The Lord sent Jeremiah to prophesy during the years leading up to the destruction of the first temple and the exile to Babylon. At that time, there was much mixture among the Israelites of worshipping the God of Israel and idols as well. Jeremiah warned the people of Judah and Jerusalem of the judgement that would come against them if they did not repent and turn with their whole hearts to the Lord. But the people hardened their hearts, refused to listen and even attacked Jeremiah as written in Jer. 18:18:
Then they said, ‘Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah. Surely the law is not going to be lost to the priest, nor counsel to the sage, nor the divine word to the prophet! Come on and let us strike at him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words.’
What was their reasoning to shut Jeremiah up? Their leaders – priests, sages, and prophets – were giving them messages quite the opposite of Jeremiah’s. They told the people of Judah that they were the people of God, that Jerusalem was protected by the Lord’s temple which resided in it, and that as long as they came before the Lord in the temple, bringing the due sacrifices and performing the required ceremonies, God would protect them. Jer. 7:2-11 says:
Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD! … Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’ … 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?
It was so much easier for the people to believe the comfortable message of the priests and the false prophets which essentially said, “Everything is OK. You can keep on business as usual. Just come to the temple every week and God will bless you and protect you.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we will see how similar the condition in the body of Messiah around the world today is to those of Jeremiah’s time. The body of Messiah is the people of God today and His temple resides in us. Yet, many of us go to church every week, believing that they are eternally saved and protected because they proclaim faith in Yeshua (Jesus). Their belief is based on very popular teaching today which advocates this message: that belief in Yeshua alone saves and there is no need to repent for sins after praying the sinner’s prayer or even no need to make any effort to change our lives because God’s grace covers all. But Yeshua clearly said that it is not enough just to believe in Him and recognize Him as Lord. We are also required to do His Father’s will.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. – Matthew 7:21
We are saved by faith and not by works. But true faith will always lead us to desire God’s will and live in it more and more as we grow in Him. Participating in a church service every week is in God’s will for us, but it is definitely not enough. The Lord wanted the people of Judah to come to the temple to worship Him, but that was also not enough. He wanted their hearts, not their religious habits. The people of Judah in Jeramiah’s day were “living in the world”—the pagan world around them influenced and determined their thoughts and ways of life just as much, if not more, than God’s law. God was just one of many gods in their hearts. One could argue that many in the Body of Messiah today are living in a very similar state: deeply in the world, consumed by the desires and ways of the world. God wants to be much more than an afterthought or just one among many lovers – He wants us to love Him with our whole heart, soul and strength and to desire Him more than anything else (Deut. 6:5, Revelation 2:4). That sounds intense, and it is! But keep in mind, God’s giving His own beloved Son as a sacrifice for us while we were yet sinners is an outrageously intense demonstration of love. He deserves to be passionately loved by us just as He passionately loves us and gave everything for us! When we begin desiring Him more than anything else and start removing the idols from our hearts, He so faithfully begins filling us with His love and presence which ultimately transforms us more and more to the image of Yeshua, to walk as He walked and love as He loved (Gal. 5:22-23). Then we can start really changing the world around us rather than the world changing us!
This article originally appeared on Tiferet Yeshua, January 10, 2018, and reposted with permission.