Monday, November 16, 2015, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Our Eyes on Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Jeremiah 31:15-22a (NASB). Bitter Weeping (v. 15) Thus says the Lord, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” There is much heartache and sadness in the world, much injustice, and much in the way of the innocent being taken advantage of, being abused and even put to death because evil people want to mistreat and/or kill them for political gain, in order to exert power and/or revenge, or in order to silence and/or to exterminate those with whom they have philosophical or religious differences. And, my heart goes out to the ill-treated. Having suffered abuse as a child, I empathize with those who are subjected to cruelty by those in positions of power and influence over them, i.e. by those who serve in positions of leadership over people for whom they are supposed to provide care, concern, help, comfort and nurturing. Sometimes I literally weep over the innocent being taken advantage of. I also weep over the wayward church which has been taken captive by manipulative and deceptive people who have convinced God’s people to believe lies and to reject the truth, in many cases. This deception has been so subtle and so gradually introduced into the church that many have not noticed the subtle changes that have appeared here and there over the years. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light in order to deceive people, especially Christians, because his goal is to lead them away from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ and away from his gospel of salvation, and to get people to accept “another Jesus” and “another gospel” which does not require either repentance (turning from sin) or obedience to Christ and to his teachings, but teaches that a prayer is all that is necessary for salvation and eternal life no matter how one lives his or her life after that. It saddens me greatly to see the spiritual decline which has taken place in the church over my lifetime (65 years), and keeps going downhill. So, I often pray to God, believing him to revive his church, and to restore her to fellowship with him, as well as I pray for the unsaved to come to faith in Jesus Christ and for the abused to be rescued from suffering. Promise of Return (vv. 16-17) Thus says the Lord, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. “There is hope for your future,” declares the Lord, “And your children will return to their own territory. Many times when I have prayed such prayers, and have wept over the wayward church, and the mistreatment of innocents, and the unbelief of the unsaved, the Lord Jesus has comforted me with such words as these. There is much teaching in the prophecies of scripture which have dual fulfillments, and which speak regarding the last days before Jesus’ return, which promise that God’s wayward people, i.e. the spiritually adulterous church of the last days, will return to the Lord, and that he will restore and heal them, and that they will follow him in surrender and obedience, and that they will now preach his full gospel so that many will come to faith in Jesus Christ before our Lord returns. And, this is my hope, and it is what helps to keep me going many days when that hope is not yet realized. I also believe that through judgment God will open the blinded eyes of his people so that they will see that they were deceived, and so they will turn away from the lies, and thus will be delivered out of their captivity, and they will now put their hope and trust fully in Christ and he will be their only shepherd. And, one day Jesus Christ will return for his bride (his saints) and we will be forever with our Lord. At that time he will wipe away the tears from our eyes, and we will no longer be sad. There will be no more pain, sorrow, suffering or sin. The beast and the false prophet, who deceived many people, will be thrown into the lake of fire, and the dragon, Satan, will be bound, so he will no longer be able to tempt us to sin. All who have suffered abuse will now be delivered, and all will be healed. That is hope! We are Chastised (vv. 18-19) “I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the Lord my God. ‘For after I turned back, I repented; And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’ Until then, i.e. until that hope of restoration and healing is finally realized, God is chastising his wayward people, the people of this sinful world, and the nations of this sin-sick world of ours. He says that he disciplines those he loves so that we may share his holiness, so we are all being disciplined. