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Coming: A Place Where Everyone Knows the Lord
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Track 20 of 27 in the Transforming Story As God Gave It series
Running time: 37 minutes, 57 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Coming: A Place Where Everyone Knows the Lord

I suppose you've been watching the screen up here, you've been seeing these 2 little kids and it's been reminding you of that little thing you did when you were a child. Here's the church, here's the steeple and open the door and here's all the people. If you didn't figure that out, that's what it's all about. I hate to think that you're visually impaired and can't figure out those symbols. Just in case, we wanted to make sure you understood that. The problem with that little ditty we learned as kids is that it misses one fundamental point and that is, this isn't the church….this is. This is just a building. It's a nice one. It's a good place to meet. But we don't come here to church. We are the church and we come here. There is a real fundamental difference there. Probably we ought to concentrate on just a little bit more than we do.

I want to thank many of you who knew that my voice was giving out the last week or two and had been praying diligently that I would get through this last week which I did. I'm not sure the people on the other end are as grateful for your prayers as I am because I was able to speak all 9 times while I was gone. They might have gotten tired of it but I was grateful that you were participating and helping in that regard.

I learn a lot when I travel and one of the things that I am particularly learning this time around is that there's no place like Madison Park. Those churches out there are growing and doing wonderful things and they have great reputations and it's exciting to see what God is doing but there's just something about coming home and being with the people that you know and you worship with on a regular basis. That part is delightful and I'm glad to be back among you this morning. It was only a week but it felt like a long time.

I want you to have ready Jeremiah Chapter 31 or Hebrews Chapter 8. You can look at either place because they are quotations one of the other so they are identical. We're going to read from Jeremiah 31 here in just a little bit as we try to make our way into this idea of what it means to live in a community of people where everybody knows the Lord that we call the church.

I had the privilege a number of years ago to go to Canada and to speak at a thing called The Great White North Youth Convention. One of the things that we did there was among the most memorable events I've ever had in any kind of place where I have been invited. This whole conference was built around the idea that we are the people of God and that we are in relationship with Jesus. On the last day we gathered together and we worshiped God and then we had a mock wedding ceremony where we were the bride. Which is a good Biblical image. We took vows together of faithfulness before God with our Groom, Christ. In this vow of renewal of our commitment in this relationship that we have with the Father, we all said, literally, wedding vows. We participated in this marriage ceremony, at the end of which we were all given a ring that was made of a horseshoe nail to remind us of the nails that drove through the hands & feet of Christ to hold Him on a cross. I wore that ring for a long time until I finally lost it. I trust I only lost the ring and not the commitment that it represented. It was a really remarkable experience, and I remember thinking then even as I think now about wedding vows.

Have you ever noticed that wedding vows seem to be really one sided? If you ever listen to them they really don't have much wiggle room in them. I just wrote down some of the more traditional ways that people have chosen to say their wedding vows. I take you to be my husband or wife, depending on which one you are, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part. There was in "if" in there. Did you notice that? Just this is what I'm going to do. This is my commitment to you. I have found a bit more modern version but it says essentially the same thing. I take you to be my spouse, my partner in life, my one true love. One is a rather exclusive word, by the way, just in case you didn't see it on the way…. My one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with your & cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my hand, my love from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.

Do you hear in there that this is the commitment of one person to another totally regardless of what the other person does? In a wedding when 2 people stand before God and their friends and they take vows to one another, their vows are vows that are commitments of their resolve. It isn't based on somebody else's response, it's just based on themselves. This is what I'm going to do! They are covenants not contracts. There is a difference. A covenant means I'm going to do my part in spite of what you do. You may even chose to go so far as or someone else may go so far as to remove themselves from that relationship, it still does not absolve me of my responsibility of faithful love and commitment as long as possible.

Several years ago when Gail & I were in Seattle for a college trip, we took a picture of this unfinished freeway. It was just a remarkable picture. This off-ramp just curled around like it was going to go somewhere then out there in the middle of no-where it just stopped. It was really weird looking, frankly. Fortunately they wouldn't let you on it because if they had it was a long drop into somewhere. Probably the neighbor's back yard. It really communicated this sense of unfinished business.

N.T. Wright in a book that I was reading on the plane yesterday reminded me that the Old Testament story. The Old Testament story is unfinished business. Everything that the Old Testament was about was pointing in one particular direction. That was to the coming of the One who would finish the story. The One who was lived in anticipation of all of that Old Testament history. Unfinished business.

