Fairmont First Baptist Church
Bad Religion: False Prophets
  • I Am Thine, O Lord
  • Out of My Bondage
      • Jeremiah 23:9–32CSB

  • Intro

    Week two of four week series on “bad religion”
    We are looking at what happens when good religion, namely Christianity, goes “bad”
    What do we mean by bad?
    Gets unbiblical
    Gets Extra biblical
    becomes toxic
    There are loads of people that have been seriously hurt by people and congregations that claim the name of Christ.
    Again, I’m not talking about people that simply reject the Gospel
    That is a thing, but not what we are talking about
    I’m talking about people that have been beat down by a religion that holds to things that aren’t in the bible.
    “We aren’t those kind of people”
    We have to dress, groom ourselves, etc in a particular way
    This is a real issue and these things often drive people away from the Jesus and God because they can’t see the beauty of who Christ is and his heart for us
    obscured by all the JUNK that we put in the way.
    Last week
    Amos
    God doesn’t want our worship until we are doing the things that he’s called us to do
    Our faith isn’t a performance or a checklist
    Rather it is about an outpouring of grace and love into the world that is a reflection, albeit a weak one, of the out pouring of the God’s grace, mercy, and love that is poured out on us
    Growing in Christ likeness.
    This week
    Jeremiah 23
    What happens when the religious leaders, those that should know better, are part of the problem
    We all know the horror stories of bad leaders
    Abuse
    immorality
    skeezy behavior
    theft
    etc.
    etc.
    etc.
    Jeremiah was faced with this, and we are going to look at what he prophesied about it.
    Jeremiah 23:9–32 CSB
    Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me, and all my bones tremble. I have become like a drunkard, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord, because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; the land mourns because of the curse, and the grazing lands in the wilderness have dried up. Their way of life has become evil, and their power is not rightly used because both prophet and priest are ungodly, even in my house I have found their evil. This is the Lord’s declaration. Therefore, their way will seem like slippery paths in the gloom. They will be driven away and fall down there, for I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment. This is the Lord’s declaration. Among the prophets of Samaria I saw something disgusting: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. Among the prophets of Jerusalem also I saw a horrible thing: They commit adultery and walk in lies. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, and none turns his back on evil. They are all like Sodom to me; Jerusalem’s residents are like Gomorrah. Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies says concerning the prophets: I am about to feed them wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land. This is what the Lord of Armies says: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are deluding you. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the Lord’s mouth. They keep on saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord has spoken: You will have peace.’ They have said to everyone who follows the stubbornness of his heart, ‘No harm will come to you.’ ” For who has stood in the council of the Lord to see and hear his word? Who has paid attention to his word and obeyed? Look, a storm from the Lord! Wrath has gone out, a whirling storm. It will whirl about the heads of the wicked. The Lord’s anger will not turn away until he has completely fulfilled the purposes of his heart. In time to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send out these prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. If they had really stood in my council, they would have enabled my people to hear my words and would have turned them from their evil ways and their evil deeds. “Am I a God who is only near”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and not a God who is far away? Can a person hide in secret places where I cannot see him?”—the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?”—the Lord’s declaration. “I have heard what the prophets who prophesy a lie in my name have said: ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the minds of the prophets prophesying lies, prophets of the deceit of their own minds? Through their dreams that they tell one another, they plan to cause my people to forget my name as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. The prophet who has only a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has my word should speak my word truthfully, for what is straw compared to grain?”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “Is not my word like fire”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and like a hammer that pulverizes rock? Therefore, take note! I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who steal my words from each other. I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who use their own tongues to make a declaration. I am against those who prophesy false dreams”—the Lord’s declaration—“telling them and leading my people astray with their reckless lies. It was not I who sent or commanded them, and they are of no benefit at all to these people”—this is the Lord’s declaration.

    Context

    Talked last week about the need to locate prophets in a particular time and place.
    Jeremiah is a little harder than a prophet like Amos
    Major prophet
    Longer time .
    Place (slide1):
    Judah
    Southern Kingdom
    After the Northern Kingdom has been carried off by the Assyrians
    Time(slide 2)?
    End of the Southern Kingdom
    626-586 (few years after)
    586 is the year of the exile to Babylon
    Jeremiah there for the downfall of the Southern Kingdom
    This is the back drop that he is prophesying against,
    multiple kings
    Selling out to Egypt
    Then puppet rule by Babylon
    rebellion
    Finally, exile.

