The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.
“The same might well be said of our own culture. Everything Jeremiah says about his culture is true in these post-Christian times.
Jeremiah lived in a culture of deception. So do we. The title of a 1994 film captures the attitude of postmodern society toward truth and falsehood: True Lies. Is a “true lie” true or false? If it is a lie, then it must be false and not true. But if it is false, then it is truly a lie. We have lost the wisdom to know where truth ends and falsehood begins…
There is even falsehood in the church. Os Guinness’s telling indictment of American evangelicalism is worth quoting again:
Contemporary evangelicals are no longer people of truth.… A solid sense of truth is foundering in America at large. Vaporized by critical theories, obscured by clouds of euphemism and jargon, outpaced by humor and hype, overlooked for style and image, and eroded by advertising, truth in America is anything but marching on. With magnificent exceptions, evangelicals reflect this truth decay and reinforce it for their own variety of reasons for discounting theology. Repelled by “seminary theology” that is specialized, professionalized, and dry, evangelicals are attracted by movements that have replaced theology with emphases that are relational, therapeutic, charismatic, and managerial (as in church growth). Whatever their virtues, none of these emphases gives truth and theology the place they require in the life and thought of a true disciple.
We live in the midst of deception. What should we do?
First, we need to repent for our own untruthfulness. That is what the prophet Isaiah did. Like Jeremiah, he lived in the midst of deception. As a prophet of God, speaking the Word of God, it would have been easy for him to be smug about his own truthfulness. But when Isaiah “saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,” he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:1, 5). We are no better than Isaiah. Our lips are no cleaner, our words are no more truthful—and we should be no less penitent.
Second, we need to be people of the truth. One of the memorable characters in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is called “Valiant-for-truth.” His name is taken from the Authorized Version of this passage: “They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth” (Jeremiah 9:3).
We need to be Valiant-for-truth. We need to speak the truth in all our words and do the truth in all our actions. We must be faithful in our personal relationships, keeping our word even in trivial matters. We must be faithful in our family relationships. We must keep our marriage vows, honor our parents, and be forthright with our children.
We must also be faithful in our relationship with God. We must love him in our hearts so that the praise on our lips when we worship is true and not false. We must be devoted to the truth of Scripture because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). We must be devoted to reading, meditating, memorizing, and teaching the Bible.
Third, we must lament all kinds of untruth. Jeremiah’s example teaches that one of the chief duties of the Christian in declining times is lamentation. Jeremiah is a prophet for post-Christian times, and post-Christian times call for lamentation from God’s people.
Lamentation does not mean going around wringing one’s hands or living in the nostalgic past. We are not gloomy but joyful, because we know that “those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever” (Psalm 125:1). We are full of hope because we know that our salvation is sure in Jesus Christ, who will bring all things in heaven and on earth under his authority. But at the same time we lament the untruthfulness of our generation. We are moved to tears by the deceptions of our age and the judgment of the age to come. Even as we lament, we ask the Lord to impress us with a still greater sense of the sadness of sin.”
Ryken, P. G. (2001). Jeremiah and Lamentations: From sorrow to hope. Preaching the Word (166–167). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.