Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Arrow of Deception: Idolatry and Obedience (Jeremiah 41 – 44)

Many try and avoid going to the Cross, believing they can avoid the pain and still be a disciple of Christ. They are like the remnant of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. The Jewish remnant thought they could escape the trials of Babylon, which was caused by their continued disobedience, by going back to Egypt, the former place of their bondage, and now the place of their death. People are deceived into believing there is a short cut way around the death of the flesh, and it only leads to deception and more flesh, which is idolatry.

People sincerely believe that they can be openly disobedient, unrepentant, and still stay on track with God. They will try and justify themselves rather than just deny themselves. You will hear statements such as, “everyone has sin”, and “it’s no worse than what so and so is doing”, and the like. Of course, there is a complete difference between someone who knows he has sin, admits it is sin, and wants to be cleansed and free of it, and the person who stubbornly, and blindly will not even acknowledge that the thing they commit in front of God and man is even a problem.

Many think they are “getting away with it”, but even though they do not have to deal immediately with the problems posed by their lack of obedience (Jeremiah 42:14 / 44:17), it leads to an even greater problem, and greater suffering. Galatians 6:7-8 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

God breaks us down to purify us but we won’t comply, we struggle to try and find an “alternate route”. We understand that Jesus went to the Cross for us, and we feel that we have no need to follow Him, we don’t have to go through the pain, we can avoid it, there is another way, etc.

We only want to submit to God halfway, and it leads to deception and idolatry.

Exodus 20:3 – No other gods before me needs to be realized for what it means, because so many today think that it has no context, no relevance for today, being that no one is making idols out of wood, etc., at least in the West. However, an idol is anything that takes precedence over God, and most often it is self, and the self-ish, self-indulgent, fleshly desire of our nature to want to be able to hang on to our old life while claiming to be regenerated to new life.

Before is paniym (paw-neem), in front of, in the presence of, in the face of – they weren’t calling the golden calves Baal. God is omnipresent, and so everything is in His presence, or before Him, and so we may have no other Gods, period, not that God is to be placed first, He is to be the ONLY God we serve, and that includes self.

Jeremiah 41 – Jerusalem had fallen, and the governor that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed over it was murdered by one of the remnant Jews. They feared for their lives (vs.18), and also believed that they were right in wanting to have a prince of the house of David, and Ishmael was of the royal family (vs. 1). How often do we think our position protects us from having to go through judgment, or trials, how often are we deceived into believing we are actually fighting for a just and holy cause when we are really just blinded by our own esteem for ourselves.

Jeremiah 42 – the people wanted to hear God's Word from God’s prophet, but not so as to actually obey, but rather, that God might sanction what they had already determined to do. Jeremiah didn’t receive the Word for 10 days (vs. 7). The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey (vs. 5-6), and that they should have time to commit their wills to obedience. God told them through Jeremiah that He would protect, preserve, and eventually promote them through the trial (vs.10-12). God made it perfectly clear that they were not to go to Egypt (vs.14-19), but He knew that their hearts were hypocritical (vs.20-21) and declared their doomed destiny (vs.22).

Jeremiah 43 – the people were falling fast into apostasy. They turned on the Word of God through the prophet (vs. 2). They didn’t obey and went into Egypt (vs.7), and took Jeremiah with them. It reminds us of how they probably thought that having God’s prophet with them would be like having God’s blessing with them. This is using God’s tools like a magic weapon of sorts, like the Israelites did with the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4).

Jeremiah 44 – What happened to these people that went into Egypt is that they fell into total apostasy, they began blatant idolatry, and became deceived in so many ways that they were completely blinded to the truth of God’s Word (vs.17-19).

The people were so blind and hardhearted that they actually believed that serving other gods was their ticket to prosperity, and that disobedience was the way to safety and security. Jeremiah let them know that God in His longsuffering had let them go until their iniquity was fully ripe, and that it was their disobedience that lead to their lack, not leaving off the service to other gods (vs.21-23).

