Small Choices—Major Consequences

Jeremiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings
· 1 view

God desires that we choose Him and His ways. ‌‌

Billy Martin was a fiery baseball player. He kept on being involved with baseball as a head coach, still maintaining that fiery temper.
In his autobiography, Number 1, he shares of a time that he was hunting in Texas with his friend, Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who had a ranch, so Mickey proceeded to go inside the ranch house and get permission to hunt on the land. Billy Martin waited in the car.
Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he wanted Mickey to do a favor. It seems he had a pet mule which was going blind, and he didn't have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him.
Mickey came back to the car, hoping to have a little fun with Billy Martin. He pretended to be angry, and scowled, slamming the car door. Billy asked him what was wrong. Mickey informed him that his friend would not let them hunt. "I'm so mad at that guy," Mantle said, "I'm going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules."
Mantle drove like a madman, while Martin protested, "we can't do that!"
Mickey was adamant. "Just watch me.”
When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside the barn, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, he heard two shots. He quickly ran back to the car. He saw that Billy Martin had taken out his rifle, too.
"What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled.
Martin yelled back, face read with anger. "We’ll show that fellow. I just killed two of his cows!"
We can chuckle at a story, such as this. Personally, I wonder if there was some embellishment in Billy Martin’s writing. However, we can still easily see that the choice to deceive, led to a major consequence, which was not at all positive.
Today, as we look at Jeremiah 3.6 - 4.4, we see how the people got involved in sin, and began practicing with an even greater skill, on how to sin even more. We see that all is not hopeless and lost, however, for God gives a plea for the people to return to him. Then He explains what is involved when the people genuinely return to God.
The good news for us is that we don't have to be stuck on a downward spiral. We don't have to be trapped on a spiritual roller coaster. God can "lift us up out of the miry pit, "as the psalmist wrote.
God desires that we choose Him and His ways.

Choosing a Faulty Philosophy - 3.6-11

In this section, we read about God describing the scene and the background. This message to Jeremiah came around 620 BC, during king Josiah's reign. This would have been nearly 100 years after the northern kingdom (which is sometimes referred to as Israel) had been captured by the Assyrian nation.
You will recall that there was not a single godly king in the northern kingdom. In fact, as you look at their history in 1 and 2 Kings, as each king is laid to rest, the author states this: . . . he walked in the way of his father and mother, and in the ways of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. In other words, there was blatant disregard for God's ways.
Yet, even after the northern kingdom had been captured, the southern kingdom, (also known as Judah), didn't seem to take notice of the lesson. By rights, Judah should have returned to the Lord. They should have repented of the wrong they were doing, but they kept sinning. In fact, during Josiah's spiritual reforms, we understand that the nation returned only in outward appearance, not with their hearts. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister, Judah, did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense…
Many of us have observed the harm that can come when any people practice a lifestyle of sin. That should serve as a reminder for us to avoid sin. Most of us don't have too much of a problem, avoiding blatant obvious sins.
However, we can begin to worship our own forms of idols. We can see in some churches where there is a clinging to traditions, while avoiding any change that could be beneficial. We see how that has had a detrimental effect on the overall church. Yet, I am not sure that individuals can see it as easily when they are in the midst of it. How do we truly know when we have claimed to worship God, yet we're really worshiping our structure and procedures?
Let me share some phrases that may sound familiar to some of you. These phrases can sometimes be warning signs.
"So what's wrong with what we have?" Implied in that question is the idea that if a change needs to happen to make ourselves more able to meet today's challenges, then what is currently in place is being attacked. It's a personal possessiveness to what we have become comfortable doing. Maybe this was the thinking of the Pharisees when Jesus gave the theological counterpoint to the law of Moses. They chose to hang onto their rules and regulations to make people fit their mold. They chose a faulty philosophy, which kept them from experiencing the power of God. The law of Moses was not meant to save, but to show how impossible it was for people to save themselves.
Here's another phrase: "we've never done it that way before." Or, a more modern version might be, "it worked fine for us when we were that age…” What would Paul have said if he had adopted that mentality? Would he have said, "make all people adjust to you, no matter what their background. After all, that's how you've experienced church. It should be good enough for them." That would have stopped many evangelistic and missionary activities. Personally, I prefer when he says, "I have become all things to all men, so that all possible means, I might win some."
Jesus did not say to his disciples, "I've got a great message for you to give to people. You don't have to change your lifestyle. You don't have to change your methods. You can keep things pretty much the way you have them now. If someone really wants to hear, they can come to you on your terms." Instead, Jesus told his disciples, Come and follow me. I will make you fishers of men. Not only did their lifestyles change, so did their comfortable way of thinking. And even as they were sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, their methods had to change over time, so as to reach as many as possible.
You and I have that unique danger of not learning from past mistakes. We can make superficial adjustments and still fall into the same trap as those who have watched their churches die or merely exist. We could be like Judah, not learning from Israel's mistakes. We can find ourselves getting caught up and worshiping that which our own hands have made. The spiritual leaders in Jesus’ time did the same thing with their extra rules and regulations.
Procedure, methods, programs are not sacred. The message of the Word of God, however, can never change. God desires, that we choose Him and His ways, not a faulty philosophy.

