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Life In A Pagan City Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 10, 2022 1:00 am

Life In A Pagan City Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 10, 2022 1:00 am

Should Christians separate themselves from the prevailing culture or engage it with enthusiasm? The surprising answer comes from God’s instructions to captive Judah living in Babylon. Under the judgment of God, thousands were taken into Babylonian exile, where they dwelled in a pagan society. In this message, we’ll find five instructions God has for His people in Jeremiah 29. We could do well to live by these instructions in today’s culture. 

 Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Should believers living under national judgment circle the wagons and live off the grid, or engage their flawed culture with enthusiasm? The surprising answer comes from God's instructions to captive Judah living in Babylon. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Today we continue a series on the church in Babylon. Pastor Lutzer, you're heading into Jeremiah chapter 29 to talk about life in a pagan city.

It seems you're extending a ray of hope for us. You know, Dave, when Israel was in Babylon, they had a choice they had to make. Were they going to pull away from the culture, try to live in their own cloisters, so to speak, or were they going to live in the culture but live faithfully in the culture?

That was the issue. And that's why I wrote the book entitled The Church in Babylon to help us navigate that. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts to get these messages to as many people as possible. Go to rtwoffer.com.

When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. For now, let us listen and learn from the past and help us, O God, as we continue to navigate the future. Today I hope that you're going to be as excited about this message as I am as it progresses, because at last we are going to be taught what to do as a minority in a majority culture. By that I mean that we as Christians are a minority within the United States of America. It used to be that Christianity was the dominant religion. Christian values permeated our country even though not all, of course, were Christian, but there was a general acceptance of Christian values. Today all that you have to do is to express your convictions regarding biblical marriage and sexuality, and then you find out what happens in our culture.

Or if you suggest that Jesus is the only way to the Father, you get the same kind of reaction. And at last, in this series of messages, we're going to talk about living as a minority, as a Christian minority in a country that is largely non-Christian in its values and outlook. You know, the Bible tells us that Israel was in the land, of course, and then what happened is it went to Babylon, specifically Judah. And at last we're going to talk about the church in Babylon. I do not mean to say that Israel is the church.

We make that distinction and it is important to us. But as I look at the Bible in the Old Testament and ask myself, what's the best example of how to live in a pagan culture, I think of the people of Judah living in Babylon. Now in order to remember the context of these messages, six messages were given about all of the judgments that Jeremiah was putting upon the people. He said, God is going to judge you, a nation is going to come from the north, you are going to experience a great deal of devastation, and the people absolutely refused to repent and Babylon came. In fact, in the year 605, Babylon swept down and many of the Jews were carried off to the country of Babylon. They came to Jerusalem, that is Babylon did, and took people back to Babylon.

Among them was Daniel and some of his friends. And then a few years later in 605, or rather in 597, the Babylonians came again to Jerusalem and took about 10,000 people or more all the way to Babylon. And after that, 587 they come and they totally destroy the temple and everything that is Israel. Now, that's where we left this series of messages. The last message was on the Lamentations of Jeremiah as he walks through the rubble of a destroyed city.

And he is the weeping prophet and he has reason to weep. But now the Israelites are in Babylon. They have walked about 600 miles.

Babylon is where Iraq is today and the city of Babylon itself is about 60 miles from Baghdad. But imagine people died on the way. Back in Jerusalem, they left all of their families. Many of those were put to death or they died of starvation. These are the survivors and they make it into the land.

I think it's time for us to simply take a deep breath and remember what they were facing. These people were coming into a culture that was totally foreign to them, an entirely different culture. When they were back in the land, when they were there in Jerusalem, the temple was the center of their worship. They brought sacrifices to the temple. Now there is no temple.

There will be no sacrifices. And furthermore, they worshiped Yahweh. They worshiped Jehovah.

Oh, I know that there was idolatry, but Jehovah was the God that was generally accepted. Now they're going to be in Babylon. And the Babylonians worship all kinds of God, including Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. The gods of Babylon know nothing about the Ten Commandments. The gods of Babylon are filled with license for immorality. And the people are going to be in that environment.

And no wonder the people so beleaguered. This is Psalm 137. By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung our harps, for there are captors required of us songs and our tormentors. That's the Babylonians. They said to us, well, sing one of your songs of Zion.

