Introduction: Many years ago, I was in the Michigan area to meet
with a group of teachers who had religious objections to supporting
the teachers’ union. Most of the teachers were very anxious to have
me help them because they were convinced that it was displeasing to
God to remain in a union which opposed Godly principles. One teacher
was concerned about his obligations to God, but he was also
concerned about his union-connected car insurance. He wanted to know
whether, if he resigned from the union, he would be able to continue
to insure his car through the union. When I told him, “No,” non-members did not have the right to continue with union-sponsored
insurance, he replied that it would be too expensive for him to
raise a religious objection. As we left the meeting, I noticed that
he was driving a brand new Cadillac. His faith could be valued by
the amount he saved with union insurance. What about us? Does our
faith make a difference in our life? Should it? Or, does
righteousness by faith relieve us of such concerns? Let’s dive into
our study of the Bible and learn about faith that makes a

  1. God’s People, God’s Church

    1. Read Jeremiah 7:1-2. Who did God have in mind as the
      audience for His message? (His people. He wanted those
      who entered into worship to hear this message.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 7:3-4. God says “You need to make changes
      in your life.” Some of the people respond with a note
      about geography: “This is the temple of the Lord.” What
      are the people really saying? (They worship in the right

      1. Notice that the people repeat their response three
        times. Why? (Repeating something twice is a common
        way in the Bible to say that something is important.
        Perhaps they said it the third time to convince

      2. The text suggests that “This is the temple of the
        Lord” is a phrase that the people routinely use. God
        calls the phrase “deceptive words.” What about it
        is misleading? (A church identity is not what saves

        1. Notice that these people not only had the right
          “church,” they were entering into the correct
          form of worship. Even more important, they were
          worshiping the correct God. Can the right form
          of worship before the correct God be deceptive?

    3. Read Jeremiah 7:5. What is God calling on His people to
      do? (Change their “ways.” The Hebrew is a reference to a
      “road,” so this means the direction of their life, their
      attitude. God wants an attitude change.)

      1. Let’s stop a minute and consider this. These people
        had the right church, the right God, and the right
        worship, but God called them deceivers. What does
        this teach us about worship? (That it does not end
        when we exit the church.)

  2. Living Worship

    1. Read Jeremiah 7:6-7. What do the alien, the fatherless
      and the widow all have in common? (They lack power in the

      1. Would you oppress them by not helping them? (There
        are other Bible texts that discuss helping the
        needy, but this is not one of them. The Hebrew for
        “oppress” refers to “defrauding” or “violating.”
        These people are actively taking advantage of the

      2. Aside from harming the powerless, what else are
        these people doing? (They are killing the innocent.)

      3. How would you describe the general attitude of these
        people of God? (They misuse their power.)

      4. In the United States, the government pays people who
        are poor and who do not work, and it imposes extra
        taxes on people who work hard and succeed. In a
        democracy, we decide things by a vote, and we have
        more potential poor voters than potential rich
        voters. Can the poor misuse their power, or is this
        only a sin of the rich?

    2. Read Jeremiah 7:7-8. Will God bless those who abuse their
      power? (They cannot rely on God, for God says they are
      deceiving themselves. God tells them that He will take
      away their home and their land.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 7:9-11. Are we properly worshiping God if
      we abuse our power? (No! God says these people are
      harming others in very serious ways. Plus, they give
      allegiance to other gods.)

      1. What does this say about righteousness by faith? (I
        don’t think righteousness by faith is at issue here,
        for these people are putting their faith in Baal,
        even though they are attending the right church.
        Wrong actions simply demonstrate that they do not
        have an attitude of obedience towards God.)

      2. Notice that God says that He is watching them. Is He
        watching us?

        1. If you say, “yes,” let me ask you a personal
          question. Do your actions vary based on whether
          other people are watching you? Would you watch
          the same television programs, view the same
          Internet sites, or listen to the same music if
          your local religious leader was with you?

          1. If you would not, then why would you be
            involved in these things when God is

          2. Is our behavior before God (who says He is
            watching all the time) a worship issue?
            (Worship is honoring God and showing Him
            our allegiance. In that sense, obedience
            is worship.)

  3. Honest Followers

    1. Read Isaiah 58:1. Is God upset about the sins of the

      1. What does God call their sins? (Rebellion.)

        1. This is a very interesting word. I believe in
          righteousness by faith. It is the only means to
          eternal life. But, let’s examine the sin
          problem. How does God view sin, and what does
          that say about righteousness by faith? (Sin is
          rebellion against God. It is a rejection of His
          kingdom. Faith and works cannot logically be
          separated, for our actions flow from our
          attitudes. Sin results from an attitude of
          rebellion against God.)

    2. Read Isaiah 58:2. Do these people seem rebellious to

    3. Read Isaiah 58:3. Let’s look at the first part of this
      verse. Are these people denying self?

    4. Read Isaiah 58:3-4 and Romans 7:14-15. Is Isaiah
      addressing a bunch of people who are just like the
      apostle Paul (and, if truth be told, just like you and

      1. What is the goal of the fasting and “humbling
        ourselves” that the people say they are doing?

      2. Why would you “exploit … workers” or start
        “striking each other with … fists?” (They prefer
        themselves over their workers. They insist on
        enforcing their views over their fellow church
        members. This is just the opposite of self-denial!)

    5. Read Isaiah 58:6-7. What is God calling for in our
      fasting? (Consistency! Self-analysis. How can we say
      that we are denying our self, if we are oppressing others
      for our own benefit? God tells us to open our eyes and
      see things as He does.)

    6. Let’s jump back up to the beginning of this discussion.
      Read again Isaiah 58:2. In light of what is going on, how
      do we explain these people? (Have you ever had someone
      ask for your opinion, and it seemed that they had no
      interest in your opinion – unless you agreed with them?
      These people are not asking because they are serious
      about being willing to change. They are looking for
      official approval of their selfish actions!)

      1. How serious are you about seeking and following
        God’s opinion?

    7. Read Micah 6:6-8. The burnt offerings, the rams, the oil
      are all examples of Jesus’ coming sacrifice on our
      behalf. What does this teach us about true righteousness
      by faith? True worship? (Offering the sacrifice, invoking
      Jesus’ name, no matter how often we do it, does not save
      us. These are not like a magical phrase, or the ultimate
      password. Instead, true worship, true sacrifice, true
      righteousness by faith involves an attitude that is
      reflected in our daily life: mercy, justice, seeking to
      stay in step with God.)

    8. Friend, have you examined your life? Is your worship
      superficial? Is your daily attitude in tune with your
      attitude in church? Do you inquire of God, but don’t
      really want to know His answer? Are you always selfish,
      taking advantage of others? Ask the Holy Spirit, right
      now, to covert your heart and your attitude, so that you
      will “walk humbly with your God.”

  4. Next week: Worship – From Exile to Restoration.