Summary: Sermon is an exposition of Jeremiah 6:16-20 about "walking in the old paths"

Title: What’s religion got to do with it?

It wasn’t the first time they had problems on the space station. The space station had four gyroscopes. One of the gyroscopes had been out for a while and then a second one went down. This left NASA scrambling! The situation was becoming critical. The gyroscopes kept the station pointed in the right direction. Without the gyroscopes they couldn’t keep the solar panels oriented toward the sun so the space station would have the power it needed to operate. Without power the station would just drift off into space.

Maybe you feel a little bit like that right now. Maybe you feel like you are drifting? This is something that effects people of all walks of life and every socioeconomic level. The young, the old, those of us who are middle aged, the poor and rich. I was raised in an extremely religious catholic family. I think my parents were even more Catholic than the Pope! I was sent to boarding school where I was taught “religion” by Benedictine monks. But when I went to college I found I was empty and without direction. Oh sure, I believed in God, but I had been taught that He was out there somewhere far, far away.. Was I in for a rude awakening! I had begun attending a university in Virginia and I become very depressed. One night, when I had come to the end of my rope, I went out to the side of a hill that overlooked the university. I sat down on a swing feeling like I just could not go on. I called out to the God that I believed was so very far away and said “God you need to take my life. I can’t go on”. Then the strangest thing happened. A peace that I had never experienced came over me. It was as if someone had said to me “you’re going to be alright”. This one encounter with God changed my life’s direction. You see - the problem was my spiritual gyroscope wasn’t working. I was headed in the wrong direction and I didn’t know it. Sure I was “religious”, but I was still heading for disaster. If the Lord had not reached down to me when He did, I can guarantee you I would not be standing here right now. How about you? Do you feel like God is far, far away? You would like to have peace in your soul, but you don’t know what is wrong with your relationship to God.? Perhaps you have been reaching out to God through “religion” …but what’s religion got to do with it? Today, I want to challenge you to seek a relationship with God on His walking in the old paths.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks about walking in the old paths in Jeremiah 6:16-20. If you have a Bible I invite you to turn to it as we answer the question: What’s religion got to do with it? Why doesn’t religion always lead to a relationship with God.? The time when Jeremiah was writing this was just before the ancient nation of Babylon invaded the southern kingdom of Israel. When they invaded they destroyed Jerusalem taking the people into captivity. Earlier in their history Moses had led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Even though God had manifested his power greatly in these events, the children of Israel kept falling back into idolatry. But the God of the Bible, being a merciful and loving God, kept trying to lead them back to Himself. So He sent prophets with messages to warn them. But the people would not listen to those prophets. And this is where prophet Jeremiah enters the picture. The message that God gave him to deliver to Judah was a terrible message of the judgment and destruction that He was going to bring on these, His chosen people. Jeremiah wept as he brought this message of judgment from God. God specifically chose this tenderhearted man to deliver this message of judgment because God wanted the people to see how He felt. He never wanted to judge them! God’s purpose for the nation of Israel was for them to be a representative of Himself before the heathen peoples of the world. When they looked at Israel they were supposed to get an accurate picture of who God was. But because of all the sin and idolatry in their lives they were presenting a false picture of the one true God. Although the Jewish people were very religious their spiritual gyroscope was now broken and they were far, far away from Him. That is the point in history where Jeremiah finds himself in the text we are studying today.

Our text naturally divides into three main points. First, only when you walk in the old paths can you find God’s peace. Second, when you refuse to walk in the old paths you experience God’s judgment. And the third point is when you refuse to walk in the old paths you experience God’s rejection. Won’t you please follow with me as we consider why it is that religion doesn’t always lead to a relationship with God?

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