Sarcastically, they asked for that. How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.

Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy. So there they were in Babylon without a song. Now Jeremiah doesn't go to Babylon.

He actually is there. He survives all of these invasions. He ends up going to Egypt.

And so far as we know, that's where he died. But before he died, God gave him a revelation, a letter that was to be sent to these exiles in order to teach them how to live in the midst of this pagan culture. I hope that you have your Bibles because the text today is from Jeremiah chapter 29. Jeremiah chapter 29 contains the instructions given by God for how these people are to live in Babylon. And it is surprising what God has to say.

And I believe that it has relevance for us today. God says these are the instructions. I'm going to give you five instructions.

Instruction number one, you'll notice it says, verse four, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they may bear sons and daughters.

Multiply there and do not decrease. Surprise. Wow. God says instruction number one is build houses. Don't try to live in your tent because you are going to be there for 70 long years. The false prophets were saying, oh, we're not going to be here long. God is going to get us out of here real fast because God wouldn't put up with us here in Babylon with all of these pagans. Jeremiah is saying don't accept cheap promises. And by the way, the false prophets today, oftentimes seen on television, they are giving out a lot of cheap promises that we had better avoid.

God says it is going to be difficult. And what I want you to do is to plant crops, build houses, because you are going to be there and I will take care of you in the midst of a pagan culture. Number one, God says plant crops. Live among the Babylonians. Build houses.

Number two, he says have strong families. Were you surprised when I read the text a moment ago when it says take wives and have sons and daughters and give your daughters in marriage that they may bear sons and daughters and multiply there and do not decrease. God says what you ought to do when you are there in Babylon is to have some singles parties so that young women can meet young men and so that you can get them married off so that you can have huge families.

That comes as a surprise, doesn't it? Because you may say to yourself how can you raise children in a pagan environment? Now they didn't attend school in Babylon, but I'm sure that what their children heard out on the street made up for it.

And so God says I want you to have lots of children. You see the reason that the Lord knew that these families would be able to survive paganism is because in Judaism there were always strong fathers who had the responsibility of the home. And of course it was the father, you know, who was the head of the Passover.

That is to say he's the one who was in charge of the Passover. And God knew that with strong fathers taught in the word of God that had been revealed to that time these families could survive paganism. And two things would happen. Number one, God would have seed and the message of Jesus Christ eventually of course through the prophets and so forth. The message of Judaism, the truth of Judaism would be preserved in the lives of children. Furthermore, God needed children so that a future generation 70 years later would be able to return to the land. So God says have families in the midst of this culture.

Just this past week I was again with my friend Tony Evans. I happen to be in Dallas for a day for a meeting with pastors and Tony was there. But I recall him saying one time that when his children were in school, when they came home in the evening, they would spend some time to deprogram them.

Ask them what happened in school, what were you taught, what values were communicated, and they were very vigilant in allowing their children the opportunity to go to a school like that, but they knew that they had to step in as parents with incredible vigilance. I can imagine that the very same thing happened here in Babylon. God says I'm going to entrust large families to you and I'm going to be with you in your homes. You don't have a temple anymore, no more sacrifices, but I will be with you in your homes. And if you adhere to me and seek my face, I'll give you the wisdom that you need to rear your children for the glory of God.

Have large families. That's instruction number two. Let's go on to number three. You'll notice God says be good neighbors. I'm in verse seven. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. The Hebrew word for welfare is shalom. So God says seek the shalom of the city. You know that word shalom is often translated welfare or peace, but it actually means something more than that. It's sort of a holistic view of what peace is all about.

It can refer to prosperity, wholeness, blessing, favor. God says be good neighbors. He's saying shovel your snow off the sidewalk in winter. Mow your lawn. When the neighbor across the street has a need, you meet that need.

Invite your neighbor over. Build relationships. Pay your taxes. In Chicago, seek election. Try to become an alderman. Do all that you possibly can to invest in the city because notice what God says in its shalom, you will find shalom.

