following Kay Arthur's study on Jeremiah, titled Listening to God in Difficult Times. And I am once again amazed as to what God is showing me. True, the people in Jeremiah's time were not listening to God at all, but it was their complete and utter disregard for God and His ways that made it impossible for them to hear Him. This is why He sent Jeremiah. To warn them of their wickedness.
I am currently looking at Jeremiah 8 and today while reading, I paused and reflected on several different verses that got me thinking about Joel Osteen and his power of positive thinking and the false prosperity gospel he preaches. I also kept hearing in my head that song from the Lego Movie called "Everything is Awesome". I have talked about false doctrines and false teachers before, and in my book He Who Has an Ear I even have a chapter on who the wolves in sheep's clothing are today. But today, a series of verses seemed to strike a chord with me about these types of preachers who preach that everything is awesome, and the Christians who listen to them and accept what they are saying without checking their bibles first to find out if it's truth, are doing themselves no favours.
You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
In the verses above, God is lamenting that the people of Jerusalem fall or backslide and never return to Him. They refused to hold onto His laws and obey Him and instead they worshipped other idols. The false beliefs and practices they clung to made them feel good, but they did not honour God and were not believing or practising their faith as God intended. But because they were so entrenched in their new beliefs and believed that it was okay to practice idol worship and worship God at the same time, they refused to repent and return to God and His ways.
I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Today's false teachers have not spoken rightly. They have not relented of their evil but have encouraged others to follow them in their false beliefs. They have discarded God's Word which calls sin, sin and have instead opened their arms to the approval of immorality and man's opinion. They have encouraged the people they lead to treat God like a genie in a bottle, who is there at our disposal, ready to grant our every wish. The mantra of Osteen is to think positively if you want good things to happen. In other words, if you believe it enough, God will make good things happen for you. And just like Jeremiah's people, Christians who do not know the Word of God are blindly following these wolves in sheep's clothing and are plunging headlong towards a spiritual battle where they will have to make a choice - believe what feels good, or accept that the only way to God is through repentance and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
This holds true for the church today. Many Christians have a misinformed belief that revival is coming to the church and a "new wave" of God's Spirit is about to move over the land that will revitalize the church in general. But the Bible predicts that the end-time church will be wracked with apostasy. This is coming true before our eyes as we see one prominent church leader after another rejecting God's Word in favour of man's opinion and a "feel good" Gospel that tickles the ears. God's people do not know or realize that judgement is about to come upon them!
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
The "wise men" of Jeremiah's day were the scribes and priests. They believed that it was okay to worship God and idols and they spread these lies by manipulating God's laws. They told the people they would go unpunished, and as these verses indicate, they probably wrote down these lies and added them to God's laws. But what does God say about them? He says, they have rejected the word of the Lord and there is no wisdom in them.
Again, this holds true for false teachers and preachers today who have rejected God's laws for their own wisdom. Worse, they write books about their false doctrines that sell thousands of copies and deceive everyone who reads them into believing their words come from God.
From the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly
And here we come to the crux of the matter. Preachers and Christians in general who proclaim peace when there is no peace. Who shout from the rooftops about the power of positive thinking - of believing and claiming. One of Joel Osteen's lies is, "If you want a shift to occur, you've got to think positive." In his newest book, The Power of I Am, he encourages his readers to use God's name - I AM - (Exodus 3:14) in a blasphemous way. He couches his words with life-affirming thoughts that are always focused on the positive. Negative things in life are, according to Joel, not from God. He rejects sickness, suffering and in a recent Sunday morning telecast he even rejected growing old and putting on weight as something that could simply be changed by saying, "I am not old. I am not overweight. I am young and I am thin." This is not biblical! If it were then the Apostle Paul would be, according to Joel, the worst sort of Christian because he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God's "strength is made perfect in weakness." And he continues in 2 Corinthians 12:10-11 by saying; "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What Joel is preaching and writing about is a lie from the devil. The Bible does not teach that if we believe it enough or say it in a certain way something good will happen. God is not Santa Claus! That's like Dorothy clicking her heels together three times and wishing she were back in Kansas. So what does God say about people like Joel and the people who "trust in Joel" rather than in God? He says He is going to judge the church.
1 Peter 4:17 warns us: "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" His words were prophetic, because it would not be too many years after he wrote them that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in A.D. 70. But this verse still applies to the church today, because if you as a Christian are mixing false doctrines with the Word of God then you are doing exactly as the people in Jeremiah's day.
The foundation of your faith should not be based on false promises, good feelings and positive thinking. Your faith should be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
If it isn't, you are on shaky ground my friend. If you have turned your ear from listening to the true Gospel and instead have forsaken it for the teachings of false prophets and liars then you are no better than the people of Jeremiah's day. They wanted to believe that everything was awesome and God would never allow them to suffer because they belonged to Him and all He wanted was the best for them. Well guess what? This is what false prophets are teaching today. They don't want to believe that when God comes again it will be in wrathful anger and judgement. And they don't want to believe or preach that the church will be the first one judgement is going to be executed upon. Instead they want to cry out, "Peace! Peace! Revival is coming. Get ready for a fresh outpouring of God's Holy Spirit to move over the land."
