Saturday, June 18, 2016

We Must Decide . . .

I am reading in Jeremiah this week and it begins with God calling Jeremiah and telling him what He wants him to do regarding prophesying to the people of Judah (never a popular job). In fact, God tells him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). Very similar to Moses and Gideon (and others) when they were called, Jeremiah starts pointing out why he's not qualified for the job. And, just like the others, God tells him what He will do for him, and promises the most important promise of all—the one God expects to carry beyond all others and to make all the difference—when He says, "​Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . ." (Jeremiah 1:8a).

God then tells Jeremiah a little more about what's ahead, and then says these words that are so powerful—and such a statement of the choice we as Christians each face. He says to Jeremiah, regarding the people God is calling him to prophecy to, ". . . Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them" (Jeremiah 1:17b).

And therein lies the choice. The reality. We must decide: "Who will I trust, fear, and serve?" It can't be both God and man! That's it. God says, basically, "I've called you. I've addressed your fears. I've promised My provision and, even more, My presence. So now you must decide—who will you trust, fear, and serve? What will affect your attitude and your outlook—man, or My promise and presence? What will have the weight in your life?"

I've often made a sticker for my office or laptop that says, "Do it all for an audience of One." I don't always live up to that—I want to be liked, popular, fun to be around, thought well of, etc., but it is my goal. God has told us that we can't serve both Him and mammon (money), and it is also true that we can't serve (in the sense of allowing them to dictate our lives and hearts) both God and man. His call will put us in conflict with our flesh and with its desires for pleasure, acceptance, comfort, popularity. Jesus warns us, the world will hate us as it hated Him . . . and His life experience shows us that even "religious" people can come against us when we teach truth.

The Israelites at the Jordan River faced a similar decision. Ten spies spoke doom and gloom about the inhabitants of the land across the river God had promised them. Two spies spoke faith and trust in the God Who'd promised it and promised to go with them into it. In this case the people chose fear—to allow the fear of man to outweigh the promise and presence of God. And they missed the promise. It lay there, dormant, just across the river and they never watered it with faith. As such it continued to lay there, dormant, waiting for someone of faith to bring it to life, while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness until they died.

In Act 4 Peter and John are called before the religious leaders and threatened and ordered to stop teaching or speaking in the name of Jesus the two men replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19–20). The early church. The prophets of the Old Testament. Christians in persecuted countries today. All of us seeking to love and follow God in a world of people we want to be liked by, and comfortable in, must decide—"Who will I trust, fear, and serve?" It can't be both God and man. And all of us Christians have the same promise given to Moses and Gideon and Jeremiah and Joshua. We have God's promise that He will be with us, that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He will be with us even unto the end of the ages. Not only "will" He be with us in the trials ahead when we must choose who we will serve, but He is IN us now, and He will be IN us then. No wonder they say our covenant with God on this side of the cross is even better than the Old Covenant!

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