Choosing to Confess Failure - 3.12-21

God reminds Judah of some information that should have been known already. Just like you and I, we know what the Bible says. But sometimes, we need a firm nudge to wake us up to what needs to be done.
God shares some basic things which must be done. These can apply to us, as well. First, there is the need to return to God.
Secondly, there is the need to acknowledge guilt. Obviously, the guilt was because of the fact that they had rebelled against God. They had chosen to not obey God. In fact, they had chased after that which was in total opposition to God.
We are sometimes like Israel was. In our blindness, we go a certain way, convincing ourselves that that is the right way. Nobody, in our minds, will be able to pin any blatant label of sin on it. The reason we believe this is that it is acceptable to those in the community, as well as comfortable with those in the church.
It was the same way with Israel. God tells them if they would return to Him and acknowledge their guilt, He would once again give you Shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. He would provide them an inheritance and treat you like sons.
Sadly, Israel would have none of it. They chose to be unfaithful. God pleaded with them, but they would not return.
God gave them a choice, just as He gives us. The question boils down to whether we are even interested in listening to his plea to return.
Often the question comes as to what would actually be involved. How can I know if there is a genuine return to God?

Choosing to Faithfully Follow - 3.22 - 4.4

I believe that first of all, there ought to be a recognition that the Lord God is the only hope. Everything else is garbage. Listen to what should be said: Yes we will come to you for you are the Lord our God. Surely that idolatry commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.
Secondly, there cannot be any glossing over the sins of the past. There must be a recognition and an agreement with God that sin is sin. There is no justification nor excuse nor rationalization for it. It simply was a shameful stubbornness and a willful disobedience on their part which took the people away from God.‌
I believe that same thing is necessary for today. There needs to be a recognition, first of all that the Lord is God. In our case, Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church. The pastor is not; the deacons or elders are not; the leadership teams are not; the programs are not; tradition is not. Jesus Christ alone is the head of the church and Lord of those who make up the true church of Christ.
In addition, we need to be willing to recognize sin for what it is. Nearly everyone can recognize the sin of adultery. Anybody can recognize the sin of murder. Anybody can recognize the sin of robbery. But we also must be willing to agree with God, that gossip, slander, envy, possessiveness, pride; all of these are sin, as well. There must be a willingness to repent of all sin. And it must be done so openly. That means we seek God’s forgiveness, first. Then we will need to go to individuals and openly admit our sin and ask for their forgiveness. We may need to ask for some time with a group or a family, in order to say, "I am sorry for sinning against you. I did thus and so. Would you please forgive me?"
In our desire and search for revival, there is not only a need for prayer, but there is also a need for reconciliation, as well.
‌Look again at what God says to his people, in 4.1: If you will return, oh Israel, return to me… In other words, if you're going to return, then do it. God is always ready. We have no business in delaying the process.
There is a story in which a teenage girl had a fight with her father and stormed out of the house. She spent the next several years, never speaking to him. He was on his deathbed when she was in her 20s. He requested that his nurse called his daughter and asked her to come immediately to him.Then he asked for a piece of paper and pencil. When the nurse went out to make the call, the daughter was surprised and shocked. She came as quickly as she could, but it was too late. Her father had died.
There is a good side to the story. The father had written a note of forgiveness and love to his daughter. The sad part of the story is that the daughter had not come back for fear that he could never forgive her.
My friends, if you're going to return to God, then do it. He is ready and willing to forgive and to restore that relationship that has been so damaged by your sin.
If you put your idols out of sight, and no longer go astray… We cannot hang onto those things which would dare take the place of God, preventing us from following in his ways. We cannot come back to God, while calling sacred those things which both God and we know are merely tools we’ve created. If a person chooses to go back to God, there has to be a commitment to worship Him only.
… And if in a truthful, just and righteous way, you swear, "as surely as the Lord lives,” then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory… We cannot play games with God. He knows our hearts. We can fool other people, but never God. Simply saying the right words and shedding a tear at the appropriate times do not touch God. There must be an absolute willingness to allow God to reshape us into the godly, righteous people he wants us to be. It is not to be done just for the sake of outward appearance.
Break up your unplowed ground, and do not sew among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts… We need to willingly set ourselves apart for God; we need to be willing to make a fresh start. We must be willing to go on journeys with God, which are not known by us, yet.
Then God concludes this section by pointing out the doom and destruction that awaits the nation if the return is not genuine and real. There is a choice, but God's desire, for then and now, is that we repent and choose Him and His way rather than the way of destruction.


It is so easy to go along with the status quo; whether it be in our society or our church in its program and ministries. We can see all around us ministries and organizations that have gone the way of the graveyard because of a refusal to follow God's directions. Those people were more concerned about following their own procedure and program, rather than being willing to follow God. We need to learn from them and not do as Judah; blindly following along what has been done in the past by their own brothers.
In addition, we must be careful to not become so caught up in our lives today, whether it be in church activities or community involvement, or in work, that we are unwilling to hear God calling us to return to Him. Don't be so proud of your past accomplishments and blessings that you cannot hear God plead for you to come home. Choose to confess your failure and sin.
Then, when you have recognized the wrong direction you have been following; when you have heard God pleading with you to come back; then do that – come back to Him. Acknowledge the fact that He alone is God and Lord. Be willing to confess and repent of your sins. The reality is, that in faith, the Lord will accept you with open arms. And if you have chosen to serve Him in whatever way, He chooses; be assured that God will use you in a mighty way as you venture forth on unplowed ground for our Lord.
God desires that we choose Him and His ways.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more