As we celebrate the 4th of July I want to ask you ?what kind of wisdom do we have?? Over the course of the history of our country we?ve gained incredible knowledge. We?ve gathered tons of information and made a mountain of discoveries about everything under the Sun. We?ve put a man on the moon, been to Mars and now Jupiter by way of unmanned spacecrafts, and we?ve begun to learn more about sub-atomic particles. The information we?ve gained is staggering and yet I have to ask ?what kind of wisdom do we have today and where has it gotten us??
Let?s read our Scripture for this morning as it will lay the foundation for everything that we will discuss throughout our time together. Please turn with me to Jeremiah 2:5-13 and let?s begin.
5 This is what the LORD says: ?What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 6 They did not ask, ?Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?? 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask, ?Where is the LORD?? Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. 9 ?Therefore I bring charges against you again,? declares the LORD. ?And I will bring charges against your children?s children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,? declares the LORD. 13 ?My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:5-13 NIV)
Every year when my family prepares to leave for vacation I spend time praying about what the Lord would have me focus on while I am away. I view those two weeks each year as a time to get away with my family, but also a time to get away with the Lord and allow Him to teach me. Before we left town I knew that the Lord wanted me to spend the next two weeks reading Jeremiah.
On the day we were to leave I stopped by the church. While I was in my office I picked up a book that someone had sent me a couple of months ago. The book is called, Cracking DaVinci?s Code, and it was written as a response to the hugely popular book written by Dan Brown called, The DaVinci Code. I read the book on the way to Florida and was so intrigued and interested that I felt like I needed to read The DaVinci Code. Connie and I were talking about what I was learning from reading Jeremiah and Cracking DaVinci?s Code and I told her, ?I need to read Dan Brown?s book.? The very next day a lady at the pool ended up giving me a copy of the book and I started to read.
What is so remarkable about the three books I read on our trip is that they were speaking about the same situations going on in society?the ancient society of Judah and our modern-day society in America. Now you need to understand that even though The DaVinci Code is a novel with characters, a story-line, and such underneath the thin veneer of a novel are some of the same issues that Jeremiah was addressing in his day. The difference is that the two men are pointing us in two different directions. Jeremiah was calling the people of Judah away from paganism and idolatry while Dan Brown is seeking to nudge his readers into idolatry and paganism. Let me explain to you what I am talking about.
Jeremiah was a prophet during the reign of the last four kings of Judah. His ministry spanned forty years, from 626-587 B.C. Jeremiah was appointed by God to deliver a message to Judah. It was a difficult message, a message that Jeremiah didn?t enjoy delivering because it brought the wrath of the people down on his head, but it was a message that had to be delivered because the people of Judah were playing games with God. The time of grace and patience was running out. The people?s hearts had grown cold towards the Lord. Oh, they still visited the Temple, they went to church, and they believed that they were isolated from harm because they were ?God?s people,? but they had turned away from God and were worshipping whatever they thought would make them happy or give them an advantage in life.
Jeremiah told them that the King of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, would sweep down into Judah and carry the people away into captivity. This would be God?s discipline, His way of trying to turn the hearts of the people back to Himself. God told them not to resist Nebuchadnezzar, but to go along with the plan and when their time of discipline was over He would bring them back home. It was an ancient version of a modern-day father telling his kid, ?go to your room until I tell you come out? as a result of his disobedience.
The people in the pews weren?t the only folks who were being disobedient?the priests, the religious leaders, those who should have been speaking for the Lord–had plugged their ears to His Truth and were teaching whatever they wanted to teach. In Jeremiah 6 God shares His quandary.
10 To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. (Jeremiah 6:10 NIV)
The Word of God had become offensive to God?s own people. The Word of God had lost its power in the lives of God?s people?not because the Word of God changed, but because the people had changed their allegiance. In Jeremiah 2:13 we read the charges leveled against the people of Judah.
