The message of Old Testament prophets can be difficult for us, can’t it? The prophet Jeremiah calls out people who say they know God but who are really just engaging in a superficial kind of religiosity. They say they’re religious, but they act as if their motives do not matter and their immoral behavior seems to be of little or no concern to them. They just assume God will protect them as they go through the motions of religious activity and because of that they will be safe from hardship and heartache.
But Jeremiah proclaims this message from the Lord God:
“I will keep you safe only if you change your ways. Be fair and honest with each other. Stop taking advantage of foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don’t kill innocent people. And stop worshiping other gods. Then I will let you enjoy a long life in this land I gave your ancestors. But just look at what is happening! You put your trust in worthless lies. You steal and murder; you lie in court and are unfaithful in marriage. You worship idols and offer incense to Baal, when these gods have never done anything for you. And then you come into my temple and worship me! Do you think I will protect you so that you can go on sinning?” Jeremiah 7:5-10 (CEV)
Is it possible that any of us are just going through the motions of superficial religious activity? Is it possible God is calling us to change our ways? To be honest with others? To stop chasing after false gods? To stop taking advantage of people? To stop putting our trust in worthless lies? To stop being unfaithful in marriage? To stop feigning genuine worship?
The message of Jesus can be difficult for us too, can’t it? He proclaimed:
“And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it.” Matthew 10:38-39 (CEV)
Is it possible that people are losing their religion today because we’ve not been willing to take up the cross of self-sacrifice in following Jesus? We’ve not been fit to be his disciples? We’ve been more concerned with saving our lives than losing them for Jesus? Our religious activity is so superficial that people don’t think we really believe what the gospel says because we’re not living it out?
What is God trying to say to you and me today that’s difficult for us to hear?