The people of God in the time of Jeremiah are an interesting people, and part of the reason for that is that the people of God in the time of Jeremiah are so much like the people of God today. Take a look at the condemnation given of them in chapter 7:
You steal, murder, commit adultery, lie when you take oaths, burn incense as an offering to Baal, and run after other gods that you do not know. Then you stand in my presence in the house that is called by my name. You think that you're safe....
In other words, the people of God go out and do all kinds of despicable things, sin as much as they possibly can, set their lives on the wrong course...and then go running to the church, expecting that this act alone somehow makes them the people of God. As long as they show up on Sunday (Saturday, in the Old Testament times), then God cannot be too displeased with them. Condemnation cannot fall too hard on them. Life can't go too terribly.
After all, are we not at the Temple?
The people of God then, as the people of God today, thought this is what would make them "safe." This is what would secure their place in both this world and God's world - being at the Temple when it was time to be at the Temple. Having their butts in a pew somewhere on a Sunday morning. It's as though we run around all week, chasing and being chased, part of some big game this world has set out before us, and then on Sunday morning, we tag home and declare, Olly-olly oxen-free!
Nothing can no longer touch me, for I am at church.
I am in the house of the Lord, and nothing evil can beset me here. My life cannot catch up with me in the sanctuary of the living God; it's stuck outside the gate. And here I sit, home, free, able to catch my breath for just a minute, knowing that at least here, I'm safe.
Safe from the consequences of my own sin. Safe from the depravity of a fallen world. Safe from the darkness that tries to swallow me. For some reason, we think these things can't make it into our churches, that there's some kind of holy force field that pushes out all the things detestable to God and makes us, for one hour a week, a people pleasing to the Lord. (And this, by the way, is all the pleasing that we think He requires of us.)
Church on Sunday, sinnin' on Monday.
But church cannot save you. It cannot save you in the short term, and it cannot save you in the long term. Your salvation does not lie in the holy hour; it rests in the holy Lord. It does not come in respite, but in resurrection. It does not depend upon some so-called sacred space where you feel like you can breathe again, if only for a short while; it comes in the breath of the living God filling your very lungs. There's nothing safe about oxen-free; our security rests in a yoke that is easy, a burden that is light.
The problem with God's people is not that they think they're safe in the church. Heavens, no! Our churches ought to be safe places, and they ought to be places that are bringing us into the presence of God where we can truly be saved.
The problem with God's people is that they've convinced themselves that this one hour a week is what saves them. That it doesn't matter what else they do as long as they're present on Sunday morning. That God doesn't care about the other six days of the week, or even the other twenty-three hours on Sunday. That it doesn't bother God that we lie, cheat, steal, murder, prostitute ourselves, as long as we keep coming home to Him.
That's the lie. Even the prophet calls it a lie.
And the Lord Himself says it cannot save us.