Did you get your promise?

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)

Many years ago the ancient Israelites found themselves exiled in Babylon because of their own waywardness and failure to keep God’s covenant. They were a broken and imprisoned nation, experiencing the painful consequences of their own doing. And yet God did not reject them, but spoke this very special promise through the prophet Jeremiah. These are not merely indiscriminate words intended for the average person on the street. They were given to the covenant people of God.

This promise reflects God’s heart and His desire for every person, but the realization of such amazing hope is dependent upon our personal relationship with Him. Under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ those who enter into such a relationship are called Christians. But what makes a person a Christian? Having a religious upbringing? Going to church? Saying a prayer? Reading the Bible? Having a spiritual experience?

You’d think that after 2000 years we’d have this all figured out, but still a lot of confusion remains with regard to what being a Christian is all about. This is not due to any shortcoming on God’s part, but it does speak volumes about the wayward tendencies of the human heart.

Covenant

A key, but often forgotten concept in all of this is that of covenant. A covenant is a sacred and enduring relationship, similar to the ancient idea of blood brotherhood. It speaks of relational oneness in the highest order. When two individuals or groups entered into a covenant; friends, enemies, possessions and even identities became shared. To enter a covenant often brought excellent benefits. To break a covenant resulted in many painful and terrible curses. A covenant relationship is to be regarded with the seriousness of the weightiest relationship and celebrated as the most blessed. The failure to understand the nature of a covenant unleashes a torrent of confusion and inevitably the inability to understand how God interacts with humanity.

Independence from God – The Human Condition

From the beginning of time as we know it, God created mankind to share an intimate, covenant relationship with Him. In choosing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humankind chose to go it alone, essentially seeking to be like God apart from God.

We each want to be the center of the entire universe. We seek to control our own lives, our circumstances and even the lives of others. And, of course, one of the primary drives of our hearts is to find a sense of goodness and significance from within ourselves.

These three primary root motivations of independence—self-centeredness, self-sovereignty (or self-will) and self-glorification—create the massive, painful problem we call thehuman condition. Humanism delights in these pursuits and sees little wrong with them for the most part. Most religions promise change through various means of self-effort such as attending meetings, giving money, doing good deeds, etc. Biblical Christianity teaches that we can be free from these natural tendencies and their consequences only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel

Jesus, who is God, became a man. He was miraculously born to a virgin so that He might model a covenant relationship with God the Father, and then die as the perfect sacrifice so that all of humankind would have the opportunity to be restored to the same type of relationship with their Creator.

Becoming a Christian is not simply about making a decision for Christ or asking for forgiveness so that we can avoid the punishment of hell. It’s not even about asking Him into our hearts so that we can have better lives. All too often God is seen as somegiant Santa Claus in the sky who is constantly obligated to meet our self-centered expectations.

The Gospel is a call from our self-centered independence to a full dependence on our God, who stands not as a drill sergeant ready to hammer us, but as our loving Father ever seeking our good. It’s a call to surrender our desire/need for control to His will, and to find our sense of goodness through our relationship with Him rather than through self-effort.

Do You Believe?

If what you are reading somehow resonates with your heart, it means that God wants you and is personally drawing you toward Himself. It’s up to you to respond to His call. The process is not complicated.

Salvation is by faith. Do you believe that Jesus is God eternal? That He lowered Himself to become a man, being born into this world through a virgin named Mary. That, although Jesus was without sin, He died a horrible death on the cross, willingly taking upon Himself the curses of a covenant breaker. Why? As a substitute for our failure so that we might be freely (and fully) forgiven for all that we have done.

On the third day Jesus rose from the dead shattering the powers of sin and death! No force from earth or from hell could keep Him down!

Our Response

God is graciously calling us to repent, that is, to turn from our self-centeredness, our self-sovereignty and our self-glorification to a life of faith. The Christian life operates by faith because without trust relational intimacy is impossible. This all means that we each put Him first above all others in our life, that we surrender our self-will to Him as Lord and that we find our source of goodness and righteousness through our relationship with Him.

Historically, entering into the New Covenant relationship with Christ was signified by the covenant ceremonycalled water baptism–where a public confession of faith was proclaimed. The individual was immersed under water, signifying the burial of their old, independent person and the cleansing of their sins. They were then raised up by another person’s power into the resurrection life in Christ. Their covenant relationship with God was restored as the Holy Spirit (God Himself) filled and transformed their hearts. (Some call this being born again. Eternal life begins the very instant the Holy Spirit enters a person’s heart—and it’s about getting to know Him, not obeying a list of rules or simply trying to reach a final destination.)

It was at this point that the covenant promise of Jeremiah 29:11-13 became a reality in their lives. God was in them and would always be with them. All that was theirs was His, and all that was His became theirs. And with the barrier of sin removed, God was free to work even all of their negative circumstances toward His good purposes.

Christianity Today

Certainly times have changed and so has the manner in which people interpret the Christian faith. But covenant relationships are enduring—meaning that God’s overall design and plan has not changed since the days of the early Christian church. God’s covenant promises remain in effect for our day and each of us has the opportunity to enter into a uniquely sacred and enduring relationship with the Creator of the universe.

What I have written may make sense to you or it may not. God’s encouragement to mankind has always been to seek His face, to search out His truths, to turn to His ways. God is ever true to reveal Himself to those who choose to humble their hearts before Him.

If you are interested in learning more about an enduring covenant relationship with your Creator, you are free to stream the audio version of my Search for Me Identity Series online. I would also strongly encourage you to begin reading the New Testament (using a translation you find readable) and to seek out a healthy local Christian church. I freely admit that there is no shortage of unhealthy churches, but ask God to guide you—there are definitely some great ones out there. If you take the time to listen to my Identity Series, you’ll have a much better idea of what to look for in a church. A healthy church will have a healthy understanding of law and grace.

Did you get your promise? He’s waiting for you!

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NASB)

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