Our Great Salvation, Final

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Jeremiah 8:20

 The harvest is finished; the summer is over, and we are not saved.   (TLB)

In our final look at Our Great Salvation, we’re going to look at a startling aspect of this topic:  people who think they are saved but are not.  Jeremiah 8:20, our text, has a real historical context that cannot be ignored, and we will examine that context shortly.  But there is real problem in the church of Jesus Christ today that, believe it or not, was predicted by our Lord before the first church was even built.

The field is the world, and the seed represents the people of the Kingdom; the thistles are the people belonging to Satan.  The enemy who sowed the thistles among the wheat is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels.  (Matthew 13:38, 39  TLB)

The Kingdom, of which the visible church is a part, is made up of true believers and unbelievers; that’s the whole point of the parables in Matthew 13.  A lot of those unbelievers think they are true believers, but in fact, they have never experienced any kind of meaningful conversion.  We have already learned that a “conversion experience” is a component of salvation; that a sinner doesn’t “ooze into” Christianity; he moves decisively from the darkness to the light.  That conversion experience is different for everybody, but nobody is born a Christian; nobody gets educated into being a Christian; going to church week after week doesn’t make anybody a Christian.

In its simplest terms, “to be saved” means to be separated from the world.  It means that, while at one time the things of this world nourished you and were the reasons behind everything you did; now everything you need is found in God.  It means living for God when once you lived for yourself.

You may wonder how this is possible; how can a person think they’re saved, but not be saved?  There are many reasons why this has happened, not the least of which is the altar call, the most ineffective way of bringing a sinner to Christ.  Anybody can “come forward” and think they are accepting Christ because they were emotionally moved by a stirring sermon.  But are they really saved?  The same thing is true of “confirmation,” a process many mainline denominations practice, whereby children who were baptized as infants go through a series of classes and tests and are finally deemed to be Christians when they pass those tests.  But are they really saved?

To help us understand this problem, we look back to a time before the church existed; back to the days of the prophets.

Historical context

Jeremiah had it tough.  It was his job to preach repentance to his people.  This he did for his entire life, yet they would have no part of it.  It was an uphill struggle for Jeremiah to fulfill the call of God on his life.  Beginning with chapter 7 of the book that bears his name, a great revival had broken out in the land of Judah.  You can read all about this in 2 Chronicles 34, 35 and in 2 Kings 22.

Young King Josiah had ordered the restoration of the Temple and its grounds.  After years of neglect, it had fallen into a sorry state of disrepair.  When the workmen had cleaned it up, a priest named Hilkiah, father of Jeremiah, found a long-lost copy of the Law.  Finding the Law, reminding the people of what it said, along with the restoration of the Temple, brought about a kind of national revival.  For the first time in a long time, the Temple was back in use, sacrifices were being offered and people from all over Israel streamed into the Temple.  It all looked very good.

But was it?

Then the Lord said to Jeremiah:  Go over to the entrance of the Temple of the Lord and give this message to the people: O Judah, listen to this message from God. Listen to it, all of you who worship here.   (Jeremiah 7:1, 2  TLB)

The message was not all that good.  Remember, the Temple was now back in use.  The Law was found again and was being taught.  Throngs of people came to the Temple, just like in the old days.  But God’s Word to the people was not a word of encouragement, but a word of warning to return to Him by changing their ways.  In other words, returning to the Temple was NOT the same thing as returning to Him.

You think that because the Temple is here, you will never suffer? Don’t fool yourselves! Do you really think that you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and worship Baal and all of those new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are saved!”—only to go right back to all these evil things again? Is my Temple but a den of robbers in your eyes? For I see all the evil going on in there.  (Jeremiah 7:8—11  TLB)

During Josiah’s day, returning to the Temple was THE thing to do because everybody was doing it.  However, many of those clamoring to get into the Temple were also visiting the other temples—temples of Baal.  These people wanted to have it all!  They wanted to worship Yahweh, but also Baal.  They wanted to be a part the believing class, but didn’t want to give up their sinful habits.  Their attitude, which may seem silly to us, was in reality a dangerous one.  They thought that just because the Temple was restored and a religious revival had broken out and the economy was doing well that God was happy with them, even while they continued to sin.  They believed God would just continue to bless them and protect them and that He was turning a blind eye to their sin.  They had completely deluded themselves into thinking they were saved.

Yet they were not.

