Disney says, ‘follow your heart’. Jeremiah says, ‘don’t follow your heart’! The heart is deceitful above all things. It might say ‘follow a way that seems right in your own eyes’. It might invite you down a highway to hell.
Who are we going to listen to: a deceitful kid’s cartoon or the word of God? One way leads to destruction; another, narrow path, leads to eternal life. What our hearts tell us one day might change the next: feelings are fickle.
As far as Jeremiah is concerned, the heart is terminally ill. Our hearts are like a clock that is winding down until it ticks its last tock. We can’t trust or rely on ourselves.
Thankfully, there is One in whom we can depend, the Lord God Almighty. The heart of Jesus Himself stopped, only for Him to rise again on the third day. So through faith in Him, even if our hearts will one day stop, we will rise again to newness of life.
‘God, forbid that we should follow our hearts, and face destruction. May we follow Christ into eternal life, in His name we pray, amen’
“You shall say to them this word: ‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow. Jeremiah 14:17 ESV https://bible.com/bible/59/jer.14.17.ESV
Some people seem to take an unhealthy interest in escatology, the study of the end times. They appear to have a morbid fascination, a perverse kind of pleasure even, in the anticipation of Armageddon. Jeremiah wasn’t one such person.
Far from relishing the prospect that the end was night for the people of Judah, as the Babylonians swept in, Jeremiah wept for his wayward people. In doing so, he revealed the heart of God. Jesus Himself wept over Jerusalem, at the prospect of her destruction again, within a lifetime.
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither should we. In fact, if we had any amount of self awareness, we would recognise ourselves as wicked. Only by the grace of God in Christ can we be made holy, not by our own self-righteousness.
Jeremiah has been nicknamed ‘The Weeping Prophet’ for his sorrow at his people’s demise. Sadly, in our societies, many of us who profess faith in the same Lord could be described as ‘Stony Faced Hypocrites’ at the prospect of the impending Day of Judgement upon our peoples. Lord, have mercy upon us!
‘Dear Lord, may we share Jeremiah, and Your heart for the lost and hopeless without You. Please, in Your wrath, remember mercy. In Christ’s gracious name, amen’
When the American pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards preached, he didn’t come across as particularly charismatic or engaging. But one day, as he read out his sermon text (not a particularly dynamic way of preaching), revival broke out. The title of his talk? ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’.
When I think of revival, from my inexperienced vantage point, I think of good tidings of great joy. I don’t particularly think of our sinfulness and God’s wrath towards us. But the Bible doesn’t sugar-coat our natural spiritual deadness.
How can you revive someone who’s dead? Or to put it in Ezekiel’s prophetic terms, what’s the point preaching to a valley of dry bones? Humanly speaking, spiritual revival is impossible. But nothing is impossible with God.
It is in the light of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can envisage a valley of dry bones coming to life as a mighty army. Because He lives, we too can live. And if we are alive, what is our purpose? To ‘glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever’. How do we do so? One of the main ways is by making disciples of all nations.
Do we believe this? Then if so, do we obey? And if we obey, do we see fruit? And if not, why not? ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it’.
I close with Christ’s words, ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell cannot stand against it’.
‘Lord, revive Your church to snatch lost souls from the gates of hell into Your church, for the glory of Your name we pray, amen’
Paul seems to be staying the obvious here. Obviously, a dead man isn’t obligated to obey the law. After all, a dead person is powerless to break the law.
Spiritually, when we trust in Christ’s death on our behalf, we die with Him to the law, and come alive to His grace. Does this mean we can disobey the law? Well no, because the law in summary is to love God and to love one another.
There’s not the massive discrepancy between law and grace that many people assume. The difference is that the law commands us to love, whereas grace empowers us to love. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
The law on its own is not enough. The law is good, but it condemns us as bad. We need God’s grace to justify us, and to reconcile us to Himself.
‘Lord, we thank You for Your good law that tells us the way to go. But we thank You all the more for Your grace, which goes before us and empowers us to follow Christ, in whose name we pray, amen’
‘Him’ is the Lord Jesus Christ. The truths of this verse and others like it were expounded by the reformers of Christian faith hundreds of years ago, who emphasised that salvation was by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. These truths are known as the five ‘Solas’ (Latin for ‘alone’) of Biblical teaching.
Even the faith we enjoy in Christ is a gift of God, so that no one can boast, as Ephesians two makes clear. We don’t stand even by the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. We stand by the grace of God alone, His undeserved kindness to sinners like us.
As an old hymn says, divine ‘religion never was designed to make our pleasures less’. Pleasure isn’t ultimately found in eating, drinking and being merry, but in the One from whom all blessings flow, in whom we rejoice for the salvation we enjoy.
We have a sure and certain hope that we will be able to partake in the glory of God. It’s not ‘pie in the sky when we die’. It’s confidence in the One who has already defeated death, so that all who trust in Him will too.
‘Glorious God, we rejoice in You our Redeemer, and glory in Your Holy name. May we make the most of all that we have in You, and never lose sight of just how blessed we are, in Jesus’ name, amen’
Romans 1 is about the sinfulness of unbelievers. Romans 2 is about the sinfulness of the religious. The inevitable conclusion of chapter 3 is that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. But here Paul introduces the righteousness of Christ, which can be ours through faith in Him.
