My daily reading brought me to Jeremiah 23 and suddenly it seemed that God was speaking directly to ME through these verses. Something has been bothering me lately about the state of the Gospel message in the United States. It seems that there is a consistent ‘theme’ being presented by Christian radio stations (KLOVE) and by media preachers, that God loves us no matter where we are at, that He is always there for us, and that He will get us through whatever problem we are facing. After all, God is a caring loving God. It seems we have switched our preaching and our gospel message to a man-centered appeal. After all, it is all about ME, isn’t it.
We all need a god who is on our side, who is there for us, to help with our problems.
KLOVE had a gal call in with a real heartbreaking story about being young, pregnant, and her boyfriend dumping her. She was in church feeling all alone and abandoned. Then the pastor seemed to be speaking directly to her when he said, “God will be a husband to you. God will love you better than any earthly husband.” She felt so encouraged and touched by that message. Then she proceeded to tell how she had met someone new, a great guy, had become pregnant AGAIN and had been dumped, AGAIN. But sure enough, while sitting in church, another pastor said the same thing, “God will be a husband to you!” Now she is with another ‘great’ guy.
I am not questioning her sincerity, nor her love for God, but the thought ran through my head,”if God is your husband, why did you cheat on Him?” Are you going to keep going back to him every time some jerk gets you pregnant and dumps you? When will you learn to stop having sex before marriage?
Smooth talking preachers want to tickle the ears of their listeners. They don’t want to explain that God is a God of Justice as well as mercy. Sure, He loves us unconditionally, but when God’s love touches someone, it will always change them! God will always work to bring His justice and righteousness into our lives! God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.
God’s mercy and love is ALWAYS given with the intent of bringing righteousness and justice into our lives.
“Do not listen to smooth talking preachers”
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: “Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the Lord! They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ “Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen? Look! The Lord’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly. “I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying. If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds.Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal. “Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain! Does not my word burn like fire?” says the Lord. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? “Therefore,” says the Lord, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the Lord!’ I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the Lord have spoken! Jeremiah 23:16-32
We hear preachers say that God is always there, always ready to forgive, but God asks the question here, “Am I a God who is only close at hand?” The answer is NO!, God can be far away at the same time! We may confess a sin here and there, but our life and the intent of our heart still denies the Word of God. Our confession is only because things are not working out. Absent is a heart felt desire for God’s Lordship of our life!
How long will this go on?
Preachers, instead of pleasing our people with futile hopes, and heart wrenching stories, God calls us to spend time in His presence. Instead of modeling your messages after the latest ‘popular preacher’, isn’t it time we spend time in God’s presence, hearing from His Word what we should proclaim to our people?
We need to preach a God-centered Gospel. We need to proclaim mercy, righteousness and justice, for in these God delights (Jer 9:23-24) We need to stop preaching “God in the Box” sermons. God is not just someone we can call upon every time we need some help. We can’t carry God in a box. He is close, but He is distant as well. Sometimes everything won’t be alright. Sometime God will work what He wants. And what He wants is our total devotion and obedience to His Word! He is God, and we need to spend time trembling before His mighty power!