Full House, Empty Hearts!
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
[Hey, just before you jump into this TB, let me remind you that Ken Vissers (one of our International workers from Honduras) will be with us on Sunday, Oct. 28th. He will be meeting with people that may be interested in one of the missions trips this February or March, after both services. Mark your calendar!]
Ever tried to gauge someone’s heart health? Not their physical heart, but that part of a person which is the “inner” person, comprised of our thoughts, affections and attitudes. Our story resides in our hearts. Our deepest thoughts, wounds and dreams, reside in our hearts. Sometimes we pull the curtains over our hearts closed, and at other times we pull them wide open for people to see in.
On Sunday we discovered that a whole nation, Judah, had a bad heart. Manasseh had been King of Judah for 55 years. 2 Kings 21:9 sums up the damage that he did - “Manasseh led Judah astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.” That is bad, real bad! But then Josiah became King, and upon discovering the book of the Law (believed to be Deuteronomy), he tore his robes in repentance and brought drastic reforms (see 2 Kings 22, 23). This is the first instalment of Extreme Make Over. From head to toe, Josiah swept the nation clean.
But here is the problem - we come to Jeremiah 7 (Josiah ruled for 31 years and is now dead) and after all the reforms, we now stand in the same temple that Josiah stood in as be brought reforms, and what do we discover?
Text: Jeremiah 7:1-15 (read)
We discover that these sweeping reforms did not go deep enough. So much revelation… so little reformation! Lots of external posturing, very little internal processing! Lots of makeup that was just really a cover-up! Josiah’s sweeping reforms had failed to sweep into the hearts of the people and they had normalized abnormal. They had gotten used to a dysfunctional kind of spirituality where they said the right things and did the right things but their hearts were sick, very sick. Jeremiah 12:2 sums it up - ”You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. So God was using Jeremiah to call them on it.
BIG IDEA: When we normalize abnormal, eventually God calls us on it.
QUESTION: WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN WE NORMALIZE ABNORMAL?
When we normalize abnormal, we “dumb down” the experience of gathering (v.1-2)
This is a toxic scene. These people are coming and going, standing in the temple, and following Mosaic instructions on worship and sacrifice. But instead of a gathering experience which brings repentance, holiness, contrition and worship, it is just a “lip service”. Lips are flapping, but hearts are snoring. Thus Jeremiah’s plea - “reform your ways.” Check out what God thinks of these pretenders (v. 2:13, 4:22, 5:1,23, 6:15,16). They have normalized abnormal!
Do you think we are guilty of “dumbing down” our gathering experiences?
What are some examples?
- We may gather for prayer, but we go through the motions and our hearts are cold.
- We gather for worship through music but it becomes entertainment, not connecting with the words, not asking God to speak to us
- We gather for teaching, but it is turned into therapy… a better me
- Bible study becomes a weird exercise of saying the right things but being untouched by the Word. Like jumping into a pool without getting wet
- Accountability becomes deceptive and coy
- Ministry becomes a “task” instead of being servant-leadership
Sometimes when we think of rebellion or someone rejecting the faith, we think of people that leave the church, walk away from God, and have nothing to do with other Christ followers. But Jer. 7 demonstrates that we can walk away from the faith but still walk right into the community, the church. We’re physically there… but miles away from the heart of God.
Why not pause as a small group and pray that when Bethel gathers (small groups, Sundays etc) that true life change would be taking place.
We believe lies to accommodate our foolishness (v.3-15)
Notice what they are relying on. V.4 and 8 show where their trust is placed - WORDS, DECEPTIVE WORDS.
They believed judgment would not come because in Jerusalem was located the temple of the LORD (repeated three times to emphasize their belief in its protecting power). The people of Judah viewed the temple as a talisman or a good-luck charm that could ward off any attack. The lie they had believed was that, by being in a place and doing and saying the right things, everything would be ok.
They are in fact hiding behind the lie. It’s easier to mouth this mantra than it is to get on their knees and do the hard work of dealing with their hearts. Their lies enabled them to normalize abnormal. You know what God calls that? BS - Bad Strategy! :-) It didn’t work for Shiloh (see v.12-15). God doesn’t get tricked by their BS… or our BS.
What are lies we often tell ourselves or others to avoid the hard work of dealing with our hearts?
- “I’ll do it tomorrow”, when in fact tomorrow never comes and we never do it!
- “I have done all I can”, when in fact we haven’t even started
- “I never said that” when in fact we did, but believing the lie, and getting others to believe it gets us off the hook of doing the hard work of repenting
To normalize abnormal we often cozy up beside some deceptive words.
Why not pause here and pray that our lies would be exposed and our hearts transformed, because we eventually get burned by our lies.
We justify the unthinkable v3-15
This point is a no-brainer... if we are going to dumb down our faith and then use lies to detour our hearts then the obvious result is justifying the unthinkable. It’s kind of like… if I am going to eat chips every night and sit and watch TV all the time… then I am going to get fat.
What can we do? What is our response?
- We can start by praying for the church. Note Jeremiah is not talking about the world, he is talking about people who are supposed to be the people of God.
- Be a Jeremiah - “stand at the gate”- maybe your family, your roommate, your small group, your... Go ahead - call a spade a spade. But as Peter admonishes us, do it ‘with gentleness and with respect.’
- Ask yourself the hard questions: Where have I normalized abnormal? Have I dumbed-down aspects of my faith walk? Have I used lies to avoid dealing with my heart? Am I guilty of the unthinkable?
Approximately 600 years after Jeremiah stood at the temple gate, Jesus would stand in the rebuilt temple calling people to reform their ways. They had turned the temple into a Wal-Mart! Is Jesus calling us now to reform our ways?
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