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:1-13). And, that is hope! The goal of God’s divine discipline, scourging, and rebuke of all his children has always been, and continues to be our holiness, our spiritual maturity, and for the conducting of our lives according to the Spirit and no longer after the sinful flesh. So, when the Lord disciplines us, we need to respond to that correction by submitting ourselves to God’s will for our lives, by surrendering our all to him, and by confessing sin to him and to those whom we have offended. Then, we need to move forward in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us in living holy lives, and in advancing the gospel of salvation so that many will be saved. Direct Your Mind (vv. 21-22a) “Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? When we have wandered off from the Lord, and we have gone off to follow after the gods of this world, and/or when we have returned to following after our flesh instead of the ways of holiness, and we are confronted with our need to repent, and to change our ways, we need to examine the path we took into captivity, and we need to reverse it. In other words, we need to retrace the steps we took that led us back into sin and back into captivity so that we can, in the power of the Spirit within us, reverse those steps on our way back to the Lord. It is called “Reversing the process of bondage.” Have you ever lost something? Or, have you ever noticed a sudden change in your health? Or, have you taken note of a sudden change in behavior of a child? In each of these cases, you may carefully examine what types of things changed, what new medicines were introduced, what new people entered your lives, or what new situations occurred. Or, you may retrace your steps in order to find your lost item. Well, it is the same process when we finally listen to the Lord, and accept responsibility for our waywardness. Sometimes we don’t know exactly how we got there, because the changes may have been gradual and subtle, or because we may have desensitized ourselves to various steps of disobedience along the way, and lied to ourselves, and believed our own lies, and so we need to take an honest evaluation of our lives and the steps of disobedience, so we can reverse them. For instance, if your sin is sexual in nature, which for many this is the case, then what was the first temptation you gave into? What did you do when you were tempted? What did you fail to do? What lies did you tell yourself? What lies did other people tell you in order to console you in your sin? What lies did you tell others in order to cover up your sin? What was the next step you took? Usually sin begins in the mind. If we entertain it in our minds, eventually it will come out, either through our speech or through our actions, or both. If we take the first step, usually we will take the next, and the next, etc., especially if we have no one to encourage us away from sin, and we have a bunch of people trying to make us feel good about ourselves even while we are sinning. Then, we generally rationalize and justify our actions in order to suppress guilt, and then the process continues and becomes cyclical if we do not, by the power of the Spirit, stop it and put it to death. In Hebrews 12 we read that we need to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us and the weight that hinders so we can run with perseverance the race God has marked out for us to run. Jesus said that if a part of our body causes us to sin, we should cut it off. I believe that is to be taken metaphorically that we should cut out of our lives those things which lead us into sin over and over again, throwing off the weight which hinders. So, first of all, I believe we need to look at what is drawing us into sin, and as much as is within our power to do so, we need to remove those things from our lives. For instance, if you have been struggling with pornography for many years, you probably need to cut out private internet access from your life, because that will always be a temptation. If you are drawn to watching R-rated movies with sexual situations, you may need to get rid of your TV and Netflix. You can’t have purity of mind if you continue to take into your mind that which is impure. You may need to also delve into your past, and see where you first began to sin in this manner, and what drew you to that sin, and you may need to pray and work through some of these wrong choices you made so that you can reverse them. Sometimes we get wrong impressions and we believe lies, and our actions are thus directed by the lies we believe rather than by the truth of God’s word, so we have to know what those lies are, so that we can dispel them with the truth of God’s word. In other words, reversing this process of bondage means undoing the damage that has been done in your life, and it means relearning new ways of responding, believing, and behaving. And, it means obeying the Lord every step of the way in whatever he tells you to do, whether it is confessing sin, removing those obstacles that lead you into sin, making restitution for harm committed, or whether it is simply to resist Satan, flee temptation, and draw near to God. Our Eyes on Jesus / An Original Work / April 23, 2012 Based off Hebrews 12:2-13 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Our faith starts and grows in Him, Who for the joy set before Him Endured all our sin. Scorning the shame of the cross, He sat down beside God above. He was willing to die for us, To save us, in love. Think about the opposition He endured from sinful men, So when you go through life’s trials, You stay strong within. Knowing all He went through for us Helps us not grow weak of heart; Not grow weary; don’t give up; And not from Him depart. In your struggle against sin’s ways, Resist not to shed your blood. Have you forgotten the words God spoke to us in love? “My child, don’t ignore it when The Lord corrects you; do faint not, Because the Lord disciplines those That He loves, of God.” God rebukes us all for our good; Share with Him in holiness. It produces a harvest of God’s own righteousness. Therefore, strengthen all within you That is weak and might give way. Stand firm in the faith God gives you; Trust Him and obey.