But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their own evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Jeremiah 7:23-24
Now is the time to examine our walk with God: Walk being the key word. Believers today are being robbed of the relationship with God that Jesus bought for us with His life. Grace today is being used as an excuse to do whatever we want, and call it ordained of God. We are so bound up by the traditions of men that have been handed down for centuries that we don't even see the deplorable spiritual condition we are in. But God sees. The world we live in today fulfills all the predictions required to be called the last days. Gross darkness covers the land and the people.
There is a prevalent attitude today that abuses Grace. Jesus came, not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Grace is given that we might grow in a relationship with Christ and the Father. That we might become full stature Sons; that we might walk in this world in the same anointing and power that our Lord walked in. Jesus said, "I come not to do my own will, but the will of my father, the words that I speak are not my own words, but that which I hear my Father say, that I speak."
We are not pressing into a relationship; most of us aren't even aware that we are supposed to. We do not know the Gospel of Christ. We are ignorant of the commandments we have been charged to keep in order to inherit the promises and blessings we so covet. We have put the cart before the horse. We encourage believers to do things that they are unprepared & unqualified to do because it furthers our own church image and agenda. Religion is big business today, bringing in millions of dollars, but doing very little to spread Christ's Gospel. We appoint leaders that we choose, while rejecting those individuals that God has chosen. We utilize the same methods within the church of marketing and expanding our membership that worldly organizations use. We use the same approaches of entertaining our members once we have them to keep them coming back. We employ the same techniques and strategies of the world, merchandising Jesus, and then wonder why we don't have God's anointing. Our leaders promote their own names and agendas, just using the name of Jesus enough to sound religious. You would have to look long and hard to find a church today that preaches conformity to God's will in our every thought and action.
"That's not necessary today, we are under grace." This attitude is an abuse of grace. We accept any and everyone within our doors, requiring nothing but their attendance and financial contributions, no change of heart required. Our generation is not the first to fall into such a deplorable condition. Man has treated God with irreverence from the beginning. Jeremiah 23:16-20 thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophecy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto everyone that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word and heard it? Behold a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. For those of you who think that the Old Testament doesn't apply to us today, think again. Take a good look at what Jesus said concerning the religious leaders in the New Testament. Read the 23rd chapter of Matthew.
After 2000 years, we are so indoctrinated with the systems built by man, that we cannot conceive of thinking outside the box. Religious leaders are religious leaders. The same thing exists today that Jesus addressed in Matthew 23. Only God knows the thoughts and intents of each individuals mind and heart. Only God knows those who are truly HIS, and those who are play actors. The masses are at the mercy of those who lord it over them, telling them what to believe and do. Jesus is no more pleased with and approving of the state of His Church today than he was pleased with and approving of the religious leaders when he walked the earth. We have the rhetoric, we have the rituals and formalities, we have the acceptance of the doctrines and interpretations we have devised. What could be lacking? How about the power; the Spirit of God. There is nothing that will arouse an immediate, angry, indignant response quicker than telling people that they are not walking in the truth they have been called to walk in. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. He exposed the leaders of the temple for what they were. Imagine what the people must have thought. They had these men up on pedestals. They revered and honored these leaders. Who was this Jesus to come in and say such terrible things about them? "Serpents?" "Generation of Vipers?" Did the leaders humble themselves? Did they repent and change their ways? Quite the contrary, they burned with hate and sought revenge, ultimately succeeding in crucifying the Lord of Glory.
This generation is seeing the culmination of the wisdom of fallen man. We have made unprecedented advances in technology, the sciences, achieving the power to travel beyond even the imaginations of all those who have gone before us. Is the world a better place for all this wisdom? Have we wiped out hunger and ignorance? Have we eradicated war and prejudice? Is the world a safer, better place than it was even 100 years ago? What strides have we achieved in religion? Well, we have more of them now. Each claiming to have the truth and be the only way to God, while rejecting all the others that think differently. We may impress each other, but we certainly are not impressing God. Nor, do we impress the suffering masses around the world.
The lie that worked in the beginning is still getting the same results today. The voice of the serpent interpreting what God said, with a "God didn't really mean that" twist. The nature of man has never changed. Modern man is just as susceptible and falls just as easily for the same lies that worked at the beginning of time. Questioning God, failing to believe His Words, trying to find another way, any way but God's way. God is still speaking to us today. God's plan has not changed, His purposes have not been altered. We would do well to seek His face, and learn just what it is that is pleasing in His sight. How do we do this? By walking in all the ways that He has commanded us. Jesus said to the Church, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou may be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. Revelation 3:18.
The same opportunity has been freely offered to all. It is interesting how the human mind works. We misconstrue joining ourselves to a denomination as a means of fulfilling our spiritual requirement; more as a social obligation on the same order as joining the PTA, the Elks, volunteering at the hospital, whatever; they are all good things to do as a means of meeting our social obligations, but they really have nothing to do with keeping God's commandments. Jesus never commanded anyone to attend, let alone create and support the religious systems that men have built. We have simply been born into this world system and have never examined or questioned it. The only time Jesus ever told anyone to go to the temple was when he told a few that were healed to go and show themselves to the priests, that they might comply with the law of Moses which was still in place at that hour.
