Summary: America has strayed so far -- is there hope? I’ve fallen -- is there hope? Look at Jeremiah’s picture of a God who says, "No matter what you’ve done. . . return to me!" *HANDOUT INCLUDED*
The word “return” and its derivatives occurs 112 times in the book of Jeremiah.
The picture of God we get is that of a God who is following his chosen people to the very “brink of the falls”, so to speak, saying, “IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!”
This gives me hope in 4 ways:
1. It gives me hope when I stumble.
Look back across your Christian life. How many times have you needed the forgiving mercy of God? How many times have you deserved him to kick you out of the kingdom?
This gives me hope, because God is not a God who is ANXIOUS to “club me over the head” when I step out of line – rather, he’s a God that is SO ready to forgive and restore.
2. It gives me hope for other Christians who have stumbled.
Jeremiah 3:1 "They say, ’If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me," says the LORD.
Here’s a question for you and I. . . are we as willing as God to reach out and grant forgiveness, no matter how serious the offense? I realize that trust must be earned – but our forgiveness, like God’s, should be free!
3. It gives me hope for America.
Jer 3:12 ¶ "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ’Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ’I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ’I will not remain angry forever.
God had been reaching out to a half-hearted nation of Israel for nearly 900 years!
I believe God is still reaching out to our nation after 200 years, saying, “Judgement doesn’t have to come. . . it doesn’t have to be this way! Just RETURN to me!”
4. It gives me hope and motivates me to reach out to others who are seekers.
Jer 24:7 ’Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.
You know, all of us were created to be God’s. All of us have left Him. All of us have the chance to return to Him.
Now that you have returned to him, what about those others who He created for himself just as much as He did YOU?
No matter how much it cost him, God was willing to chase after his people which he had formed for himself.
Are we willing, no matter what it costs us, to reach out to those around us? If it inconveniences us, and takes up part of our schedule, and changes our church, and we have to get up earlier and work harder, and pray more, and put up with more. . . are we willing to chase after them, shouting by our words and actions God’s message – “RETURN TO ME!”?
CLOSE with the illustration: Daughter ran away from home after a huge fight with country parents. She went to the city, and was forced to become a prostitute to earn a living. A year or two later, her mother decided to look for her. She took several hundred pictures of her daughter, wrote on the back of each one: "No matter what you’ve done or what you’ve become, please come home." She left them on hundreds of bathroom mirrors, in sleazy joints across the city. The daughter found one, and it broke her heart. She came home.