Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.
Galatians 4:15-17 – What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.
In two places in my daily reading this morning, I see the same message echoed. In Lamentations, we have the sorrowful outcry of Jeremiah the prophet as he watches and reviews the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian army. If you remember, God had warned Judah for years and years through his prophets that, if they did not repent of their sin, they would find themselves taken by enemies. Yet, the people of Judah also had false prophets arise who preached false doctrines to them. These false prophets told the people that they were fine, and that they need not worry, for God would never judge them. And so, as Jeremiah watches the city fall, the people slaughtered, the temple burned, and the survivors taken off to Babylon in captivity, he cries out that the people listened to false prophets and failed to hear the true message of God that was preached.
IN Galatians 4, Paul has a very similar message that comes in a totally different context. The church at Galatia had been influenced by false teachers who were trying to lead them away from a belief in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. These men were attempting to lead the people back into a more legalistic Jewish religious system. And Paul cries out against such teaching. In the midst of that teaching, Paul points out that they used to be very accepting of him and his message, the true gospel, but that seemed to change. The false teachers were apparently swaying the people by “making much” of them. Instead of preaching the truth to the Galatians, the false teachers were preaching little feel-good messages to them, making them feel extra important and super special. And, as they preached their false gospel mixed in with empty encouragement, the false teachers mislead the Galatians away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Lamentations 2:14, Jeremiah says, “they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes.” Paul asks the Galatians “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Both men display for us the solution to false teaching and the common response to the true solution. The way to combat false teaching and worldly and sinful attitudes is to tell the truth. Jeremiah even tells us that exposing sin is the way to reverse someone’s descent toward destruction. The right thing for Christians to do for one another is to expose false teaching and sinful living for what it is. We dare not keep silent. We dare not offer encouragement to one another when encouragement is not warranted. We dare not tell someone that they are OK if they are not. We dare not allow any los person to think they are saved if it is obvious that they are not. We dare not allow any believer who is living in sin to continue the practice as though there is no problem with what they are doing. We dare not allow any believer to believe false doctrines about Christ or the gospel, nor do we allow them to share such false beliefs and mislead the lost and dying world. We must, in the love of Christ and with no selfishness, tell the truth.
And, much like Paul and Jeremiah faced, there will not be a good response to our message. Jeremiah was imprisoned, beaten, and persecuted on every side. Paul’s own words in Galatians show us that the church had completely turned their back on him for telling them the truth. Yet Paul and Jeremiah were faithful. Fleshly and sinful people will always turn away from the message of the truth. Only those whose hearts God penetrates will respond to the true gospel and to the commands of God favorably. However, God will penetrate the hearts of many. God will draw many to himself. Therefore, it is worth the risk. It is worth the risk of being persecuted or rejected by the many if, in preaching the true gospel, we reach some.
Today, ask yourself which are you. Are you more of a person who wants everybody to like you? Would you compromise the message of the gospel or ignore the commands of God so as not to discourage someone or to lose friends? Or, are you one who will tell the truth, even though it cost you? I pray that you who read this message will become those who tell the truth to others. Tell the truth, even though it may be hard. Tell the truth with as much love and gentleness as God will allow. Tell the truth with humility, recognizing that you are only a sinner saved by God’s grace. Tell the truth, with the desire that people change and not with a simple desire to condemn. But, for the name and glory of God, tell the truth.
Dear Lord, I am challenged and encouraged this day to tell the people the truth. I see that, in Jeremiah’s day, a lack of truth telling and truth believing led the city and the people to destruction. I see in Paul’s day that a bowing to comfort above truth led the church astray. I pray that you will help me to be a strong, faithful truth teller. Let me not compromise the gospel for status, position, or the accolades of others. Let me learn to tell the truth with all love and humility, but let me preach the one true gospel both in and out of the church. Let me call the lost to salvation. Let me call the believers to righteous living. And let me do it all by your power, in your name, and for your glory.