Roger's Postings

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jeremiah 23:23-29. Use of God’s Word faithfully!! 15/8/10

(23) "Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? {24} Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD. {25} "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' {26} How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? {27} They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. {28} Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. {29} "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Here today we are challenged by God to heed carefully what we listen to and what we speak: For he is a God who knows what is going on; and even though we may be able to ‘pull the wool over others eyes’, he knows and does not approve. And in the end, his Word will have its way, and will destroy all that is not of God. This message is as important for us today as it was way back when it was written.

Now by way of example, what would you think if I was to stand up here this morning and tell you, that I had a vision two weeks ago that every Lutheran in this area should sell everything they had and give it all to the poor. Then as confirmation of this vision we had last Sunday, Jesus tell us in the Gospel reading that we should “sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor.” So obviously, that is confirmation of my vision. In that regard we need to remember that God will richly reward all those who do so, and so if you want God’s blessing on your life and you want eternal life; then go and sell everything you have and give your money to our church so that we can distribute it to the poor. When you do so, don’t worry, the good lord will take care of you.

No! Don’t get up and walk out and set about getting rid of me: nor go out from here and do what I have just said. For that is not what I would ask of you in the least. More particularly that is not what God is seeking to say through me. But the point is that if I was a good enough of a speaker and a ‘charismatic’ sort of person, and I used enough Scripture I could do a great deal of harm to this community and to peoples spiritual lives. And above all, I would not be speaking forth what our Lord wants from me. Yet this sort of thing has happened again and again many times throughout the history of God’s people and is ever prevalent in our own day.

In this day and age therefore, we too need to be very careful, on the one hand, what we listen to, and on the other, what we ourselves are saying. Let us remember that it is God’s Word that is all important; and it and its message stands on its own in being able to determine what is right and good. Yet today, we have many gurus running around with their own revelations and interpretations, and are claiming that they know where things are really at for our modern times. “I had a dream! I had a dream!” ‘I know what the church today needs to make it grow.’ ‘I have a new understanding of God’s Word for our day.’ And I could go on. All of them are wanting us to think that they have a directly inspired message for us today.

Along with that, we have many preaching a nice, soft, pleasing to the ear message. We must not ‘lay down the Law’ and tell people they are sinners. Even notice how little they focus on Jesus and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. We must not speak of hell and the inevitability of people going there who do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We must not speak against Muslims and other religions, but instead suggest that they too are heading to the same God. And again I could go on, but the point is that there are many who a shifting the focus away from the central truths of the Gospel.

However, here, as in many other places, God tells us to be very careful when people start running around with new ideas and saying they are God’s word for our day. Often they are deceptive people who are ultimately leading people away from God rather than to him. Even though they use God’s word and mention his name, and have their altar calls and the like, they are leading people away from what God has said and done and placing the emphasis elsewhere. In most cases, you will find that they are not giving God’s message, but the delusions of their own minds.

Yes, they may be able to fool many people, but as Jeremiah says here, they can’t fool God. He cannot be fooled or manipulated. And if they or we are leading people astray, God will ultimately metre out his just rewards. No one can hide away in secret places so that God cannot see them.

But for our part here, let us take note of what our Lord says and beware. Yes let those who want to play around with their own thoughts and ideas do so. They really are only playing around in the straw. We however need to concentrate on the grain of God’s Word.

Now what a good illustration that is for us, of straw and grain. Now a farmer doesn’t spend all his time and effort in growing and gathering straw, and letting the grain go to waste on the ground. He knows what is important and valuable; so he gathers the grain, and sees the straw as only a secondary product.

So also do we need to concentrate on that which is valuable and not simply on the straw, when it comes to the Christian faith: That of course is the Scriptures themselves and its central focus which is Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. There is what is of absolute necessity for our lives. If we want something which will change peoples lives and give them the certainty of eternal life, then look no further than what Scripture has to say to us with regard to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. There God’s love and power is truly evident. There we know that God is near for us. There we have that which can cleanse us from all impurity and rid us from the secondary straw of all of our good deeds. And it is that Word alone which can smash the hardest heart.

Yet it is that Word which the lying prophets are avoiding again and again. The lying prophet likes to speak smooth words which are pleasant to the ear and encouraging to the ego. The focus is not on the stumbling block of the Gospel but on what you and I must do, and on health, wealth and happiness theology. The fire of God’s Word which separates and divides must be avoided. That which smashes the ego and leaves us shattered as to our human aspirations is seen as abhorrent.

Yet it is this Word of God that we are called to speak faithfully; even though it is like fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces. Because it is only then, that the sweet word of God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus finds its way into our hearts and the hearts of unbelievers. So we are called to faithfully speak God’s word of truth, in season and out of season. We are to speak it and listen to it even though it is not what our itching ears want to hear. Then with the faithful proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for our salvation will come forth a rich harvest of souls. God will again lift up his people and richly bless them.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus reminds that this truth will however bring division and derision. Standing for the truth will divide families and friendships; but that is simply a sign of the times. Pointing out the fact that we all are sinners is not what many want to hear: Just as is, the fact that God will cast into hell all those who reject Jesus and the importance of his death on the cross.

However, for all those who faithfully look to and trust Jesus and what he has done for us, have the certain hope that we have eternal life with our God as a guarantee.

So to close, let us take heed to our second reading from Hebrews, which has an encouraging challenge in this regard. (Heb 12:1-2) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, [that is Christians who have gone before us holding to the truth of God’s Word and trusting that God has given us life and salvation through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross] let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Yes, let us look alone to our Lord Jesus, and give him thanks and praise, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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