Monday, September 2, 2019

Standing Up In a Falling Down World 1: Courage Over Calamity

Standing Up In a Falling Down World 1:
Courage Over Calamity

Text: Jeremiah 1:1-19
Key Verse: Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver the saith the Lord. 


Introduction: We start a new series today that will deal with the lives of the exilic prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These servants and prophets of God lived in a climatic time for the nation of Judah. God’s punishment after decades and even centuries of warning had finally begun. Babylon the powerful, unstoppable nation from the north was invading, taking captives and conquering the land that once belonged to the people of God. Entire cities were being deported, thousands being killed or sold into slavery. Everything they had known was gone, the truths and morals they had always know were now ridiculed or even against the law and punishable by death Their world was falling apart, but God was not throwing them away. He had a plan and He had a message and he had people like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel to deliver that message. It was a message that told them to stand up even when their world was falling down.

Today I believe we can relate to that sense of living in falling down world. The truths, morality and foundations we once knew as a society are eroding away beneath our feet and though we don’t face an invading nation we are facing an invading political and societal force that is taking our children and our grandchildren into a different kind of captivity.

Do you recognize the society or nation you now live in?

In May 2019, Gallup released its annual Values and Beliefs, The poll interviewed over 1,000 Americans from all 50 states in early May 2019.
Gallup found that 77 percent of Americans consider divorce to be morally acceptable.
71% view sex between unmarried men and women morally acceptable. Only 28% think it is morally wrong. Only 58% of Americans believe that sex between teenagers is morally wrong. 18% said they think polygamy is morally acceptable. 63% of respondents said that gay and lesbian relationships were morally acceptable. That represents a 23-percentage-point increase in the last 18 years. 52% said that doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable. 42% stated that it is morally acceptable for a mother to terminate her pregnancy.

A Baptist church that meets on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, ordained a transgender woman to the gospel ministry. Erica Saunders 24, a 2019 master-of-divinity candidate at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Saunders will be one of the first openly trans individuals to be ordained by a Baptist church in the United States. Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., a congregation now led by married lesbian co-pastors, ordained Allyson Robinson, a transgender woman, to the gospel ministry in 2014.

In Feb of 2018, in Washington DC, Christian pastors were joined with a Jewish rabbi to bless a late-term abortion clinic run by Leroy Carhart. The Rev. Carlton Veazey led a prayer, “God of grace and God of glory, in whom we move and live,” he said, as he opened a prayer for the well-being of the doctor and nurses who facilitate abortions at a clinic here and for their patients. “Keep them safe and keep them strong. And may they always know that all that they do is for Thy glory.”

One of our political parties in America now supports the killing of babies in their mother’s womb up to the day before birth, homosexual marriage, sex education programs for children that teach homosexuality and transgendersim. This party stands for  total socialism and a society free from God and the hatred of Christianity. And they could easily elect the next president of the United States.

Just like Jeremiah and the Israelites that were transported into a foreign alien and immoral world, we now find ourselves in that same kind of world. We have not be moved but someone has moved our nation. The lives and lesson of the people of God during their exile has never been more important than it is to us today. We need to learn how to stand up in this falling down world, just as they did.

Let’s begin with the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, for in his calling to be a prophet we see an echo of our calling as Christians. In God’s power he stood with Courage over Calamity and so will we.

Call Jeremiah 1:4-8

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

God's Commission and Jeremiah's Omission

Plan and Purpose Vs. 4-5

God was direct and up front about his calling of Jeremiah. In vs 4-5 God says plainly “Before I formed you, I know you. Before you were born I had already  ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Pale Plea Vs 6

Then in vs 6 though we hear Jeremiah’s pale excuses “Ah, Lord God, Look at me, I cannot speak, for I am a child.”

Promised Power 7-8 Then in vs 7-8 We hear God’s response to Jeremiah’s excuse. Say not, I am a child for you will go to everyone I will send you to and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Don’t be afraid of their faces for I am with thee.”

Calling all Christians

Our plan and purpose. We also have a plan and a purpose from God.
We may not be called to be a prophet, in the Old Testament sense of the word but we are called continue the message of the prophets. We are not called to foretell the future but we are definitely called to forth-tell the fate of those who haven’t accepted the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Our excuses are just as pale as Jeremiahs, it doesn’t matter if I can't talk to people or I'm too shy or  I don't know enough about the Bible.” It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now because we have the..

Promised Power of God is in Christ

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

It was not about Jeremiah, nor is it about us, then and now it was and is always about Him! When we get our eyes off our weaknesses and on the power of God through Jesus Christ we will fulfill the calling that has been given to every single one of God’s children.

Illustration:  Good Company
There are many reasons why you would think God doesn’t want you or can’t use you, but look around, you’re in good company! Moses stuttered. Hosea's wife was a prostitute. Amos' only training was in the school of tree pruning. Jacob was a liar. David was an adulterer. Solomon was too rich. Abraham was too old. Timothy had ulcers. Peter was afraid. Naomi was a widow. By his own confession, Paul was a murderer, as was Moses. Sarah laughed at God’s promise. Miriam was a gossip. Gideon and Thomas both doubted. Elijah was burned out and depressed. Samson was a womanizer and ran with the wrong crowd. Noah got drunk. And just in case you still think you have an excuse not to be used of God, remember Lazarus?  He was dead!

