Jeremiah 6:16, Hebrews 11, Matthew 11:28

Rest for your soul

Through Jeremiah the Prophet, God calls the people to stop all their religious observations and efforts and consider their history as God’s people. Adam and Eve did not cover themselves. Well, they tried to, but God had to discard their leafy clothing and provide for them from the skin of the lamb. God would give them what they needed.  Abraham was not a perfect individual, but he trusted God. David was not perfect by any means but he was a man after God’s own heart. He trusted God. As a matter of fact if you read Hebrews chapter 11 you’ll see how all the ancient characters were commended not for their works but for their faith. In Jeremiah 6:16, he tries to get the people to consider this truth and to fall in line with that reality. He writes, “Thus says the LORD: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.”

I’m a firm believer in salvation by Grace through faith alone. None of my works contribute anything to my salvation nor to my sanctification. They are distractions to my faith.  They get in the way. It’s by believing in God and trusting Jesus and His words that bring my salvation and helps me grow in faith and thereby enabling me to make better life choices. Many people will argue that this is “Easy Believism.”  When everything in our nature wants to contribute to our own salvation and sanctification there is nothing easy about trusting solely in Christ Jesus! It’s the most difficult thing to do and involves a daily battle. I want to work, I do not want to trust! But the call is to trust!

Jesus is quoting Jeremiah 6:16 in Matthew 11:28. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burned out on religion and I’ll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for I am humble and gentle and my yoke is light and easy and you will find… (pay attention here!) REST FOR YOUR SOULS!” Jesus’ yoke is light and easy because he did all the work. He’s accomplished the impossible for each of us. We are to simply believe that and trust Him. The only true “rest for your soul” is to go all in on Jesus.

Jeremiah 6:15, Romans 5:8

Hiding from God

The Bible is all about Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation. It’s the presentation of God’s unconditional love for mankind as Paul declared in Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus did not come to set up another religion with its own rituals and regulations. No, He came to destroy all religions and unite the world in Himself. That’s why he made it clear that He was the only way to God the Father. No one can get into God’s presence through the works and efforts of any religious or legal system. They will all fail!

The main problem is that human nature wants very much to partake in its own salvation. We often think we must contribute something and we deceive ourselves into thinking our good works and religious efforts will be sufficient for God to receive us. The truth is we all fall short. We all sin and we all fail. The only way we can maintain the track of working our way or earning our way to heaven is to lie to ourselves about our sinfulness. The religious leaders in Jesus day were whitewashed sepulchers. Clean on the outside but rotten as decaying flesh on the inside. It’s easy to lie to ourselves and cover it all up with religious rituals and observances.

Jeremiah continues his indictment of the religious leaders of his day. In Jeremiah 6:15, he speaks about them saying, “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD.” Religion whitewashes our outside and gives us a façade behind which to hide our sinfulness. Thus, Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves. But God gave them the covering from a lamb. The law was never designed to be a standard by which we can prove ourselves holy and deserving. It was designed to drive us to our knees in shame. If we are truly honest with ourselves we know how bad we really are on the inside. From our knees of shame and disgrace and guilt we are fully aware of our need for a savior. It is for sinners Christ came. He did not come to save the self-righteous. What Jeremiah is saying is that you cannot hide from God in religion.

Jeremiah 6:14, John 14:27, John 3:16

True Peace

The Bible is very clear about the depravity of all mankind. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament make it clear that “All have sinned.” “There is none righteous, no not one.” The Bible also teaches us that all of our so called good works will avail us nothing with God. He won’t love us more for doing good nor will he hate us more for doing bad. It says, “our righteousness is as filthy rags” to God. But it’s really comforting to think that we’re not as bad as some of the really bad guys: Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Adolph Hitler and many others. We like to think we’re safe because God will be occupied with dealing with the really wicked people.  Much of religion today has to do with comparing ourselves with others in order come out feeling good about ourselves. It was the same case in Jeremiah’s day. In Jeremiah 6:14, he indicts the preachers and teachers of religion. He says, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

There is never any peace with those who are attempting to find it by being good. There is never any peace for those who are looking for it in religious rituals or religious rules or regulations. First of all we’ll never measure up to the standard of perfection God has set for us in the law and demonstrated for us in the person and works of Jesus Christ. We will all fall short. You never know if you’ve done enough good deeds, given enough offerings, lite enough candles, helped enough people. There is no peace there. But there is true peace in trusting Jesus. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

One of the most famous sermons in American history is the one entitled, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” In that sermon Johnathan Edwards had his congregation shaking with fear and crying out for mercy. He presented the precarious position of hanging from a spider web over the eternal blazing fires of hell. The Bible isn’t about that! The Bible is not about sinners in the hands of an angry God. The Bible is about a loving God in the hands of angry sinners. They hung him on the cross during which time he paid the penalty for the very ones driving the nails. God so loved the world that he sent his one and only perfect son into the world to pay for our sins. Anyone who believes in Him will never perish but will have everlasting life and find true peace.

