Christians who “turn away”
by Sandy Simpson, 8/22/16
Jeremiah 3:10-11 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
And the LORD said unto me, “The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” (KJV)
Israel had turned away from the Lord and had gone after the gods of Canaan, namely Baal and Asherah. Because Israel had prostituted herself with false gods in worshipping the polytheistic gods that started at Babel, God had declared He was divorcing Israel and would send them into exile until they again returned to the true God.
But Judah prided itself in doing what God had commended as they had Jerusalem and the Temple. They disdained Israel for setting up altars to Baal and Asherah poles on high hills. Yet God was not fooled by Judah’s pretence. In the KJV it says they were not worshipping God with their whole heart but “feignedly”. The NIV puts it this way:
Jeremiah 3:10-11 Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord. And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.” (NASB)
They were making pretence, trying to pull a ruse on God and the surrounding nations, of worshipping YHWH but had also turned aside to other things that had become idolatry. Idolatry is not merely limited to worshipping idols of stone and other gods, but it is when other things take the place of God’s preeminence in the lives of people.
Colossians 3:5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
Thus the Lord makes an astounding statement: “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah”. Why would He say such a thing through Jeremiah? It is because Judah had all the advantages of Jerusalem at their disposal yet had gone after many of the same things as Israel.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ in Israel we notice that He is far harsher on the religious elite than on common sinners. This is a continuation of how God views people. The tax collectors and prostitutes tended to quickly recognize they were sinners. The religious elite were almost completely unable to repent of their sins as they had been inoculated by their culture and additions to the Law into thinking they were righteous. It is far more serious to be a self-righteous person who cannot repent than one who at least recognizes their sins.
And so it remains today. The call is for Christians to return to their first love.
Revelation 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
Christians, those who claim to be followers of Christ, must forsake sin and follow Christ. He is always faithful and just to forgive those who confess their sins and repent of them. But if they continue in the idolatrous practice of not sharing the Gospel, of unbelief while making a pretense of belief, of murder, of sexual immorality, of homosexuality, of sorcery, of following foreign gods under the guise of Christian faith, and lying they will be rejected.
Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."
Those who are truly born again will abandon sin and obey the Lord, thus proving they love Him.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.
John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
The inference in John, again and again, is that those who love the Lord by obeying Him remain in His love; but those who do not obey the Lord prove they do not love Him and will not remain in His love. This might sound like I am advocating that a Christian can lose their salvation. That is not what I am talking about. Only God knows who is saved from eternity past to eternity future. We have to live a life where we do not abandon the Lord for all the modern idols we have in our cultures. If we do not then we prove we are not truly saved. We must hold on to our belief and trust in Jesus Christ till the end.
Hebrews 3:14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Here we come back to “first love” again. We must remain in the love we had at first for Christ to continue to share in His love. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that we can continue to worship at the altar of modern idolatries of “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity … envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (Rom. 1:29) … slander and gossiping and remain in the love of Christ. Paul warns us in Romans that Gentile Christians should not regard themselves exempt from God cutting them off for idolatry.
Romans 11:21-22 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
I have actually heard preachers skip over this section of verses because they cannot believe that God would cut off Gentile Christians who claim to be born again. But if a person is indeed born again they must not take that fact so lightly that they continue in sin and the idolatries of the age. God is longsuffering and can forgive the sins of idolatry as long as a person is alive and repentant. But there comes a point where God gives them over to their sins and, at that point, there is no longer any grace for that person. We can see this fact being consistent in both the Old Testament and the New.
Psalms 81:12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
Ezekiel 20:25 I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by;
Acts 7:42 But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: "‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
Romans 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
God will eventually harden the hearts of those who do not obey Him just as he eventually hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Don’t delude yourself that God cannot pass judgment on those who turn away from Him while acting like they are born again.
We are to turn away from wickedness.
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
We are NOT to turn away from the Faith.
Matthew 24:10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
Hebrews 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?