Summary: What is at the root of our sin problem and how do we deal with sin in our lives?
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
February 15, 2004
How to Avoid Consequences
INTRODUCTION: Think back to when you were in school. How many of you were guilty of taking something sharp and carving a heart on a school desk, or on a tree in the playground, or even on a textbook and writing a name or initials on it? Maybe even the date was recorded.
I don’t know why we were always wanting to do that. Just wanted to. You might find names and dates that mark the spot where you stood years and years ago. Sometimes it might be a name you would like to erase, but it has cut deep into the finish of the wood or tree. You are embarrassed by it now. You can’t get it off because it is too deep. Sometimes you cringe when you see how you have defaced school property. How could I have done that?
Jeremiah, the prophet, begins Chapter 17 by saying that the sin of the people of Judah was so deep that it was like it had been engraved with an iron tool and inscribed with a flint point on the tablets of their heart. He said that through their own fault they will lose the inheritance that the Lord gave them and would be enslaved to their enemies in a land that they didn’t know. He was saying your sin that you have engraved so deeply on your hearts is going to catch up with you. It won’t just embarrass you, but you will experience the consequences of that sin. You will be the losers for having sinned.
Too many times, we like these people, experience the pain and consequences over and over again. We make wrong choices again and again. For some reason we can’t seem to "get it right." It seems that every time we sin we engrave the sin a little bit more. We may start the new year by saying, "I’m going to turn over a new leaf. I’m going to make a fresh start. I’m going to get my life straightened up."
God doesn’t want us to experience the pain and consequences of sin time and time again. Sometimes we think we can’t do anything else. God loved his people so much in Jeremiah’s day but they were going about things in the wrong way. Let’s see what we can get out of today’s scripture that will help us to avoid consequences in the future.
1. The Self Sufficient Person: Jeremiah contrasts two different types of people. He could plainly see that the people of Judah were in the first category. They were trusting in their own self sufficiency and in the strength of man--the Egyptians to help them out. They were fearful of their Assyrian and Babylonian enemies, but they thought their friends would help them out. Jeremiah lived at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century B. C. In those turbulent years prior to the destruction, God’s people were not making good choices with regard to people they trusted. They were looking to Egypt to save them from Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon. They made unwise alliances with Egypt and were trying to buy Pharaoh’s protection. Instead of trusting in the Lord, they were relying totally upon people. They were leaving God out of the picture.
The Message Bible makes this a little clearer.
"Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight." (verse 5).
The beginning of consequences for us is when we think we don’t need God at the center of our lives. We say, "I can handle this. I will catch you later God. I have the skill I need and besides that I have a lot of friends and family who will help me if I need it."
"I will live my life as I want to," we say. "I don’t want God coming in and messing it up." Consequences are on the way. Something drastic has to happen to put a stop to our willful actions.
STORY: A janitor was getting very upset at a high school where in the girl’s restroom the teens wrote all over the restroom mirror with lipstick and also marked the mirror with kisses in lipstick. Every day he was having to clean the mirror. He was tired of it.
One day he came up with a plan. He walked into the restroom with a plunger and used it in the toilets. He walked out in plain sight of the onlookers and put the plunger all over the mirror and said, "You know where this has been?"
From that day on the problem stopped.
Jeremiah describes the person who goes willfully on his own way: