"Forsaking God" (April 2004)
"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13) This was a pretty serious charge that God made against His people, nevertheless, it was a true one. (Sadly, I'm afraid that this is true for us, His church, today as well.) "What do I mean by that?", you may ask. How have we forsaken God? Where are the cisterns that we have dug? As we look at this scripture we see two acts that they did: they forsook God, and made their own wells. But when we look at those two acts, we see that they actually go hand in hand and are in conjunction with one another. (Sort of like- cause and effect) When we forsake God we then have to go looking for another source to meet our need- and often we will try to make our own source. This is what they did.
Saying that we have forsaken God and made our own wells is pretty strong language, but the Lord has been using strong language with me lately. He has used such words as- sin, iniquity, hypocrisy, forsake, lawlessness. I believe the time has past; God is not going to use soft language with us any more. The days are getting shorter, the return of Christ is at hand, He is getting a bride prepared for His coming (one that is without spot or wrinkle- a pure, chaste, and holy bride). He is weeding out the tares from the wheat, the sheep from the goats, and He is giving a call- "Come out from among them my people and be ye separate". He is coming back for a holy people (without holiness no man shall see God). If He didn't use such strong language with us, we wouldn't think that He was serious, and He is serious. He is not playing games, there is too much at stake and He loves you too much to allow you to continue living in a far country in the pig pen of worldly lust and sin. "Whom the Lord loves He chastens". (Hebrews 12:6). "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." (Revelation 3:19) I don't believe that it is going to be business as usual in the church any longer, especially if you are going to make yourself ready for His appearing. When He comes you don't want to be found like the five foolish virgins. (Matthew 25) They were virgins, just like the other five, but they were foolish- they had no oil in their lamps- and the door was shut to them. The Lord doesn't want to shut the door on anyone, it's not His will that any should perish. He came to seek and to save that which was lost; that's why He went through the shame, suffering, and torment of the cross so that you and I could enter in. On that day when the door is shut and if you are standing on the outside, the fact that you were a virgin won't save you and cause Him to open the door to you. The sentence will come forth... "I don't know you". That's why He has laid this message on my heart; so that you will examine yourself and see if there is anything that will cause you not to have oil in your lamp; so that you will check to see if there is anything that will cause Him to shut the door to you; and so that you can see if you are forsaking Him and drinking out of your own cisterns. Why? In order to give you a chance to repent before it is to late. The reality of it is this- if God is dealing with you in any area or if there is sin in your life and you are not confessing and forsaking it.... the Bible says that He will not always strive with men. (Genesis 6:3) If you continue to forsake Him and go to your cisterns, then He will not strive (deal) with you any longer... that's a place that you don't want to be. When He quits dealing with you, He'll withdraw His presence. God withdrew His presence from King Saul and we see the result- he lost everything and wound up going to a witch for council. This is not God's will for your life; this is not His desire for you. He loves you with an everlasting love. Take heed to His words to you through this message. Let Him cleanse your heart, let Him help you with any area that you are living in that is displeasing to Him, let Him restore your fellowship and relationship to Him. If He didn't love you, He wouldn't "get in your face", and tell you the truth (even if it is said in strong language), because the truth is what sets us free. (John 8:32)
Now, let's talk about how this applies to us. How do we forsake God? Here are a few of the Hebrew meanings for the word "forsake"- to leave, depart from, neglect. So when we talk about forsaking God it means that we leave, depart from, and neglect Him and His commandments. One way we forsake God is by "leaving" His presence too soon. Too often God is wanting to speak to you about something and you don't sit still long enough for Him to to so. Most of our prayer time consist of asking God for things and very little, if any, spent letting Him respond back to us. Our prayer life (if we even have one) is usually a one way conversation- I talk and God listens. The opposite of "leaving" would be "seeking". So we forsake Him as well by not seeking Him. "Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually." (1 Chronicles 16:11) "But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." ( Deuteronomy 4:29) "Seek ye the Lord, and ye shall live."(Amos 4:6a) Is this the case in your life- are you seeking Him or leaving Him? I'm sure you never thought of this as "forsaking God", but it is. So, if this is the case, repent and begin to sit still in His presence seeking Him until you hear from Him.
Another way we forsake God is by departing from His commandments. "Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success." ( Joshua 1:7,8) God warned Joshua before he went into the Promised Land not to forsake His commandments or the law that He had given to Moses. In forsaking them, he would be forsaking God because it was God's law, it was His word, it was His instructions. When we follow our own way, do our own thing, are governed by society, by the culture, the world's way of thinking, or by philosophy, and when we cease to call sin "sin" but instead we justify and excuse our actions, we have forsaken God. Are you taking heed to God's commands and doing them? Are you living by them and letting them govern your life and your behavior? If not, you are forsaking God.
Let's look at the last definition I listed- neglect. We all know that neglect means to ignore or disregard something; it also means not to attend to something properly. When we go for days without praying or reading the Bible, we are neglecting it- only in this case, it's not just prayer and Bible reading that we are neglecting, it's our relationship with God because it's through those two main avenues that God reveals Himself to us. We forsake God by neglecting to give Him the time in our lives that He deserves. We also forsake Him by neglecting to give Him the place that He rightfully deserves in our lives- which is first place. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." (Matthew 6:33) When was the last time you read your Bible? Last Sunday when your pastor told you to turn to a certain passage of scripture? Is it your daily meat? What about your prayer time? Is it only the thirty second blessing that you pray before you eat your meal? Are do you "pray without ceasing"? (1 Thessalonias 5:17) Do you go around with a prayer in your heart? If you are neglecting these, you are forsaking God.