So if we’re made righteous through faith in Christ, there’s no room for boasting. It’s all about Jesus and nothing to do with us. If it was about our works of attempted law-keeping, we might want to boast in ourselves. But there’s no room for that here.
God forbid that we should boast in ourselves. Our attempts at keeping the law are like autumn leaves, destined to fall. God forbid that we should boast except in the cross of Christ our righteousness.
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, because the law curses us for our law-breaking. But all who rely on faith can boast in Jesus, because by His perfect righteousness, we are justified. We’re saved by faith alone, not by our works, so that no-one can boast.
‘Almighty God, praise is due to You because You have worked salvation with Your mighty arm. Please forgive us if we deceive ourselves that our deliverance has anything to do with us, because it’s all about Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen’
Romans 1 is mostly about irreligious people, who having rejected God, live for such things as greed, lust, and idolatry. But in case we read that chapter sanctimoniously, Paul turns the focus onto religious people. If we claim to be ‘holier than thou’, we need to make sure we’re not deceiving ourselves.
If we judge others for things like greed, lust and idolatry, it is very hypocritical to be greedy, lustful and idolatrous ourselves. We mustn’t deceive ourselves that we’re going to get away with the kind of things we judge others for, but do ourselves. When the Bible says not to judge or we’ll be judged, it’s not saying there’s a chance we won’t be judged, it’s saying we need to judge correctly.
We need to consider ourselves with sober judgement. We need to take the plank out of our own eyes before we can remove the speck from our sibling’s eye. Judgement starts with the household of God. If someone claims to be part of God’s family but their life is defined by overt sin, they betray the emptiness of their claim.
None of us will escape the judgement of God. It doesn’t matter whether we’re religious or irreligious, we need to cling to God in His mercy in order to avoid His condemnation. We will either be judged as we deserve, or judged as Christ deserves, and be acquitted of our spiritual crimes.
‘God, please forgive us for our judgementalism and hypocrisy. May we depend on Your mercy for our justification on the day of judgement, in Jesus’ name, amen’
So at church the other week the speaker spoke about some of satan’s tactics. I suppose it was a bit like the classic Puritan book ‘Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices’. Knowing our enemy is half the battle.
Seven satanic tactics were listed.
Distraction (from the good that we should be doing)
Discouragement (from doing good)
Discontentment (with all the good God blesses us with)
Division (within the family of faith)
Doubtfulness (of the goodness of God)
Deceitfulness (twisting of the truth)
Destruction (death, condemnation and hell)
To these, someone responded in prayer with seven remedies of satan’s tactics
To focus upon God
To be encouraged by Him
To be content in Him
To be united with Him and one another
To have faith in Him and to be faithful to one another
To stand for the truth
To enjoy the eternal life we have in Him
Finally, sticking with the alliterative theme, I thought of one other word which could summarise why we don’t need to despair at devilish attacks: the devil is defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have pretty much won the war, he’s just refusing to surrender until Christ returns to condemn him to hell once and for all.
Jeremiah’s first recorded message appears to have inspired a positive response from his hearers. This was by no means guaranteed. He pulled no punches, accusing them of spiritual adultery, prostitution even, in their unfaithfulness to the Lord their God. How would we react if some preacher accused us of spiritual prostitution?
But towards the close of this chapter, Jeremiah brings a wonderful promise from the Lord. If his hearers would repentantly return to the Lord, it would go well with them. Our response to conviction of sins shouldn’t be denial or sweeping them under the carpet as it were. Instead we should turn from our sins back to the Lord.
Wonderfully, God promises to heal the unfaithfulness of His wayward people. We might deserve His wrath, but He offers us healing and restoration. Which will we choose?
It seems that Jeremiah’s hearers here decided to obey the voice of the Lord. They resolved to come back to God, acknowledging Him as their Lord. If we’ve been unfaithful to God with other lovers/idols, it’s time to walk away from them and back to the Lover of our souls.
‘Lord our God, please forgive our spiritual adultery and bring us back to You. Thank You so much for Your willingness to heal us of our unfaithfulness, please instil in us the will to be healed. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray, amen’
This verse will no doubt have been very personal to the young Jeremiah, a sensitive soul who needed all the encouragement he could get for the difficult task at hand: a lifetime of ministry to a stubborn and unbelieving people. But it speaks to us too. We might not become major prophets in our lifetimes, but we can get to know the God who reveals Himself here.
God reveals Himself as our Creator. Our parents might provide the ingredients, but He is the One who ‘cooks us up’ in our mothers’ wombs! We’re not lucky coincidences, we’re the craftsmanship of a loving God.
Not only is God all powerful in regards to the creation of our lives, but He is also all knowing. He knows every one of our days before even one of them has come to pass, we’re told elsewhere. He knows us perfectly.
God knows us in intimate details, and yet He still loves us and has a plan for our lives. Just as He consecrated Jeremiah to serve Him, so He consecrates those of us who are born again to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s not be like Jeremiah and initially protest that we don’t want to fulfil the Great Commission, let’s get on with it!
‘Heavenly Father, thank You for making us, loving us, and planning out our lives. May we fulfil Your purposes through us, for Your glory and praise we pray, amen’