On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Jeremiah 31:27-34. "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.
28 And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.
29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.
30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Introduction: The United States had a special visitor this last week from Iran. Did you notice? It was Mr. Sour Grapes himself. Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, arrived on our shores to address the United Nations. The Iranian president is known for his denial of the Holocaust, and his repeated threats to wipe the Jewish state off the map. These threats cannot be taken lightly, because of Iran's aggressive pursuit of nuclear technology. This Hitler like figure, continues to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons. In his speech to the U. N., Mr. Ahmadinejad spouted his accusation of a Zionist conspiracy, basically blaming the Jews for everything. He accused "a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists," of dominating important financial and political decision-making in the United States and some European countries.
In a response, Israeli president Peres, called Mr. Ahmadinejad, "...a danger to his own people (and) the world," saying, "Tehran combines long-range missiles and short-range minds." As far as a Zionist conspiracy to rule the world is concerned, the Israeli president referred to what are known as the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a century-old forgery that professes to record discussions by Jewish leaders, of plans to take over the world. It was used by the Czarist Russians as well as the Nazis, to justify their hatred and murder of the Jews. "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," is still distributed today in many languages to promote the hatred of the Jews and Israel everywhere!
I mention this visit and exchange between the Iranian and Israeli presidents, because the threat posed by Mr. Ahmadinejad is real, and could erupt into a world changing event at any moment. These two nations are on a collision course, and the coming election could greatly affect the timing and outcome. There is some speculation that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran before the Bush's term in office is completed.
Make no mistake about it, The situation that exists between Iran and the modern day state of Israel, has everything to do with ancient Bible prophecy. Jeremiah 30 begins what many commentators refer to as the Book of Consolation. In the previous chapters, Jeremiah predicted a day of destruction for the nation Judah, which took place when Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon. Beginning in chapter 30, Jeremiah speaks of a future day of restoration. We see this shift from plucking up and tearing down, to building and planting in verse 28 of our text. "And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD."
This is exciting, because the restoration of Israel begins with the Jewish people returning to their land! Jeremiah 30:3 reads, "For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." It is absolutely amazing, that by the Holy Spirit of God, the prophet Jeremiah looked far into the future to May 14, 1948, when in a simple, solemn ceremony, Israel was proclaimed a nation by her new Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. This year, Israel celebrated her sixtieth birthday! Against all odds, this tiny nation has survived every attempt to wipe it off the map. Will the Israel survive the nuclear threat posed by Iran? If God's Word is true, ...and it is ...Israel will survive! How? Only time will tell.
Our text passage speaks of a day, a moment in our future, when the nation Israel shall be reconciled to God, by a new covenant. What is this new covenant? Verse 32, tells us that it stands in contrast with the old covenant made with Israel on Mount Sinai, when they came out of Egypt. We know it as the law of Moses, the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. This was a conditional covenant, placing the burden or yoke upon the children of Israel to keep, in order to be right with God.
Who among us can keep the Ten Commandments? A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to, "honor thy father and thy mother," she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill." Has anyone among us never lied? Understand that what we call "little white lies" and "fibs," are lies in God's sight. Has anyone among us never stolen, never taken that which is not yours, no matter how small? Has anyone among us never put someone or something before God? Has anyone among us never coveted anything? Has anyone among us never lusted in our hearts, never let our thoughts run free toward the opposite sex in a way that is sinful? Who among us has not used the name of God in a vain way? Who among us has not attached God's name to our will, in an effort to camouflage it as God's? The answer is obvious. All of us are found guilty! The old covenant or law of Moses, was made to break! It's purpose was not to make us look like saints, but to expose us as sinners! Romans 3:20 says, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." The old covenant could conform the outside of a person to a certain standard, but it was powerless to change or transform the heart.
We must understand that this new covenant is all about the grace revealed in Jesus Christ! Whereas Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus is the mediator of the new! Speaking of Jesus Christ, John 1:16-17 says, "And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The author of Hebrews quotes our text passage in Jeremiah 31, and goes on to speak of Jesus Christ as a better mediator, a better priest, offering a better sacrifice! Jesus spoke of this new testament or new covenant, when He instituted His supper with His church just before His passion. Jesus took the cup and said, "...this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The promise of the new covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as He gave His life for us. Because of Jesus, we can have a personal, heartfelt, redemptive relationship with God.
The new covenant produces a new heart with new desires! Jeremiah 31:33a says, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Salvation, regeneration, begins on the inside and works outward. This new covenant is not written on tables of stone or parchment somewhere. It is written by the pen of the Holy Spirit on the fleshly tables of the heart! When we believe from our hearts in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a transformation that takes place. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
The Ripley's Believe It Or Not column tells of a woman in England, who received a heart transplant in June of 2007. She decided to go and visit her old heart, when it was placed on display in London! This is what happens to those who become Christians. Once we get that new heart, it doesn't make sense to try to hold on to the old one. The new replaces the old. What are the desires of a new heart?
1. A desire to know and serve the Lord. Christians love the house of God and the Word of God! Since when is this boring?
2. A desire to change and be like Jesus. Do you define yourself by the world, or Jesus Christ? Who are you living to please?
3. A desire to love instead of hate. We can't hate people who are different from us. That is not the heart of Christ.
4. A desire to hate sin and the sinful way, and pursue righteousness. While we love sinners, we can't accept their sinful ways. With a new heart, this thing of serving God and keeping His commandments, suddenly moves from the arena of a "have to", to a "want to." We have a new heart with new desires, and a new will to obey!
The new covenant produces a new relationship with God. Jeremiah 31:33 continues, "...and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Salvation or the new birth, makes us the children of God. Jesus opens the door to a new, living relationship with God. What's new about this relationship with God?
