A Renewed Commitment
By Cody T. McCain
As we embark upon the journey of a new year, it is often customary to enter with a list – whether a physical list or a mental list – of new goals or commitments. Some prefer to make new year’s resolutions – something I am not a fan of doing because they normally flow out of pure human willpower – that on average by the end of January are usually broken! However, how often do we seriously consider a renewed commitment to our relationship with the Lord Jesus? I am not referring to an increase in superficial religious antics that have the appearance of commitment, those things the scripture calls in 2 Timothy 3:5 a “form of godliness”! I am referring to a renewed, intentional, and heart-driven commitment to Jesus. Some of us may feel that we are “okay” in our walk with God. After all, we do our duties, endeavor to be “good people”, treat everyone right, and not engage in obvious vices and sins. Yet, when we look at the condition of our hearts – the inner man – just how committed are we in our relationship with Jesus Christ? Perhaps one of the most powerful prayers found in Scripture is often a very neglected one, found in Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” How many of you know that when Holy Spirit searches our hearts that He will highlight things within us that we may not have realized existed? Much like how a CT scan can reveal serious asymptomatic conditions, Holy Spirit reveals conditions within us that are often a ticking time bomb! The gauge and standard by which we are to assess the condition of our hearts are the Word of God. Holy Spirit searches our hearts and reveals the deep and hidden areas and will simultaneously bring His Word to our remembrance concerning those things!
This brings us to a verse found in the second chapter of Jeremiah and the thirteenth verse; this verse states, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” To give a little background on Jeremiah’s ministry, he began his prophetic assignment during the reign of King Josiah. If you know your Bible, you know that King Josiah was a righteous king, who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Most notably, his reign is marked by major reforms in the worship of the people of Israel after the book of the law – which scholars note as the book of Deuteronomy – was found by the high priest in the house of the Lord. Josiah tore down the idols that the people of Israel constructed to idol gods and reinstituted worship prescribed by the Law of Moses. Although Josiah set himself to seek the Lord with his whole heart, his reforms did not capture the HEARTS of the people he governed. The people of Israel only had an external response to God’s principles, but not from the heart. In other words, they said “Amen” with their lips but not with their hearts, much like we do today! Therefore, the basis of Jeremiah’s ministry was a call for Israel to repent. In the first verse of scripture read into your hearing, Jeremiah is issuing a “covenant lawsuit” to the people of Israel as he charges them with two evils: forsaking the living fountain and building broken cisterns. Looking at the first clause, the word “forsake” in the original Hebrew language means to depart from, or to let LOOSE. A departing from the ways of God isn’t an abrupt departure, the result of a gradual “loosening” of our devotion. Someone once said, “Collapse in a Christian’s life is seldom a huge blowout, but rather a slow leak.” Let’s look at the comparison Jeremiah makes with the living fountain versus a cistern. The living fountain (a metaphor for the LORD) is divine, a cistern during Biblical times was man-made as workers were required to dig deep pits into the earth. The living fountain is self-sustaining, but a cistern requires regular maintenance and inspection as there was always a danger of its walls drying up, forming cracks, and allowing water to leak out (which is why Jeremiah called them “broken cisterns”); frequently the walls of cisterns had to be plastered to add a protective layer against leakage. The water of the living fountain is never stagnant, water in cisterns can become stagnant over time. The living fountain is self-producing, with cisterns, one had to wait on the rain to fill them. The living fountain has a limitless supply, cisterns water supply was limited! Overall, the cistern metaphor here represents man’s departure from God and using his own efforts to provide for and do for himself in a manner inferior to the ways of God! How often do we take it upon ourselves to do things that we haven’t been led by God to do, resulting in unnecessary labor and sweat to maintain it?! Just like Israel, we will formulate idols that reflect our own nature and desires rather than the nature and desire of our Savior!
Now we come to another verse found in chapter three and verse fourteen of Jeremiah, where the Lord – through Jeremiah – issues a call to Israel with these words: “Turn, O backsliding, children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” The nature of this call is perhaps one of the most significant calls the Lord made to Israel to repent due to the way He reveals Himself to them. In this verse I want us to look at three specific points: (1) God’s call to Israel as a FATHER, (2) God’s affirmation to Israel as a HUSBAND, and (3) God’s promise to Israel concerning their future. In the first clause of this verse in the KJV the text states, “Turn O backsliding Children…” The call to turn in the Hebrew signifies a desire to RESTORE, REPAIR, AND REFRESH. Repentance is two-fold, it involves the exercise of our will to turn back to God and it also involves our Father restoring, repairing, and refreshing us! Looking further at the term “backsliding”, we normally associate this with a believer that suddenly reverts to some sort of worldly behavior, practice, or belief. Again, I reiterate what I mentioned earlier…collapse is seldom a blowout but a slow leak. Backsliding is more than what we’ve labeled it in church! Looking at two other translations of this verse, the word backsliding is translated as “FAITHLESS”. Why is this? The Hebrew word “shobawb” here specifically refers to rebellion in the HEART. Anything that arises in our hearts that divides our fellowship with God leads us OUTSIDE of the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST! The scripture declares in Hebrews 3:12, “See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, UNBELIEVING heart that turns away from the living God.” When we allow conditions of the heart to go unhealed and “un-delivered” by God, we have already entered a backslidden state. It is just a matter of time until we have turned away! Romans 14:23 also records very simply, “For whatsoever is not from faith is sin.” Notice I said that issues of the heart can move us outside of the faith OF Jesus Christ, I did not say faith IN Jesus Christ…there is a difference. We have placed faith IN Jesus Christ when we professed Him as our Lord and Savior. Because of this, we are called to operate in the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST which is a SACRIFICIAL WALK! The apostle Paul stated in Galatians 2:20, “I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up…” As Father, He wants to restore, repair, and refresh us because it is He and He alone who created us in His image, placed us in the earth and gave us an assignment. As a Husband in this verse, the LORD affirms his everlasting COVENANT with them. This is the same way the Lord deals with us as believers, being that we as the church are his bride and He is our husband. The word here for husband signifies LORDSHIP as well. In this portion of the verse, God reaffirms to Israel that He is and should be their only LORD because of his covenant. In our covenant with Him through the shed blood of Jesus, He is calling us to surrender to Him as our husband/Lord. Finally, Jeremiah shifts this verse to another aspect of who God is…a promise keeper. The final clause of this verse states, “…I will bring you to Zion” which contextually speaking refers to the gathering of the people of Israel in the promised land under Messianic rule, which we know will be the New Jerusalem under Jesus Christ! This is significant because, despite Israel’s current state of mind (and heart) in the text, the INTENTION and PLAN God has for His people has not and will not change! Even if we have entered a backslidden state, have become loose or lax in our walk, or have allowed heart issues to pull us out of fellowship with God and other believers, know that God’s mind concerning us does not change!
As we begin 2023, I encourage all of us to allow Holy Spirit to do a deep dive into our hearts. When He highlights certain things to us, let us endeavor to heed His call as a Father to restore us, submit to His Lordship as a Husband, and be encouraged, uplifted, and motivated to run this race with diligence by the awesome promises He’s made to us concerning our future!
Cody T. McCain Sr. is the owner, funeral director, and embalmer of McCain Funeral Home & Cremations, LLC located in Morganton. He, along with his wife Shaunda, have a passion to serve their community with the love, integrity, and excellence of Christ.
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