Saturday, July 23, 2016

The grace of God is not a license to sin

It is a common claim. “Nobody is perfect.” Sometimes the claim is accompanied by a Scripture:
... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
The above passage is misapplied to mean that all must sin and that sin is inevitable; so don’t worry about sin.

God’s view of sin is that it is a big deal. The sacrifice of Christ is evidence of the very high price of sin. Because we are under grace now and not under Law, some believe (as evidenced by their actions), our own sinful habits are continuously covered—no matter how carelessly we engage in them. This comfortable deception is nothing close to reality. God notices when we are getting comfortable with our sin and thus we are in danger of rejecting God’s grace (Hebrews 10:26-27 with context).

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the nation of Judah was threatened by a new and destructive empire. The empire of Babylon was boosting its economy by conquering smaller nations and making their people into slaves. Judah and all her neighbors were threatened by Babylon. Jeremiah’s message to Judah was that the people would be brutally conquered and many of the young and educated survivors would be deported to Babylon to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king.

The priests and false prophets rejected Jeremiah’s message and criticized him for not preaching a more optimistic message. Jeremiah challenged the message of the false prophets as dishonest.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
when there is no peace” (NIV2011).
As Taylor Swift says, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.”

Jeremiah’s invitation was to repent and turn back to God. Babylonian captivity is not inevitable. The people can be beneficially thwart the prophecy by turning back to God.

The people were comfortably that the presence of the temple in Jerusalem would provoke God to act against Babylon. God would not permit the destruction of the city where the temple is (Jeremiah 7:4). They saw the presence of God’s temple as a kind of unconditional grace. As long as the temple was in Jerusalem and the people approached God’s presence there, in full reverence, it did not matter how they behaved the rest of the time (they thought).

God, through Jeremiah, reminded the people that an authorized shrine to God, and all the correct worship the people could muster would not save them if they continuously neglected godly living. A center of God’s presence once existed at a monument called Shiloh. The Tabernacle was once located there. According to Jeremiah 7:12, Shiloh was destroyed. The fact that Shiloh was a place for God’s name did not save it. The people of Shiloh were comfortable with their sin. Sin was a big deal to God!

There is definitely a lesson for us in Jeremiah 7. Do we think we are the only ones who are right with God simply because we do our corporate worship correctly? How healthy is each of our souls? Is there anything more to our relationship with God than correct worship? or is our faith only in the correctness of our worship and right doctrine?

In numerous places in the Bible, we are reminded that righteous living is what God wants, in addition to proper corporate practices (“doing church”).

Remember one of the Lord’s criticisms of the scribes and Pharisees:
For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)
We must daily live Christian lives and not neglect the formal practices and doctrines that the Scriptures teach us.

Reprinted from a bulletin article published 2016 March 13.

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