Jeremiah 6:13, Romans 3:23, Luke 10

Everybody Lies!

Jeremiah’s indictment of the character of the Israelites is just another reaffirmation of the depravity of all mankind. I’ve asked hundreds if not thousands of people the question, “If you were to die and find yourself at the gates of heaven and God would ask you, ‘Why should I let you in?’” The answer has been overwhelmingly something like this: “I’ve tried my best. I’ve not murdered anyone. I’m not as bad as Hitler. I’m a pretty decent person. I’ve been good.” Well the Bible repeats the truth often that there is none good, no not one, each has turned from God to take his own path in life. But we like to compare ourselves with others. We seem to think that since we might be better than Charles Manson or some other wicked sinner that we’re not that bad and God will overlook our little sins and open the gates for us.

Jeremiah 6:13 adds another indictment to all humanity. It doesn’t differentiate between good, better, and best. Or Bad, badder and worse. Even those who we might think as being in the upper levels of righteousness aren’t. Jeremiah writes, “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.” We’ve been watching some old episodes of “House, MD.” Old rabid, nasty, insulting Dr. House has a theory that is mentioned often in the episodes I’ve seen. He says, “Everybody lies.” Well, he’s just quoting Jeremiah! The New Testament, Romans 3:23, adds an interesting phrase after the indictment “all have sinned.” It goes on to say “and fall short of the glory of God.” This falling short is to miss the mark in the original language. The law teaches us how to “be perfect as God is perfect.”

In Luke 10, a religious leader asks Jesus what he must do to go to heaven. Jesus asks him a question in return; “What does the law teach you?” The man answers, “Love God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind and your whole strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says, “Do this and you will live.” The religious leader knows he hasn’t done that so he begins to debate with Jesus regarding who his neighbor is. The religious leader was quoting from the book of the Law (Deuteronomy 6). Jesus said that love for God and love for neighbor is the ultimate fulfillment of the whole law. So in essence Jesus was telling the man that he must be perfect. Jesus is really saying to the self-righteous man, “good luck with that!” If the man would repent and say, “I can’t. I want to, but I can’t” Jesus would have said something like, “I know, but I can. And I will do it for you.” At the gates of heaven or in everyday life on earth I do not put my confidence in the flesh. I fail way too often. I put my confidence in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:2, Acts 13:9, Philippians 3:3-8, Isaiah 64:6

He was a big man yesterday…

I remember an old song that mom used to play on our record player back in the 50’s when I was just a kid. The song was “Big Man” by the Four Preps. It said, “I was a big man yesterday, but boy you ought to see me now. I talked big yesterday, but boy you ought to see me now…” On the first missionary Journey Saul’s name was changed to Paul. He was named after the first King of Israel who as you might remember was head and shoulders taller than anyone around. But Saul, our missionary according to Acts 13:9, took on the name of his first gentile convert, Sergius Paulus. Paul comes from the Roman family name, Paulus, which means small or humble. Yes, Saul was a big man yesterday, but boy you ought to see him now.

Yes indeed, Saul talked big yesterday. In Philippians 3:3-8 we read about this radical change from the “big” man to the “small” man. . . . though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Yep, this Saul guy was pretty impressive. Notice the last claim that according to legalistic righteousness Saul said he was “faultless.” But when Jesus knocked him to his knees and blinded him, Paul realized that his own righteousness was worthless in the sight of God. The Philippians passage goes on, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. 

It may have taken Paul some time to comprehend the true worthlessness of good works and self-righteousness, but when it sank in, it changed everything about him. When we come to realize that all our “righteousness is as filthy rags” as Isaiah 64:6 puts it, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Yep, we were big men and women yesterday, but boy you ought to see us now. We talked big yesterday, but boy you ought to see us now. But when we become “small” like Paul, we learn to rest confidently and comfortably on the righteousness that belonged to Christ and Christ alone. We are truly humbled regarding our own abilities to live up to all the rituals, rules, regulations and resolutions that religion will force upon us. We become dependent on the finished work of Christ as our only source of true righteousness. May we be found IN HIM!

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