Sunday service, Erlo Stegen, 06 Aug 2017
Jer 3:11-14, “11 The Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt — you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord. 14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.”
There is no life on this earth without God. Without Jesus you have nothing and are lost forever. You can have everything in this world but be miserable and on your way to hell. “Fulfilment”, “faith” and “to believe” in Zulu is the same word as being satisfied like when you have had a meal. It’s a wonderful way of saying it. A Christian is satisfied. You don’t need wealth, possession or worldly pleasures because Jesus becomes your life. Throughout the Bible Jesus is the God of the living and not of the dead. He has risen from the dead. He is not like the spirits of the dead because He sits at the right hand of God. He is not like gods fashioned from wood. He is alive and not an idol carved from wood or stone. He loves you with eternal love.
Rev 22:17 says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life”. He offers life for free to all who come to Him. You don’t have to pay a thing. God accepts everyone who draws close to him. John says Jesus came to bring us eternal life. “The thief came to destroy and kill but I have come to bring you life in abundance.” (John 10:10) Jesus doesn’t just give us a little life, He gives us an overflowing, abundant life. Without Jesus you don’t have that life.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and told him to go and speak to Israel and remind them about their first love, when they followed God in the wilderness. Israel was holy unto the Lord. Be holy and set apart for Him.
God remembers when that first love burnt in your heart, and you were only interested in Him. You were young in spirit. You were like His bride and you thought of Him and He was your joy and you followed Him even in the wilderness. When you trusted Him, He protected you. Why? Because you were set apart for Him. He chose you from among many. He destroyed your enemy before you. You can replace the name Israel with your name in the text.
The Lord says, “I long that you will have that first love. But some have forsaken Me and made cisterns that cannot hold water.” They are like a leaking container. You put water in and it leaks out. This fountain isn’t ordinary. It has very special water which is the Water of Life. It is fresh and clear and pure. The amazing thing about this fountain is that it doesn’t run dry, but Israel forsook this fountain of pure, precious, clean water. He said, “You sinned in two ways. You forsook Me. I gave you the fountain of life. The second sin is you committed idolatry.” Instead of going to this fountain daily, they created their own cisterns and their idols were worthless. They were broken and ineffective, pathetic and a waste of time and left in a sad state. You wasted your time on worthless idols. But God is not pleased. He is jealous and doesn’t want you to run after other gods. Paul says, “I want you to be a pure bride.” You can imagine what it is like if you are unfaithful.
You can have a first love but you then drift and follow your own idols. God says, “I saved you and brought you to a land where there is bountiful food of the best but you defiled it and turned my inheritance into a defiled place.” So they say where is the God you served in the beginning? They prophesied in the name of Baal. God says, “What injustice did I do to you? Why have you forsaken Me so soon? How could you sin against Me? Have you forgotten what I have done for you and you follow other gods?” I want you to understand this point. People experience God’s judgement but when they repented they didn’t experience His wrath. Some serve other gods. Maybe it is money, sport, TV and internet, housing, cars and sexual sins, or unfaithfulness in marriage. Whatever it is in your life – God wants to be first and Jesus wants all or nothing. Total surrender.
God sent Jeremiah to those who had forsaken their first love and to warn them so that His wrath wouldn’t come on them. “I am married to you.” Imagine that! This is what God has said. Are you aware of that every moment? It is something we cannot fathom. You must be faithful to Him or you are living in harlotry. Are you fully conscious of that every day that He married you? The Bible says in Hebr. 13:4 that marriage should be honoured by all and the fornicators God will judge. God says you are His bride. What kind of bride are you? The word says marriage must be honoured by everyone and you must honour your marriage to Christ. Don’t love money, be content with what you have because He said He will never leave or forsake you. The Lord is my helper and we can accept His help and not be worried about anything. I will not fear. What can man do to me (Ps 118:6-7)?
When God called me into the ministry, I went to my minister and told him about it. But I thought of the consequences and I thought I would rather earn money and support missionaries. I decided I wouldn’t become a minister myself. I prayed and said, “Lord I want you to approve this. I don’t want to do it without You. Lord I have decided but please give me your approval.” So I took the Bible and read Matthew 4:18 where Peter was fishing and the Lord said, “I will make you fishers of men.” I was so angry. It was in 1951. I lived in rebellion and the next 18 months was hell for me. I had no peace. I would just hear something and think it’s the Lord returning and I knew I was lost, not doing His will. I took my Bible and read about God’s love. It melted my heart. I was rebelling but He still loved me. I read about Peter and how the Lord said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” I didn’t know Greek at that time but when I read it, my heart broke. The Lord Jesus said, “Do you love me with agape love, with God’s love that transcends everything?” Peter responded, “I love you with phileo love, as a friend.” If he had loved Him with agape love, he would not have denied Him. It was a challenge when He said, “Do you love me more than these people and fishing?” It broke my heart and I told my mother I must go and preach the gospel. I went to my father and told him and my father said, “Now I will have someone to pray for me.” What I have today is because I forsook everything. “Lord, I am married to you and want to be your bride.” Not because I loved Him first but because He loved me first. Today I can say it’s wonderful to wear His ring. Never take it off or fall in love with the devil or the things of the world.
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