This is what happens when we fail to go to the Cross. We fail to suffer the death of the flesh, and our worship becomes as it did for these that went to Egypt, it becomes vain and idolatrous, without our even realizing it. This is what happened to others whose pride eventually lead to their downfall, those who thought that they could worship God “any old way they felt like”. Results and relationships cloud their judgment and discernment.

Adam saw Eve eat the apple, but he still had a choice. He could have chosen not to eat of the apple himself. Instead, he chose his relationship with his wife over his relationship with God and His Word. This is why Jesus told us that if someone wouldn’t hate their family compared to Him, they couldn’t be His disciple (Luke 14:26).

Think about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. They relied on their relationship to their father Aaron and as priests to protect them from having to worship in the way God intended for the “others”.

How about Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31 / 12:20, 25-33 / 13:34)? He was given the 10 northern tribes by God, yet he thought that he could establish a different place and different methods of worship. They didn’t start out thinking those idols were other gods, they worshipped them as Jehovah, just as Aaron and the Israelites did while Moses was on Sinai.

King Uzziah was a great and godly king, but his results lifted up his heart, and he thought his relationship with the Lord meant that he could act as priest as well as king (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 15-16). He paid dearly.

A lesson is this: we must stay in a repentant attitude, and if God says that we are to do something in a certain way, then we are unwise, unrepentant, and rebellious to do otherwise. It will lead to deception and idolatry, where we will think we are doing right but we are sincerely wrong. Sincerity is no substitute for truth.

Deception can be very subtle. If you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, he will jump out immediately. However, if you place him in a pan with cool water, and then slowly turn up the heat, soon you will have frog legs for dinner.

Protecting yourself by running to “Egypt” won’t work (Jonah) (Psalm 139:7) – people who plan an “out” by waiting until people vanish at the rapture and then they will get saved, etc.

Now let’s look closer and see just how deceived these people were, and how certain things can blindside us. Jeremiah 44:17: “T’s” of idolatry, the pragmatic outworking of today, and the “scriptural justification” some might use to keep from being obedient.

1) Testimony / “out of our own mouths” – who are you to tell us, we are just as much a Christian as you, we are holy and righteous in this, you are the false teacher, buddy! The Lord orders our steps!

Answer: Jeremiah 6:16 / Luke 4:4 / Numbers 16:3 / Proverbs 14:12, 21:2

2) Togetherness / “we” – we need unity, division is bad, your doctrine causes strife, can’t we just get along, Jesus wants us together no matter what, what about John 17?

Answer – Romans 16:17-18, we mark those against God and his doctrine, not those who rebuke each other (Titus 3:9-10)

3) Tradition / “our fathers” – always done it this way – Jesus never changes (Hebrews 13:8)

Answer: Mark 7:7 / Colossians 2:8, make sure traditions are Bible, Queen of Heaven and Mariolatry (1 Timothy 2:5), doctrines of demons like not marrying and abstaining from meat (1 Timothy 4:3)

4) Teachers / “our kings and princes” – doing what we were taught, are just submitting to authority (Romans 13)

Answer: Acts 4:19,5:29, as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1 / Ephesians 5:1)

5) Totality / “city of Judah” – this is a universal doctrine or practice, everybody’s doing it, why would we be the ones to get punished for it, mouth of two or three, multitude of counselors, all the other prophets are saying peace, three fold cord not easily broken, etc.

Answer: 1 Thessalonians 5:21

6) Treachery / “streets of Jerusalem” – out in the open (open season for treason), shameless conduct (lasciviousness), we are not doing anything wrong or anything in secret, we aren’t hiding it, everybody knows it, no harm in this we are doing it for good reasons, we are doing it in faith (Romans 14:23), we see the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

The emergent church movement or conversation is trying to justify all types of treachery, and promoting things such as yoga, labyrinths, burning incense, contemplative prayer, and the like. They do these things under the guise of finding more ways to be intimate with God. However, their idolatry shows itself in their self-indulgence and licentiousness, with their justification of tattoos, piercing, cussing, etc. They justify trying to be like the culture by saying that it allows them to be more able to identify with those whom they witness to, but we are supposed to be identifying with Jesus, not them. We shouldn’t try to show that Christianity is “cool”. Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven. Do you see the difference, the subtle deception that can creep in? It is the same for all seven points here.

