Summary: Love is service rather than sentiment. John R. W. Stott

Oct. 17, 2010 Jeremiah 31:27-34 “I Have No Idea What You Are Talking About”

Have you ever had to pinch yourself to see if what you are experiencing is real or a dream? This is kind of how my life has been since I invited Christ into my heart many years ago. Sometimes when I try to plan ahead in my life, I like to look back and see where I have been and how I have gotten this far. I vividly remember some of the visions that God planted in my mind. He gave me one in college that I remember well to this day. It was where I was standing in front of a crowd of people telling them about Jesus Christ, kind of like what I am doing today (tonight). The strange part of this was that I had this vision when I didn’t know Christ. He was the farthest thing from my mind at that time. Fast forward forty years and here I am. God had a plan for me all along. I was the one who dragged my feet for so long before I came to accept Him.

God doesn’t just have a plan for me or for you. He has a plan for everyone in every place and at every time. This morning (evening), we will take a look at a passage in Jeremiah where one of the basic attributes of Christ is explained several centuries before He is even born. Let’s try to get a little glimpse of this huge plan that God has for everyone.

Tim Zingale tells the tale of a beggar who lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation saying that the king was giving a great dinner and anyone dressed in royal garments was welcome. The beggar knew that he couldn’t go because he only had rags. But he wanted to go so he had an idea. It was a bold idea.

He went to the palace and asked to see the king. After some shuffling, the king agreed to see him. The king asked, “You wished to see me?”

The beggar replied, “Yes, your majesty. I really want to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sire, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I too could come to your banquet?” The beggar was shaking in nervousness as he asked this question.

The king smiled to himself and said, “You have been wise in coming to me.” Then he called his son and told him to give this man a suit of clothes for the banquet. The son took him and gave him a fine set of his own clothes and then he said, “You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet. But more importantly, you will never need another set of clothes because these garments will last forever.”

Well the beggar was ecstatic and went to leave wearing his new clothes. But he looked back on the pile of rags on the floor and thought ‘what if the prince is wrong?’ So he gathered his old clothes and went to the banquet. Everything was great at the banquet and the serving was fast. This caused the beggar to miss some of the greatest delicacies because his bundle of old clothes kept falling off his lap and he had to keep picking it up.

The years went by and it turned out that the prince was right and the royal clothes never did wear out. However, as time passed, the beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. He clung to them wherever he went. He even became known as the old man with the rags. One day the beggar lay dying and the king came to see him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when the king saw the bundle of rags right next to the bed. It suddenly hit him that this bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly now knowing that he never fully embraced the righteous clothes the king had given him. He had never fully accepted the gift of royalty. How often have we known people who have not fully accepted the grace of God or not accepted it at all and continue to wear their old rags? This is something to think about.

God has a grand scheme for everything. Jeremiah gives us a glimpse of this in our passage this morning. I think that there are at least three things that we should bring away from this reading.

The first is that God will not give up on us. Jeremiah is talking to the Kingdom of Judah in this book. They will soon be conquered or maybe they already have been by the time of this reading. There is a tough part in a reading like this. There is God’s judgment involved here. The people of Judah had fallen away from God. Jeremiah was trying to bring them back but it was of no use. They had gotten too used to their evil ways and they enjoyed them too much. God was watching over his people even though they were disobedient. He watched their destruction.

Now this may seem to be pretty harsh to a lot of people. Actually this shows the love of God for His people. His people had become decadent. They were worshiping idols. They were not obeying the laws that He had set down for them for a better life. This is not the first time we see God destroying His people or watching them destroy themselves so that they would come back to Him. Israel has already fallen. This is all part of the refining process that God has for his people so that they will follow.

I think that we see the same thing today. We live in a country that is disobedient. We do not follow the ways of God. We are not even close. We take the God’s name in vain just about all the time. We have many gods besides our God. Sometimes it makes me think that we are like the ancient Greeks who used to pick and choose what they wanted for a religion. We steal from each other all the time and call it business. It is to the point where we cannot believe anything we hear anymore because it is all a lie. I had this wonderful thought this past week and if any of you are activists, I suggest that you follow up on this. We should make it a state law that if a politician lies to us while they are in office or campaigning, they would then we subject to a recall election. Sharon said it would be a good idea but there wouldn’t be anyone left to run things. The point is our corruptness. God’s point here is that He will not put up with it forever.

I would like us to notice that God is with them through these trials and then He will bring them back together as His people. This is exactly what happened as Judah was exiled for 70 years before God brought back the remnant to be His people. He purified his people and made them stronger through all of this. He was still with them and he did not give up on them. This is one of the passages that we have to keep in mind because God will not give up on us in hard times. He may have to refine us a bit. But I doubt that there is anyone here this morning who has not sinned in the last week and who could not use a little refining. Don’t give up. God is there.

