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Pundits, Prophets and the Year Ahead - Jeremiah 16

Will we trust the "experts" we hear on the Internet, or will we trust the inerrant and infallible word of God?

Jeremiah 16; Job 19:25-27

Dec 30, 2012 12:00 PM

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There are very many wonderful things that have come from this amazing thing we call the Internet.  I never thought I would ever see such a thing in my lifetime.  For me to be able to talk to another person live, face to face, in different countries, on different continents, and from the living room couch!  And it costs $30 a month?  Only George Jetson was able to do such a thing for decades.

But even I have begun to take the Internet for granted.  We seldom are in awe of it any more.  Until it stops working.  And then we realize the World Wide Web is no longer a luxury or merely a fancy form of entertainment, or an astoundingly wonderful means of communication.  We’ve come to depend upon it on a daily basis.  For shopping for everything from clothing and cars to antiques and “end-of-the-world” food supplies.  For the weather, for research, for news and sports and TV programs and movies, for talking to friends and co-workers and relatives, for promoting our businesses, and the list goes on and on.  It is certainly one of the greatest inventions in all of history.  

Along with this vast amount of information that has been made available to us at our fingertips comes another unwanted phenomenon.  With everything good comes the promotion of everything bad as well.  Bad political views, bad news stories, conspiracy theories, bad people exploiting others and promoting scams, rampant pornographic content, and worst of all, bad theology.

What makes the Internet such a dangerous place is the easy access bad people have to it, and the easy proliferation of their bad content to millions and even billions of people.  The Internet has made more bad information more easily accessible to more people than ever before in history.  We have instant access to the worst things about mankind, and these bad things are being constantly pressed upon us daily, hourly, every second.

This week I came across two troubling stories without even trying.  Both have to do with spiritual things, with how people understand or don’t understand spiritual truth.  To be more specific, both stories were full frontal attacks on the Bible and the Christian faith.  The first one was concerned with former Presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who said:

. . . same sex marriage “is in every family, it is in every community.  The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to . . . accommodate and deal with reality.  And the reality is going to be that . . . gay relationships will be legal, period.”1

So we must all figure out a way to accommodate homosexuality because American voters increasingly have no problem with it.  That is very bad theology.

CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewed (if you can call it that) Rick Warren this week in an attempt to enlighten Pastor Warren, and by means of CNN and the Internet, enlighten the rest of humanity about the Bible:  

“It’s flawed,” Morgan said during an interview with evangelical pastor and author Rick Warren. “Both the Bible and the Constitution were well-intentioned, but they are basically, inherently flawed – hence the need to amend it.
“I do not believe the Bible is flawed,” Warren said. “What I believe is flawed is human opinion because it constantly changes.”
The British-born talk show host held his ground during a lengthy conversation about the Bible and gay rights.
“But you and I know the Bible is, in many places a flawed document,” Morgan said – a point of disagreement with Pastor Warren.
“My point to you about gay rights for example – it’s time for an amendment to the Bible,” Morgan told Warren. “You should compile a new Bible.”2

That is very, very bad theology.
Then there was this article:  Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife.  A neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, has written a book about his journey during a coma into heaven.  Newsweek had him as one of their cover stories in October.  In his book, Dr. Alexander explains to us and the world that during his seven-day coma he was actually on a journey.

“For most of my journey, someone else was with me.  A woman.  She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail.  She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes.  Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face.  When first I saw her, we were riding along together on an intricately patterned surface, which after a moment I recognized as the wing of a butterfly.”

“Without using any words, she spoke to me.  The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true.  I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial.”

“The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
“You have nothing to fear.”
“There is nothing you can do wrong.”3

“I’ve come to know absolutely the existence of an all-loving and powerful God — that our souls are eternal,” Dr. Alexander said.  “I go to church all the time, but I have also come to realize strongly that there is no one right religion.  All aspects of religion have everything to do with the rich, deep, eternal reality,” he explained.  “Anything about religion that says they are the only one is just doomed dysfunctional human thinking. It’s all about showing compassion and forgiveness in our lives and giving our faith and belief to the source of all creation.”4

Well, he’s a neurosurgeon so he should know.  He’s been to heaven and back.  So now we all know there is no single right religion.  All religions get you to the same place: heaven.  In other words, Universalism.  This is heresy.

More and more, beloved, the entire world is becoming increasingly intolerant of those who read and believe and promote the truth of the Scriptures.  
•    If you say, based upon the very clear teaching of Scripture, that the only means of getting to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE . . .
•    If you hold to the biblical conviction that faith in Christ is the exclusive path to eternal life . . .
•    If you actually believe what Jesus said is literally true: “No one comes to the Father except by Me” . . .
•    In other words, if you promote good, sound, biblical theology . . .

You will be marginalized, you will be treated as an enemy of the human race, you will be accused of the grievous and unforgivable sin of intolerance, you will be considered hateful and bigoted and self-righteous, and you will suffer, just like the prophets did, for saying what God says.

What we see happening to Jeremiah in Jerusalem, among his own people and among his own countrymen, and even within his own family, serves as a small-scale example of what is happening globally today.  The global scope of today’s persecution is, in part, because of the innovations of the Internet.  Now men can promote the persecution of Christians instantaneously, constantly, and globally.  That is new.  That is something the Church has never experienced before: instantaneous, universal, global persecution.  And the grounds for universal persecution is based largely upon our refusal to accept universal salvation because the Bible does not teach it.  We refuse to believe God is all-loving and doesn’t have a problem with anyone.

Turn with me to Jeremiah 16 please.

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. 3 For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: 4 They shall die of deadly diseases.  They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried.  They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground.  They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth. 5 "For thus says the LORD: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the LORD. 6 Both great and small shall die in this land.  They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. 7 No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. 8 You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink.

9 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. 10 "And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, 'Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us?  What is our iniquity?  What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?' 11 then you shall say to them: 'Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, 12 and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13 Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.'

14 "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' 15 but 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.'  For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. 16 "Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them.  And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways.  They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations."

19 O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: "Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. 20 Can man make for himself gods?  Such are not gods!"

21 "Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD."

What I just read doesn’t sound anything at all similar to, “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.  You have nothing to fear.  There is nothing you can do wrong.”  Jeremiah says nothing even remotely similar.  Let me just come out and say it: What Dr. Alexander experienced on his journey to heaven is a lie.  No doubt he had some kind of ethereal experience.  He even says that his cerebral cortex was completely offline.  But whatever his experience was, it does not jive with Scripture.  His experience is not the measure of all spiritual truth.  The Word of God is the measure of all spiritual truth.

Men in Jeremiah’s day, and men today cannot bring themselves to believe in a god that is displeased with them.  So they invent gods they can please.  Or they create gods who will accommodate their sin.  They cannot stomach the Bible so they change it to be less contrary to the lifestyles they enjoy.  In fact, you can now purchase your very own copy of the Queen James Version of the Bible.5  Do I need to explain that?

Judah serves as a reminder to us that there are times when men and nations become so godless and so apostate that God determines to destroy them.  In the midst of the laughter and glee, in the midst of marrying and being given in marriage, in the midst of godless parents watching their godless children grow up into even more godlessness by inheriting nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit from their spiritually dead parents, God brings about their destruction.  AND, as we just read in verses 4 through 8, no one mourns the loss.

In my opinion, the number one telltale sign that a culture has entered into a spiritual No Man’s Land from which there are no survivors, and from which there is no return, is when they start asking the question we see here in verse 10:

'Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us?  What is our iniquity?  What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?'

“Why would the Lord be angry with us?  What have we done that would cause Him to be upset?  What reason does He have to not bless us?”  

Answer: “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, 12 and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.”

Like Judah in ancient times, America REFUSES to listen to God.  They will listen to Newt Gingrich.  They’ll listen to Piers Morgan.  They’ll even listen to a neurosurgeon who said he took a trip to Heaven while he was in a coma.  But they WILL NOT listen to what God has said in the Bible.  Those days are gone, and we are on the verge of the same fate as Judah when God said to them, “I will show you no favor” (v 13).

That is why the relatively few people who still think the Bible is the inerrant and infallible revelation of God to men will not be tolerated.  Our culture refuses to tolerate GOD.  Why would they tolerate us?  

A few days ago I was talking with someone who asked me if God gets upset with people.  (And I thought, “This is right up my alley!”)  That turned into an explanation of the wrath of God toward sin and toward sinners.  It was a brief explanation, but it provided a perfect opportunity to talk about, of all things, Christmas.  
•    Why did Christ come into the world?  
•    Why did God send His Son to be born of Mary?  
•    What was it that the angel told Joseph to name the Child?  
•    Exactly what is the good news and why should we have joy at Christmas?
•    Why did the angels say to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"? (Luke 2:14 ESV)  Isn’t God please with everyone?

According to Dr. Alexander, yes He is.  According to Jeremiah, . . . and Jesus, . . . and all the prophets . . . and the apostles . . . and the writers of the New Testament, . . . no He isn’t.  

•    According to Mr. Gingrich, we all need to learn how to accommodate sinful behavior.  
•    According to Mr. Morgan, we need to re-write those parts of the Bible which are flawed in order to accommodate sinful behavior.  
•    And according to everybody else, What is our iniquity?  What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?'

I don’t know if there are any optimists left among you.  Surely I have cured you all of such folly by now.  I’m not sure what you think the year 2013 holds for us.  

•    Maybe it will be a relatively good year.  
•    Maybe the Lord will withhold His rod of correction from us and grant us yet more time to repent,
•    More time to preach the biblical gospel,
•    More time to see more of His sheep brought into the fold.  
•    Maybe the Lord will have mercy upon us as a nation and open many hearts to receive the good seed of the word of God as it is faithfully preached by many pastors across the land.  

I do not know what the Lord has planned for us as a nation or even as a church in this year to come.  But beloved, I do know this:  Our God is a good God.  Our God reigns over all of His creation as King.  Our God has promised to never leave us or forsake us and no one can pluck a single one of us from His hand.  The work of our Lord Jesus upon the cross was not for naught.  He accomplished the task for which He came into the world: To save His people from their sins.

So whatever happens in the year to come, I know, along with my brother Job . . .  

. . . that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:25-27 ESV)
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