By Billy Ashworth
Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” had warned Israel of a coming desolation because of her sins in turning away from the living God to serve heathen idols. While the prophet warned with tears flowing from his eyes and words of love and warning flowing from a broken heart, he felt the total rejection of not only himself, but of Jehovah also. Having warned the people in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet is found in the introduction to his book of Lamentations mourning over the once mighty city of Jerusalem which now was reaping the bitter fruits of her rejection of God and his prophet.
As Jeremiah sat in the rubble of that once great city and observed the sacking of the city and the ravishing of her people, he cried out in his grief: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” (Lam. 1:12). I am sure that to Jeremiah it was incredible that these people who were once the people of God could be so calloused as they went their way without feeling any pain or regret for the fall of this once mighty city. What was wrong with these people?
The reason for the captivity of God’s people by a heathen monarch is found in the first part of chapter 1. “How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people!” (Note: That is not a question; it is an exclamation.) He continues: “she that was great among the nations, and princess among provinces, how is she become tributary! . . . Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children are gone into captivity before the enemy . . . Jerusalem hath grievously sinned” (Lam. 1:1, 5, 8a). Yes, Jerusalem had forgotten God, sinning grievously, and reaping the bitter fruit of her own wickedness. Remember Paul’s solemn warning to the churches of Galatia: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7, 8). But the people of Jeremiah’s day, of Paul’s day, and the people of our day, did not/do not listen! Sinful man closes his eyes to the dangers that lie ahead because he wants to do whatever he wants to do! And he resents any faithful servant of God who dares to warn him of impending doom.
The writer of the book of Judges revealed a very important fact concerning how soon succeeding generations turn away from the religion of their fathers and turn away from God. “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers (the generation that followed Joshua, BA) and there arose another generation after them which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers . . . and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and provoked the Lord to anger” (Judg. 2:10-12). Think of it — only two generations removed from Joshua’s time, there arose a generation that knew not the Lord!
Alas, history repeats itself. Over and over, the people of God have apostatized from him only two generations removed from faithful grandfathers and grandmothers. And, their attitudes have been as calloused as in the days of Jeremiah. I cry aloud today as Jeremiah did in his day to my brethren and fellow-Americans: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” I grieve at the sight of a generation that is only one generation removed from me; how many do not hold rigidly to the sound doctrine that is plainly set forth in God’s holy Word. The attitude of liberalism has set up in many professed Christians concerning purity of heart and life that is required of God as laid down in the New Testament. Why is this true? I hasten to add that I am not indicting all of the succeeding generations. But I am concerned about those who hold a “more liberal attitude” toward the supremely important things mentioned above.
The answer as to why it is that the “new generation” is being affected by liberalism is manifold. First, God’s people are always adversely affected by the people of the world around them. This happened to the Israelites who went after the “gods” of the heathen around them. Today, we live in one of the most affluent and worldly countries ever known. Yet we, as well as our children, live daily in grave danger of being contaminated by the world around us which has invented so many ways of seducing God’s people to the heathen “gods” of our day. The “gods” of gold, pleasure and modern technology have devastated a large portion of God’s people in our generation.
I love this great country (yes, still great) we call America. I thrill when the flag is waved and people sing the National Anthem and such songs as “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” But, will God continue to bless this great country of free people who live in a land that is becoming not so beautiful? Will we continue to be free when there has arisen a generation, some of whom do not appreciate the sacrifices of millions to give them a free country, some of whom would not fight to defend this freedom, some who would capitulate to a heathen aggressor because they have become rotten in their lives and ideals?
. . . To those fellow-Americans who think “it could not happen to us” and who take personal freedom for granted, I ask: “Is it nothing to you that daily this country is sinking into a quagmire of its own filthiness; that the horrible disease of AIDS, which is a disease usually resulting from immorality on the part of godless people who have tried to mock God, is rampant? It is nothing to you that the frantic attempts at fighting AIDS in this country are not aimed at the cause of the disease — i.e., sexual perversion — but at trying to find a cure? Is it nothing to you that the public school systems have been taken over by the Federal government and the Humanists are controlling what must be taught — organic evolution — and what must not be taught — the Genesis account of creation? The American Civil Liberties Union is an atheist front, having been formed by communists, whose goal is to eradicate the idea of God from the consciences of our children who are “the next generation.” The ACLU is the legal arm of the Humanists and together they control the Federal Judiciary which rules that “creationism” cannot be taught in public schools while the godless concept — evolution — will be taught as true science! Is it nothing to you all ye that pass by?
While I love this great country in which we live and enjoy civil freedom, I love the kingdom of God more and value my citizenship in it far more than the earthly one. For thirty-four years I have been preaching the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) as it is revealed in the gospel of Christ, God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16). I have engaged in the battle over human institutionalism which resulted in the apostasy of the majority of God’s people. We saved a remnant of God’s people form apostasy, but now we find these people in far too many places engaged in worldliness, bitter fightings among themselves, condemning any preacher who dares call their ungodly lives and practices in question. Many no longer want plain, powerful gospel preaching, preferring “smooth words and fair speeches” from time-serving “preachers” who love themselves more than the souls of men.
As I look around and observe the current status of churches of Christ and the shameful actions of many individual members plus the ungodly activities of the saints collectively (church action), I feel as Jeremiah did in the long ago. I want to cry out, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” While it is good to have a “positive approach” to all matters, including spiritual things, we need to get our heads out of the clouds and come down to reality. There are many things going on that are destroying the churches’ influence for good, plus destroying the hope of heaven for many, if not all, members of those churches.
What can we do? The only answer I can think of is Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). And to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). And finally, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).
From Guardian of Truth, May 21, 1987