He went to the temple, but the religious leaders present did not warmly receive what he said on those occasions. He told them that he was the fulfillment of the prophecies of old, that he was the Messiah. They did not rejoice that their along awaited King had arrived, they plotted how they might destroy him. Jesus never told anyone to pay his or her tithes. Instead, He went so far beyond the required tithing of the Old Testament that was established under the Laws given to Moses, that man has rejected what Jesus taught regarding our finances. Luke 10:2-4 Therefore he said unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into the harvest. Go your ways: behold I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. Matthew 6:1-4 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Imagine if you will how very different a place the world would be, our cities would be, if the Christians living in each city gave to their neighbors as they had need, instead of giving to the "Church."
Multi-millions of dollars are given each year to support "ministries", to build huge buildings to cater to the comforts of the members, while the same members who enjoy these comforts are oblivious to the needs of the people in the communities around them. We think it is appropriate and commendable to make large donations to support and build expensive Churches, and then have the donors name engraved on a brass plaque on the wall, acknowledging their generous contribution. This is the way of the world.
Do we ever consider what Jesus said, that if we do our giving before men, then we have already received all the reward we will get? What is still commonly accepted practice in the religions of men is the very thing Christ denounced during HIS Ministry on this earth. When we walk in and after the ways of the world, we are walking backward and not forward. The temple priests, who rejected the Christ, did not want the people to stop giving their tithe, they did not want the people to stop holding them in high esteem. Jesus was a threat to their very comfortable livelihood. What he said went so far beyond what the religious world is willing to accept, that people would (and do) have the same response to the Son of God today that they had when he came 2000 years ago.
Twenty times in the New Testament Jesus commanded us to Follow Him.
Matthew 4:19 Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Matthew 8:22 Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.
Matthew 16:24 If any many will come after me, Let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Luke 18:22 Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
He told them to "eat my flesh and drink my blood." He said "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father except by me." He commanded us that "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30,31.
No wonder they hated him. He came against all the tradition and ideas that they held near and dear. He would have ruined all their plans and usurped all their power over the people. He insulted them, he railed against them, "Who did he think he was?" Perhaps a more pertinent question for us to ask might be, "who do we think we are?" Christians today are bombarded with messages proclaiming that "God loves you just as you are". "All God wants to do is pour out health, prosperity, and blessings on your life", (sub-message: "All you have to do to receive is support this ministry"). This kind of teaching and exhortation is rampant in Church's across this country. Altar calls are out of fashion in most Churches. Religion is big business. We all must look within our own hearts.
Where do we stand in our relationship with God? Are we firmly standing on faith in the Son of God? Are we living and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit each and every day? Or is our faith in some man, or some group of men that we want to emulate? Is our confidence in knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus Christ is alive and living within our hearts? Or are we hoping against hope that the group we have attached ourselves to is the right one? How will we know? Romans 8:16 declares: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. We do not need the validation of any man, but we must have the seal of the Holy Spirit. Centuries ago God declared through His prophets, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you". That commandment has never been revoked.
We have the same opportunity that the Israelites of old were given. We are told what they did, "But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their own evil heart, and went backward, and not forward". What direction are we moving in? Are we going forward or falling backward? Do not deceive yourself that there is some middle of the road where you can sit down and wait and see what happens, then at the last minute attach yourself to the winning side. Jesus said, in Matthew 12:30, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Many today erroneously believe that they are doing God's work, when in reality they are simply walking in the counsels and imaginations of their own evil heart. That sounds harsh, but that is what God said. Many believe that they will reign with Christ. At the same time they believe that because Christ paid the price on Calvary, they will never have to suffer anything. This is broadly taught today, yet it is totally unscriptural. 2 Timothy 2:11,12 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: If we deny him, he will also deny us. Jesus said in John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Because the Spirit of God that indwells us is at enmity with the Spirit of the World.
We are in the world, but not of the world, if we have died to the flesh and live be the indwelling power of the Spirit. Consider again, if you will, what God said through the prophet Jeremiah. Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophecy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto everyone that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you....in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. Even the world recognizes that these are the last days. Hollywood makes movies about Armageddon. People are crying peace, peace, yet there is no peace. These prophetic words are seeing their fulfillment today. We all have the power of free will. We choose who we will listen to, what we will believe, how we will act. It is one thing to read the accounts in the Bible of the wanderings of the children of Israel, and how God dealt with them. They are given as an example, that we might learn from their mistakes, not emulate them. We need to recognize that we are no different. The God of the Old Testament and the New Testament are the same God. His requirement that we keep His commandments has not changed. May we all examine our own hearts. May we not fall victim to the vanities of this world, or the wisdom of this world. But may we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.