Thursday, May 25, 2006

Banner Conference 2006 -- Session #3 Philip Ryken "The Need for Reformation Today"

Philip Ryken spoke on Jeremiah 7:1-15. What we find here is that reformation starts with the preaching of the word of God. Jeremiah is preaching in the gate of the temple to all the people of Judah who had come there to worship. Perhaps, although we are not told, it was one of the high feasts (Passover or Tabernacles) when a great number of people would have been at the temple to celebrate. This preaching of Jeremiah also came at a pivotal point in the history of Judah. In Jeremiah 26 we find that this preaching of Jeremiah occurred following the reign of Josiah with all its reforms and at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. That was a time of growing darkness and desperate need for reformation. The only way that reformation would come is through the proclamation of God's word. What we find here is that this proclamation of the word of God will face opposition. Jeremiah would be seized by the people for this as recounted in Jeremiah 26. The preaching of the word will be opposed and we should not be surprised by this. Instead we should persevere in preaching it. The reason the preaching of the word upsets people is that it points out that religious observance without moral obedience does not save. The people were religiously observant. They were coming to temple to worship. They would be what we call church goers. Yet, we find here that it is just these people who need reformation. So also today, reformation starts in the church, then brings change elsewhere. It starts in the hearts of the ministers of the word, and spreads out from there. That means that the problem is not just out there, it is in the church. The church needs a greater sense of God. That was the problem with the people of Judah. They were putting their trust in the external observances. They trusted in the temple--in its outward trappings and observances. We see a similar thing today in the focus on the visible--numbers, buildings, programs, cash--instead of the holiness of our members. When a church does that it is on its way to apostasy for the measure of a church is the power of God at work in it. Yet, we are tempted to look at externals like:
  • Self-help Christianity with its focus on what you do for God to make yourself better
  • Political Christianity that thinks the right party in government will make things all better
  • Style based Christianity that looks at outward style either traditional or contemporary
  • Or those who call for a new version of God
    • Love not justice
    • God of Uncertainty rather than certainty
    • God who is powerful but not sovereign
The temple became a place of superstitious trust. Do you religious duties and you will be safe. Then you can go and do your own thing all the rest of your life. In doing this the people misapplied what it means to be the elect people of God. That as the elect people of God they were safe even if they lived lives of sin. It was not the temple itself that was the problem, but their misplaced trust in the temple as if it protected them in such a way that the rest of their lives were unimportant. Looking at the list of things Jeremiah is told to confront them with it becomes apparent that they had broken every one of the ten commandments. Once again this is very similar to today. People are making their own laws, and no surprise they are against the laws of God. Even in the church today people are religious, but less moral. All this is an indication that people do not really know the God of the Bible, for they mistreat the poor and weak and helpless. It has been said the test of a nation is how they treat the weak and poor. Here we find that a similar test can be used for our own reformation. The truth of our spiritual reformation can be seen in how we treat the poor, weak and needy. The Jews thought reformation only had to do with temple things, not the whole of their life. It seems often people think the same today. They think God cares nothing for what they do through the week, but Jeremiah reminded then and reminds us that God is watching. He sees how we live. Religious observance without moral obedience is a faith that will not save, and the results are seen in Shiloh. That were where the tabernacle was located at one time, but because of the wickedness of the people it was only ruins when Jeremiah spoke to the people in the temple gates. He tells them go look at what religious observance alone brings. Go to the place where God was and find what happens to those who think this way. The people of Jerusalem thought this would never happen to them, but Shiloh was the location of the tabernacle and it was no more. The same would happen to Jerusalem, and too all who think and live the same way. We need to heed these words, and realize that reformation will start with the preaching of God's word used to change hearts and lives.


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