This transforming story that we've been talking about we started in Genesis we're working our way up through the other end of the story we'll finish the story sometime in another month. At some point we have to leave the Old Testament and come to the New because the Old Testament is unfinished business. It only lives in anticipation of what God is going to do. The story is simple. In case you forgot it someplace along the line, the story is this: God longs to live in relationship with you. He created the universe where you would have a perfect place to live in His company, to walk and talk, to relax, to enjoy, to simply live in the fellowship of God. We blew it. That's been typical of every generation of humanity. We just continue to seem to ruin the story. Yet, God's desire and God's plan and God's dream has always been, I want to live in relationship with human beings. Because of that broken story, something had to be done. So I want to walk back to Jeremiah, Chapter 31. Jeremiah is the prophet that was writing during the days of the Babylonian exile. Now we haven't covered that in our story but after the kingdom divided, after David's reign and Solomon's reign, we ended up somewhere 900 BC with 2 different kingdoms. The North & the South. In 722 the Assyrians swept down out of the North and literally destroyed the 10 northern tribes. Held them off, caused inter-marriages to occur, and from there those of you who have any interest in this from your New Testament studies that's where we get the Samaritans that you read about in John, Chapter 4. These half-breeds that developed after the Assyrian captivity. That left only 2 Southern tribes. We called them Judah. They were headquartered in Jerusalem. But even they couldn't stay faithful to God and so somewhere between 606 & 586 the Babylonians came over and swept away the southern 2 tribes as well. Destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and took people back to Babylon. That's where Jeremiah writes. In that context of there being literally no real sense of God's people left out there. So he says in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, Verse 31: The time is coming declares the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt because they broke my covenant though I was a husband to them, declares the Lord. I'm going to start over He says. I'm going to create a new relationship, I'm going to establish a new covenant because they've, well frankly they botched up the old one. The reference that He makes is the reference we've talked about several times. He called them up out of Egypt, they crossed over the Red Sea, He gave them the Law at Mt Sinai and they then managed to mess everything up and have to wander out in the wilderness, first of all for 40 years before they ever got to the Promised Land. Then they got to the Promised Land and messed everything up. Ended up in Syrian captivity, ended up in Babylonian captivity and so God now comes along and says: Oh by the way, I'm planning on doing this again only with a different covenant.

Verse 33: In this new covenant, this covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, I will put my Law in their minds and I will write it on their hearts. Where was it written before, by the way? On two pieces of rock. Was written on a stone tablet. He's going to contrast that numerous times in the New Testament between that old written code and this new covenant relationship in which it's in our hearts and minds. He says: I will be their God and they will be My people.

Verse 34: No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother saying, know the Lord, because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

There is that hope that is presented in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, which by the way is quoted in Hebrew's Chapter 8, starting at verse 8. It is a word for word quotation as the writer of Hebrew's reminds us that it is in the church, in Christ, that this covenant has been accepted and carried out.

Now there's some observations and some implications that I simply want to make about this if you'll allow me.

First of all and this I think you will probably find me strange. I think you're going to say, why is he beating up the straw man. I really do have a reason but I may not make it clear. The church has been planned from the beginning. It is the intention of God, has always been the intention of God, that there would be a church. There are people out there by the way that believe that somehow Jesus was going to come the first that He came, He was going to set up an earthly kingdom and He was going to carry out the plan that God had from the beginning, but because Judas betrayed Him and Jesus was crucified and not able to set up His kingdom, that God had to kind of put in a temporary thing and this temporary thing that He put in was the church so that He could go back, start over, and send Jesus the second time to set up an earthly kingdom. There is a French word for that, la bonk. I don't know if that's a French word, if it is tell me what it is because I don't want to swear at you or anything in a language I don't know.

Jesus failed the first time????? You've got to be kidding!!! Jesus never failed at anything! God's plan from the very beginning was that after Israel would come a new covenant and that new covenant would be called the church. In the church people would have a relationship with God. It was no accident that there was a church that came along. God didn't blow it and need something to put in the gap to hold thing together till He finally figured out what was going on.

The Law from the very time it was given was intended to help us get ready for Jesus. Keep your finger in Jeremiah or Hebrews, wherever you are but come over to Galatians just briefly. Galatians, Chapter 3, when Paul is trying to write to a bunch of Jewish Christians about their legalistic approach to becoming a Christian, he has this to say about our relationship with God in Christ. Chapter 3, Verse 23: Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the Law. Locked up until faith could be revealed. So the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come we're no longer under the supervision of the Law. The Law served one translation calls it a tutor, not exactly the best translation, the slave that is represented in the household in Jesus day or Paul's day, there was a slave whose job was to make sure that the children got to school and learned. They were called the tutor, they weren't the actual teacher but they were the ones who made sure that they got taught. The Law was in place in order to help us ready for Christ. To keep us hemmed in in the right place before God until Jesus could come. Until faith could come.

Then listen what happens. Verse 26: You are all son's of God through faith in Christ Jesus because all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.

Do you hear it? That's been the plan. That the children of Abraham would live in relationship with God and those who have been baptized into Christ and have put on Christ have entered into a relationship with God that makes them Abraham's children. That puts us into that relationship with the Father. God's covenant people are those people who have accepted the covenant. Who have entered into a covenant relationship with Him. We are the new Israel of God. The church according to Galatians, Chapter 6. That's one of the observations. Let me make a second one which is the follow-up.

This new covenant is qualitavedly new. It is radically different. I was trying to figure out you illustrate the difference between new and new. I'm not sure I know now. I should have brought an abacus with me. All of you know what those abacus things are with the little beads on the rods and people who know how to use them can count really fast and add numbers really quick. They are actually the precursors of our computer systems. The difference between an abacus and a computer is fairly radical. That's this word. This idea between new is not something that is merely more recent but something that is radically, completely different in it's approach. This covenant that God has created is yes, more recent because it came after the covenant was created with Abraham. This one is new and kind and the way that it is new and kind is that you enter it a different way. To become a part of the old covenant was really, be born into a Jewish family. That's all it took. If you wanted to be a part of the family of Abraham just be born into one of those Abrahamic families & you've got it. You're in. You didn't have to know anything about God. You just had to be born into the family. But in the new covenant there's a new entrance requirement and the new entrance requirement is really simple. You have to chose to come in! You elect to come in. You decide to be in the kingdom. It's your choice, nobody else's. No one else can put you in this kingdom. You have to chose that for yourself.

It's interesting that the image that He chooses is the birth image for it. However, you are re-born into this kingdom.

[Transcribed by VD8]