Faithlife Sermons

Two Ways of Life

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Where you place your faith determines your fruitfulness. The place you place your faith determines your fruitfulness.

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Introduction

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
. . .
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
And that has made all the difference.
I took the one less traveled by,
- Robert Frost
And that has made all the difference.
Whom do you Trust? (Preaching Today)
Two ways of life described with two plants.

גֶּבֶר (geber). Man. As distinct from such more general words for man as ʾādām, ʾiš, ʾenôš, etc., this word specifically relates to a male at the height of his powers. As such it depicts humanity at its most competent and capable level. Sixty-six occurrences.

Two ways of life described with two plants.
Jeremiah 17:5–8 ESV
5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
This passage has the ring of a proverb:
‘Cursed is the man,’ ‘Blessed is the man’/ ‘Like a shrub,’ ‘like a tree’
With the authority of a prophet:
“Thus says the Lord”
The question to ask as we go through this passage is: Which describes your life? Not the environment - the plant.
Cursed life vs the Blessed life - Which would you like?
ILLUST - TV commercial “Nobody ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.’”
**Where you place your faith determines your fruitfulness. The place you place your faith determines your fruitfulness.**
Context:

גֶּבֶר (geber). Man. As distinct from such more general words for man as ʾādām, ʾiš, ʾenôš, etc., this word specifically relates to a male at the height of his powers. As such it depicts humanity at its most competent and capable level. Sixty-six occurrences.

Definition, description, prescription of a cursed life

What is a cursed life? (5)

1-4

Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Trusts in man - depend, rely, place security in
Makes flesh his strength - or “arm”
Heart turns away from the Lord.
Cursed life is found with a person who trusts in self, someone, or something other than the Lord.
Take a look back at the beginning of the chapter to get a better picture of what Jeremiah meant by a person who trusts in self, someone, or something other than the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:1 ESV
1 “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,
Jeremiah 17:1–2 ESV
1 “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars, 2 while their children remember their altars and their Asherim, beside every green tree and on the high hills,
(we are ALWAYS teaching our children spiritual lessons)
Jeremiah 17:3 ESV
3 on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory.
Jeremiah 17:3–4 ESV
3 on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory. 4 You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”
Jer 17:
jeremiah
How was Judah ‘trusting in man’ and ‘turning from the Lord?’ Understanding how Judah was trusting in man might help us avoid the same mistake. I see four ways:
they had hard / stubborn hearts (v1) - you don’t need a pen of iron with a diamond point for a soft heart - this is no ball-point!
Deuteronomy 6:6–7 ESV
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deut 6:6-7
Judah was doing the exact opposite
idolatry - ‘Asherim’ - wooden poles - possibly like totem poles - additional altars - only one true altar in the Temple.
God had given Israel good things (the Promised Land) and Israel had used some of that good thing to make ‘god things.’
Idolatry is not something stuck only in OT - Apostle John warned NT believers against idolatry - last verse of his first letter:
1 John 5:21 ESV
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
John Calvin likened the human heart to an idol factory.
It doesn’t take long for us to take a good thing and make it a god-thing. When it becomes a god-thing it becomes an idol.
it becomes a god-thing when you look to it as your source of power, protection, provision, or pleasure
God is the source of all of these things.
He may choose to use some good things in our lives to give us
The new job title that increases your influence and power or provides for us
The relationship that makes you happy or makes you feel safe and protected.
Marriage, children
Idolatry = Craving or experiencing satisfaction in anything that you treasure or pursue more than God.
Tim Keller regarding idols: “If I have that, then I will feel like my life has meaning. Then I’ll know I have value. And I’ll feel significant and secure.”
— Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
Idolatry begins in the heart, and it never ends well.
Materialism - ‘Your wealth and all your treasures’
Pride - ‘You shall loosen you hand from your heritage.’

What does a cursed life look like? (6)

Shrub in the desert.
I think tumbleweed
A faithless life is loneliness.
I’ve never seen a ROW of shrubs in the desert. The desert is a lonely place.
If people and things are your source of power, protection, provision, and pleasure then you will need to keep drawing on them to stay satisfied.
A faithless life is helpless.
“shall not see any good come”
seems out of sync from what we see - good things happening to the faithless
those things are short-lived - like rain in the desert (or rain shower on a hot, steamy day) it never satisfies.
It has no resources to bring full life.
A faithless life is hopeless.
“Dwell in PARCHED places of the WILDERNESS in an UNINHABITED SALT land.” - i.e., not a happy place.
Dwell - that’s where you’re staying.
seems out of sync from what we see - good things happening to the faithless
those things are short-lived - like rain in the desert (or rain shower on a hot, steamy day) it never satisfies.
>>If the other option is blessing and fruitfulness why would anyone live the faithless life?

