Friday, 22 September 2017

Follow your heart??

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? – Jeremiah 17.9

‘Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong.’

How often do we hear this kind of advice? It seems to make sense, I suppose, without God in the picture. If there is no God then we are our own god and no one knows us like we do.

But there is a God who knows and loves us and knows best. We are broken vessels because of sin. Look at the world around us to see what it is like when everyone follows the dictates of their own hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

That’s why we see the kinds of news stories we see every day. Sure, man is capable of goodness and kindness and love, but the wicked heart of mankind is why we see the horrible crimes and wars and attacks that we see day by day by day.

We really can’t trust our hearts. They may get things right sometimes, but they simply can’t really be trusted. Eventually they will let us down and get us into trouble.

We need to be careful of trusting our hearts. In fact, we are told that we need to constantly keep our hearts on guard. We need to keep our hearts with all keeping because they tend toward the flesh.

Don’t trust your heart. Trust the word of God. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Backward, not forward

But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. – Jeremiah 7.23-24

God says ‘obey my voice and I will be your God. Walk in my ways and it will be well with you.’ But these people would not do it. They followed their own hearts and they went backward, not forward, in their spiritual lives.

I am preaching through 1 Peter and a great theme there in chapter two is the importance of growth in our Christian lives. Our goal is always to be moving forward and onward.

Why then do we so often find ourselves slipping backward? Or why does it seem like we find the Christian life so dull and boring and we seeing ourselves becoming complacent about the word of God?

In truth it is because growing in Christ takes work. If we just stop paddling upstream we are always going to drift back downstream. Moving on takes effort, floating back requires nothing.

The word of God tells us that if we have tasted that the Lord is good, we ought to lay aside certain sins and then crave the word of God so that we can grow on to perfection. We are to constantly strive to move on to maturity. Our time is too precious to keep slipping back to where we were.

Forget those things that are behind. Press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

We are delivered

"Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD. – Jeremiah 7.8-11

I was a bit amazed when I read this passage. I know I have read it many times in my Bible reading but was surprised when I saw the cheek of God’s people in Isaiah’s day. They trusted lying words. The stole and committed adultery and worshipped Baal and followed other gods. And then they go to the Temple in confidence that it would all be okay because God would forgive them!

How is that for a light view of sin? Their cheek! Their shame! Their gall! The utter neck of them!

Until we look at our own miserable hearts. Until we look at our own attitude toward our sin. We may not steal, murder, or commit adultery. We may not commit the sins that are listed here.

But still, how often do we ignore our own sin or treat our sin lightly because we say in our heart ‘I know I shouldn’t do this, but God will forgive me’ and then we go on our merry way?

When we do that, or something similar to it, our hearts should break.  When we do that we are making light of Jesus’ death on the cross. Every blow He took, every glob spit that was hurled, every step where He bore the cross, every cruel blow of the hammer on the nails, every ragged breath He took on the cross, every thorn that pierced His head and the jab of the spear was taken because of that ‘little sin’ that I don’t consider any big deal. When I choose to sin I mock the cross.

One of the criticisms of ‘once saved always saved’ is that it is a licence to sin. Do whatever you want and you are still forgiven. While eternal security is assured, it is certainly no licence to sin. God’s people will not continue in their sin. When we sin lets be aware of the cost. At all times let’s examine our hearts that our actions don’t mock Jesus on the cross.  

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lying words

Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.' "For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.  – Jeremiah 7.4-7

These people in Jeremiah’s day were in all kinds of trouble. They were religious; there can be no doubt about that. They went to the temple. They talked about it properly. They knew how to play the game.


They were unfair in their judgement. The oppressed the strangers in their midst and the fatherless and the widows. They shed innocent blood. They followed other gods. So they said one thing and did another.

Even then God reached out to them. ‘Instead of those lying word you need to do the right things in your lives.’

Anyone can say the right ‘praise the Lord’ words – how many of us back those words up with our actions?  Be a peacemaker, take care of strangers and the fatherless and the widows, stop the violence, get rid of all the false gods that have crept in. Then, God says, we can dwell in peace with Him.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Break up the fallow ground

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: "Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. – Jeremiah 4.3

This is one of those verses that I can remember back to the first time I came across it. It was probably 30 plus years ago when I had just started a new devotional guide. This was the verse and the question for the day was ‘is there fallow ground in my life?’

Fallow ground is that ground which now longer bears fruit. Sometimes lands are allowed to lie fallow as a part of crop rotation. Sometimes fields are just allowed to lie then for years and weeds and thorns grow up. The soil gets hard and even if seeds were sown they would not take root.

This fallow ground that Isaiah talks about can also apply to our hearts. If we don’t check ourselves we can allow our own hearts to get hard and cold.

That’s why we need to break up the fallow ground of our own hearts so that God’s word can take root there. We let our heart become cold and hard when we do not spend time with God. We all spend plenty of time in this world. We have more possible distractions than at any time in history. Facebook and films and sports and entertainment and work and family and friends are not bad things, but if that is where we spend all our time we don’t have time to spend time in God’s word. If we find ourselves more drawn to the distractions than we do to the word of God and Christian fellowship and going to church and prayer we can be pretty sure that our hearts have become fallow and hard and overgrown.

The answer is not that hard. We need to be less focused on the distractions and more focused on the Lord.  Pray, read the Bible, go to church, spend time with godly friends, pursue holiness. These pursuits will break up the fallow ground so that we are ready to receive God’s word into our hearts and allow it to bear fruit. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Changing gods

Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. – Jeremiah 2.11

This is a sad verse. God talks here about nations ‘changing their gods’ that are not gods. This is a statement that does not make a lot of sense to our ears today. I think the question is ‘do people really change their gods?’

The rest of the verse is what matters I think – ‘my people have changed their Glory for that which does not profit.’

That is so tragic. The first thing I think of is the church of Ephesus who had ‘left their first love.’ I also think of the prodigal son who had everything, but left it to go after that which does not profit. I think of Demas who turned back from Paul because he loved this present world.

Sadly God’s people drift from Him. Too often people trade God for junk that doesn’t really matter.

But there is hope. Over and over again, all though the Bible, Old and New Testament alike, God calls on people like this to return to Him. He hates to see them living for things that have no profit. His desire is that they come back to him and share in His glory.

Those who have changed sharing in God’s glory for worthless stuff need to return to God. He is there and He is waiting. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

They will not prevail

They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you," says the LORD, "to deliver you." – Jeremiah 1.19

One of the realities of life that we don’t like to hear or think about is that life is a battle. Right from the very start Jeremiah is told ‘the people of this land are going to fight against you.’ That kind of warning is not just for Jeremiah. In the New Testament we are also told ‘those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

So tough times are going to be a part of life for God’s people. As a rule the world is not going to like us. Our lives are never going to fit in with the world. We live for eternity, they live for now. We focus on invisible eternal things and the world focuses on the visible temporal things.

We can’t get lazy. We can’t get lethargic. We can’t get lackadaisical. The trifold enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil are not going to give up.

But the good news is that ‘they shall not prevail against you.’ They can’t win. They can’t win because God says ‘I am with you to deliver you.’

God is on our side. We cannot fear what man can do to us. Though the battle may seem hard and the days seem dark and fearsome we are going to prevail in the end because God has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’