13 ?My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)
Two charges, two offences, two violations of God?s covenant by His people. First, the people had forsaken God. They had turned away. They no longer had ears to hear or hearts that were molded and led by ?thus saith the Lord.? Secondly, ?they?ve dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.? Rather than drawing their strength and security from the Living Waters of a relationship with God, the people had ?dug their own cisterns,? they had begun to worship their own gods, those who were not gods at all. The people were doing whatever they wanted regardless of what God had commanded them to do. This total disregard for how God had drawn them out of obscurity and slavery and preserved them as a people coupled with the waywardness of their hearts had brought about God?s plan to discipline His people.
Now, let me jump forward to our day and the teachings that are set forth in Dan Brown?s book, The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown?s book has sold more than 8 million copies to date. It?s been translated into forty languages and it is having a huge impact on the lives of the people of our society who are reading it as though it is historical fact. For those who have not read it let me give you a synopsis of Dan Brown?s thesis. The entire 450 pages can really be summed up by a statement made by one of Dan Brown?s characters on page 235 where he says, ??almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false. As are the stories about the Holy Grail.? (p. 235) The rest of the ?novel? is a fast paced thriller that unpacks all of the so-called ?lies? our fathers have taught us and a search for the so-called ?truth? which is nothing more than old, pagan lies repackaged.
On the cover of the book we read that The DaVinci Code is a novel and yet Dan Brown on the opening page writes: FACT: All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
Dan Brown has done more than write a fictional novel, he is trying to educate his readers. What are the ?historical lessons? he is trying to teach us? I?m so glad you asked.
First, Dan Brown says that the Church robbed Jesus of His human message and placed upon Him a mantle of divinity. The Church made Jesus into a Messiah and claimed that He was God?something Jesus never claimed for Himself. Read John 14:6-10 and see for yourself Jesus? claims.
This is the tired, old argument that Jesus was a really good man. He was a man who did many wonderful things, but He was not God. He was a great religious leader, a humanitarian, but He was not God. That my friend is nothing more than an old lie packaged in a new suit of clothes.
Secondly, Dan Brown says that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a daughter named Sarah who married into the French royal blood-line. In an article that appeared in the Monterey Herald on May 21, 2004, writer Helen T. Gray shows us how the lack of biblical knowledge in our day coupled with Dan Brown?s claim that his book is based on fact are making an impact on the minds and hearts of people. Ms. Gray writes about a young college student?s reaction.
Robyn Busch of Overland Park, Kan., a 19-year-old college student, said she has been skeptical about the Bible, and, right after reading the novel, she was even more skeptical. She said Brown makes his theories sound believable. (Robyn) ”Like Mary Magdalene, that he would even suggest it (that she was married to Jesus) made me think it might be true. I felt like he had a lot of thought behind it. I knew it was a work of fiction, but there was the statement he made in the beginning of the book that it was based in truth.”
Third, Dan Brown says that Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. called together the Council of Nicea and disposed of eighty additional Gospels that painted a very different picture of Jesus. The pagan emperor forced what we know as the Bible on us as well as the divinity of Jesus. Brown says that the Bible is not reliable in giving us an accurate picture of who Jesus really was.
Brown could not be further from the truth. The Jewish Bible, what we know as the Old Testament was already in the hands of Jesus, the Apostles, and faithful men and women of God three hundred years before the Council of Nicea was ever convened. When you read the Gospels you find Jesus quoting passages from the Old Testament as authoritative. (For an example of this read Matthew 4:1-10 and notice how Jesus quotes Old Testament as authoritative.)
Alongside this fact, Dan Brown fails to mention that Church leaders began collecting authoritative Scripture around 140 A.D., almost 200 years before the Council of Nicea. This effort was launched when a religious leader named Marcion began teaching that the New Testament and Old Testament show us two separate Gods. Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament was a God of law and wrath while the God of the New Testament, represented by Christ, was a God of love. Heard that lately?
Marcion refused to accept the Old Testament and many of the books of the New Testament, including Matthew, Mark, Acts, and Hebrews. He changed other New Testament books to remove their Jewishness as well.
In 144 A.D. the church in Rome declared Marcion?s views heretical, but Marcion continued to teach and gather to himself followers who formed what we know as early Gnosticism. This was really a good challenge for the Church because it led the Church leaders to work towards coming up with a definitive list of Scriptural books including both the Old and New Testaments even though most of the books that we know as the Bible were already being read as authoritative.
