Jeremiah 7:1-7 "This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Stand at the gate of the LORD's house and there proclaim this message: "`Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!" If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever."
When we are forced to alter our situations, what is really happening is that we are going outside of our comfort level. We are being made to expand our thinking and our reasoning. We are being made to examine things that up to that point, we had no real reason to examine. We are caused to view ourselves and situations in a light that is not always pleasant, but we must examine them nonetheless. In short, change often requires us to think.
If we look that the major events in history, particularly in the history of black people, we see that change, the change of ideals and the change of values, has been an ever present and ever revolving circumstance.
And change, even though it is for the good of all, is not always welcomed and accepted. Often it is views with disdain and suspicion, with jealously and envy, with misunderstanding and misinformation. And even if the change is made by God, for a God purpose and a God reason that none of us mortal beings can understand, we still don't like it.
In this set of scriptures, we have Jeremiah telling the words that were given to him by the Lord. The Lord tells the people of Judah to reform themselves, to change themselves. And that if and when this change takes place, the Lord will let them dwell in the temple of the most high. The Lord then goes on to caution the people of Judah, telling them do not listen to those who in a deceptive and non- trustworthy manner will proclaim that "This is the temple of the Lord." The residents of Judah are told that if they deal with each other in a just manner, that if they do not oppress the stranger that comes by them, if they do not oppress the fatherless and the widows, if they do not shed the blood of those who are innocent, then the Lord will give them a place to live, the land of their ancestors, and they will be able to live there forever.
If you go down a little further in this scripture, you will see that the Lord continues challenge the thinking of the residents of Judah. He cautions them, in effect, not to get so comfortable that they can sin whenever they like, then return to the house of the Lord as if nothing happened. He then points out the example of what happened to the people of Israel as evidence of people who sin and sin, without thinking that they will face retribution from the Lord.
So we have the words of the Lord, clearly stated here, which tells us, yet again, how we are to act with one another. We are told to change ourselves and how we think, we are told not to oppress anyone, and not to get so comfortable that we think everything we do is alright in the eyes of God.
God is a God of change. He is a God of action. He is the god of all those who believe that if you have a just cause, if you are doing things in a manner which benefits all, then you will be rewarded. He is a God who believes in help for the poor, the afflicted, the downtrodden. A God who believes in giving His people the means to uplift those who need help the most.
But God is not challenging us to change our outward situations in this scripture. He is telling us to change ourselves from the inside. He is telling us that by changing how we view and deal with people, by changing how we treat people, there will be a place for us. He is telling us that how we treat others directly impact on how He will treat us.
So we have God telling us we must change ourselves and that we must look at things with a different light. What do we do now? How do we change things?
We must look at what God himself has done. Each time God wanted something done, he performed a radical change. From the creation of the world, to the great flood, to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, each time God wanted something done, everyone took notice.
But the greatest change that God made was Jesus. Jesus represents the greatest change in the world since the great flood. It was with Jesus that God renewed old covenants, fulfilled promises and prophecies. It was with Jesus that change itself was personified.
The changes came in how people were to view God. No longer was the ever present fire and brimstone God. No longer was there a God of anger and wrath. A God of love and compassion was introduced to a people who did not see it in the writings of the Old Testament. A God a hope or joy and jubilation. And while the Old Testament writers depicted a God with all of these traits, Jesus embodied all of the traits of God that people had chosen to ignore.
But it did not end there. Jesus offered salvation, changing the way people could come to God. No longer were sacrifices and burnt offerings needed. No longer did people have to kill off their livestock or hold to rigid dietary rules. An image of a new heaven was offered. With Jesus, as the Son of both Man and God, all of these things were not changed.
But with as many things has Jesus changed, many things remained the same. The necessity for men and women to love their neighbors was upheld. The need for treating others in a kind and compassionate manner, of thinking of others before you thought of yourself — these are some of the things that Jesus brought — that God changed.
The sacrament of holy communion, of baptism, to be born again — all of these things are changes that Jesus brought, and the world has never been the same.
But yet, with all of the wonderful and majestic attributes that Jesus brought to us, people were still resistant to the change that the Son of God brought. The Gnostics, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Romans, the Greeks, the Jews, and even some of his own followers were not always ready to accept the changes that Jesus brought.
Jesus met opposition on every step of his ministry. There was almost always someone who was challenging the authority that Jesus had. Never mind all the miracles that he performed. Never mind all of the people that he healed. Never mind that here was a man who spoke in a manner which no man before or since has spoken. Never mind that everything that Jesus was taught was supported by scripture, people still resented and resisted his authority.
One of the reasons that people were not prepared to accept Jesus as the savior is the same reason that people have today. They are not ready to accept the change that Jesus brings in someone's life. They were or are not prepared to become a new creature in this person that we call The Christ. They were or are not prepared to give up what they know for that which they know nothing about. They are not prepared to step out on faith, to take a chance in this person who asks for so little but gives so much in return.
We seem to be unwilling to, as I said earlier, leave our comfort zones. We want to stay with what we know and have been used to. We are not always willing to fully submit to what God has in store for us, instead we get the notion that somehow, we know best. Somehow, we have all the answers and we only listen to God when it is convenient for us to do so.
When Christ walked the earth, he spoke of totally submitting yourself to God. He taught us that we are to obey the laws that he brought without fail, without excuse, without equivocation. We are to obey the word of God and that's that. No matter how hard it may seem or how difficult a task it may be, if we are true children of God then it is incumbent upon us as Christian to follow God totally and not pick and choose what we want to follow.
So if God wants us to change, then we must accept that change. If God wants us to resist change, then we must resist that change. But remember that when God wants something done it gets done with or without us. He gives us changes because he loves us and he wants us to become all that he has destined for us to receive. And we cannot always receive those things if we are constantly second guessing him to challenging his authority.
I want us to think back to the times before we truly knew God. Before we truly accepted Jesus. Think back to the time when the notion of God was a pleasant thought, but not an everyday reality in our lives. Think back to the time when Jesus was more of a historical figure than the Savior of Man. Think back to the time when Jesus was a nice concept, but not really a reality in our lives.
Then think about how we are now. How much stronger we are with Jesus. How much more content we are knowing that we have a father in heaven that loves us. Think about how much it means to know that someone gave up their life and rose from the dead and walked again so that you and I might have a better life. Think about the person you are now and the person you were then. Think about how during the rough times how much rougher it would have been without Jesus. Think about all the sad times and how much more sad you would have been if you had no faith in God. Think about the change in your own life, and how much better it is with God.
So I challenge you this morning to accept the change that God has placed in your life. How God does not want us to fall prey to the deceptive words and deceptive actions. How God wants us to reside in his land forever more. How he wants to us change the way we view the stranger, the fatherless, the widows and the oppressed. How we wants us to change ourselves so that we become new creatures in Christ. How he wants us to change ourselves so that whatever force tries to combat us will not prevail against us. How he wants us to follow him, to follow Jesus and to follow the word of God.
Change may be scary at first. But I am here to tell you this morning that change is wonderful. That when you become a changed creature in Christ, when you follow him without question and without reservation, the hard times aren't as hard, the rough times aren't as rough. Sure you may be sad, but that sadness is coupled with a joy that despite all, God loves us. That despite all, Jesus rose from the dead for us. That despite all of our doubts, all of our fears, that there is a place in heaven for us, where nothing can harm us, where nothing abides but joy and jubilation and peace.
This morning, make the change. Make the change for a better life. Make the change for God. Make the change for Jesus. And make the change for your own soul.
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(Charles E. Smoot © 2000-2009, all rights reserved)