Courage Jeremiah 1:9-10 

Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

God's Promise is Jeremiah's Power.

vs 9 It was God's touch that put His words into Jeremiah’s mouth.
vs 10 It was God's promise that would give Jeremiah courage.
And it would be God’s power that would be felt Jeremiah’s preaching

God’s Promises of Power 

Has God given us anything less than he has given Jeremiah?  Are we fighting a battle without the Word, the promise, or the power of God? NO! Look at the arsenal He has promised us as New Testament believers.

2 Tim. 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Matthew 10:19-20 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. 

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Power Unleashed In Proclaiming

And we like Jeremiah must understand that the power we are promised is only unleashed when we stand up and proclaim the Gospel.
Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth  

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

We must start taking God at his word. We must begin to believe that what God has promised is not just true in general terms or just in the history of the Old Testament prophets but in the specifics of my New Testament life and calling.
It is true, right here, right now, in this falling down world that I am called to stand up in.

Livingstone crosses the River. Lo! I Am With Thee

David Livingstone had spent sixteen years in Africa but had not faced such peril. The missionary was surrounded by hostile, angry natives in the heart of Africa. He was in danger of losing his life and was thinking of trying to sneak away to safety in the darkness of the that night. But something changed his mind and gave him peace and courage. He recorded it in his diary that January 14, 1856:
“Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and this teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus said: “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end to it! I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God!

Transition: If we believe and act upon the promises of God then we will be prepared for what often comes next, the calamities of life even in service to God.

Calamity  Jeremiah 1:11-19

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.  And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee,

God's punishment and Jeremiah's patience

The Coming Destruction vs 11-13

God shows Jeremiah an Almond Rod; in the Hebrew there is a play on words; Almond in Hebrew is the word shaaqed, (shaw-kade') and word hasten is shoqed, (shaw-kad') The almond rod represents God’s quickly coming punishment upon his people.

Then he is shown a boiling Seething pot; Jeremiah saw a pot tipped with it's boiling, scalding hot contents poured; southward upon Judah, a picture of unstoppable, violent nation of Babylon boiling into Judah and the rage and madness of the Babylonian invaders.

The Command of God. Vs 17-19 Jeremiah is told to fulfill his calling, relying upon God for strength.

“Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces. I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.  And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee,”

The Courage of Jeremiah. 

Were these promises enough for Jeremiah to face his falling down world? Was he able to deal with the calamity that was all around him?
He was beaten, ridiculed, accused of being a traitor by his own people.
He was called before the king and his life’s work, all the words of God that he had faithful written down in a scroll, was cut to pieces in front of him and then burned in the fire.
He was thrown into a well where he lived in mud up to his chin and only survived because God sent one of the King’s servants with bread which he would throw into the muddy water of the well when no one was looking.

Finally, at the end of his life when his prophecies were proven as true and he was recognized as a genuine prophet of God his final honor was to be kidnapped, taken to Egypt and there, away from his people and land  he loved, he died without honor and without a marked grave.

Considering all this, what then did the promises of God mean?
They meant exactly what God had said, that Jeremiah would not be stopped. That the message he preached would not be silenced and the work he was called to do would go on. Long after he was gone and after he had rewritten the prophecies of God we now read from today, the people of God drew hope from those promises. They heard and believed that in the midst of calamity God had not deserted them and that one day they would be called home.
And we are still drawing hope from that same message today.

Will You Answer the Call?

We are commanded to warn of the coming punishment of God. God has said, “This world will end in a terrible and disastrous way never known or seen before.” He has said, “People will die and people without the gospel will go to hell to suffer for all eternity.” He has warned us and we have seen the truth that, “Families, communities and nations will be destroyed without the foundation of God’s word.” We can see the evidence of lives being ruined and souls that are lost unless people find Jesus Christ.

We now live in our own falling down world. Who is supposed to do something about it? We as the church of Jesus Christ are called to do something about it! We have been called of God to forewarn the fallen, prepare the path and reclaim the wretched.

Jesus Christ’ Himself is our example of courage in the face of calamity.

When Jesus spoke at the synagogue in Nazareth He told of His own call.
Isaiah 61:1-4 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
Who are the they that Jesus spoke about? They are us. We who have found beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and the garments of praise to replace the spirit of heaviness.
Now we are those who are called to build up the old wastes and desolations, to repair the wasted cities and the desolation of many generations.

It is in the midst of calamity, pain and suffering that Christ is most clearly seen.
In the hospital room, who will your friends and neighbors see?
In times of pain and trial, who will your family and loved ones see?
In the loss of a loved one, who will they look to and find hope?
If you have answered the call as Jeremiah did then by the power of God’s promises they will see Jesus. They will see Jesus in us.
It is a falling down world but we as God’s church are called to stand up and it will always be worth it. 

I quoted David Livingstone already in this sermon let me close with another quote from him. Livingstone who took the gospel into the pagan heart of Africa and was so loved by those who heard him share the Gospel that when he died, they sent his body back to England but they buried his heart in Africa and built a monument over it to honor his service.

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward of healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?

“Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.” —David Livingstone

Conclusion: Called to Faithfulness

Even, in the midst of failure and loss, God expects us to stand and be faithful. Success by the numbers is for the spiritually immature.  We are not called to have the right look, but the right life.  Success or failure by the world’s standard is meaningless to God.  He calls for faithfulness, service and courage. In these falling down times nothing else matters, nothing.           

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