Sermon – Pentecost 10 – August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 23:16-29; Luke 12:49-53 ‘God’s Hammer’
CT: We can thank God that He is tough on sin. In Jesus He has divided us from it that we would be His. These eternal consequences often set us at odds with the world.
Intro: Sometimes the best way to check the weather is to look outside. It’s easy to make light of the accuracy of weather reports; it’s the only job where you can be wrong and still be right. But we do depend on those forecasts when we go fishing or head out on a winter highway. Working with the best science we have, meteorologists are the first to warn of a violent storm approaching. Maybe your cell phone gave you the taste of a tornado warning this summer? And those warnings are good because violent weather still takes many lives each year.
Coming Storm: Both Jeremiah and Jesus spoke openly about a coming storm. Jeremiah told of the storm of the Lord, and Jesus of a fiery storm. Neither of them sugar coated sin or its consequences; they spoke bluntly and urgently for our sake. Sin’s storms cause greater violence than any weather pattern known on earth, taking more lives that we can possibly count.
Jesus said He came to cast fire on the earth—to be baptized into His own suffering and death, dividing one person from another. In a similar way He told of the coming judgement in Matthew 25, when He will separate the sheep from the goats; believers divided from unbelievers—the saved from those who are not saved. Speaking the truth about the divisions sin causes is never easy. It’s not salvation that divides; sin does; it separates you from God!
Jeremiah was called to uproot and tear down—to plant and to build—to speak God’s Word of Truth. It made people uncomfortable, and many out to be liars. Jeremiah’s job was not easy, for people, even today, would rather listen to what they want to hear; to those who say it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. Or do what you want; God is a nice guy who won’t hold it against you! If only the people in Jeremiah’s day would have listened to God’s council, they would have turned from evil and death toward forgiveness and life. Instead, according to God’s Word, King Zedekiah was given into the eye of the storm of the Lord; Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar swung a pretty big hammer! God’s Word is still like fire and a hammer in sharp opposition to all that would lead us astray.
Re-label Sin: Sometime ago the men’s breakfast group read through Francis Chan’s book, ‘Erasing Hell’. Hell is an uncomfortable topic and for the better part is avoided, but Jesus spoke openly about the looming danger of hell. Many in our society would banish any thoughts of hell and replace with a ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ theology. The there’s Robert Schuller of the Crystal Palace in CA who was recorded as saying that he didn’t use the ‘sin’ word because it was a downer. Call sin anything but sin, so long as is doesn’t make us uncomfortable. How about if I take the label off the bottle that says, ‘poison’ and replace it with one that says ‘tastes bad’? The milder the label doesn’t make the poison any less dangerous.
I have to be careful that I too don’t re-label my sin to soothe my conscience. “I didn’t know any better. I was tired. Other people do it all the time!” See how easy that is? Oh you can blame your parents or your environment, but the truth is, “Can a man hide himself so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heaven and earth?”
Hidden: You cannot fool God. He knows your every thought, word, and action. Yet there is a place where your sin is hidden; they are hidden when they are buried with Christ. Jesus underwent a baptism of fire for you. He faced the storm caused by our sin that we might live in the shelter of His forgiveness. The hammer of the Law drove the nails through his hands and feet; sin will not go unpunished. Your sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus that you might live in the riches of His blood bought forgiveness. Forgiven you have been set free from sin’s tyranny and slavery to live for, with, and under Jesus in His kingdom with everlasting innocence, righteousness, and peace.
Grace for God’s People: Through Jeremiah God pleaded with people to listen to the right voice; to His voice of forgiveness and mercy and to turn from their evil ways. And God remained close to His people, even through those terrible days of tearing down and uprooting. He watched over a remnant that they might continue in faith, trusting in His Word of promise to bring them home, and that the Christ would come; and He did.
We are urged today to seek out and listen to the real authentic thing. God’s Word is like wheat; it has nothing in common with straw. Straw has no food value. So many differing voices shout out around us; so many ideas and thoughts that would distract us from God’s Word, causing us to forget who God is and what He has done for us. There is so much today in the line of Christian junk food in book stores, and many peddling their ideas, and the burr under my saddle has always been how easily people I know get caught up in it. They are ideas and words that lead to doubt and not the assurance of the Gospel. But the good news is that God’s Word is stronger. It’s active and living, sharper than a two edged sword. (cf Hebrews 4:12) It convicts, it turns us toward Him, it forgives, it redeems, and it makes us His own. Like wheat, God’s Word nourishes and sustains His people; you whom He has refined through the fire of forgiveness. Daily His Word, like a hammer breaks away all the old things that get in the way of your faith as He builds you up.
God’s Hammer: I think of Peter’s description of living stones; of you and I being built up into God’s living house, and I think of how God’s Word continues to hammer away at sin in my life, exposing it and taking it away, making way for the new man He has made me to be. How God is the craftsman, chiselling away and fitting you into His Church, and I can’t help but marvel at what God has done through His people in this place.
Some jobs do take a bigger hammer than others. Sin took the biggest hammer of all. Only the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. Jesus is God’s hammer; His mighty Word of Promise, Living and Active, smashing the very power of sin, death, and the devil. In the middle of all the false voices in the world that would threaten your faith, God still sends out His Word; He is near. And His Word continues to divide people from their sin, and believers from unbelievers (inside and outside of families). Yet through the message of Jesus, faith is still created in the hardest of human hearts, even in the maze of false voices all around us. He continues to forgive, refine, nourish, and build up you and me through His sure and certain Word.