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Summary: The fifth of a series of six sermons from Jeremiah on sexual sin. This message focuses on God’s mercy for those suffering in the grip of sexual sin and how to gain it for yourself.

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A. If you have your Bible, please turn to Jeremiah 3. We are in the midst of a series of messages entitled Behind Closed Doors. In this series we are looking at the issue of sexual sin.

1. We spent the first three weeks in chapter 2 and saw how God speaks very frankly to us about the pain, the shame, the enslavement that sexual sin can bring into our lives.

2. This kind of honest discussion about this subject is so incredibly relevant and yet also rare. Very few people in our society are talking honestly about the spiritual, relational, emotional damage that results from sexual sin.

3. I was watching some news program the other day on television and there was this report on the percentage of people at some particular workplace who look at internet porn. It was a staggering percentage--like 30% or something like that.

4. The report itself was troubling but what was even more disturbing to me was that the newscasters had this joking, "wink, wink" response to it.

B. And then the very next item they dealt with was a horrible sexual abuse situation--and now they were all serious. I was struck by the casual dismissal of one sexual sin, and the complete seriousness about the other--with no connection made between the two.

1. I was talking with a friend in law enforcement who had just analyzed 10 drawings done by children who were victims of sexual abuse. Some of these children were as young as 5 years old.

2. Child victims like this often won’t say anything about what happened but they do draw pictures. My friend said that 8 out of the 10 drawings had a television or a computer with porn playing.

3. The impact of this stuff on our society is staggering--as well as the impact in our own lives. While our society may wink at some of this, God doesn’t.

C. God loves us enough to tell us the truth about the sexual sins we engage in--whether its lust or premarital sex or adultery or whatever. God loves us enough to tell us the truth--not only about the damage these sins can bring into our lives.

1. He also tells us how we can break free from these behaviors that enslave us. How we can live differently. The key to this transformation is a very important word God uses over and over again in chapter 3 as well as the entire book of Jeremiah.

2. It’s the word ’return’. It can also be translated repent. Three times in chapter 3, God says to His people, Return to Me. Return.

3. This is the pathway out of these sexual sins that are destroying our lives and into the mercy of God that can transform our lives.

D. So today I want us to look at this issue of returning or repentance. Now part of our problem with this word repent is that it often has this negative connotation. A God with a stick in his hand who will strike us if we don’t stop what we are doing. It feels oppressive and negative.

1. But as we are going to see today, repentance is anything but oppressive and negative. It is life-giving. It enables us to experience real transformation.

3. So today we are going to look at Jeremiah 3 and try to answer a couple of critical questions about repentance: What is repentance and why is it so important?

I. Let’s start with the question, What is repentance?

A. Let me read beginning in vs 12 of chapter 3.

"Go, proclaim this message toward the north: Return faithless Israel, declares the Lord, ’I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, ’I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed Me," declares the Lord.

1. We see here this word ’return’ used. This word is used some 30 times in the book of Jeremiah.

2. It literally means to turn around, to turn back. It is to return to the original point of departure. In this context here in chapter 3, it has a very strong relational component.

3. For instance in vs 14 we read, "Return faithless people", declares the Lord, "for I am your husband." God is urging them to turn away from these things that are destroying their lives and return to the fullness of r’ship that is theirs to enjoy.

4. So the word literally means to turn.

B. However, if we just left it at that, it would seem that God is simply saying, Stop doing what you are doing. Just stop it. Which doesn’t work because sexual sin is more powerful than our will-power.

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