    Text

    vv. 9-10
    In this passage, Jeremiah is shaken by the evil of the prophets and the judgment God is about to pronounce upon them.
    “For years now, Jeremiah has heard the lying oracles of the false prophets.
    He has watched them deceive the masses with their empty words of comfort and assurance.
    He has witnessed the hypocrisy and sin of their own lives and seen their corruptions fill the land.
    Now he has had a fresh encounter with God and received a word of judgment against them. … All of this is overwhelming. … he is utterly staggered by what he hears.
    God’s anger burns especially hot against false prophets, because in speaking lies in his name they misrepresent the Lord himself”
    The voice now shifts to God’s as he denounces both the prophets and the priests.
    v. 11
    The religious establishment was evil, practicing wickedness not just in their private lives, but in God’s house as well (v. 11).
    v. 12
    God will allow them to walk and fall on that slippery path (v. 12).
    v. 13-15
    The Northern and Southern Kingdoms were both guilty of causing the people to stray.
    The Samarians prophesied wrongly, by Baal, but the prophets of Jerusalem were even worse. (slide)
    They prophesied falsely in the Lord’s name!
    They were rotten and dragging the rest of the nation into their wrongdoing.
    God will judge them severely.
    vv. 16-17
    Jeremiah, the lone honest voice in a sea of deceptive ones, is tasked with telling the people not to listen to those other guys (vv. 16–17)!
    vv. 18-22
    Hindsight would show them later how right God was in his judgment and how wrong the false prophets were in their messages.
    They should have been preaching a message of repentance, a return to following God, instead of telling people what they wanted to hear.
    vv. 23-24
    Their hypocrisy and wickedness could not be hidden from a God who sees all.
    vv. 25-32
    They manufactured dreams and stole one another’s revelations, like tabloid magazines trying to beat one another to the juiciest gossip to make the most money.
    God was sick of them saying they had a burdensome or heavy message from the Lord, when they certainly did not!
    It diluted the true message of God, and because of their flippancy, this generation of prophets would be remembered as false.
    God does not tolerate lying and hypocrisy, especially when done in his name.
    HOPE
    Always remember that in the prophetic tradition, even when excoriated, there is hope!
    the passage we studied is scathing, it is important to remember that the book of Jeremiah is a book not only of judgment but of hope.
    In the first passage of chapter 23, God stands in judgment of the bad “shepherds,”
    but he also offers a hopeful glimpse of a time when there will be godly shepherds who care for their flock,
    when the faithful united remnant of God’s people are brought together out of exile, and when a righteous king rules.
    That coming King we know was and is Jesus.
    This remains our enduring hope, whether we have suffered under the lies and hypocrisy of a lying prophet or have benefited from the care of a caring earthly shepherd.
    Ultimately, our faith is not in our religious leaders—their strengths or weaknesses—but in Jesus, the head of the church

    Application

    Often we think of bad religion as the moral failings of religious leaders.
    We talked about this already.
    We see them fall to greed, lust, and ego—being destroyed by sin while preaching against it in the pulpit.
    But another common tell of bad religion is a focus on judging others, pointing out their sin, embracing legalism, and being graceless in doing so.
    I think here is where many of us have the an issue.
    Jesus thought so too
    Log/speck
    Here Scripture challenges us to understand that bad religion sometimes means ignoring a key component of the gospel message so we can tell people what they want to hear.
    We sin.
    We aren’t here to hear how wonderfully righteous we are as compared to those people over there!
    We need to be held accountable.
    God’s message of repentance and turning back to him is as relevant today as it was for those in the book of Jeremiah.
    Telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear is not limited to Old Testament prophets.
    Pastors and leaders are often faced with the reality that sharing the message God has given them through his Word might also ruffle feathers in their congregations and lead to angry emails, funding from significant financial donors being pulled, or even people leaving their churches or firing them.
    Avoiding facing the truth is a typical human response.
    Have you ever told your friend that the thin mustache he grew looks different or that her bangs are new, in order to avoid revealing your true feelings?
    Perhaps you want to avoid your own truth, like Confederate Railroad song “Black Label and White Lies”
    Taking the easy way out is usually only a short-term solution.
    In our personal relationships, we have a difficult message to bring and our own hypocrisy to contend with.
    We all have friends, family, or other loved ones who are living outside of God’s plan and purposes.
    The gospel starts with a hard truth: we all are sinners and need God.
    While we don’t need to evangelize in the streets with fire-and-brimstone tactics, we can humbly and kindly try to help others see a different path, a different perspective, and a real hope.
    This means living faithfully, vulnerably admitting our own failings, and offering God’s grace and hope to those who are convicted by the Holy Spirit to turn to the Lord.
    Striving to grow in Christlikeness
    It also means looking honestly at ourselves, at our own individual and group biases, rebellion, and need for repentance,
    instead of trying to play the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life.
    It is easy to see someone else’s need for God’s call to repentance
    Harder to see our own need
    Easy to ignore
    We might think, as the false prophets likely rationalized, “Yes, some of our folks are sinful, but look at the pagans around us; they don’t even worship God, and they practice the grossest of sins; by comparison, we’re good folk and surely God will take that into account. ‘Our’ sins are acceptable, but ‘their’ sins are not. Besides, who wants to hear judgment preached all the time; just preach on the love of God” (Thomas Constable, Notes on Jeremiah [2020], 215, https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/jeremiah.pdf). We are so quick to forget that Jeremiah was talking to God’s chosen people, not the pagans of the day.
    Again, the hope in all of this is Jesus.
    It is only by his grace that we are able to see the reality of our lives at all
    Only by his grace that we are able to respond to him
    Only by his grace that we able to follow him
    only by his grace that we are able to grow in Christlikeness
    Was Jesus honest with people about their sin?
    Of course he was
    And if there is ever any person that had the standing to walk this earth and stand in judgment of others, it was Jesus.
    But as we shall see next week, he reserved his harshest words for those that, by their words and actions, were hypocrites and toxic in their application of God’s Word.
    I think we miss the gentleness and the overwhelming love of Jesus.
    He was not harsh
    For us what?
    God does not tolerate lying and hypocrisy, especially when done in his name. The believer should embrace truth, even if it is difficult to hear, instead of searching for voices that will tell them what they want to hear.
  • Have Faith in God

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