The next thing I want us to see in this is the new promise of God. It will not be like the covenant that He had previously made with Israel. Under the old covenant God would lead the nation to all sorts of good things if they followed. But they didn’t follow. About the only time that they really followed was when Moses and Joshua were their leaders. And even during these times there was much grumbling.

Now we have Judah being conquered and put in exile. The remnant will come back in 70 years and start again. Then something interesting happens. The Jewish leaders begin a journey of following the Law so closely that the Law becomes their God. This is where they were at when Jesus came along. The history of Israel is full of just about every way that they can fall away from God. But as we saw in our first point, God is persistent. God has not given up on a people who have totally rejected Him and He will not give up on us who love Him.

God is going to make a new covenant with them. The old one will be disregarded and a new one will be planted in our minds and our hearts. The old covenant was made with the nation. The new covenant will be a little different as it will be written on everyone’s heart individually. By doing this, no one can say to Him that he didn’t know God. Everyone has to know God because it will be written on their hearts. This isn’t really God making any changes but rather a change of emphasis.

This passage of prophecy tells us that God will be and is with us all the time. People ask me occasionally “where do I get the part about Jesus living in our hearts?” This is one of the places. At a future time God will put Himself in our hearts. Jesus will come to fulfill this prophecy and they will have him killed. The results are disastrous for Israel.

The results are disastrous for us today also. I think that it is something like 80% of the people in this country claim to be Christian. I would almost say that 75% of these people don’t have a clue who God is. They want to tell God what He should and shouldn’t do. They want to lead their own lives and give God an hour on Sunday, at best. They want to define God when it is God who defines us. No one believes us when we tell them that they can have a very happy life, happier than they are now, if they would just accept Jesus into their hearts.

This covenant is also important because it will be extended to us, the Gentiles. Our God is the God of all people, everywhere. This covenant is for you and me. We are now the descendants of Abraham, the spiritual descendants. I praise the Lord that He opened my eyes so I could let Him into my life.

This is all important because it leads us to the forgiveness of sins. At the end of verse 34 God makes quite a statement. He says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” From this statement I can say to you that if you take your sins to Jesus and confess to Him, He will forget that they ever happened. It is not as if He is going to remember these things and hold us hostage to them. They are forgotten.

This is the part where Satin likes to get his grubby, evil hands on us. He likes to tell us that we have to remember all the bad things that we have done. We have to dwell on them. We have to let our mistakes rule our lives. This is totally wrong. God forgives us if we bring our sin to Him. Then He forgets that we ever sinned.

This is one of the reasons that when I ask someone to confess their sins to Jesus, I will say to just confess all sins that you have ever committed. Some people say that you have to name them all individually. This is an ok method but when someone like me comes to Christ, I would still be confessing twenty years later because it would take me that long. Also with this method, what happens when you miss some sins? Then they go unconfessed and Satan uses them to fester your relationship with Jesus. When I confessed to Jesus for the first time, I asked Him to take all my sins away. I didn’t even name one. Jesus took all my sins away and I got up and was a new creation of God. I have never felt so good in my life as the hour I first confessed and came to Him. This is for you also. Come to Him.

I have seen many people leave sins at the door so that they can pick them up again on the way out. I have seen people blame themselves for the death of a loved one. I have seen people continue to blame themselves for a divorce that happened 20 years ago. I have seen lives that were unlived because they cannot forgive themselves of sin. Usually there is a process that we have to go through before we can forgive ourselves. Keep working on this if this is a problem in your life. Keep working on forgiving yourself because when you are taking it to Jesus, He has already forgotten all about it the first time you confessed. He is saying to you to move on with the life I have planned for you. He says, “I forgive you of all your sins. Now move on.” You will not be happy until you move on with Christ.

Marc Axelrod tells a great story of when he was in the eighth grade. He had a teacher that he really disliked a lot. So at the end of the year Marc wrote him a nasty note. He said the teacher was arrogant and a jerk, among other things. This teacher was really disappointed in Marc and he wrote a note to his parents telling them about the immature thing he had done.

After his parents found out, Marc felt like a heel. For years Satan would keep bringing this back to remind him of just how rotten a kid he had been. And this is just how things work out in life. Marc ended up becoming a school teacher. You guessed it, his first job was teaching at his alma mater for summer school. And on the first day he ran into his old teacher, Mr. Emerson, in the teacher’s lounge. He was so embarrassed that he couldn’t even look him in the eye.

Finally, after several days, Marc decided to break the ice. He said, “Do you remember that note I wrote you at the end of the 8th grade? It was terrible of me and I have felt like a piece of scum ever since. I am really sorry. Will you forgive me?” They shook hands and Marc was greatly relieved. A little later Mr. Emerson leaned over to him and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

This is the same way with God. If you have confessed to Him, He has no idea of your sin back in 1980, or 1990, or last year or last week. It is that simple. He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to linger in our sin. He brings us out of it if we just keep confessing. Go to Him every day. He loves you and will accept all you have to give Him. He loves you that much. Thank you Jesus for first loving us. Let’s pray.