Gird up thy Loins!
by Dr. Ken Matto
(Jer 1:17 KJV) Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and
arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their
faces, lest I confound thee before them.
The other day I started reading the book of Jeremiah and in the first chapter the above verse jumped out at me. One of the reasons preachers have trouble reading through the Bible in a year is because every time we read something interesting, we stop and investigate it to gain a clearer understanding of the passage. Such a passage is the one above where it will give us great insight into why Christianity seems to be so weak today when the God of this universe is head of the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ never weakened in His testimony, especially when He was debating the religious leaders of the day. The Lord Jesus did not back down on any truth, no matter what the consequences of the exchange was.
In the beginning chapter of Jeremiah, we read of his commission to be a prophet to the southern kingdom or Judah. God had commanded Jeremiah that he was to be strong and that he was not to fear any of them because of the threats he would receive for bringing the truth. In the above verse we basically have his commission in capsulated form. He was to gird up his loins which meant he was to be ready for action. When a fisherman girded up their loins it was so the long robes did not interfere with the job. They would tie up the robes around their waist which meant their legs were bare but were free to do all kinds of work without facing any possible hindrance. This is what God was telling Jeremiah. Nothing was to get in the way of him bringing the message to the nation of Judah.
Jeremiah was also to arise which meant he was not going to be sitting in one area and sending out his message. He was going to confront Judah with the message that God was going to give him. God was going to give Jeremiah the message that he was to bring to these rebellious people. It was not going to be his own personal message or his own personal assessment of the situation. In verse 16, God told Jeremiah that He was going to declare His judgments against Judah for their wicked ways. Can you imagine if God had sent some appeasing psycho-babbler to them? I could just hear it, ”Oh you people are wicked because you are products of your environment and need to progress beyond childhood base expectations.” God was commissioning Jeremiah to bring them the poignant message of their rebellion and it was to be done according to the hard message that God gave Jeremiah.
Then God finishes His commission to Jeremiah by commanding him not to be dismayed at their faces. The word “dismayed” carries with it the meaning of “to be afraid, beaten down, or terrified.” Jeremiah was to be strong in the faces of those who were responsible for causing Judah to go astray. He was not to be frightened or terrified as he delivered the word of God to these people. Now an interesting phrase which closes out this verse is “lest I confound thee before them.” If Jeremiah shrunk back from telling them the truth, then God was going to cause Jeremiah to be terrified and frightened before the crowd, which meant that he would probably have been taken into custody and executed. If Jeremiah remained strong in bringing the message from God, then he would not be given over to them. In verse 19, we are told that these rebellious people would fight against him but they would not prevail, simply because the Lord was with Jeremiah. This teaches us that if Jeremiah would have been cowardly, his own cowardice would have cost him his life.
The second part of this verse gives us some good insight into why Christianity seems to have been reduced to nothing more than a religion of entertainment. So many Christians are caught up in the political correctness movement that they forget that their home is not the Earth as we are just travelers here, but our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Since we are citizens of Heaven, we need to speak the words of Heaven and those are found in your King James Bible. When it says in verse 17 that we are not to be dismayed at their faces or else God would dismay us, tells us why Christianity is at such a low ebb. Why are Christians so terrified when it comes to witnessing or speaking up against sin?
It is because the confrontational Christianity that we find in the Bible and in the martyrs of the early and middle church has all but disappeared. What we have now are church programs which are totally innocuous. Instead of giving out the truth of the lost condition of man, we set up programs in church on how to live a better life. Many of the early Christians who died as martyrs refused to relent on bringing the truth. Today we don’t even know what the truth is. It has been so diluted that what we have today is just a watered down version of religion. When was the last time you went to church and heard a sermon which made people weep over their sins? When was the last time you were convicted about some type of sin in your life?
One of the reasons that Christians are so fearful to witness and why the majority of them can’t go five minutes with an unbeliever is because they have done what God warned Jeremiah about. They have become terrified of these people and as a result, God has given them terror as a reward for their failure to bring the true Gospel to the people we come across everyday. If we would take a more faithful stance concerning the true Gospel, people at work would not take liberties with the Lord’s name around us. When was the last time somebody took the Lord’s name in vain and you cringed in cowardice instead of warning that person they are on the precipice of Hell. You, as a Christian, have a lot more at stake than your job. When you defend the true Gospel, you will face opposition and that means you are on the correct side.
