Sunday, December 3, 2017
Sunday Message: Karma and Jehoiakim (part two)
We start Part two of my StumbleUpon adventure with a FB comment not directed at me. Rather, the subject was God and natural disasters, and a lady commented that, given all the heartaches and disasters that came into her life that God did NOT prevent, she had given up on Him. And this morning I was reminded of that by Dr Charles Stanley, discussing the defenses we have to build against temptation. Paraphrasing here: If you are coming to church once in a while, if your time in the Word of God consists of, "I listened at church, that should be good enough,"- you aren't "building a wall, you're building chicken wire".
And I thought of the chicken-wire lady on FB, whose understanding of God was encapsulated in the concept, "He should be helping me, without any thought or effort on MY part." And that is the one end of the spectrum of this world.
This morning I was reading in Jeremiah the story of Jehoiakim, the King of Judah after good King Josiah, upon whom all the disasters caused by God's wrath the prophet had been calling out were about to fall. As the priests read the scroll of Jeremiah's prophecy to him, he would cut a piece off and throw it in the fire. And I thought how the lady and he were nearly alike- one dismissing God because of the consequences that had come, without knowledge; and the other dismissed God because of the consequences to come, despite knowledge.
But the key to the Jeremiah story- which is what the StickyJesus article on StumbleUpon article was all about- is also the one element missing from all the wise teaching from the Karma article- God's LOVE.
The list of 21 things Jesus wants you to know is broken down like so: The first six- each with a Bible verse to go with it, so if you want to break it down further, here is where to find it- talk about God's love for you. Its power, being love by GOD, which is ultimately more than man can know or understand, having always been and lasting forever. Next, 7-10 address your difficulty of understanding it- you cannot judge God's love by human standards, by how you think God should deal with you, or by how other people, even other Christians, treat you. God is not your imaginary friend, He is not human, and if you try to put Him in that box, you understand nothing.
At this point, I want to tie in our takeaway from last time, the idea of Focus-Surround-Control. As I listened to Dr Stanley I realised that these have to come in THAT order. Focus on the big picture- the way God does, that picture being your eternity- has to be the starting point. It is what will overcome temptation, it is what will comfort sorrow, it is what will calm fears. And it is what will teach God's Love. From there, you surround yourself with the people, places, events, that will keep your attention on that big picture as God sees it. Only then will you find control- God's control- protecting and warming you. And be able to imitate it in yourself.
11-17 deal with the topic of sin- how it has all been taken care of by Jesus, and your acceptance of Him clears that ledger. The only sin God can't forgive is the heart that will not listen.
That brings us back to Jehoiakim. You see the beginning of this chapter in Jeremiah (the 36th), begins with God commanding Jeremiah to compile the scrolls, all the words that were spoken against Judah BECAUSE of their sin, because "it may be that the House of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone might turn from his evil way, that I might forgive their iniquity and their sin." (V3) See? Even at THIS extremity, God loved them enough to give them another chance- but all Jehoiakim heard was, "Do this or I'll clobber you". And "doing this" meant making a change in their lives. So rather than change his life, he just "burned" God out of it.
Did the lady on FB attempt to change HER life? I don't know, but I can only surmise from her attitude that she had never listened to any more of God's word than Jehoiakim did.
The last four things on the SJ list are the most powerful, and are the ones that made all we learned from Karma last week worthwhile. These I'm going to give you right from the article, forgive me for cut-and-paste o Lord:
I will not force you to do or be anything. I want a relationship with you more than I want to rule over you. (Jeremiah 31:3)
The verse: The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will forgive your sin and I will forget it. That’s right—completely erase it from my mind. No replays, no record. Gone. (Ps. 103:12)
The verse: as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
It’s never too late to turn your life around. I came to give second chances. (Luke 23:42-43)
The verses: Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I love you. Let’s talk. (Jer. 29:13)
The verse: You will seek me, and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
But there's the rub. You don't seek God daydreaming through sermons, or keeping your Bible on a pretty spot on the mantle. And you cannot sin without consequence. Still, there is one other part that the lady and the King missed, that needs to be addressed.
Does this love of God keep you from life's disasters, as non-Christians seem to think is the only point of religion? OF COURSE NOT. God's love is big-picture-focused- this world is the training ground, the purifying fire, for the next. Now, God dealt with Judah thus because theirs was a different condition- they were a consecrated people, given a set of laws to obey in the physical realm, which they failed to and God punished them physically. But His dealings with nations are NOT the same as His dealings with individuals. For us, we have seen and been given the mercy of the Son of God and His death for our sins- our stakes are far more drastic, big picture stakes- heaven or hell. This is not to say that God does not act in the day to day- but He requires faith. You have to believe, you have to be one of His children. The lady on FB was like the Pharisees who demanded a sign that Jesus refused to give them. If God has to prove His existence to you with a board-certified miracle, you will be waiting a LONG time.
But if you seek Him truly, you will find love that passes understanding.