The Great Pretenders

pneuma kai alētheia | spirit and truth

“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive and useless words that bring no benefit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear [oaths] falsely, offer sacrifices or burn incense to Baal, and follow after other gods that you have not known, and [then dare to] come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My Name, and say, ‘We are protected and set free [by this act of religious ritual]!’–only to go on with this wickedness and these disgusting and loathsome things? Has this house, which is called by My Name, become a den of robbers in your eyes [a place of retreat for you between acts of violence]? Behold, I Myself have seen it,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 7:8-11

Do we consider our behavior when we are not behind the doors of a church building? Do we consider to what we are devoting our time and energy throughout the week? Have we let our church attendance or “Christian” label become a “good luck charm”?
In this chapter of Jeremiah, the Lord is speaking through the prophet, warning the Israelites that they have a false sense of hope, that they are not “okay” as some of the false prophets were saying. God was flat-out telling them that He detested their behavior. They were oppressing the foreigners, the orphans, the widows, shedding innocent blood. They were sacrificing to the idol Baal and then, they thought to gain some brownie points with God, they would go to the temple and perform their rituals there.
Just as going to the temple and continuing to offer sacrifices and go through the sacred rituals did not excuse Israel’s abhorrent behavior outside the temple, so we are not excused from our malicious behavior just because we attend church or carry the label “Christian”. Recent news events regarding a branch of the church breaks my heart as I am sure Jeremiah’s heart was broken when he witnessed the atrocities that were done in the Name of the Lord.
God has always been more concerned with our heart attitude than our allegiance to rituals. Although being part of a church community, family, is an integral part of the Christian’s life, it is not a replacement or substitute for living holy outside the church building. If we show no love for our suffering neighbors or offer no help to the poor and down-trodden, or, more despicable yet, perpetrate atrocities while carrying God’s Name, God will not accept our hollow “sacrifice” of church attendance.
If our heart is truly to be the light to a lost, dark and broken world, we must return to holiness, return to the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord. We must allow God to soften our hearts, to break our hearts for what breaks His heart. We must allow God’s cleansing, all-consuming fire to burn in our lives to remove everything that is not His. We must take the painted masks off our faces and lives and be the Church, which is loving the downtrodden, poor and broken, but also, holding each other accountable to a life worthy of Jesus.

What I’m Listening To…
This Week’s New Song: Living Hope by Brian Johnson, Phil Wickham
Verse 1
How great the chasm that lay between us, how high the mountain I could not climb.
In desperation I turned to heaven and spoke Your Name into the night.
Then through the darkness Your loving-kindness tore through the shadows of my soul.
The work is finished the end is written, Jesus Christ, my living hope.
Verse 2
Who could imagine so great a mercy, What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory to wear my sin and bear my shame.
The cross has spoken, “I am forgiven.” The King of kings calls me His own.
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever. Jesus Christ, my living hope.
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free.
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me,
You have broken every chain,
There’s salvation in Your Name.
Jesus Christ, my living hope.
Verse 3
Then came the morning that sealed the promise; Your buried body began to breathe.
Out of the silence the Roaring Lion declared the grave has no claim on me.
Jesus, Yours is the victory.

This Week’s Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts, Lowell Mason
Verse 1
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Verse 2
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
Verse 3
See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Verse 4
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.