Confessing your Idolatry

Jeremiah 2-3 is a scathing indictment on Israel’s sin.

The leaders have ignored God’s call (2:8) They exchanged the truth about God for a lie (2:11-13), which is the essence of sin. If that were not enough, they double-downed on their sin, going further into idolatry instead of returning to the Lord (2:17-19) .

In response to all this, God reveals their state:They are guilty and can not cleanse themselves (2:22).Graphically, they have chased other gods like an animal in heat (2:23-24). No self-soothed conscience can change the fact (2:33-35): in their relationship with God, they have committed adultery and are inheriting the consequence (3:1-3; 2:4-5).

It’s not a fun passage to read.

It’s graphic and intense. Also, it’s tough to read that and not find yourself in there too…I’ve gone astray from God, the fountain of living waters, and I’ve tried to find life apart from him. Idolatry is a real deal. There are a million things that demand your attention and promise the good life apart from God. Any honest assessment of your heart will reveal the ways you have wandered from finding life in Him.

 

In the midst of this reality, God’s gracious character shines forth! He is the merciful God (3:12-13) who will restore and care for Israel (3:14-17).

 

The one requirement?…”Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God” (3:13).

Not clean yourself up. Not offer a formula of penitence.

Simply, own your idolatry. Confess it and turn back to God.

 

Jesus is God’s mercy revealed and fulfills the hope of Jeremiah 2-3. He fulfills it not only for Israel, but for the world. Through Jesus, our guilt which we could not remove (2:22), is cleansed: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8-9.

 

God has been merciful even toward those who have run away from him. He offers life even to those who have sought life in other places.

What do you need to confess? Where have you turned from God and trusted in idols?

“Return O faithless son; I will heal your faithlessness.” (Jer 3:22) Confess and worship Jesus!

 

“Behold, we come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.” (3:22-23)

All other treasure is trash compared to Jesus!

Every other love is a lie.

Jesus, whose love is eternal, is the hope of my heart and my life!

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Weak Fools

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise: God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1: 26-27)

 

Christianity is not a religion of self-esteem. The Bible is not a place to find uplifting statements that will make you feel good about yourself. In fact, it is often the place where we are confronted by the depths of our own inadequacies. As I read this passage this morning, I started to wonder, “Is this really me?” Am I weak? Am I foolish? Paul’s answer is yes. God chooses the weak and the foolish to shame wise. If God chose me than I am weak and a fool.

Our weakness and our foolishness is not just a statement about ourselves. It is a declaration of the thing we put our hope in, the cross of Jesus Christ. This is what Paul calls a “stumbling block” to the Jews and Gentiles. Whether we are religious or irreligious, the cross shatters our expectations. It isn’t the display of power longed for by the religious and it isn’t the wisdom so valued by the world.

But, for us, the cross is wisdom and power and so much more. “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:24-26) It is only when we embrace our weakness that we may begin to see the God who triumphed in weakness on a cross. It is only when we embrace our foolishness that we begin to see Christ who “foolishly” gave his life on a cross in order to complete God’s wise plan of salvation. Being called weak and foolish may for a moment hurt my self-esteem. It may make me feel small. But, then I remember, it isn’t about me. It’s about the God who endures the cross to bring weak fools to himself.

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A Good Friday for the Outcast

“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:7-8)

Today is Good Friday. It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s the day we remember his sacrifice for our sins. It’s the day we remind ourselves of how Christ made a way to be forgiven and accepted by the Father. These are incredible blessings that we should meditate on and praise God for. However, if all we celebrate on Good Friday is what God has done for us, we fail to see the full scope of Christ’s work on the cross.

Isaiah 56 anticipates the Lord’s salvation of his people. For several chapters, Isaiah has been describing the servant of the Lord who will come and take the sacrifice for God’s people. However, lest God’s people begin to think salvation ends with them, chapter 56 declares that God’s plan is to bring in not just the outcasts of Israel, but the outcasts of the whole world. He wants the “eunuch” and the “foreigner.”

These are people who would not even be allowed to enter the temple where God’s presence dwelt. They were viewed as unclean and unwanted. But, the glorious truth of this passage is that God has given the outcast of the world a, “monument and a name better than sons and daughters…an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Is. 56:5) He will bring them to his mountain and give them joy. The marginalized of the world will be invited in as family of the king.

Jesus didn’t give his life simply to make a way for you and me alone. He gave his life to make a way for the world. He says, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:8) So, throughout this Easter, remember that Easter is not just a celebration. It’s a calling. It’s a calling to adopt God’s vision for those whom the world wants to reject. It is a calling to gather the outcast. It is a calling to invite those who do not look like, act like, or sound like us to come to Jesus because he has made a way for them. He has a name ready for them and a seat at the family table. Good Friday isn’t just good for us. It’s good for the world.

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The Invitation to Come

I love these passages in Isaiah 55. They begin with an invitation. The character and very nature of God is generous and inviting. He begins with the simple word, “come.”
It’s like God is standing on the threshold of his house. I can see him. He is excited, He is happy. He is welcoming. It’s as if God is saying, “Hey, are you thirsty? Hey, are you broke?” I’ll make you a deal, you don’t have to pay me, it’s free, you do have a part to play, you do have to come to me, you do have to listen, to hear me, but in exchange, I’m going to make you a promise. This promise begins in eternity and stretches on without end, forever! I know your condition. I know you are thirsty. I know you are empty. I know you have squandered your life chasing after the things which can not satisfy you! I have this great idea, I’m going to send you a Prince, a leader.”

Look for him. Seek him. Get up. Leave behind your restlessness and bad choices, He has something beautiful to offer. In His open hands, free for the taking, is mercy, love and pardon.