“Christian coolness” is not evangelical relevance, it may be cultural relevance, but it is worldliness, not Christian maturity. It is irresponsible. It is compromising the integrity of the Christian witness. More often than not, those who would emphasize Christian liberty are actually just exercising the old man. The converts these people make are just converts to their idea of religion, but it is not authentic Christianity, it is a counterfeit. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof to live a holy life and break away from the world. They are lovers of self and pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4-5).

Answer: Ecclesiastes 8:11 / Deuteronomy 8:16 / Proverbs 28:26

7) Treasure / “plenty” – prosperity as the measure, pragmatic yardstick, it works, Gamaliel (Acts 5), don’t trash what God is blessing, etc.

A well-known teacher says the Bible is only one message, obey and God will bless (wrong: we can’t obey and so God gives us grace, he blesses us by changing our sinful situation, not our social situation), and they are “living now in my reward” (verily I say unto you, you have your reward)

Answer: Proverbs 1:32 / Romans 16:17-18 / Deuteronomy 13 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, logical fallacy of induction (specific to general)

Vs. 18 – Malachi 3:13-15 / Job 13:15

Vs. 28 – Malachi 3:16+

Ezekiel 14 / 2 Samuel 22:27 / Luke 19:21-22

All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Character determines revelation – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Obedience doesn’t get you a reward for being good, what it does is keep you from getting the wrong perspective, you stay in the bread line and keep getting good food, wholesome and not leavened. You may “get away with” certain sins for a time, but they lead to a bigger problem, the idolatry of self, where you have a hard heart and cannot be broken, and are led into deception and perversion, apostasy and falling away.

Philippians 3:18-19 (NLT) – For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.

Be aware of this fact: it is not those who don’t even claim the name of Christ that Paul is talking about in this passage, it is those who remain self-indulgent, who don’t press on to maturity, but who keep feeding their old man, and then try and justify it by saying that they are allowed, or even that it is somehow right. They are ripe for deception, and are already deceived. It is not those who are trapped in sin, even, that Paul is discussing and warning about, it is those who defiantly state that they are of Christ but who won’t take their self-indulgent old man to the Cross.

Their end is destruction, whose god is their belly, or their own appetites, meaning they do what they want to do; their god is their own self-ish desires, with its self-indulgent agenda. They are proud of their liberty, thinking they are more enlightened than those whom they see as more narrow-minded, and they are constantly trying to defend their “right” to import this or that practice from the world. They are worldly, they thought they could be whatever they wanted to be, worship however they wanted to, and approach a holy God anyway they saw fit, and still keep Jesus too.

They wouldn’t let anyone correct them, they wouldn’t accept rebuke or be admonished, and they thought that they knew better. They are not broken by their sin and instead of falling on Christ, He will fall on them to their peril (Matthew 21:44). They wouldn’t suffer the death of the flesh; they are enemies of the Cross of Christ.

In this way are they enemies of the Cross: they may have thought they believed in it for Jesus, and indeed that is all it takes to be saved, believing Jesus died on the Cross for your sins is a saving knowledge of Christ. However, the bible clearly teaches that this knowledge if held in truth will cause a believer to also follow Jesus to the Cross. Godliness teaches us to become more and more repentant, our lives will progressively become more and more unlike the world, not like the world.

The degree of effectiveness in an individuals life is not the question, the resolve to do it at all or to deny the need to is the matter at hand (1 Corinthians 5), the desire to become sanctified in practice, rather than defiantly avoiding the possibility of going to the Cross for the gradual death of the self life, that is the question. In essence, they deny this saving knowledge in practice, if not in doctrine, by not believing in and following Jesus to the Cross in their own life. They became progressively more and more deceived, their faith was proven not to be real, and they are damned.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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