If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and have trusted in his atoning sacrifice, then rest assured you are saved from God's condemnation. However, if you have added to your foundation with false beliefs, you will not escape God's correction, which, as Jeremiah's people discovered, feels a lot like punishment.
Joel Osteen and those in the Word of Faith movement want you to believe that sickness, tragedy, bad finances, etc. are all of the devil. They want you to rebuke all these bad things. O Christian, that is Satan talking. When bad things happen to us, it is God saying, "You need a course correction in your life. Now listen up!" Sometimes that tragedy can be too much to bear. It might mean the loss of someone you love. I understand that pain. It's hard to fight through the grief to see if God is trying to tell you something. But more often than not, even the death of a loved one can lead us closer to God. We may even have something tragic happen to us physically, but again whatever happens in this life does not happen without God's knowledge. He always has a plan and a reason. Joni Eareckson Tada knows that first hand after a diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic. But God used her in a mighty way despite her disability.
Have you forsaken God's Word? Are you putting more trust in celebrity preachers? To listen to preachers who expound on all things positive, is a dangerous thing. It's time to come away from these people now. Stop giving them the glory (and your money) and return to God. If you have been deceived by the likes of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and anyone else in the Word of Faith movement, then repent and return to the Lord before it is too late.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ (Jeremiah 7:1-4)
In Jeremiah 7, the Lord told Jeremiah to stand outside the gates of the temple and proclaim His words to the people that were going into the temple. God was very angry with these worshippers because they had become so degenerate they were chasing after false gods, stealing, murdering, committing adultery and even burning their own children as sacrifices to false gods. Yet, on the Sabbath, they showed up to the temple to worship God BELIEVING that all was forgiven because THEY WERE GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE. And God basically told them (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You think that is going to save you from my wrath? You think by walking through these doors on the Sabbath you are automatically forgiven of all your sins, cleansed, and made new just because you're here? I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh!" (Jeremiah 7:9-15)
God Destroyed Shiloh
So, what about you Christian? Why do you go to church every Sunday? Do you think by showing up, you are cleansed, forgiven and made brand new, just because you walked through the doors? Are you believing that you are "safe" because you are saved?
What Does God Require of you?
The same thing He required from His people back in Jeremiah's day.
Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you - Jeremiah 7:23
Are you following after false gods? You would probably say, "Of course not!" But there are many ways in which Christians can unknowingly give something else in their lives more priority than God. There are the usual culprits - T.V., the internet, money, etc., but have you ever considered that you might be letting false teachers tickle your ears with a false doctrine, like the prosperity or the grace gospel? Are you listening to the world or are you listening to God? Do you believe that you can do anything you want because you are saved by grace? Or that God is there to give you what you want because you are His child? This is a false idol you are worshipping. Not God.
I know of a woman who came to Jesus only because of the prosperity gospel. She was told Jesus would solve all her problems and make her wildest dreams come true. At the time she was on welfare. A pastor told her to believe that she would get rich and to claim it every day. When she didn't get rich, she not only gave up going to that church, she stopped believing in God altogether. This is the greatest danger of the prosperity gospel. A false doctrine, encouraging the worship of a false idol - greed.
The Grace movement is equally as bad. God's grace is something I marvel at and would never treat with callous disrespect. But I know some people who believe that "once saved always saved" is the key to God's grace. So, if they sin, they don't worry about it because they are saved. They don't confess their sins, neither do they repent of them. They continue to behave as if they are the apple of God's eye and yet those who know them are repulsed by their behaviour. They sincerely believe that their sins need no confession or repentance because they were saved by grace. This is not how you treat God's grace. Jesus' blood does cover a multitude of sins, but that does not give one free reign to continue sinning.
The Jews of Jeremiah's day went through the Temple gates saying, "The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!" They put their faith in the building, rather than in God. Today, Christians who say, "I'm saved because of Jesus! I'm saved! I'm saved!" but do not repent of their sins make a mockery of Jesus death and abuse the grace God has granted them. And those who preach and practice the prosperity gospel by making use of God as some kind of heavenly Santa Claus, also treat God with disrespect. These are only two false doctrines out there today. There are many more. I focus on these two because they are the most prevalent.
False doctrines are like false idols in your life. Why? Because deceptive doctrines and those who teach them, are causing Christians to run after what "sounds good" rather than the truth. A pure love of God and devotion to the Scriptures have been replaced by the idols of grace and prosperity. Sadly, it is because most Christians don't read their Bibles that they are deceived into believing these wrong teachings.
Examine your hearts today. Are you listening to and obeying deceitful teachers who promote false doctrines? If so, you have set up an idol in your life. Put away your counterfeit idols/doctrines, return to the Scriptures and worship God alone.
For the time will come when people will not put up with