The Holy Spirit - Learning from Jeremiah
‘If you will return, O Israel,... then the nations will be blessed...’ (Jeremiah 4:1-2). We are not only to seek blessing for ourselves. We are to pray that others will be blessed also. The blessing of God is not to be kept to ourselves. It is to be shared. We are not to be small-minded people - ‘What will I get out of it?’. Jesus said to His first disciples, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. This is still His Word to us today. We cannot rest content with being an inward-looking Church. Christ has given us a worldwide mission: ‘You will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’. We are not left to face this great task on our own. Christ says, ‘I am with you always’. We do not take up this great challenge in our own strength. Christ says to us, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
‘One disaster follows another. The whole land is ruined... My people are fools. They don’t know Me... They are experts in doing wrong, and they don’t know how to do good’ (Jeremiah 4:20,22). We read the daily news. We wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’. We ask, ‘Where will it all end?’. Are we to give up hope? No! We must learn to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. We must learn to look to the Lord - ‘the God of hope’. He says to us, ‘There is hope for your future’. Do you feel like things are just going from bad to worse? Remember God’s Word: ‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’. ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Jeremiah 29:11; Jeremiah 31:17; Romans 15:13).
Jeremiah speaks of those who are ‘circumcised only in the flesh’. They remain ‘uncircumcised in the heart’ (Jeremiah 9:25-26). Paul tells us that ‘not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’. Salvation is not a matter of outward conformity to religious rituals. What we need is ‘circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit’ (Romans 9:6; 2:28-29). Jesus put it this way: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7). Many people have been ‘brought up in the Church’, but they’ve never opened their hearts to Christ. They’ve heard the Word of God preached many times, but they haven’t been born again through the power of ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our religious rituals mean nothing if, in our hearts, we remain unconverted: ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).
‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). Can there ever be anything more important than worshipping the Lord? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question! Very often, our lives gives a very different answer. We have taken our eyes off the Lord. We have forgotten that He is the true and living God. We sing the words, ‘O Lord, Thou art my God and King... Each day I rise, I will Thee bless...’ - but they have a hollow ring about them! Here’s a prayer to help you to make a real commitment of your life to the Lord: ‘Teach me to live, day by day, in Your presence, Lord... Teach me to praise, day by day, in Your Spirit, Lord... Teach me to love, day by day, in Your power, Lord... Teach me to give, day by day, from my wealth, O Lord...’ (Church Hymnary, 346; Mission Praise, 627).
‘The pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him’ (Jeremiah 18:4). This is what the Lord is doing in our lives. He is ‘the Potter’. We are no more than ‘jars of clay’ (Jeremiah 18:6; Isaiah 64:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7). Our lives are ‘marred’ by sin. It would be very easy to give up on ourselves. God hasn’t given up on us. He looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become. He is preparing us for ‘eternal glory’. ‘We are being renewed day by day’. ‘We are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17:3:18). ‘Jesus, You are changing me. By Your Spirit, You’re making me like You... You are the Potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way...’ (Mission Praise, 389).
Can our lives be changed? Yes! They can be changed by God: ‘I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord’. This is no superficial change. This is real change, change which makes a difference. This is a change of heart: ‘they shall return to Me with their whole heart’ (Jeremiah 24:7). How are we changed? We are changed by God: ‘I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:14). We become new people - ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11). This is the great change, the change that makes all the difference. It’s not just a little change here and there. It’s everywhere. No part of our life remains the same. Every part of life is changed. When there’s a real change of heart, everything changes - ‘all things have become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). ‘Change my heart, O God...’ (Mission Praise, 69).
‘Do not go to Egypt’ (Jeremiah 42:19). We may never set foot in the country known as ‘Egypt’ - but the spirit of ‘Egypt’ may be in our hearts: ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him...?’ (Exodus 5:2). ‘Egypt’ is an attitude of the heart. It is an attitude of rebellion against God. We must say ‘No’ to ‘Egypt’. We must say ‘No’ to the spirit of rebellion against God. For God’s people, ‘Egypt’ was a place of slavery, a place from which they needed to be set free by God (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-10). Each of us must choose how we will live. We can remain in the place of slavery - ‘slaves of sin’ - , or we can be ‘obedient from the heart’, stepping out from that place into the place of freedom, ‘the new life of the Spirit’ - ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 6:17-18; 7:6; 8:2).