God is reasoning with his people, comparing himself to the rain and snow which come down for a purpose. They water and nourish with an end goal, to yield seed for the sower and bread for the eater. God cares about relationships & community. We don’t grow entirely for our own benefit! Our growth is also for the benefit of others.

The Lord himself, the word of God, the living water, He shall lead me out of my own personal exile. God will lead me by his Word, past and present promises. He will lead with such joy that all of nature itself will burst into song!!

This is Easter week! Easter, where God proves his love forever, and signs an eternal contract to all humanity with the blood of his son, Jesus.

Come! Come to the living water, and you will never thirst again!
Come! Come to the bread of life! And you will be satisfied! In John 6 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

COME!

 

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You are not forgotten

Great compassion…Covenant of peace….Everlasting and steadfast love.

These blessings ring all over Isaiah 54. As I was reading through this passage, God reminded me that I am NOT forgotten. Time and time again, I always find myself feeling like there’s still something I’ve missed out on. It’s so easy to get fixated on myself and think, “What about me God?!” During these moments, through the Scriptures, the Lord says to me, “Look at what I already have done for you.” It is in these times that I’m humbled and blown away by His blessings for me in the past and the present. The hard part though is trusting him for my future. Isaiah 54 calls us to sing, to not hold back, and to not be ashamed as the Lord reminds us, “…my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

When is the last time you’ve counted your blessings, listing down all the good things He has done for you? Have you given Him thanks for it all? Are you living in His great compassion or wallowing in what you don’t have? I become so focused on myself that I forget I am called to give myself to those around me. If He could be so sacrificial of His very own Son to die on the cross for me, who am I to ask Him, “What about me God?!” Then I am reminded that I am not forgotten. He has been at work, He is at work in us right now and He will continue to work in us! So, look up you who are low in Spirit and feel forgotten! Believe in what He has promised for you in Isaiah 54. His steadfast love will not depart from you. His covenant of peace will not be removed. He has great compassion over you! Take heart, you are not forgotten.

 

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Man of Sorrows

“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their face, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53: 3-4)

 

“Who has believed what we have heard?” This is the question Isaiah 53 begins with. It seems incredulous to read through the passages leading towards the crucifixion as the crowds mock aloud “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One” and “if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:35,38)

 
In the past I would have proclaimed pridefully: how could they– how could the crowd scoff and reject Jesus? Had they not heard? Did they not know that he is the true King they waited for so long? However, the past few weeks I’ve come to a deeper awareness that I am no different from this crowd who crowns Jesus with thorns. Many times in my life, as I have chosen my own way, my own kingdom over Jesus’ kingdom, I too have seen no form of majesty to look towards Him. I’ve seen no beauty to desire Him in my actions towards my own way (Is 53:2).

 
In the path of self righteousness and pride we hide our face like the crowd before Jesus; we look away seeing no beauty in a wounded, bloody man on the cross. Our fickle hearts and sinful tendencies also reject the marginalized and outcast as we selfishly look away and turn our face from the homeless, the immigrant, the refugee, the hurting and the other.
He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows as a community and individually. As the lamb led to the slaughter is silently stricken, Jesus satisfied our rightful place on the cross becoming an offering for our guilt and iniquity. We are counted righteous through the death of the most innocent one (Is. 53:11).

 
So, let us sing out to the hymn:
“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah What a Savior.

 

 

Today, I invite you to look to Jesus, the man of sorrows who poured out his soul to death to intercede on our behalf and bear our iniquity so we could enter his kingdom of justice, mercy and freedom (Is. 53:12). Taste and see true majesty and beauty displayed on the cross. Have we truly believed what we have heard?
Believe in Jesus who brings reconciliation to the Father and is transforming you to reflect Him even in the midst of sin, grief, pain, and confusion. Since “It will be counted to us [righteousness] who believe in Him who was raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25 )

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JESUS’ BEAUTIFUL FEET

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “your God reigns.” – Isaiah 52:7

In Isaiah 52 there is a prophecy of God’s ultimate salvation. There is a call to “Awake, awake…put on your beautiful garments…shake yourself from the dust and arise” for “on that day, they shall know that is is I (the LORD) who speak; here am I.” (Is 52:1-6).

So, good news, God’s salvation, resulting in new life. Isaiah, reflecting on this good news, says “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “your God reigns” (Is 52:7)

All this made me think of the sermon on Sunday, we read from Luke 23:46 as Jesus, being crucified, called out with a loud voice “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus was obedient to the point of death, yes even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Every breath of his life, even his last, was a testimony to the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the true fulfillment of Is 52:7. His every breath spoke to Zion: “Your God reigns.” On the mount of Calvary his hands and feet are pierced. He is crucified publicly, published to the world. But his cross has brought peace with God (Rom 5:1,9-10) and peace with each other (Eph 2:14-17). Jesus is the good news of God’s salvation resulting in happiness and new life.

At the cross, God calls us to a place where men might turn their faces, a scene tragic and ugly…and says: “This is good. This is beautiful.” It’s tough to see God at work in a man with “appearance so marred beyond human semblance.” It’s tough because I want to believe that God only works in the sunshine; I want a safe and comfortable glory. The cross is offensive because it challenges that assumption. The good news of happiness is brought through the cross…where my sin and death I deserve and the darkness over humanity are dealt with once for all.

Jesus’ pierced feet are beautiful. They cause us to worship and rejoice. God’s kingdom reigns! Peace and salvation are published, proclaimed to the nations from the cross. This week, worship Jesus with us and live in the happiness of the good news he brings! I can’t wait to celebrate Jesus good news on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday with the body of Imago Dei Church!

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