In Jeremiah’s day, God removed His restraining grace and let sin run its course because of their ongoing rebellion. What does the loss of restraining grace look like in a nation or an individual life? Could the same thing be playing out in our country or yours, wherever you live?
The loss of His restraining grace leads to a downward slide into an increasingly godless society. Paul gives us a list of sins that occur near the bottom of that free fall: homosexuality, sexual immorality, unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hatred of God and His Word, lack of respect, pride, inventing all kinds of evil, rebellion against parents and all authority, lack of trustworthiness, and a lack of love and mercy. But the very bottom is when a society “approve[s] of those who practice them.” Could we already be there and, if so, how should we respond?
Lamentations 1 & 2
Have We Lost God’s Restraining Grace?
Lamentations 1 & 2:
Heart-broken Over Sin & Destruction
The book of Lamentations was written by Jeremiah and was basically a funeral dirge. The prophet was mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, God’s holy city. Even though the people had rejected his warnings, even tortured and imprisoned him for speaking the truth, Jeremiah was heart-broken over their destruction.
Let’s pray that as the body of Christ we would be heart-broken over the sin and destruction in our nation instead of being self-righteous, self-pitying or judgmental.
But why would God allow the destruction of the city and the people He loved? Why would He allow any nation to become worse and worse until it self-destructs? Is He a good God if He does? Look at our reading in Psalms for today:
“Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Ps. 119.37).
God is righteous and all His judgments are upright. They are good!
That may be hard to reconcile when we see the events transpiring in our nation today or when we read verses like Lamentations 2.20, “…Should the women eat their offspring, the children they have cuddled?”
It’s easy to think, “How could a good God cause such a thing to happen to innocent children?” First, we must realize God did not “cause” such a horrible thing to happen. James 1.13-15 says:
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Part of God’s righteous judgment (Ps. 119.137) is the removal of His restraining grace which allows the sinfulness of our wicked hearts to be revealed and have free reign. Notice each one is drawn away and enticed by his own desires or lusts. When God’s sovereign grace is removed from a nation or an individual, there is no end to the depth of human depravity.
Paul painted a picture of this in Romans 1. First, even though the knowledge of God is revealed everywhere, including creation, men and women refuse to acknowledge Him as God (Rom. 1.20-21) so He gives “them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts” (Rom. 1.24). As they continue in their rebellion they throw aside the truth of God and start believing lies. They stop worshiping God and, instead, worship created things including themselves and their freedoms (Rom. 1.25). Paul goes on:
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
How Should We Respond?
First, it should give each of us a biblical “fear of God,” drive us to Him and cause us to ask Him to search our own hearts for secret or hidden sin so we can repent. The psalmist prayed earlier in this psalm:
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
We can’t simply compare ourselves to others and say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as those people!” We may not be as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad as we need to be to deserve an eternity in hell apart for His saving grace. Let’s never take it for granted.
But we also need to pray for God’s heart toward sinful people. Jeremiah and Daniel are two great examples. They prayed and repented on behalf of their people and cried out for God’s mercy and deliverance.
Finally, like Jeremiah, we need to be salt and light no matter the cost. Jesus said in Matthew 5:
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Evil thrives in darkness. So, we must continue to hold out the light to those who will listen and believe. Salt is a preservative. God often holds back judgment for the sake of His children. When God told Abraham that He planned to destroy Sodom, Abraham interceded for the righteous in that wicked city:
23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes” (Gen. 18.23-26).
And as Abraham continued to intercede, God promised He would even spare the city for ten righteous (Gen. 18. 27-33). When He finally did destroy it, He first sent His angels to remove righteous Lot and his family (Gen. 19.1-29).
But salt also stings. So, we must be prepared when people react to truth with anger. We need to remember they aren’t rejecting us, but God and His Word. Our job is to remain faithful and trust God for the results.
Today’s Other Readings:
Verse 9, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
We should not think we can remain in unrepentant sin in our individual lives or as a nation and expect God to answer our prayers.
How Much Do You Trust God?
Like Romans 13.1-7 and 1 Peter 2.13-23 this passage reminds us that we are to have a submissive and respectful attitude toward those in authority over us. One of the greatest tests of our level of trust in God is our willingness to submit to God-given authority and trust God to lead through them. The exception would be if that person is asking us to violate a clear command of Scripture. In those cases, we have a higher authority.
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about putting your past behind you, truth, politics, God’s standard, why God doesn’t immediately deal with some things and more.
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Authority Issues: When It’s Hard Being Told What To Do
It’s frustrating to be under imperfect authority. And sometimes it’s more than frustrating. We suffer when someone’s authority is unfair, capricious, or just plain wrong. But does that let us off the hook? Do we have to listen only to those we agree with? In Authority Issues: When It’s Hard Being Told What To Do, Robert Smith of Faith Biblical Counseling explains how God calls us to submit to authority–even imperfect authority–and that, as we do so, we are following in Jesus’ steps. As we redirect our trust from fallen authority figure to the gracious and loving God who is ultimately in charge of our life, we can avoid the traps of bitterness and expectation and become more like Christ.
Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry
Exodus is a real story about God redeeming his people from the bondage of slavery and how their difficult journey home exposed their loyalties. Though wounded by Egypt, they had come to worship its gods. Most Christians don’t make golden idols like the Israelites in the wilderness, but we do set up idols on our own desert road—idols like substance abuse, pornography, gluttony, and rage. And even those who don’t know the pain of actual slavery can feel enslaved to the fear and shame that follow sexual abuse or betrayal by a spouse, for we suffer at the hands of our idols as well as those created by others. We need more than self-improvement or comfort—we need redemption.
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Getting ready for 2018
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.