Last of all, Dan Brown, in removing Jesus from His rightful position as Lord and God wants to substitute the worship of the ?Sacred Feminine,? or goddess worship. The Holy Grail of ancient folklore is not the chalice that Jesus and the Disciples drank from at the Last Supper, but ?it? is a really a person?Mary Magdalene. Dan Brown says the ?truth? is that the Church turned what was a matriarchal, goddess worship into a patriarchal worship of Jesus with men being in leadership.
There are so many other ?strange? teachings of Dan Brown contained in his book, but this is not a book review, we are here to study the Word of God. The reason I?ve taken the time to lay down some of the teachings of Dan Brown is because they underline a basic tenet of American culture today. What we see happening in our society today is an all out effort to escape from God. We want to throw off the call of God to surrender our lives to Him, to live in accordance with His will, and simply do whatever we please, worship whomever we please, and classify it as ?faith.?
The reason Dan Brown?s book has had such an affect on believers and unbelievers alike is because we do not know God?s Word. I read in USA Today last week about two polls that were taken among young people in our country. Let me share with you their findings to fortify my argument. The poll found
59% of 18-34 year-olds believe the Bible is relevant to their lives.
53% of this age group reads the Bible less than once a year, or never.
About 8 million people who were churchgoers in their teens will no longer
be active by age 30.
31% of 20-29 year olds attend church in a typical week, vs. only 22% of
80% say that their faith is very important, but only 34% say they are absolutely committed to Christianity. (USA Today, Thursday, June 24, 2004; Zondervan/Harris interactive poll of 2148 adults May 25-27; Barna Research Group study of 2,660 adults 20-29, September 2003.)
Friends we have a problem. What we see with young people is evident also in the lives of those who are older. We do not know the Word of God. Without knowing the Word of God there is no way for you or me to know the Truth of God, or Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of those who will trust in Him.
Not only do we have the problem of so many people today not knowing the Word of God, but we also have the problem of those who are supposed to be teaching the Word of God altering Scripture, putting words in God?s mouth that He never said, and blatantly disobeying Scripture. Stop and think with me for a moment about the most pressing issues in Christianity in our culture today. Is it evangelism? No. How about missions? Hardly. How about the study of Scripture? Not on your life. The most pressing issue that presents itself at General Assemblies and the gatherings being held by religious heads of denominations is the issue of human sexuality.
On May 6th of this year the United Methodist Church met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for their annual meeting. When they voted that homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching many in the audience erupted in protest. Let me read to you an excerpt from an article that was posted on the Soulforce website, the group that led the protest.
Approximately 400 people joined in a peaceful protest today inside the Convention Center during the United Methodist Church General Conference being held this week in Pittsburgh, PA. Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) people, led the action during the Thursday morning session that included hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allies from both inside and outside the church. United Methodist caucus groups Affirmation, Reconciling Ministries Network, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action joined in the direct action, which stopped proceedings for approximately 20 minutes. (Soulforce.org)
The Church is being forced to defend Scriptures?s stance against alternative lifestyles. I would say homosexuality, but the playing field has become more broad than that in the past few years. Even in the excerpt that I just read to you we read about ?gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.? Who is leading this charge? Great question! It is priests, preachers, and religious leaders who deny the truths of Scripture to accommodate an unbelieving generation.
Lay people look to their religious leaders to teach them God?s Truth and model the life of faith. When we have Bible teachers and religious leaders teaching us that alternative lifestyles are acceptable to God then we are living in the days of Jeremiah all over again.
In Jeremiah 5 we read about how shocking the times were in Judah when the announcement was made that the judgment of God was coming. Read along with me in Jeremiah 5:30-31.
30 ?A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31 NIV)
We are living in the days of Jeremiah all over again. I mentioned the topic of homosexuality just as an example of the waywardness of our hearts today. For those of you who would categorize me as a homophobe let me share with you that you are misguided. I?m not afraid of those who homosexuals at all. As a matter of fact, my heart breaks for men and women who are enslaved in the destructive lifestyle.
