Today: [Jeremiah 11] Is Repentance Necessary? In Jeremiah 11 we find the prophet declaring the people excluded from the favor of God because of disobedience. They had generationally drifted from the pure worship of Jehovah in to widespread idolatry and external dependencies. What about today? A demand of obedience implies the existence of an expectation upon our lives on God’s part toward us. What does obedience look like in the New Testament? Is the only requirement to simply be sincere in our love for God or are there specific expectations that dictate a turn (repentance) in our lives and if so is it relevant at all to try to exercise submission to a 2000 year old moral code?
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[Jer 11:1-23 KJV] 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed [be] the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, 4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day [that] I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: 5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as [it is] this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O LORD. 6 Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. 7 For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day [that] I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, [even] unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded [them] to do; but they did [them] not. 9 And the LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers. 11 Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
In this chapter the Lord speaking through Jeremiah reminds the people of the covenant made through Moses when they came out of Egypt. The word of the Lord that the people heard and consented to called a curse upon those who would not hear and obey the words of God. Is this precept still in force today? If we are disobedient does it result in instant and unsolicited forgiveness, or are we held in a place of detriment until we experience remorse and choose to repent? It has been said in the traditions of the church that there is no forgiveness without repentance. The Azusa street Pentecostals believed that there was no forgiveness without repentance and where possible repentance requiring restitution being made in behalf of offending parties. In short the question is if the Old Testament was based on a covenant and punishment was the result of breaking that covenant, what about those of us in Christianity? Does the New Testament require obedience, or is it simply enough to believe that the sacrifice of Jesus does away with all offense whether there is repentance, change of heart or not?
There are 29 references to repentance in the gospels. Matthew 4:17 teaches us that Jesus considered repentance a necessary contrition due to the fact that the kingdom of God was at hand in the instrumentality of His person. However in considering the gospels it could be maintained that the message was initially directed at people who were still under the Old Covenant dispensation because while Jesus was present, He had not yet paid the penalty for sin. After the penalty of sin was paid and Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father did the message of the kingdom evolve or change regarding the requirement of repentance and subsequent ongoing obedience? Or in accepting Jesus as our savior are we allowed to live out flawed lives of moral ambiguity while being maintained in a state of grace because of our more or less emotional affinity to what we believe is the living person of Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith? This is a very important consideration. In our chapter that Paul stated in 1 Cor. 10:11 is given as an example to us we find that the broken covenant of Sinai, intended to bless the people of God now results because of disobedience in the destruction of the nation, the city of Jerusalem and the temple.
12 Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. 13 For [according to] the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and [according to] the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to [that] shameful thing, [even] altars to burn incense unto Baal. 14 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear [them] in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble. 15 What hath my beloved to do in mine house, [seeing] she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. 16 The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, [and] of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. 17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal. 18 And the LORD hath given me knowledge [of it], and I know [it]: then thou shewedst me their doings. 19 But I [was] like a lamb [or] an ox [that] is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, [saying], Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered. 20 But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause. 21 Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand: 22 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine: 23 And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, [even] the year of their visitation.
When God’s heart was turned against the people because of disobedience they turn to alternative lifestyles and dependencies to find their deliverance. Is this permissible in the New Testament? If you according to 1 Peter 2:24 believe that by the stripes of Jesus you were healed, what is your recourse if healing does not come? Is it ok to go to the doctor if God does not heal in your instance? This is an important question for Pentecostals and Charimatics who believe in what they term “the full gospel”. Does the bible speak for or against seeking to medical wisdom? 2 Chron. 16:12 says that king Asa died because “he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians…” Is God exempt from making good on His word if we go to the doctor? Or is there a margin where we resort to doctors in the interim while believing God for a supernatural outcome. This is an important question because many Christians have died refusing medical treatment in lieu of (in their view) trusting God alone. Still further many Christians have held out in faith for their children to be healed and been detained by authorities and in some cases jailed for doing so.
Asa’s instance is found in the Old Testament, what is the posture resident in the New Testament regarding believing God for healing or relying on modern medicine. In Luke 8:43 there was a woman who came to Jesus who had bankrupted herself going to physicians and had suffered many painful and ineffective medical procedures and only grown worse. She resorts in a moment of desperation to believing on Jesus and is miraculously healed. If it is a sin to go to a doctor then you would expect in this case Jesus would tell her to “go and sin no more” but in fact He simply told her that “her faith had made her whole” and that she should be of good comfort. There is no indication that the woman’s mind had changed were medical science was concerned, so apparently she had faith in the midst of looking to God for help and in this instance she was rewarded again, with a supernatural outcome.
In verse 13 Jeremiah rebukes the people for their external dependencies which are describe as idolatry. They were different sets of idols in every city and in the city of Jerusalem altars to pagan deities were literally to be found on every street in the city. Because of this Jeremiah is instructed not to pray for the people because God has chosen not to hear them in the time of trouble because they have forsaken exclusive dependence upon Him. This is very sobering. When we are under pressure where are our dependencies? Do we without pause go our own way, doing as best we can or do we stop and consider what the mandate of God’s word is in our situation? The answer is the difference between answered prayer or going on our way without any intervention from God.
In the New Testament, excluding the gospels there are 37 references to repentance, both original repentance in coming to Christ initially and ongoing repentance and sanctity of lifestyle imposed and expected of converts after conversion by the apostolic leaders of the first century church. Acts 3:19 tells us “repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out…” The implication is that a person living in the dispensation after the resurrection is still expected to repent and seek a conversion experience and lifestyle of radical change from the former life of self-interest. Now some may look at this as a foregone conclusion but in the absence of altar calls, invitations to Christ and preaching against specific and ongoing sin in the life of a believer we have raised a generation of believers who do not have good teaching on this matter and are questioning why the promises of God are not resident fully in their lives.
Many teachers and ministers are hesitant to confront because they have adopted a seeker sensitive approach to church growth that makes the church goer a spiritual “client” who may reject a message that makes them uncomfortable. Hence, we must make a choice to return to the simplicity of this book and live lives where we choose to make ourselves accountable to these words and this message because it is very unlikely in the subjective, anything-goes-as-long-as-your-sincere climate of the day.
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