Have you seen the TV series, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Leon Gregory’s painting crew worked on one here in Chattanooga. They find a family in need and do a remake of their house. But they do all the work in just a few days. The results may look good at first glance, but there are sometimes underlying problems that occur later because of the haste in the work.
When God does an extreme makeover for the house of Israel, He doesn’t rush things. In fact, it took a long time for God to finally come down on them and discipline them for their unfaithfulness and idolatry. God’s patience and grace are clearly seen as He endures generations of unfaithful Israelites. But the day comes when God brings them to their knees and breaks down their pride and stubborn resistance to His will.
What does it take for God to break us so that He can renew us and restore us?
Jeremiah is one of God’s messengers, chosen to bring the bad news of God’s wrath against their sinfulness. The mission of Jeremiah was clear from the get go. Look again at Jeremiah 1:10 again. Look at what God appointed Jeremiah to do (and it is a two step process): 1. Uproot, tear down, destroy and overthrow. Then, 2. To build and to plant.
This is the order of business for any ministry of God. There must first of all be a time of clearing out the old. It is never easy business. We tend to get pretty attached to some of the things that are not good for us. But anything, and that means anything, that stands in the way of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ needs to go.
Look with me at some New Testament verses about this. Hebrews 12:1-3 says: Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and now has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
What are some things that hinder and entangle your heart? What keeps you from walking with God the way you know He wants you to? Uproot, tear down, destroy, overthrow it.
Look at Ephesians 4:20-32 and just notice the things we are to get rid of: put off your old self, put off falsehood, stop stealing, don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Look down into chapter 5:3-20 and again just note the things you must get rid of.
Now go to Colossians 3:1-17 and lets just do the same thing.
Finally, let’s go to Jesus words in the sermon on the mount: If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and cast if from you, it is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be cast into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast if from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
I think the point is made about the first thing we must do in Christian living. We must lose whatever hinders or prevents us from nearness with God through Jesus Christ. Uproot it, tear it down, destroy it, overthrow it.
When Cain had offered an unacceptable sacrifice to God and he realized his offering was not acceptable but his brother Abel’s offering was, Cain got mad. The Bible tells us that his face fell. Can you picture that? I’ve seen it happen over and over in the faces of my grandkids. When things go in a way that some of them don’t like, you can read it in their faces pretty clearly.
God sees that too. He knows what we need and what we love. He knows if we are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, or if we are just playing church. God knows us! He knew Cain and God even spoke with Cain about it. God loves Cain. He wanted Cain’s heart, not just Cain’s leftovers. It wasn’t just what Cain put on the alter, it was what Cain refused to put there.
Someone said, “It’s not what you put in the plate that God counts so much as what you keep.” What are you keeping? Are you keeping anything that needs to go on the alter? Is there an attitude or a habit you need to uproot, tear down, destroy or overthrow so you can offer an acceptable sacrifice before God?
Listen to what God said to Cain. God came with questions first: Cain, why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right will you not be accepted?
Do you hear God’s heart in these words? God WANTS Cain to be accepted! He is speaking gently with Cain, calling Cain to his senses. But then God goes the next step and issues the warning:
Cain, if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it!
Did you get that? Whenever we cling to our unacceptable lives and do not do what is right, whenever we cling to our own selfish pride and cast blame or refuse to let go of our ways and desires, we are in danger of being overcome by a powerful deceptive force that will not let us go.
Sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you. You must master it.
How do we master sin? Well, one thing is sure, you can’t hold on to it and let it go at the same time. God allows us, through faith in Jesus Christ to do something wonderful. It is called repentance. We can turn from darkness to light. We can let go of Satan’s ways and embrace God’s grace and turn to His will and ways. We can! But we can’t serve two masters. We either chose God, or we chose something else. We can’t hang on to both.
The work of Christian ministry is a work of calling us to repent. Every page of scripture has the same message for us. We have a clear choice to make in this life. If we build our lives according to the ways of the world, we will reap the harvest of destruction. But, praise God, He calls us to uproot, tear down, destroy and overthrow all that stands in our way of walking with Him.
Once the deep rooted habits and desires are cleared away, and once the self-centered, prideful structures are torn down, and once the addictions to sin are destroyed, and once the power of darkness in our hearts and minds is overthrown, we experience a new freedom in Christ that this world can’t begin to know or understand.
We can begin to build our lives toward eternal glory and plant our hearts and minds in the spiritual blessings that bring joy everlasting and peace that passes understanding in Christ Jesus.
God’s love for you in Jesus Christ His Son is forever. He promises treasures that can never perish spoil or fade, He offers benefits that are out of this world.
We need constant reminding of this so that we do not fall into the same worldly patterns that drag us away from God. We need to gather with God’s family the church and share our faith in songs, prayers, giving, service, hearing the word, communion, and fellowship.
I need you. (Look around right now and say that to those around you).
Song: a common love.
Jesus died and rose again. He gave up everything, his heavenly dwelling, his glorious presence, his absolute power… Jesus emptied himself and took up the position of a servant. Being found in human likeness, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient. Yes, Jesus was obedient. He learned obedience, just like we do. He gave up his glory and authority and humbly, obediently gave himself to follow the will of His Father. He gave up his time, he gave up his energy, he gave up his possessions, he gave up his home and family, he gave up his right to justice, he gave up his clothing, he gave up his body, and he gave up his blood.
What did Jesus give up everything for? You… and me.
He did this because it was and is the only way He could have us. And now it’s our turn. Will we repent of this world and turn to Him? Will we let go of everything that is in our way and run to Him? You can’t take it with you. Give it all up, and what you receive from Him is bigger, better, higher, wider, longer, fuller, richer, sweeter, deeper… than anything this world has to offer.