How could anyone live this way? (9)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart”
— Unknown
The condition of our hearts prior to coming to Christ is that they are deceitful and incurable.
depravity - we are not fully depraved in that there is NO good within us, we are fully depraved in that there is not an area of our life that has not been tainted by sin.
‘deceitful’ = Jacob
‘desperately sick’ - incurable - there is no cure for the sinful condition of the human heart.
“Follow your heart” - one of the biggest lies that unleashed on the human race and it has its roots back in the Garden of Eden.
Following your heart will only lead you in a circle back to yourself. We cannot trust ourselves.
One writer has listed the eight reasons “Why You Can’t Trust Yourself” according to psychology:
1YOU ARE BIASED AND SELFISH WITHOUT REALIZING IT
YOU ARE BIASED AND SELFISH WITHOUT REALIZING IT
YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY (OR MISERABLE)
YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY (OR MISERABLE)
YOU ARE EASILY MANIPULATED INTO MAKING BAD DECISIONS
YOU ARE EASILY MANIPULATED INTO MAKING BAD DECISIONS
YOU GENERALLY ONLY USE LOGIC AND REASON TO SUPPORT YOUR PREEXISTING BELIEFS
YOU GENERALLY ONLY USE LOGIC AND REASON TO SUPPORT YOUR PREEXISTING BELIEFS
YOUR EMOTIONS CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTIONS WAY MORE THAN YOU REALIZE
YOUR EMOTIONS CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTIONS WAY MORE THAN YOU REALIZE
YOUR MEMORY SUCKS
YOUR MEMORY SUCKS
YOU’ AREN’T WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE
YOU’ AREN’T WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE
YOUR PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD ISN’T EVEN THAT REAL
YOUR PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD ISN’T EVEN THAT REAL
(https://markmanson.net/trust)
The diagnosis was correct; however he never offered any solution.
We are unable help ourselves:
ILLUST - Plugging a powerstrip into itself won’t work
ILLUST - Trying to wipe your own hands
We are dead in our sin.
Because our own hearts deceive us and there is no cure, Jeremiah asks, “Who can understand it?”
If the cursed life happens when we trust in self, someone, or something other than God, then
v.10 tells us that the Lord searches the heart and tests the mind. So he is able to tell us about how to live fruitfully with a blessed life.

What is a blessed life? (7)

Jeremiah 17:7 ESV
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
Whose trust IS the Lord (not has trust in the Lord)
The difference diversification of trust vs all in.

What does a blessed life look like? (8)

A fruitful life is planted in the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:8 ESV
8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

jer 17:
“Planted by the water” / in the Lord - all the resources you’d ever need are nearby.
A life cultivated in the
In contrast to the shrub this is a picture of health and strength
“Sends out its roots by the stream” - a strong tree will have strong roots. You can have a tree that is alive but without strong roots even the most modest wind will shake it.
ILLUST - the tree that fell on Adams Rd.
Sending your roots close to the source will strengthen you -
Psalm 92:12–15 ESV
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Where are they planted? Where is it that the righteous flourish? In the house / courts of the Lord. - In the presence of God.
** How much time do you spend in God’s presence?
You can’t stand strong if you don’t first sink your roots deep.
A fruitful life is protected by the Lord.

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

Notice the effects of the environment is the same for both the shrub and the tree.
Normally heat causes the leaves to wither.
Ever felt like that? An event of life hits you and before you know it you’re withered. You’ve used all your own resources and now you’re depleted.
the faithful life has a source strength to draw from when the heat comes - an inexhaustible supply.
A fruitful life is productive for the Lord.

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

While the heat may be temporary, a drought is not.
Where heat may be an event, droughts are seasonal - may be a short season or long.
“anxious” is sometimes translated as ‘dread’
What may cause another to wither will ultimately affect the faithful person
“anxious” is sometimes translated as ‘dread’
This is the consistency of a person that is well-planted in the Lord
This tree still produces the same fruit as it did with plenty of rain.
**How do you respond to those dry seasons? Do you show the same fruit in the dry times as you do in the good times?
We often face many different types of droughts in our lives that can cause dread / anxiety:
Maybe it’s that job you didn’t want but now you feel stuck - you’re not sure how long it will last.
Maybe your wrestling a recurring illness / pain.
Sometimes relationships are like droughts - there are people that end up pulling more from you then they end up giving to you.
If you are relying on any of these things to fill you up, you WILL eventually be disappointed - there WILL be drought.
** How different are you in the drought than in the rain? Maybe you can handle a little heat, but when your source of strength dries up, the praise from the job stops, the person doesn’t give you love back, do you change?
Philippians 4:11–13 ESV
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:19 ESV
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
There is a source much deeper than the intermittent rain -
If you draw from Christ in your drought you will not wither.
This is the abundant life Jesus talked about and came to give.
John 10:10 ESV
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
If you are not in a drought right now, it is the time to deepen your roots - don’t be fooled drought will come.
Even in the drought, the tree does what a tree is to do

How can anyone live this way? (14)

If turning from the Lord brings curse then it would stand to reason that the way of blessing would be found in turning TO the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:14 ESV
14 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.
notice there is no question.
God ALWAYS responds to a humble cry for help.
with the exact provision needed. (healing / saving)
Description (Picture) of a cursed life
Pathway to
Fruitlessness of a cursed life.
ILLUST - Plugging a powerstrip into itself won’t work
ILLUST - Trying to wipe your own hands

Conclusion

It really is true that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Jeremiah is right. Our hearts are incurable.
What we need is a transplant.
This is what Jesus came to do.
Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“plant” in is not the usual word for plant it actually has the idea of being transplanted.
When we trust in Jesus, he gives us a new heart. He takes our hard heart of stone with our sins inscribed on it like Jeremiah described of Judah, and he transplants in us a new heart, a soft heart, and he gives us his Spirit who is himself our unending resource no matter the heat or drought.
We are taken from the desert and ‘like a tree (transplanted) by the water.
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