If you read the Old Testament enough you start to see the horrible pattern of generation after generation of God’s people forget Him. Oh, they have a form of religious tradition and shallow faith but they blur the lines of obedience and copy and become like their ungodly neighbors. It is the same today in the church, Christians have forgotten much over the 2000 years since the church was formed.
What is the church in danger of forgetting today? The Apostle Paul asks, “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans 3:31 (NLT)
Let’s look back on the timeline of God’s dealings with Israel.
After God sent Moses to Egypt to bring His people to the Promised Land, things got rough and many of the people quickly forgot God’s will and wanted to go back to slavery. They ran straight back to idolatry when Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s Laws. They resisted and fought against God in every trial of faith. They ended up stuck in the wilderness for their sins.
But the children were spared and remembered all God’s powerful miracles. They followed and honored God by following Joshua into the Promised Land and experiencing God’s power. But they failed to raise their children and teach them as God intended. They were to wholeheartedly immerse their children with the truth. They were told to talk about His law and teach His ways all day long. Their “God” conversations were needed constantly to raise up their children to love God.
They were instructed to focus on the education of their children. “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT)
But they failed to wholeheartedly obey and their children grew up and forgot God. As it explains in Judges, “Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.”
“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the LORD or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD.” Judges 2:8-12 (NLT)
And we are told the ungodly neighbors would be a constant test and trial for Israel because they turned from God. The prevailing culture of the people who lived there before they got into the land would ruin them. All the spectacular festivals of the heathen gods, the food, and the fun would capture their kid’s hearts. Diversity and tolerance wedded the children together in mind and spirit.
They were warned in Judges 2:19-23 (NLT), “But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. So the LORD burned with anger against Israel. He said, ‘Because these people have violated my covenant, which I made with their ancestors, and have ignored my commands, I will no longer drive out the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died. I did this to test Israel—to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the LORD as their ancestors did’.”
“That is why the LORD left those nations in place. He did not quickly drive them out or allow Joshua to conquer them all.”
Well since they forgot God’s ways in the days of the new generation they did not feel guilty about the evil they were doing and were not even aware that God was angry with them. They lived their lives absorbed with the culture and adventures of the “today”. Darkness and spiritual ignorance reigned.
In the 21st century, many Americans see the recent past with any God stuff and label it old fashioned. As if time erases God’s standards each new generation feels natural with new depths of sin and then condemn the old-fashioned preachers who call them to repentance. They see those old religious extremists as out of touch with reality and the new generation of “Christians” are pulled down with the spiritual darkness.
After Joshua and before Israel had kings they were led by judges. But Israel so forgot God they did whatever they decided was right and wrong. Oh, they still had the Law of God, they just did not bother to obey God. As it is written, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 17:6 (NLT)
Somehow God and His commands were not good enough for the people, they needed to be forced to obey Him by the sword of a king.
Well not really, even after hundreds of years and many kings later, they still forgot God. Even the spiritual leaders did not read the book! They so neglected God inside their temple, sacrifices, and worship they finally found the lost Bible. In 2 Kings 22:8 (NLT) we find this sad story, “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the LORD’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.”
Throughout the history of Isaiah God sent preachers to warn them and call them to turn back to His ways and restore His culture. They rarely listened. God’s ways were so forgotten they could only relate to the world of the ungodly who lived all around them. For example in Isaiah 51:13 (NLT), they were warned, “Yet you have forgotten the LORD…”
He did not care about the time. He demanded the same obedience that He ordered generations earlier when He met Moses and gave His Law and will. We find Isaiah the prophet calling on the Jews to turn back to the old forgotten ways of God. Even though that generation did not know God like the first generation of Israel God expected, no demanded, that they read His word and keep His traditions. He demanded that they obey His law.
But because the rest of you have forsaken the LORD and have forgotten his Temple, and because you have prepared feasts to honor the god of Fate and have offered mixed wine to the god of Destiny, now I will ‘destine’ you for the sword. All of you will bow down before the executioner. For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned—before my very eyes— and chose to do what you know I despise.”
Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will starve. My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. My servants will rejoice, but you will be sad and ashamed. My servants will sing for joy, but you will cry in sorrow and despair.
Your name will be a curse word among my people, for the Sovereign LORD will destroy you and will call his true servants by another name. All who invoke a blessing or take an oath will do so by the God of truth. For I will put aside my anger and forget the evil of earlier days. Isaiah 65:11-16 (NLT)
And when I say they I mean the whole family. Even the kids loved the world. They loved the fun traditions of the other gods and celebrated fun holiday traditions with their parents. “No wonder I am so angry! Watch how the children gather wood and the fathers build sacrificial fires. See how the women knead dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. And they pour out liquid offerings to their other idol gods! Am I the one they are hurting?” asks the LORD. ‘Most of all, they hurt themselves, to their own shame.’” Jeremiah 7:18-19 (NLT)
Family traditions thought harmless for all the seasonal joy of family closeness and love had to be more important than the rigid law of God… right? They laughed, sang, made family memories, and did not really love the gods, it was just traditions passed on by their families over hundreds of years. All the region enjoyed the holidays. They still claimed they loved God.
They all enjoyed the festive foods, dinners, and fun. But God did not care how much fun they had! Why did God send those out of touch preachers to put such a negative spin on their joyful times together?
The preacher Jeremiah condemned their festivals of harmless fun and they pushed back with excuses. “‘Besides,’ the women added, ‘do you suppose that we were burning incense and pouring out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!’” Jeremiah 44:19 (NLT)
Another preacher was called to experience the hurt God felt from their “harmless fun”. Their happiness was God’s sadness. “Then the LORD told me, ‘Love your wife again, even though she is loved by others and has committed adultery. Love her as I, the LORD, love the Israelites, even though they have turned to other gods and love to eat raisin cakes.’” Hosea 3:1 (GW) Just like the heartbreak a husband felt from a cheating wife, the God of heaven feels the same gut-wrenching pain.
Even though the Jews had tried to keep up the sacrifice of animals for their sins, they were enslaved to those sins. It was a vicious circle of sin, grief, confession, and animal sacrifice. Each one cried, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Romans 7:24 (NLT)
And so the circle of spiritual darkness covered the land of Israel even when Jesus arrived on the scene 2000 years ago. The Gospel of Matthew described the situation, “…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” Matthew 4:16 (NLT)
After 2000 years has the church fallen into the same trap Israel was destroyed with? What have we forgotten?
“Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans 3:31 (NLT)
Has the church forgotten this old statement from the old Bible?
Romans 8:3-9 (NLT)
3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
(The law of Moses does not have the power to change people’s hearts. But faith in Jesus, the Good News of God’s salvation gives people a new heart of obedience… “only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Now sin DOES NOT control us!)
4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
(That we might be conformed to the law, or be obedient to its requirements, and no longer under the influence of the flesh and its corrupt desires. – Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament.)
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
(True Christians are controlled by the Holy Spirit, not their dead sinful nature like everyone else who is controlled and driven by lust and greed.)
6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
(Can Christians let themselves be controlled by their sinful natures? NO! But the wicked always do.)
7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
(Only the Holy Spirit indwelling Christians is righteous and the grace of God powerful enough to change a hostile sinner into a passionate and righteous follower of Jesus.)
8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
(The lost man is in bondage to sin and has only the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to free him. No one can will themselves to freedom from sin. No one can change themselves.)
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)
(Make no mistake freedom from the control of your old sinful heart and ways come through faith. Real Christians are controlled by God.)
John 7:37-39 (NLT)
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!
38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
Jesus made it clear, salvation unleashes the Holy, Holy, Holy Spirit gushing forth from the spirit of the saved with floods of righteousness into their souls. Has the church forgotten, “You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)”?
The apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Spirit warned the church about forgetting the power of grace, “They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” 2 Timothy 3:4-5 (NLT)
Let’s not be like Israel and forget the power and truth of God’s Word. Every Christian must remember they are equipped to fulfill the law! Jesus makes it real because “only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”
And, let’s not forget Christ’s warning. “On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT)