Run With the Horses: “Don’t Believe the Lies”

Sermon Series on Run With the Horses: “Don’t Believe the Lies”
A Message on Jeremiah 7:1-4

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Nov. 19, 2017
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

Jeremiah 7:1-4 (NRSV)

 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

 

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There once was a minister (not United Methodist) that told his congregation one Sunday, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.”

The next Sunday, when it came time for the sermon, he asked the congregation members who had read the 17th chapter of Mark to raise their hands. Almost every hand went up. The minister smiled and said, “I see. Well, there are only sixteen chapters in the Gospel of Mark. So, I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.” [Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/followingjesus/features/top-christian-jokes.aspx?p=4#d1Fsqx5immyXamUf.99]

 

Today we’re going to talk about lying, but not so much about telling lies but in terms of believing lies.

 

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t need to hear this. I don’t believe lies.” Well now just hold on a minute. Because I think all of us do to some extent or another.

 

In the scripture we read today from Jeremiah we find God instructing Jeremiah to go stand at the gate at the temple and tell the folks going by, the ones heading to the temple, to not believe the lies that “This is the temple of the Lord. This is the temple of the Lord. This is the temple of the Lord.”

 

We need some background to help us understand what is going on. The Jewish people of the time were worshipping God in words only. And just because you say it doesn’t mean it’s true, right?

 

The Jewish society at the time wasn’t very serious about leading righteous and holy lives. Things had been good during that time. There was plenty of food, the economy was booming, things were good. And as is often the case, when things are good people forget about God.

 

That’s what had happened. Manasseh was the king when Jeremiah was very young, and as a leader he was bad. Real bad.

 

Here’s how Eugene Peterson describes him in his book, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best: “Manasseh was the worst king the Hebrews ever had. He was a thoroughly bad man presiding over a totally corrupt government. He reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-five years, a dark and evil half century. He encouraged a pagan worship that involved whole communities in sexual orgies. He installed cult prostitutes at shrines throughout the countryside. He imported wizards and sorcerers who enslaved the people in superstitions and manipulated them with their magic. The man could not do enough evil. There seemed to be no end to his barbarous cruelties. His capacity for inventing new forms of evil seemed bottomless. His appetite for the sordid was insatiable. One day he placed his son on the altar in some black and terrible ritual of witchcraft and burned him as an offering (2 Kings 21).”

 

That’s bad. You can read all about it in the 21st chapter of 2 Kings.

 

The temple, the holy place of the Jewish people, the place they believed that the Holy God resided on earth, was not immune to such depravity.

 

Again, Peterson describes it: “The great Solomonic temple in Jerusalem, resplendent in its holy simplicity, empty of any form of god so that the invisible God could be attended to in worship, swarmed with magicians and prostitutes. Idols shaped as beasts and monsters defiled the holy place. Lust and greed were deified. Murders were commonplace. Manasseh dragged the people into a mire far more stinking than anything the world had yet seen.”

 

Wow. So Manasseh was NOT a good king. But eventually he got old and died. As often was the case back then his son became King. Amon was his name. The people were watching to see if Amon was going to be different from his dad, but he wasn’t. He did the same evil things.

 

Well some of the people got upset about it and decided to act. Amon was king only two years before he was killed in a coup. After that, his son, Josiah, was named king, even though he was only 8 years old at the time.

 

But a strange thing happened. Josiah tried to do the right thing. Now there were people who opposed him, for sure, but as king he worked real hard to lead the people back to the only real God.

 

The first place he started was the temple. He kicked out all the pagan things and people and in the process, the priest found an old scroll over in a dusty corner. The scroll was what we know as the book of Deuteronomy, which talked about how to worship God as well as having instructions for moral living.

 

So Josiah, the good king, imposed more reforms based on the writing of the scrolls.

 

This is where Jeremiah comes in. Jeremiah received his calling when Josiah was king. And Jeremiah started helping in the reforms and we have several of his sermons in the book of Jeremiah that encourage people to turn from their evil ways and follow the true God.

 

The reforms happened, but the trouble was that for a lot of folks it was only skin deep. They created the impression on the surface that they were worshipping the true God, but the reality was that their hearts weren’t changed. They still surreptitiously worshipped the pagan gods and continued to do the evil things.

 

And yet on the sabbath they would come to the Temple, singing “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”

 

That’s where we find Jeremiah in the scripture we read today. Basically, Jeremiah tells them, “YOU LIE!”

 

They lie because they believe the lies that others are telling. They are believing the lies.

 

There are a lot of parallels between that time and the present day.

 

One is that we are followers of God on the surface only. We create a facade that we are followers of Jesus Christ, but deep down we not only sin but we like sinning. Our faith doesn’t go very deep. We don’t want the commitment that comes from being a true follower of Jesus Christ. It’s just too hard, to challenging, and moves us out of our comfort zones. And we want to be comfortable.

 

Another way I think society today is like the Hebrew people at the time of Jeremiah, we too listen to and believe the lies.

 

Here are some of the lies that I think we believe today.

 

“It’s all about me. I should put myself at the top of my priority list.”

 

“Greed is good.”

 

“The busier you are, the more important you are.”

 

“Work is more important than family.”

 

“Your self worth is based on how many people follow you on social media.”

 

“Image is everything.”

 

“You have to drink alcohol if your want to be cool.”

 

“You should look just like the model on this magazine cover/in this movie.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with premarital sex.”

 

“Truth is relative.”

 

“Religion isn’t important.”

 

Get the idea? We are bombarded with lies everyday and too often we believe them. And if we are really honest with ourselves, we believe so many of them because we want to believe them.

 

We want to believe the lies. We don’t want to believe Jesus.

 

Jesus tells us to leave the 99 sheep to go look for the one that is lost.

 

Jesus tells us that in order to be the greatest you must be a servant to all.

 

Jesus tells us that as we do to the least in our society we do to him.

 

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is there our heart will be also.

 

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who wrong us, to give to everyone who begs of us, to love others as ourselves, to love God with all that we are and have, and that through death comes resurrection.

 

Those aren’t lies. Those are truths. They’re hard. They’re difficult. But they are truths.

 

As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be Jeremiahs in today’s world. We are called to call out the lies, to proclaim the truth, not just in the words we say but in the way we live as well.

 

It’s not easy. It’s not pleasant sometimes. And everything we do and say needs to be done in love. But that is what we are called to do.

 

So my challenge to you this week is to be a Jeremiah. Don’t believe the lies. Instead tell and show others the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

 

Now for next week be sure and read the 17th chapter of Mark.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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