The Good Old Days that Really Weren’t (Another thought from Jeremiah)

Posted: 09/19/2013 in Uncategorized

I have heard a saying that has merit in some ways (but is unbiblical in others) when referring to the effectiveness of a particular minister: “He has corn in the crib.”  I do think that the expertise and wisdom of such individuals should be tapped, yet I’ve seen cases where appearances were definitely deceiving.  Particularly since we know that true, lasting results are from God. If crib-corn is the most accurate way to measure a ministry, then Jeremiah would have to be considered a total failure.  The false prophets of his day enjoyed larger crowds and greater status and approval in society.  Jeremiah preached… and almost always got the results opposite of what he wanted.  Yet neither Jeremiah nor his ministry are considered a failure today.  But in his day, one of the many areas of disappointment that Jeremiah ran up against was that his audience viewed the days prior to his powerful preaching as their proverbial good ol’ days.  In essence, “things were great before you started preaching to us about the LORD!  We had plenty to eat, good times, no conflict, living large, and no problems until we came to ‘your church’, Jeremiah!”  We never had problems like we do now until we started listening to the LORD!  

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these days?” for it is not wise to ask that. – Ecclesiastes 7:10

The problem is that the good old days really weren’t.  The people Jeremiah warned were returning to idolatrous worship of the queen of heaven now that Jerusalem had been destroyed.  Those who were complaining to Jeremiah that their lives used to be great beforehand are a picture of this peril:  God, in mercy, will often tolerate a season of idolatry and unfaithfulness from His people, and they mistakenly think that lukewarm lives and good times must go together.  When the discipline of God comes, often after seasons in which they listen to powerful preaching, they get upset.  The conviction preaching of Jeremiah ultimately gets rejected outright by the Jews in Egypt who had just watched his prophecies come to pass.  It is not uncommon to see people reject God’s word even though they just witnessed the truth of it play out before their very eyes.  Pain, fatigue, stubbornness, confusion, anxiety… these are so dangerous among those who tend toward disobedience.  Bad decisions result. 

“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you.” Jeremiah 44:16 (The words of the remnant of the Jews in Egypt speaking to Jeremiah after his preaching)

I have seen this phenomenon over the past 20 years.  Preaching that comes with holy conviction seemed to produce more repentance whereas now it more often produces resentment.  Resentment then often gives way to rejection.  Yet the Good Old Days of the Church really weren’t either.  There was always a remnant who believed and obeyed as God saved them, same as today.  God is still saving people today, and a generation to come will likely look at this time period and view this as The Good Old Days… but are they really?  The message of truth must remain, yet the method of presenting truth that promotes repentance (rather than resentment) may necessarily change.  And despite all our needful tactics, strategies, leadership, and effective methodology, some people will get saved and some will still reject God.  Keep proclaiming truth in new and better methods!  Look at your harvest field today.  Pray for understanding of the times and how to proclaim truth in the future.  Don’t be ignorant of the past and its good times, but don’t turn the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t into an idol.  There are no time machines to go back, and we would have suffered and been frustrated in any era.  God chose and appointed us for such a time as this.  In this race, we are to faithfully continue to carry the ancient baton of divine truth without distraction, including the distraction of past “glories.”  The generation we hand it to will have to do likewise.  Same basic temptations.  Same basic foundations.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.2 Timothy 3:12-15

Back to the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t…  In times of trial or difficulty, we may be tempted to think that life was better for us before we took God and His word so seriously.  Hebrews 12 indicates that God uses pain to promote our holiness not our happiness.  We may romanticize the fun and ease we supposedly had in the days of our unfaithfulness (or lukewarmness).  It is a deception.  Or we may romanticize the times of “real church revival” that were always in the past – forgetting the issues of sin and failure that the church has always had to battle and overcome.  Read about the Corinthian church.  Read about the Thyatiran church.  And on and on.  The Golden Era of revivals of the last centuries still had dark underbellies of false doctrines and apostasies, sexual sins and child molestations, racism and hatred, church splits over foolish matters, gossip and slander, and many other works of the flesh.  We rightly focus on the good that God did in “the good old days,” so why would we tend to dwell so much on the negative in the present?  We fall into the trap of believing in the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t.

Bottom line:  People will get saved, people will reject God’s word and us when we deliver it.  It happened to Jeremiah.  It happened to Jesus.  In their cases, far more people rejected their message than repented at their preaching.  It happens today, and it happened in the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t.  As Pastor Stephen Hill rightly advised me, “Keep your chin up and your knees bent.”  In other words, be humble, and be encouraged.  God knows your situation, and He is in control.    

Perhaps we need to celebrate each small victory we experience in God with more extreme fervor.  One temptation seems to be to focus too much on all that’s bad or wrong – not a godly sorrow toward repentance leading to zeal but a sorrow of discouragement that leads to death.  Another temptation is that we tend to only want to celebrate the large, the grandiose, and the dramatic acts of God.  In our minds, The Good Old Days that Really Weren’t were filled with large and mighty events, while our spiritual life seems mundane.  Be careful.  Celebration of little victories is a habit to be cultivated.  Otherwise, you may inadvertently cultivate the habit of fault-finding, which is even easy to do in the midst of massive Spiritual revival.

God’s view of holy men such as Abraham and David is so encouraging when I read the New Testament because the Old Testament lays bare their sins, flaws, and failings.  When God inspires their legacy to be recorded in the New Testament, He focuses on their good in ways that seem to gloss over their glaring failures.  Thank God He looks at them – and us who are in Christ – through “glasses of grace.” From Heaven’s perspective, God recorded the faith, the obedience, the worship, the serving.  Yet, from the Bible, we know better – God appears to be focusing so much more on the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t.  Yet this is exactly Who we want to do it and how it should be done.  

Faithfulness, repentance, worship, perseverance… These are what God will use to build a good legacy for us, even though we know better about ourselves.  He does too.  But the Cross changes everything.  Thank God that one day we can hear Him say, “Well done, GOOD and faithful servant, enter in…”  In Christ, our up-and-down lives will be divinely evaluated as The Good Old Days.  Even though we know they really weren’t.  So… hunger for more of God’s grace to provoke you to holy boldness, to sanctified risk-taking, and to productive action in the present.  Don’t pine for some romantic era that never truly was.  

One day, if you remain faithful in Christ, all that will be judged, celebrated, and rewarded will be your acts of love and faith that you chose.  Why not seek to build on that eternal legacy today?  Dislodge yourself from the zeal-sucking discouragement that comes by focusing on the Good Old Days that Really Weren’t.  It’s not too late.  Look up to God.  Look around to the harvest field.  It’s not too late.

 

 

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