Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: I.False Faith and Self-Deception

Monday, April 24, 2017

I.False Faith and Self-Deception

I.False Faith and Self-Deception

In the time of the early prophecies of Jeremiah, the nation of Israel is in its first years of recovery from the consequences of King Manasseh and then his son Amon.  These two kings were wicked idolaters following the apostasy of king Solomon before he repented.  Many of the children of Israel were living in the pornographic, licentious culture of paganism during the week while still maintaining a farcical involvement with the Temple.  Their worship of Jehovah was pure hypocrisy.  Their faith in God was corrupted with the merging and blending of paganism at almost every level.  They were offering sacrifices to Jehovah while sacrificing their children to the pagan god Moloch.  Every high place or grove of trees was a worship center and gathering place for the pornographic practices of pagan worship. 

          Jeremiah begins to prophesy about sixty years after Isaiah’s death.  Jeremiah is contemporary with Zephaniah and Habakkuk in his early years, thereby joining them in calling Israel to repent while warning of the pending judgment of God in the Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah would live long enough to be a contemporary of Daniel in the captivity of which Jeremiah forewarns. 

          King Josiah, the boy king who began to reign at eight years of age under the tutelage of his godly mother Jedidah (II Kings 22:1), was in his thirteenth year (Jeremiah 1:2) as king when Jeremiah comes on the scene of biblical history.  (PIC) Josiah declared war on paganism and idolatry.  He had the pagan idols crushed to dust and scattered the cursed dust upon the graves of those who worshiped the pagan idols.  Yet most of the children of Israel continued their pagan practices in secret while dualistically and publicly practicing the duplicity of Jehovah worship.

          The spiritual condition of Israel at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecies was very similar to modern Christianity.  The practice of “the faith” defined by the Law and the prophets was almost completely corrupted and liberalized.  The Word of God was no longer being read with few people having access to the Scriptures.  In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, five years after Jeremiah begins to prophecy, Josiah has the priests of Israel repairing and cleaning out the Temple, which had fallen into disrepair due to neglect.  During that house cleaning, they discovered the original Book of the Law (the Pentateuch) from Moses.

     The High Priest Hilkiah had Shaphan the scribe read the Book of the Law to king Josiah (II Kings 22:8-9).  Upon hearing the Word of the Lord, Josiah is brought under deep conviction of the failures of the nation of Israel.  Josiah rents his garment and repents in heartbroken tears before God.  The transition in Josiah’s faith is from the words of his godly mother, in that she knew that paganism was sin, to the very Words of God in the Scriptures.  Josiah’s solution is to personally read the discovered book of the Law to the children of Israel (II Kings 23:2). 

          Jeremiah chapter seven takes place in about B.C. 600, ten years after king Josiah’s reign ends.  Although Josiah waged war against the integration of paganism and idolatry in with the worship of Jehovah, the war was not won.  Paganism and idolatry continued to be practiced in secret and dark recesses of human depravity by most the children of Israel (described in Ezekiel chapter eight).  Although the false faith and pagan debauchery practiced by most of the children of Israel could be hidden from the priests and the prophets, it was not hidden from God.  Jeremiah continues to expose what God sees.  This is ALWAYS the ministry of the responsible faithful. 

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. 3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. 5 For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; 6 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. 8 Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. 9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 7:1-11).

          God is visible only through the realities of His operations within His creation.  He blesses the faithful and chastises the unfaithful.  Unless we generate considerable effort to keep God and our relationship with Him at the forefront of our minds, it will not be long before our Christianity slips into dead externalism where church is what we do a few hours on Sundays and neo-paganism is what we do the rest of the week.   The consistent warning of Scripture is: Don’t take God and your faith in Him for granted.
          It is work to maintain a faithful relationship with God.  The work it takes to maintain a relationship increases proportionately to the intimacy we want (or need) in that relationship.  The difficulty is that most of us want a level of intimacy while being unwilling to invest the time necessary to generate that intimacy.  This is also true of husband/wife relationships and parent/children relationships.

    However, it is the truest of our relationship with God.  We need intimacy with God, but usually are unwilling to invest the time necessary to get to know Him or to know what He expects from us in that relationship.  Studying Scripture is often not a priority of the lives of most believers. 

          There are two Greek words used for knowledge in the Bible.  One is gnosis (gno’-sis) and the other epignosis (ep-ig’-no-sis).  There is considerable difference between these two kinds of knowledge.  For instance, gnosis knowledge of the piano can discern between good and poor piano playing.  Epignosis knowledge of the piano can produce good piano music from a piano.  What is it that makes the difference between these two kinds of knowledge of the piano?  The latter requires that a person spend hours and hours and hours and hours with that piano learning to play it.  This latter person has cultivated an intimacy with the piano the hearer can only appreciate, but not necessarily understand.

          One thing we should all know for sure, God wants intimacy with His children and is doing everything He can to bring us to the place where we will begin working on what we need to do to have that intimacy.  True worship of God naturally flows from intimacy with God.

     The difficulty is that we deceive ourselves into thinking we have an intimate relationship with God when we really do not.  We think because we go to church regularly and pray before our meals that all is well in Godville.  We think because we give money to the church and read our Bibles that we are doing what we need to do to have intimacy with God.

          This is the way many men think about their families.  They think they have a loving relationship with them because they work hard to provide a home for them, clothing for them, and food to fill their bellies.  Certainly, this manifests a faithfulness to some degree to one’s family.  There certainly is some sacrifice on the father’s part and it certainly is an exhibition of love.  It can also just be an exhibition of duty or responsibility.  Duty and responsibility do not translate into intimacy with his family.  In fact, he can be doing all that is mentioned and providing abundantly and still not have an intimate, loving relationship with his wife or with his children.  Yet, like most men, they wonder why their family do not appreciate all that they do for them.  The reality is they presume on an intimacy that does not exist.  They fall into the trap of self-deception by thinking externally.  Mothers naturally cultivate intimacy with their children because they naturally understand the difference.  Fathers naturally presume on intimacy and do not work at cultivating intimacy with people, even their children. 

