Friday, July 18, 2014, 9:41 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 (NIV). I will quote some and summarize some due to the length of the passage. Exchanged Life “This is what the Lord says: “‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest… ~ Jer. 2:1-3a Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water… ~ Jer. 2:11-13 When I read this, it brought to mind the Lord Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus as dictated to John, who then wrote it and sent it to the churches (See Rev. 2). The church had several things going for it. They worked hard, they persevered, they did not tolerate wicked people, and they even tested those who claimed to be apostles of Christ, but who were not, and found them to be false. They even endured hardships for the name of Christ, and they had not grown weary. Still, they had forsaken their first love, so they were to consider how far they had fallen, and they were to repent of their sin and to do the things they did at first. If they did not repent, Jesus would come and would remove their church from its place, i.e. some type of judgment would fall upon them from the hand of the Lord. It is possible for us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to do so many things right; to do so many good things, and yet to fail in our relationships with Jesus Christ because of neglect of him and his word (his teachings), and due to failure to consult with him and to follow him wherever he leads us. He wants from us the kind of devotion a bride would give to her new husband. He wants us to be set apart (unlike; different) from the world of sin and set apart to God and to his service. When we come to Christ, we become his bride. Our decision to accept his invitation to salvation and to make him Lord of our lives is a lot like the vows we take when we marry. We promise to be faithful to him only and to forsake all other lovers. We promise to love, honor, cherish, respect, and to obey him always and forevermore. Yet, over time, we may forget the love we had at first for our Lord, and “other loves” may begin to take the place of God/Jesus in our hearts as our “first love.” These “other gods,” though, are worthless to us. They are merely cheap substitutes for the real thing. And, they can come in many different forms. Basically, a false god is anything we give our hearts, minds, emotions, passions, time and energies to over and above our one and only true God. They are what we turn to when we are hurting, in need, and want comfort, or to fulfill the longings of our hearts for satisfaction and/or peace of mind. They can be medications, books, music, TV shows, movies, games, the internet, social media sites, internet discussion sites, the news, pornography, romance novels (stories), travel, spending money, possessions, new things, entertainment, sports, recreation, physical fitness, careers, church ministry, and church activities, etc. These are all destined to perish. They are empty. They will never satisfy the deep longings of our souls, nor will they bring us into fellowship with our Lord Jesus so that we can follow him where HE leads. We Are Free! They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble!... ~ Jer. 2:27b-28a Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’?... ~ Jer. 2:31b Yet in spite of all this you say, ‘I am innocent; he is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? ~ Jer. 2:34b-36a This type of attitude and behavior is so prevalent in evangelical Christianity today. So many are teaching that “being saved” means praying a prayer to receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, that such a prayer thus guarantees us eternity with God in heaven, that Christ does it all, and nothing is required of us. While it is certainly true that we do nothing to deserve or to earn our own salvation, and that only through the blood of Jesus Christ can we be cleansed of our sins and made whole, we are also saved by faith. That faith is shown to be genuine by what we do (read the book of James). In other words, Jesus Christ died, not just so we could go to heaven one day. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for HIM who gave himself up for us (See 2 Co. 5:15). His grace does not give us a free license to continue in sin and to still have the assurance of hope of heaven. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled and upright lives in this present age while we wait for his return (See Tit. 2:11-14). This is why He died! Yet, so many who profess Christ have bought into the lie. They use God’s grace as a free license for immorality, like a Band-Aid to cover over their sin, while they continue in it. Yet, scripture is real clear that we can’t continue to live in sin and to know God, too (See Ro. 6-8 and 1 John 1-5). We who have been crucified with Christ have died to our sin, so how can we live in it any longer? Coming to Christ means we die with Christ to our lives of sin, we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and we are given new lives in Christ, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20). Yet, that is not what is being taught much anymore, thus many who profess Christ live just like the world, they follow after “other gods,” and they use God/Jesus as someone they call upon only when they are in trouble. God will judge his adulterous church, no matter what other people might be telling you. True grace delivers us out of slavery to sin. God is Calling “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ 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.” ~ Jer. 3:12-13 God/Jesus is calling to the church to return to him and to make him her only Lord and husband, and for them to forsake all “other lovers.” This is not unlike a call that a faithful husband or a faithful wife might give to his or to her adulterous spouse. He loves us, and he married us, and he wants us to be faithful to him and to forsake all others. For those of us who are married, we should be able to identify with this plea. We want our spouses to be completely faithful to us, too, and to not commit adultery against us. We are to be one in Christ, and we are to be one with Christ. That is how God created us to be and to live. All else is outside his perfect plan for our lives. Outside his perfect plan for our lives we will never know true peace, love, joy and satisfaction. We are designed to live for God, to live holy lives pleasing to him, set apart from (different; unlike) the world, and set apart for God and for his service, to follow Him wherever he leads us, and to obey his teachings. “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it.” ~ Jer. 4:3 If the church would return to her Lord in humility and repentance, and would make him her only Lord and husband, he would shower his spiritual blessings upon her. He would revive her heart, cleanse her from all impurities, restore her to fellowship with him, and she would walk with him all the rest of her days. No longer will she follow the stubbornness of her own heart, but she will follow her Lord Jesus with wholehearted devotion, honor and praise. She will put her detestable idols out of the sight of the Lord, i.e. she will discard them like garbage. Amen! She will no longer go astray. She will walk in truth and in the Lord’s righteousness, in the power and the working of the Spirit of God within her. And, she will be blessed of the Lord. This is the desire of God’s heart for his people. This is what he is calling his church to do, to no longer harden her hearts against her God, and to no longer follow after the ways of this sinful world, and after the gods our hands have made, but to humble ourselves before God in repentance, and to allow the Spirit of God to renew our hearts. Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane Jesus, keep me near the cross; There a precious fountain, Free to all, a healing stream, Flows from Calvary's mountain. Near the cross, a trembling soul, Love and mercy found me; There the bright and morning star Sheds its beams around me. Near the cross! O Lamb of God, Bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day With its shadow o'er me. Near the cross I'll watch and wait, Hoping, trusting ever, Till I reach the golden strand Just beyond the river. In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.