So many churchgoers today believe that their assembling between the four walls of a church building one day a week (sometimes more) is what pleases God. Even though many go simply out of tradition, for holiday purposes, to “get a blessing,” or as a way to (in their minds) “escape” hell, they believe, some wholeheartedly, that God is pleased, even though their motives aren’t pure and their hearts are far from Him. However, if you’ll open your Bibles to Jeremiah chapter 7, titled False Religion Worthless (in the NIV translation), you’ll find that church attendance alone isn’t what pleases the Father.
In this chapter, the LORD tells Jeremiah to “stand at the gate of the LORD’s house, and there proclaim this message” (verse 2). Jeremiah was to proclaim a message of truth to the men of Judah, who had the false mentality that as long as they had “the temple” among them (then, a representation that God was among them), no harm would come to them, regardless of their wrong and disobedient actions in the sight of the Lord. God told Jeremiah to tell them, “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’” (verses 3-4).
So here, God was essentially telling the men that they could not live any kind of way and expect to have His favor (regardless to whether the temple was among them). If they repented and reformed their lives, and returned to the duties God had bestowed upon them, however, He would restore them.
The men of Judah weren’t to trust in the lying, or deceptive, words of their own hearts, words that were opposite of God’s commands. God had given them firm instructions, and if they expected to live peaceably, in His favor, they were to follow them. Nevertheless, we see, in verse 8, that these men were, indeed, trusting in deceptive words, regardless of the commands they’d been given by God. The lying words of their hearts were: the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD. (The words – the temple of the Lord – are repeated because the men used the words on every occasion.)
The temple of the LORD was built at the Lord’s mandate, for His glory. God dwelt in the temple, the Israelites worshiped Him in the temple, and the temple was the place where the men met three times a year to give honor to Him. Because the men of Judah did these things, or acts, faithfully, they thought they were secure, that these “things” were enough to keep them in God’s good graces, regardless of their actions. So when they were told of their sin, on numerous occasions by the prophets, they dismissed it. Why? Because they had the temple, and they did their “temple duties.” (In modern day language, they had the “church,” and did their “church duties.”)
But God said, “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense (or make offerings) to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My name, and say, ‘We are safe’—safe to do these detestable things?” (verses 9-10).
If that is what they were thinking (and obviously they were for God to mention the matter), God had a visible image for them to see, which depicted His displeasure of those who thought they could do detestable acts and find a “hiding” place in His house.
“Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for My name,” He told them, “and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel” (verse 12).
Visiting Shiloh, the Israelites would learn and get a visual of God’s displeasure toward those who use His name in vain. Moreover, because of their own rebellion and refusal to turn from their wicked ways, God was going to give them a personal visual as well of what He did in Shiloh, as He was going to do the same to them (verses 13-15).
Like the men of Judah, so many today believe that their “acts” alone will place them in right standing with God (e.g., going to church, being pleasant to others, helping the poor, etc.). But, as we’ve been seeing (and are about to see again), that couldn’t be further from the truth. In verses 21-23, God tells the people, “Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices, and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey Me, and I will be your God and you will be My people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.” (God says a similar thing to the Israelites in Isaiah 1:10-20.)
So you see, sisters, obedience is better than sacrifice (or our “acts”); it’s what God truly delights in. (And note: it begins with submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.)
No matter how many “right” actions one does, if they stem from a rebellious heart, they are wrong actions in the sight of God. Don’t be fooled by the deceptive words that may be ringing in your ears from your own heart, or the deceptive words many are speaking from the pulpit (or from self-made social media platforms). God is the final authority on all matters. Therefore, if He tells us that sacrifices that stem from an evil, or corrupt, heart are worthless, then sisters, they are worthless.
That said, if you’ve found upon reading this message that your actions (toward God), as of late, have been done merely out of routine, tradition, obligation, to earn a “blessing,” to “escape” hell, or to get brownie points from other church members who see what you do, etc., I urge you to change course, to confess your fault to God, and be restored.
If you are reading this and have never been saved, or are no longer sure that you’ve been truly saved after hearing these biblical truths (although you’ve been going through all of the “motions”), I urge you to go before God and give Him your life, sincerely. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”