I had a friend a few years ago who was gay. I can still remember the first time I met Troy. He was bouncing back from a near death bout with AIDS when I invited him to church. Troy began attending Britton Christian Church and we became really good friends. When AIDS had so devastated his body that he was confined to his home I would go, as well as others from this church, to visit him. Before Troy died he asked me if we could have his funeral at BCC and if I would conduct the service. I told him that I would be honored.
There were lots of people at Troy?s funeral. I didn?t ask anyone about their sexual orientation, but I can only assume that there were folks here of various sexual orientations. I shared the Word of God at Troy?s funeral. I didn?t condemn folks. I didn?t make a political statement about sexual repression or oppression or the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered persons?I shared the Word of God.
You see my friends, it is one thing for us to love all sinners and welcome them, but it is another thing to wink and say God approves of our sin. All of us who attend Britton Christian Church are sinners and we pray that God will so speak through His Word that we are called from our sin into His grace. What we are praying for is not confirmation that we are OK, but conversion of our wayward, sin-filled hearts!
In Jeremiah?s day the people were playing games with God. They were going to church and singing the songs of faith, but their hearts were far from God. In our day we are replicating this horrible time in history. It?s not just our views of sexuality. It?s not just the fact that we have no regard for God?s prescription for sex within the confines of marriage between a husband and wife. We basically do whatever we want to do and slap a label of God?s approval on it. We cheat our neighbors and find some way to justify it. We lie when we get in a jam and find some way to excuse it. We hurt one another and find consolation in the fact that others have hurt us. We become enslaved to all kinds of substances and cry out that it?s not our fault. I had a buddy in college who argued that it was all right to smoke weed because Genesis says that everything God has made is good. We run into rough waters in our marriages and immediately look for the exit door instead of the throne of grace. We have ?Christian? business people who act in a most ungodly way and think nothing about it. These actions that rip away at the fabric of our society and tear at our souls are being lived out by those who frequent the church, sit in pews on Sunday morning, and sing the praises of God. It reminds me of Isaiah 29;13 where we read,
13The Lord says: ?These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
We still have the vestiges of faith all around us, but our hearts are vacant, void vessels when it comes to the passion that God desires for righteousness, holiness, and obedience to His will and Word. Take a look at Jeremiah 5:30-31 once again with me.
30 ?A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31 NIV)
The Truth was nowhere to be found, but the people loved it this way. God asks the question, ?But what will you do in the end.? That is a great question my friends. ?What will we do in the end?? We have developed our own wisdom today and it is the philosophy of pleasure. We are hedonists through and through. Whatever feels good, whatever feels right, whatever is going to make me happy must be right with God. We still give God a wink and nod, we still call upon Him whenever we get in a jam, but we have no desire to surrender our lives to Him and live for His glory alone.
I?ve got news for you. History shows that those who merely tolerate God will one day become intolerant of God. Let me show you what I am talking about. In Jeremiah the people played games with God for along time, they listened to Jeremiah as though they were really listening, but then they went and did their own thing. The day came when they stopped playing games and rejected the message of God out right. Turn with me to Jeremiah 44:15 and let?s begin reading.
15Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present?a large assembly?and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16?We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! 17We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.? (Jeremiah 44:15-18 NIV)
On the day in which we celebrate our nation?s independence I am saddened to say that our independence from nations has become an increasing independence from Almighty God. We still have churches among us, we still tolerate God when the nation faces a crisis, but the day will come when we will join those of Jeremiah?s time and shake our fists at the heavens as we cry out, ?We will not listen to You any longer!? This day will come if we do not repent. This day will come if we do not turn back to God. This day will come if we continue to play games with God.
I can?t control the direction of this nation any more than you can, but I can sure turn around myself. As I look at my own life I see how easily my heart becomes hard if I do not seek the Lord on a daily basis with passion. I need to repent. I need to turn around. I need to cry out to God with all of my heart. How about you?
For more information about ?The DaVinci Code?:
Breaking The DaVinci Code website