Living in Exile (Jeremiah 29)

Jeremiah 29:1-14 / Introduction to series on Lamentations
3 observations

#1 Jeremiah’s letter shared good news but not without the bad news.

  • Babylon was ungodly city ruled by idolatrous and immoral leaders.
    • Jeremiah didn’t want to write this letter, but he needed to. It took courage in the face of other leaders who contrasted his message.
      • Jer 2:8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me, the prophets prophesied Ball and went after things that do not profit.”
      • Jer 3:15 “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
      • 14:13-14 “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send the, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.”
      • 28:15-17 Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, ‘Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.’ In that same year, the prophet Hananiah died.”
  •  Christians are called to speak good news but not neglect bad news.
    • Cannot get saved from Jesus apart from realizing we are a sinner. This reality can take time and be hard to confess.
    • In conversations with others we must speak truth and love, and that may require difficult conversations. Growth happens when we share both bad and good news.  
  • We are on firm footing when we’re speaking God’s word, but we must be careful when we form opinions based on the preferences or precepts of a human. We need more Jeremiah’s and less Hananiah’s (cf. Deut 18:22; Jer 28:15-17).

#2 God calls believers to live where the grass isn’t more green.

  • People love to head south for the winter / or escape trials and suffering. BUT, Jeremiah was telling the people of God they were going to be exiles for 70 years; that’s a lifetime for most people.
  • God gave several commands to the exiles.
    • Build houses, live, plant gardens, eat produce.
    • Marry, raise children and family generations – do not decrease.

Contentment comes not by searching for greener pastures but stopping to work in your present soil. Likewise, Christian joy is not escaping the world but engaging it with the redemption of Christ.

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Christianity’s Relationship To Culture – 3 unhealthy ways and 1 healthy

Christians are like the Pharisees:
They avoid the culture by creating sub cultures. It’s the mindset that church culture is a bomb shelter; huddle up and hide. Christians become innocent but extremely naïve. The problem with this view is that evil not only exists outside of ourselves but inside our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Jesus said his prayer was not to take us out of the world but have protection from the evil one.

Christians are like the Sadducees:
They accommodate the culture. The church simply mirrors or reflects worldly styles and trends. In this case it becomes difficult to discern the difference between Christians and unbelievers. By default, the love of the world becomes god. The obvious problem with this view is producing god-substitutes rather than a clear difference and reason to become transformed by God’s grace and have devotion to Him alone.

Christians are like the Zealots:
They attack the culture for everything wrong that exists. They may be right in doing so but their methods are by far from honoring God or loving toward people. The church becomes known for what it is against and never what it is for or in support. The problem with this view is that it is arrogant and prideful. It forgets the reality that we are all saved by the mercy and grace of God. And it fails to offer the intended purpose of the gospel to transform others.

Christians are like the Disciples:
They seek to alter and influence the culture with the gospel. They understand they are not perfect models but they point to the One that is, Jesus Christ. They have accepted the call to be on mission with God to redeem a lost and dark world without hope if they do not receive the gospel. The church becomes very public and culture shapers while remaining counter cultural. Christians are sent as missionaries just as Jesus was sent into the world (John 17:18).

  • While we are glad for 2021, the previous year was not wasted. Consider what God taught and brought us?
  • What does God want you to build… plant… grow?

#3 God calls believers to not just live in an ungodly world, but love it.

  • Seek the city’s welfare (shalom) and pray for it, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. The message is to invest and not isolate from secular society. 
  • Remember, these were the people who had just tormented and tortured their relatives and nation. Jerusalem was attacked for multiple years by Babylon. The stronger army kept invading and deporting national and spiritual leaders, in addition to murdering people. Finally, they attacked and burned down the whole city and temple.  
  • God calls us not just to live among sinners but to love them… and love our enemies. This is how we know Christ is present in us, that we can extend respect to those who are undeserving and even grace to those who are unlovable. God loves the world that He gave His Son…
    • John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
  • Pray for the divisions in our nation/neighborhoods/… even church and families.
  • Pray and commit to #WhosYour1

APPLY/THINK

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know / the plans I have for you / plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

God is working together all things – even bad things – for our good.

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