1. We are no longer servants, but sons and daughters of God. A servant has a fear based relationship, but a son has a love based relationship.
2. We have open, free access to the Heavenly Father. Any time of the day or night, we can boldly come to God with our petitions and know He will hear us!
3. We are heirs of God! God put us permanently in His will! As the sons and daughter of God, we never fear being outside the family. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:14-17. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together."
The new covenant produces a new mind that is able to discern spiritual things. Jeremiah 31:34a says, "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD." The Presidential debates are designed to not only express the candidates take on the core issues, but to change people's minds on how they vote. The new covenant opens the mind to a whole new way of thinking. What does this new mind include?
1. A Biblical worldview. This sermon has to do with what is now called a Biblical worldview. A worldvew is how you see and interpret the world around you. It is like a pair of glasses through which you see the world. A Biblical worldview is seeing our world through the eyes of God's Word, assisted by the Holy Spirit. It is so clear for the believer, but if you share these things with unbelievers, they will think you are crazy!
2. Spiritual discernment. Through God's Word and Spirit, we are able to discern between what is good and bad; what is right and wrong; what is holy and unholy.
3. An appreciation for the eternal over the temporal. Salvation gives us new sight! We see this present world for what it really is! The Christian mind sees and thinks from an eternal perspective. Paul in I Corinthians 2:14 says, "But the natural man (lost, unregenerated man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." There are those in America who believe you are unfit to hold public office, if you acknowledge God's involvement in your life and decisions! They think we are "out of our minds!" In a sense, we are "out of our minds." We are sharing God's mind and thoughts!
The new covenant produces a new standing before God. Jeremiah 31:34 continues, "...for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Those who won Olympic gold, return home as champions with celebrity status. Suddenly they have a new status, a new standing. When we come clean with God, acknowledging and repenting of our sin, and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are placed "in Christ." What about this new standing "in Christ?" What does it mean?
1. We are forgiven! Because of Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the curse and condemnation of sin and the law. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
2. We are saints. God no longer sees us as sinners. We are saints. We are washed in the blood, covered by His grace!
3. We are eternally secure. In Romans 8:31-29, Paul makes it clear, since we are "in Christ," no one can be against us; no one can condemn or accuse us; and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ!
To this present day and hour, as a nation, Israel remains blind to their need of a Savior. They are still attempting to establish their own righteousness by the works of the law. Romans 10:3-4 says, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Israel as a nation remains blind to the identity of their Messiah. Jesus came to "His own," His people the Jews who were uniquely prepared to recognize and receive Him, but they rejected Him, and still do to this hour. Israel refuses to accept this new covenant, because they refuse to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah!
This brings us back to Mr. Sour Grapes, president of Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad is certainly a threat to Israel, but he is not their greatest threat. Mr. Ahmadinejad represents a period of time that is ahead of Israel and the lost world. Jeremiah speaks of it as "Jacob's trouble." Notice Jeremiah 30:4-7. "And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. 5 For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? 7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." This is a seven year period also known as the Tribulation Period and Daniel's Seventieth Week, in which God will judge the world, and bring Israel to a place of repentance and faith. The time is drawing near when God will allow the nations of the world to come against Israel and Jerusalem, threatening them with extinction. It will be the Anti-christ and the armies of the world gathered against the Jews and Israel. When Israel's annihilation seems certain, the Lord Jesus Christ will visibly descend, touch down on the Mont of Olives, and roar as a lion out of Jerusalem, consuming the armies of the world. In that moment, Israel shall be saved!
This will be a time of national repentance. Salvation comes when we stop arguing with God about our sin! Before we can be saved, we must see ourselves as sinners before a Holy God, and worthy of judgment. Jeremiah 31:29-30 speaks of us coming to that place of accountability before God. "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge." Wouldn't it be nice to go through life blaming someone else for all your pain and problems? There are many who do. Some blame their up bringing. Some blame their gene pool. Some blame "the system." Some blame the devil himself. Those who are my age would remember the famous comedian, Flip Wilson who popularized the phrase, "The devil made me do it."
Mr. Ahmadinejad blames the Zionist. When we blame someone or some thing for all our problems, we end up not taking responsibility for ourselves, the things we say and do. The old covenant gives us no such privilege. Everyone will face God one day, and be accountable for his or her own sin! The day is coming, when after seven years of trouble and tribulation, what is left of Israel, will come to their senses, acknowledge their sin, and by faith see their Savior! They will see Jesus as the Christ, their Messiah and Savior of the world! Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." In that day and hour, God will make a new covenant with His people. What will follow, will be a thousand year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth from Jerusalem.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit to America and his vicious attack on Israel and America, is a sober reminder that there is such as thing as evil in this world. The spirit of anti-Christ is everywhere and growing. Without doubt, we are living in the days preceding Christ's return in the air, to catch out His people, opening the door for the revelation of the final world dictator! Our Presidential candidates are campaigning on change. Change is definitely in the air! America's financial woes indicate that the storm clouds are gathering. The only security we can have today, is to know that we are included in the new covenant.
Individually, we must all come to the place where Israel will arrive one day in the future. We must say to ourselves and to God, "no more sour grapes," and own up to our sin before God. Are you ready?
Lost sinner, Jesus came not to condemn us, but to save us from our sin. No matter what happens in our world or in our individual lives, we can experience peace and stability in a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Right now, you can experience true peace of heart and peace of mind for the first time in your life! Are your sins under the blood?
Christian, are you ready for Jesus' return? Do you need to clean up your life? Do you need to focus more on loving and serving God, instead of the world?