Once again give them this message from the Lord: When a person falls, he jumps up again; when he is on the wrong road and discovers his mistake, he goes back to the fork where he made the wrong turn. But these people keep on along their evil path, even though I warn them.  I listen to their conversation and what do I hear? Is anyone sorry for sin? Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”? No, all are rushing pell-mell down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse rushing to the battle!   The stork knows the time of her migration, as does the turtledove, the crane, and the swallow. They all return at God’s appointed time each year; but not my people! They don’t accept the laws of God.  (Jeremiah 8:4—7  TLB)

So, things were bad in Judah in spite of what it looked like.  All those sins and idolatry were bad enough, but the worst thing of all was their rejection of God’s Word:

How can you say, “We understand his laws,” when your teachers have twisted them up to mean a thing I never said?  (Jeremiah 8:8  TLB)

And this is the biggest problem, not only in the church today, but in America as a whole.  In spite of Judah’s willful ignorance of God’s Law, they thought they were wise.  And it’s no different in America today.  We have enjoyed the blessings of a Godly heritage for generations, and we think they will continue because we “tip our hats to God” every now and again, and we open our ball games with a prayer, and our politicians talk about “God’s blessings.”  But, as we have seen, God wasn’t happy with His people merely because they crowded into the Temple while their hearts were far from Him, so what makes us think we’ll fare any better?   We have preachers twisting God’s Word out of all proportion so as to allow any and every sin; they never preach against anything for fear of offending their biggest givers.  We have a government making and enforcing ridiculous and often immoral laws because they are, by their own estimation, so much smarter than everybody else.  How are we any different from ancient Israel?  We deny God’s Word; we stubbornly refuse to do what it tells us, all the while talking about God’s presence among us and His blessings in our lives.  How deluded are we?  Do we really think God would put up with that kind of behavior for long?

Results

God is a God of love, yes.  However, He is also a God of righteousness and holiness and He demands those things from anybody who claims to be a believer.  Because of Judah’s continual sin and rebellion, God had no choice but to bring upon them the promised punishment, because He is also a God of justice.

Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.  (Jeremiah 8:10, 11  NIV)

Self-delusion plagued Judah and it’s a curse on American society today.  Like Judah of old, we are more concerned about our crops and grain than we are about our salvation.  We may have, for the moment at least, dencent retirement accounts and enviable lifestyles, but in the main most Americans can say along with the people of Judah, “We are not saved.”  It’s a pathetic place to find yourself:  more focused on the temporary things of this life than on your immortal soul.

The results of Judah’s pseudo-conversion were devastating.  Jerusalem was besieged.  Its inhabitants, suffering beyond measure, waited in vain for help to arrive, which it never did.  And it’s not like the Babylonian horde was a surprise to the people; prophet after prophet warned them that Nebuchadnezzar was closing in.  Time and again the people were opportunities to repent and “get saved.”

The questions we should all be asking ourselves are these:

Am I truly saved?  Only you can answer that question.  If someone were to ask you this question, you’d probably look at your questioner with a measure of contempt.  Yet the question must be answered:  Are you born again?  Or have you deluded yourself into thinking you’re saved?  Don’t let your present circumstances, good or bad, influence your answer.  It’s the state of your heart that’s important, not that of your bank account.  Have you experienced the life-changing power of Jesus Christ personally?  Is the Holy Spirit dwelling within you?  Many in the church today claiming to be Christians are, in fact, just very good people.  But they’re not saved.  They’ve never experienced the reality of the risen Lord.  How about you?

Where are you looking for salvation?  It’s heartbreaking to think of how many harvest times—how many golden opportunities have come your way, and you’ve not noticed.  Sermon after sermon; evangelist after evangelist; friend after friend; all these opportunities came your way, and you ignored them or brushed them off.  Where are you looking for salvation?  If you’re looking to your family, you’ll be disappointed.  If you are looking to your career, your education, your talents; all those things will not save you.  Only a relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ will save you.

Here’s the thing:  The salvation offered by God is great because He is a great God and He does so much for us. Sure, our entrance into Heaven for eternity is guaranteed; our sins are forgiven and we no longer have to worry about judgment and condemnation; for the first time ever, we may experience God’s agape love.  But our great salvation gives us a better today, not just tomorrow.  We may experience God’s richest blessings; His abundant provision; His personal care and protection; these are the wonderful benefits of salvation we may be enjoying today.  Everything you are looking for is found in one place:  Jesus Christ.  Get smart; get saved.

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