Men like Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, and Rick Warren are adored by millions of Christians and unbelievers. This is because they do not teach the Gospel of the Bible. They have allowed Satan to replace the truths of Scripture with the emotional gospel of Hell, which couldn‘t save anyone. (Luke 6:26 KJV) Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. I have heard Graham and Schuller both proclaim that if a person believes in Jesus then they are going to Heaven. Sounds good right? They include unregenerate Roman Catholics, Muslims, and anyone who believes in Jesus. They have become traitors to the cause of Christ. The Bible clearly states that one must be born again on this side of the grave to gain Heaven. Simple abstract belief means nothing. (James 2:19 KJV) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
There is a big difference about believing in Jesus from an unregenerate state versus a regenerate state. Those who believe in Jesus without regeneration are still laden with their sins and if they listen to phony gospel preachers, they will go to hell with confidence. One can only truly believe in Jesus from the regenerate side because the other condition means you are believing about Jesus. Christians have painted themselves in a corner of fear and because they have tampered with God’s method of giving out the true Gospel, God has given them the spirit of fear. Many Christians sound very bold on Sunday morning in their Sunday School classes but if you could follow them around all week, you would see a cowering individual. On CB when somebody talks tough knowing they can’t be found, they are known as “CB Rambos.” We also have our share of “Sunday morning Rambos.”
God gave Jeremiah a straight commission to bring the truth to the nation of Judah and He has given us a straight commission. The more stronger we grow in the Lord, the stronger our testimony grows, and when people begin to know our spiritual strength, they will be reticent in our presence. Not because of us but because of who we represent. Whenever the world senses a weakness or a fear in a Christian, they capitalize on it and attempt to use it to bring us down. This is why we must maintain a strong Christian testimony.
Now will there ever be a time that we may fail in our testimony? Yes there is because even Jeremiah faced that situation. (Jer 20:9 KJV) Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. He became so frustrated with the rebellious people that he didn’t want to witness anymore, however, he did not remain that way for long nor did he run to a psychologist for help. The word of God was so strong to Jeremiah that it was like a burning fire which was contained within his body. Jeremiah knew that he was not to remain in a state of discouragement but rather to re-emerge from that state with the word of God aflame. His message was so strong that eventually they threw Jeremiah in a dungeon to shut him up but the end of the story is that he survived all the persecution by his own people and was eventually freed from that dungeon by the Babylonians and was allowed to remain free.
Isn’t it interesting that the enemies of God had more respect for Jeremiah than the people of God? Judah did not listen to the words that God gave Jeremiah which resulted in God sending them into captivity for seventy years. You see, our responsibility is to be faithful to the Word of God and not to redefine it or twist it so those who hear it will not be offended. Did we ever take into consideration that when we twist the Word of God to our own desires that we are offending God? It seems we never take that into consideration only what pleases us or our hearers. This is why false teachers flourish today because they teach and twist the Word of God until it sounds so palatable that it appeases the flesh and we mistake that for it bearing witness with the Bible.
Oh what a dangerous position to be in. The more we keep our noses in the Bible without man’s guidebooks at their side, the more God can open our understanding to the truths of Scripture. The minute we buy some book and filter our understanding through somebody else’s understanding, we have set ourselves up for failure. When I was a young Christian, I bought tons of books which just seemed to confuse me. It wasn’t until I got rid of them and went to the Bible alone for understanding that my theology had straightened out. You will also find that you do not have to defend the Scriptures but you will find yourself in endless debates defending the works of others, and that takes precious time and saps your strength. Let me conclude by saying that God gave us a tremendous principle for Christian living in Jeremiah 1:17. If we adhere to this principle, we will continue to grow in the Lord. You will never grow in the Lord supplanting the Bible with the works and programs of men. It just won’t happen. Give the message of Scripture as Jeremiah did and you will be pleasantly surprised to see how rapid your growth will be in the Scriptures and in spiritual strength. Spiritual strength is tied to the Scriptures not the works of men! (5/13/05)