Jeremiah 23:16-17 ESV
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
Do we understand what this is saying here? It says we should not listen to people who say they are speaking from God, such as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers of the word of God, if they fill our minds with vain hopes. And, then it goes on to explain to us what is meant by “vain hopes.”
They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. And, by “visions” is not necessarily meant a literal vision (like a dream when you are awake), but rather something such as an idea, a goal, or a plan that comes from one’s own imagination, not from the mind of God.
Most church denominations today require (or strongly encourage) their pastors and their church leaders to come up with vision and purpose statements for their local church congregations. And, some of them are being taught to put these vision and purpose statements in writing, and to put them up where the people can read them. And, they even encourage their congregants to memorize these business goals for the church.
Much of this has been initiated by global movements, such as the Rick Warren movement which has spread like wildfire across denominations, and across the USA, and into other countries, as well. And, a massive number of churches, regardless of denomination, adopted his role model for how to grow their churches (businesses), and in how to attract the world to their gatherings so that the world would feel comfortable among them.
But let me state something here. I am using the term “church” here as it is largely understood, but the church is not a denomination, not a building, not a business, not a corporation, and not a civic center or a social club. The church is us, the people of God who believe in Jesus Christ. And, Jesus is our head, not men and their business goals, plans, and visions.
Yet, one of the biggest and most offensive things that came out of this business role model movement for the church was the diluting of the gospel of our salvation and the cheapening of God’s grace. And, that is what this passage of Scripture here is talking about.
For, according to what they are teaching, we can despise the Word of God, go our own stubborn way, dishonor God with our lives, treat God with disdain and disrespect, yet be promised heaven as our eternal destiny and that we will suffer no disaster, no judgment of God, and no danger or sword. Does that even make sense? No! Not according to Scripture.
Jeremiah 23:18-20 ESV
“For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
Behold, the storm of the Lord!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
The anger of the Lord will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intents of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.”
The modern business role model church, at least here in America, is being led by humanistic philosophy and by business marketing plans and schemes. I know, for my husband and I were church planters for a while, and we went through their training. And, we have seen the results of these marketing schemes, too, and the impact they have had on the church and on individual professers of faith in Jesus Christ. And, it is not good!
The Word of God is not the primary focus of these modern market-driven and flesh-driven congregations. It is books written by mere mortals who blend truth with lies, and who mix Christianity with what is cult-like and with other religions and their teachings and practices. And, it is marketing books on how to build and to grow their businesses called “church.”
It is also entertainment, movies, games, fun, relaxation, being non-judgmental, non-offensive, all-inclusive, and seeker friendly. It is the big show, i.e. the stage production, and it is appearance, and acting, and stage props, and jokes, even ones that mock God’s holy word. And, it is about making the “church” attractive to the world, and thus compromising morals, Christian values, biblical standards, and biblical truth to win the world.
Since they have largely ignored God and his Word, and they have followed after men in their deceitful scheming, instead, and since they have made men and their edifices their gods, instead of God being their only God, the Lord is bringing judgment on these institutional churches which claim him as their Lord, but who literally despise the Lord and his Word, which is evidenced by what they teach and by what they practice.
Jeremiah 23:21-24 ESV
“I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.
“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.”
I love how the Word of the Lord, regardless of time that has gone by, is still relevant and applicable to our lives today. For, this speaks volumes to the situation we find ourselves in today with so much of the church, or what is falsely called church, cheapening God’s grace and teaching a gospel message which is a lie and which is filled with vain hopes.
If a man or a woman speaks as if from God, but if what they teach others that they must do (or not do) is against the teachings of Scripture, and if it is against God’s divine character and will for our lives, then they are not being sent by God. So, how do we know what is of God and what is not?
Well, the beginning of this passage quoted here (vv. 16-17) gave us the first part of it, and now this gives us the second half of it.
How do we know a true messenger of God from a false one? A true messenger of God will turn people away from their evil ways and from the evil of their deeds. Do we get this? This is critical that we get this. A true messenger of God is not going to tell people that they can “believe” in Jesus, have heaven guaranteed them, and that they can keep walking in sin.
A true messenger of God is not going to tell you that you can live in sin and that God doesn’t even see your sin, but that all he sees is Jesus. And, so you can live in absolute utter filth, vegging out on pornography and all sorts of abominations against God, and still they tell you God can’t see your sin and so he just looks on you with delight and he smiles even while you smack him in the face with your insolence and your utter disrespect for him as God.
A true messenger of God is going to speak the truth in love to you. He or she is going to warn you against living for sin and self, and warn you of divine judgment, and call you to repentance and to obedience to Christ. All the prophets of old did this, and all the New Testament apostles did this, too, as far as I recall to the best of my knowledge and understanding.
Jesus Christ did not die on that cross merely to forgive our sins and to promise us heaven when we die. He died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. For, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who WALK, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17).
So, make certain that the gospel message you are staking your future on is the truth. And, the truth is that we must die with Christ to sin and live to him and to his righteousness if we want salvation from sin and eternal life with God in heaven (Lu. 9:23-26; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; Gal. 6:7-8).
The Kingdoms of Earth Pass Away
Lyrics by Henry R. Trickett, 1887
Music by James H. Fillmore, 1887
The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one,
But the kingdom of heaven remains;
It is built on a rock and the Lord is its King,
And forever and ever He reigns.
The tempest may rage and its anger acclaim,
Yea, the wind and the torrents may roar,
And the strong gates of hell may assail it in vain,
Still the kingdom shall stand ever more.
The kingdom of God is now open to all,
E’en the vilest may now enter in;
There’s a welcome for all who will turn to the Lord,
Full salvation and pardon for sin.
Chorus: It shall stand, It shall stand,
Forever and ever and ever,
It shall stand, It shall stand,
Forever and ever. Amen and Amen.
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