          We have a horrendous propensity for thinking externally and God hates it.  External thinking focuses on external obedience and intellectual knowledge rather than upon the strengths and weaknesses of people.  External thinking people do not have intimate conversations with other people seeking to know their desires and ambitions.  External thinking people are not involved in the lives of people in a way that cultivates intimate relationships to create an environment for positive spiritual influence.  Getting to intimately know people and allowing them to intimately know you creates a fertile ground for genuinely ministering one to another in such a way as to impact lives for generations.  The “work of the ministry” is hard word.

What motivates us to do what we do is what determines if we are externalists or not.  Church-going, Bible reading, prayer, soul winning, ministry are all just minor parts of intimacy with God.  This is not to say such things are unimportant.  We can be doing all these things in abundance, but without joy in the doing because they are all being done out of a sense of duty in the “flesh” apart from an intimacy with God.  When our focus is upon the doing and not upon for Whom we do it, we will miss the most significant aspect of faith – working together in fellowship with God.  There is a dangerous and slippery slope in this of which we all are very susceptible - religion without relationship.

          Externalism comes in all kinds of forms and in many degrees.  The nation of Israel at the time of Jeremiah was guilty of almost every form of externalism.  Rules without relationship always degenerate into externalism.  Religion without relationship is equally as deadly.  That is what God is saying in Jeremiah 7:4. “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.”  The people of Israel had deceived themselves into thinking that everything in their lives was right with God if their Temple practices were in order; in other words, they were going to Church.  What a debilitating form of self-deception.

       Religion without relationship tends to generate worship of form and practice that lacks in any real heart motivation for real ministry and any real concern for souls and lives.  This may be the reason why change is so resisted in these kinds of local churches.  People do not want to change the way they do things because they have come to worship the form and practice of their religion.  God need not even show up.  The worship of form and practice degenerates any ministry into a substitute for (or is misinterpreted as) a real relationship with God.  Form and practice become little more than another kind of idolatry.  This is what happened to the Samaritans in Northern Israel in the intermingling of paganism with the worship of Jehovah.  Form and practice became substitutes for God.  This is a subtle but debilitating kind of self-deception because there is an appearance of worship.  However, when worship is commingled with false doctrine and unacceptable worship practices, the leaven of this corruption regardless of how insignificant it appears to be, leavens the whole and it becomes nothing more than religion.  

22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:22-24).

         Forms and practices as substitutes for a genuine relationship with God do not demand transparency in our own lives, genuine heartfelt concern for people, or a desire for intimacy with God.  Yet form and practice easily mislead us into thinking all is well in Godville when our forms and practices generate a stench that reaches to the throne of God.

       One hundred and thirty years before the inspired record of the admonition given by Jeremiah, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah with words that communicate God’s heart regarding the stench of religion without relationship.  It is a message that is as timely and true in the “lukewarm” Laodicean period of Church history (Revelation 3:14-22) as it was it the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me {referring to sacrifices unaccompanied with a right heart relationship and a desire for a righteous life}? saith the LORD: I am full {weary} of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts {the rejection is the result of doing the ritual without the accompanying heart relationship and desire to please God}? 13 Bring no more vain {desolating, evil; rituals, prayer, the observance special holy days to show respect and reverence for God were all evil in the sight of God without really loving Him and desiring to live to His glory} oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands {signifying they had offered all the appropriate sacrifices and observed all the holy days thereby seeing themselves in a right relationship with God}, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:11-17; compare Amos 5:21-24).

          God’s solution to this fiasco of superficiality is simple.  God’s solution takes two directions.  First, in Isaiah 1:16, God directs His children to clean up their lives.  They were to separate themselves from the carnal, worldliness that preoccupied their lives and consumed their time.  They were integrating paganism into their lives and culture so gradually that it was done almost unnoticed.  This is the way worldly gradualism works.  Worldliness is like quicksand.  A person slowly sinks into it until he is imprisoned by it.  The children of Israel, professing believers, were commanded to “cease” doing evil.  Here is where rules without relationship become a problem.  Why were the lives of the children of Israel consumed with selfish priorities and worldliness?  Why do Christians struggle with and argue about practices that are clearly worldly?  Their ignorance of the God of the Bible allows them to create a god who allows their worldliness.  They do not get Truth from God’s Word. 

        This results in them having religion without a personal, intimate relationship with the God of Truth generating dead externalism in their lives.  This is not real faith.  Therefore, they view God’s commandments as intrusions upon their lives and restrictions upon the things they find pleasure in.  They think temporally.  They live temporally.  Their religion is simply a means to manipulate God into providing them with the things they need and want.  They do not approach God in worship in open transparency, seeking intimacy with Him.  The deeper they sink into worldliness, the more shallow and artificial their faith becomes.  Those of Jeremiah’s day knew this.  The prophets exposed it to them.  They knew it was true, but they loved the worldliness!  The great tragedy is that this self-deception manifests a false faith and a false hope in a false salvation.  The Apostle John warned Christians about the same thing in I John chapters two and three.

12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:12-17).

      Secondly, God instructs His children to begin to do what was right (“learn to do well,” Isaiah 1:17).  We think that we will start ministering to people once we get a burden for people.  That will never happen and that is the reason ministry never begins in many people’s lives.  We get a burden for people when we begin to get involved in their lives.  Why does God want His children to minister?  God wants His children to minister because that is where God’s heart is.  God wants us to be concerned about people the way He is.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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