You know there's that old line that when the tide comes in, all boats float. So as you permeate the city with righteousness, with your families, with a sense of determination to bless the city, something will come back upon you. Seek its welfare because in the process, you also shall be blessed and your welfare will be connected with its blessing. That's number three. Number four, and when I first made out the outline, I left out the most important instruction that God gave them. He says seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf. Again, we're going a little too fast here for us to understand how this must have just blown apart the minds of the Jewish people. You're supposed to pray for Babylon. Remember, it's the soldiers of Babylon who came and destroyed your family. They killed your parents, perhaps, or your relatives.

It is the Babylonians who came and totally destroyed your temple. And now God says, pray for their blessing. Pray for their shalom. We here at the Moody Church have days of prayer and fasting. We have concerts of prayer. At our next concert of prayer, I'm very glad to announce to you, and that's going to be just in a few weeks you're going to hear about it, that we now have access to a booklet that has been published by Dr. Feuder, Moody Press, that highlights the 74 different neighborhoods of Chicago, gives basically its boundaries, its characteristics, and one of the things that we are going to do is to pray for every single neighborhood of this city, and we're going to pray for its shalom, for the blessing of God on this great city. And when we pray for the shalom of the city, what do we pray for? We're going to pray for the city economically. There are areas of this city where the need economically is so great, the need for jobs and what have you. We're going to pray for the safety of the city.

Most assuredly, that's wrapped up in that word shalom. We'll pray for the shalom of the city. I haven't heard any news this morning, but if it's like other mornings, I'm sure that there were some murders in the city of Chicago this past week, if not last night.

But I need to say that that is really just the tip of an iceberg. We hear about these things on the news. But that does not mean we know anything about the kind of violence that is taking place in homes, the kind of alienation that is being experienced by the children of this city. God says pray for the city. Uplift it in prayer, pray for it economically, pray for its safety, pray for the politics of the city.

The scripture is very clear that we should pray for kings and for those who have authority over us. We should be praying regularly for the mayor and for those who advise him in the city council. That is our God-given privilege to pray for the city. But you and I also know that when we pray those prayers, we have to also pray for the real shalom of the city. That is to say that men and women might come to the peace, the shalom that God is able to give them through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let it be said of this church that we pray for the city, that we seek its welfare because in its welfare we also are blessed.

Let me go on now to a fifth instruction. And that is to say that what we should be doing is to look beyond the present to the future, to look beyond the present to the promises of God. Your Bibles are open. Notice it says in verse 10, For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and will fulfill to you my promises and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you, and you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. There are many of you who long ago memorized the 11th verse of Jeremiah chapter 29. Jeremiah 29, 11. I know the plans God says that I have for you, plans of wholeness, to give you a future and a hope. And I understand why we take that verse of scripture sometime from its context and we use it for ourselves.

But did you notice that in its context, it is a reference specifically to Israel and the restoration. God says, After 70 years, I'm going to come to you and you're going to be going back. And I have for you a future and a hope.

This is Pastor Lutzer. If you're hurting today, I want to have a word with you. Many of you are going through a very difficult time. You're experiencing grief. You're experiencing a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Perhaps you're out of work.

Perhaps you have a divorce or a marriage that has gone bad. And you say to yourself, Where is God in the midst of this? Jeremiah, the prophet, would say that indeed God is able to redeem your story. He redeemed Israel out of captivity, and God is there for you as well. I always want to give you hope because the Bible gives us hope. Your particular situation did not catch God off guard. He is there.

He is able to restore. I have in my hands a letter from someone who said the Lord used Moody Church and Pastor Lutzer in my life to see how he is redeeming my story so that I can share it with others. The beginning of the letter explains that I grew up in a home with domestic violence, and that may be true today of some who are listening to this broadcast.

God is there to redeem your story, and Running to Win exists to help people to see that, to know that our greatest need is always for God, understanding his mercy, his grace, the way in which he reaches down and touches our hearts. Would you consider helping us get this ministry to even more people? Here's what you can do. You could become an endurance partner. That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.

Of course the amount that you give is entirely your decision. Now you need more info. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, rtwoffer is all one word. rtwoffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be repeating this info again because I believe that the Lord is laying it upon many hearts to help us join hands with us in this ministry of Running to Win. Go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Once Christians were a dominant force in American culture. That day is no more.

How do we live as a minority in a now pagan culture? Next time, more surprising answers from Jeremiah chapter 29. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-24 15:15:08 / 2023-05-24 15:23:07 / 8

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