Friday, August 9, 2013

Jeremiah’s Turning #12: Judgment's First Stop

Following the word “turn” (שוב) through Jeremiah’s prophecy.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘They will thoroughly glean as the vine the remnant of Israel; pass your hand again [שוב] like a grape gatherer over the branches’” (Jeremiah 6:9).

The invading nation is God’s tool for bringing judgment on His people in this passage (speaking of the repeated Babylonian attacks on Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C.). Phew. Thankfully that’s the God of the Old Testament. The God of the New Testament doesn’t bring judgment on false confessors and sin-riddled churches, does He?


By lying to the Church about giving, Ananias and Sapphira lied to God (Acts 5:4) the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3) and paid the ultimate price. In the New Testament. In the age of the New Covenant (under which we also currently live): “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:1-11).

By taking part in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, some in the Corinthian church were struck with illness and some had even died (do you take the Table this seriously?! God does!). In the New Testament. In the age of the New Covenant (under which we also currently live): “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Then there’s the list in the Revelation, in the letters given by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ to the churches. In the New Testament. In the age of the New Covenant (under which we also live):
  • To the church in Ephesus: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4,5). He has explained the symbol/metaphor of the “lampstand” in 1:20. It is the right to be a “church.” Jesus can remove that. You may still have your incorporation status, your cool name, your building, your website, etc., but Jesus can decree that you are no longer a church. Repent!
  • To the church in Pergamum: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:14-16). Yes, doctrine and theology is vitally important, because it leads to our practice (this is the progression, by the way, in 2 Timothy 3:16,17, where discipleship in the Scripture precedes and leads to “every good work”). Blurring the lines of holiness between God’s people and the world is exceedingly popular and common (more time and mental ingenuity is expended trying to justify worldly doctrine and practice in the Church than teaching on biblical holiness by far!). I used to think it was something only teenagers did in the church. I know better now. They learned it from us. Repent!
  • To the church in Thyatira: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds” (Revelation 2:20-23). Why doesn’t God kill all false teachers quickly before their poison causes so much confusion and hurt? He gives them time to repent. But notice the spiritual application of generational sin (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Leviticus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9) here: the “children” (disciples or followers) of the false teacher “Jezebel” will be killed as a lesson to the churches. I think God takes our doctrine and theology (and the resulting practical fruit) seriously. Repent!
  • To the church in Sardis: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you” (Revelation 3:1-3). In this case, the teaching of the church is and has been good (He calls them to “remember” it and “keep it” in their repentance). “Prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Repent!
  • To the church in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15,16). A reliance on the ways, wealth, and wisdom of the world as opposed to full reliance on Christ for everything seems to be something that the Lord of the Church strongly opposes. He is saying this to them in love (3:19), but love’s message is “repent!”

I end up today with a verse that my pastor mentioned to us frequently the years I sat under his teaching: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). That ought to be a sobering thought, especially with all the passages from Revelation above. We teach Revelation as a warning shot of promised judgment on the nations, but that’s not where the judgment starts, is it?

Take the King of the Church seriously, believer. Take the Lord of the Church seriously, churches. Repent!

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