Let me sum up the first of these two evils that we are talking about with this verse- "Your wickedness shall chasten and correct you, and your backslidings and desertion of faith shall reprove you. Know therefore and recognize that this is an evil and bitter thing: [first] you have forsaken the Lord your God: [second,] you are indifferent to Me and the fear of Me is not in you, says the Lord of hosts." (Jeremiah 1:19- Amplified Bible) "Indifferent to Me". That's the key. When you are indifferent about something you don't see the importance in it, and therefore you take it for granted. The cure is then found in returning to your first love because you value what you love, and if you love it, you won't forsake it. "But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love]. Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord], or else I will visit you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you change your mind and repent." (Revelation 2:4,5- Amplified Bible)
"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13) Let's move on to the second charge that God brought against His people. The second charge was hewing out their own cisterns. (As I said earlier the two are connected.) Making your own well is a direct result of forsaking God. Built inside everyone of us is the need for "water" (physically and spiritually)- it's the thing that satisfies and refreshes us, and that life is sustained through. Without water you will die. The same is true of the spiritual man. When you forsake God, you lose the fountain of living water so you have to find another source. Forsaking God causes you to lose the "fountain"- fresh, free flowing, life giving water- and what you wind up replacing it with is a cistern- a pit used as a well. The water in a cistern does not flow, it's not fresh, it can become stagnant. The difference in having the fountain of living waters coming fresh from God daily and digging your own cistern to catch water in is- what you once received freely, you now have to depend on your own efforts to get. In our verse, God says their cisterns were broken. What He meant by that was- all your efforts are in vain without Me.
This leads us now to define what these "broken cisterns" are that we have hewed out. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) So often, when we talk about works and salvation, we do so in the context of- your works won't save you, you have to come to God through the cross and shed blood of Jesus. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9) But there is another aspect of works that we don't think much about after we have come to salvation, and that is- maintaining your salvation through works. I'd like to submit to you that the broken cisterns we have made is the "substitution" of a relationship with God for works.
I have seen something happening in the church that alarms me- I see a gospel of "works" without relationship. We seem to have put the "works" on the pedestal and are neglecting the One we are working for. In other words- we are doing the work of the Lord, but neglecting the Lord of the work. We have glamorized positions and ministries; we have put more emphasis on accomplishing "great things" for God instead of taking care of the greatest thing- a relationship with God.
"Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'" (Matthew 7:22,23) This is one of the most frightening verses in the whole Bible to me. To think that I can come to the end of my life, stand before the Lord and have Him say that He doesn't know me, "Depart". These people depended on the things they did for the Lord to make them right in God's sight. They just knew that they would enter in because of all the works they had done for the Lord. Like I said before, we put so much emphasis on the works... but God puts the emphasis on the relationship- "I never knew you." What's so scary to me about this verse is the fact that I teach and preach the gospel, I write messages like this and mail them out all over the nation, daily I write an e-mail devotional that reaches people all over the world, I hold revivals and speak in churches, I visit the sick, go to the nursing home, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, but if I don't maintain my walk with God through a personal, intimate relationship, I could hear those same words one day. I must never (neither should you) put my hope and confidence in the fact that I am being used by the Lord and doing good works in His name to be the criteria for acceptance into the Kingdom of God. The apostle Paul was aware of this also. "But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]." (1 Corinthians 9:27) He knew there was more to it than just doing the works. He knew there was the submitting yourself to God- having a relationship with Him. This is why we hear him say, "That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3:10) This was Paul's goal- not to do more works, not to build bigger churches, not to travel abroad doing the work of a missionary, not to be on radio or television, but to know Jesus in an intimate, personal way.
Am I saying that we should not be doing works for the Lord? Am I saying that the works aren't important? Of course not, to say that would be in error and teach against the scriptures. James says that you'll know our faith by our works. (James 2:18) Jesus gave us a commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. (Mark 16:15) Jesus also told us that certain signs would follow those who believe and we would do great works in His name. (Mark 16:17) What I am saying is- if you are trying to maintain your walk with the Lord through good works and not through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you have hewed yourself a cistern and all your efforts are going to fail and be in vain. Jesus is looking for one thing- a relationship with Him. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge: and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2,3) Your works will profit you nothing if you don't have "love" in your heart. "God is love" (1 John 4:8); and you have God in your heart through a relationship with His Son Jesus.
The Pharisees were doing the works but they were neglecting the "weightier" matters. We see another example of this in the life of the rich, young ruler who came to Jesus asking about eternal life. (Luke 18) Jesus was not putting the emphasis on good works when He told him to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him- He was putting the emphasis on the one thing we have to have if we are going to have eternal life. He was pointing the young man back to the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3) Jesus was saying that eternal life is found in loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind- He was wanting to bring the young man into a place of relationship with Himself; that's where He desires to bring us also. Don't forsake your relationship with the Lord; drink from the fountain of living water that is flowing freely for you. You can't depend on your good works to "keep" you in right relationship with God any more than you can depend on them to "put" you in right relationship with God. Once you are saved, it's your relationship with the Lord that has to be developed and maintained.... the works will follow. You are either drinking from the fountain of living waters or you are digging yourself a well by your own efforts. Which are you doing?