Monday, January 14, 2008

The Repair of Leaky Faith

Jeremiah was a young boy when the Lord told him he was going to speak as his mouthpiece to warn Judah about their sins. Judah’s people had, according to the Lord, committed two serious sins. A key passage in Jeremiah lays down the message of the book. First, they had forsaken God, “the fountain of living waters.” Second, they had hewn out for themselves “cisterns - broken cisterns - that cannot hold water.” A fountain of living water is a spring gushing with an ample supply of fresh, clean water. God is a fountain to a dry soul. His Word brings the fresh awakening to us that we don’t need to stay the way we are, but grow. But there are things we can allow in our life that cause our faith to leak out of us. We find ourselves dry and unsatisfied. Trouble overtakes our thought life. We start reaching for creature comforts instead of God’s counsel, like sitting up late into the night staring at mindless TV shows or self-medicating with alcohol or other things, even food; anything that distracts us from the real problem of our needy soul.

What Jeremiah continued to preach to Judah, even as Babylon was defeating them as God said would happen, is that they had a leaky faith and it wasn’t pleasing God.

God sounds really harsh in his warning. He tells Jeremiah to tell his backslidden flock that he will “pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow.” If we left it at that, we would overlook the grace that whispers through the correction down through the ages. It’s because, like our own kids, we tend to not differentiate between correction and punishment. Correction, when eaten and digested, becomes the meat talked about in the New Testament although it’s been erroneously taught out of that context.

Think of these four corrective measures like this: a diseased plant in a field will infect the other plants. You’ve probably seen God swiftly move a person out of a local body who is not only self indulgent, but leading others into their easy believism too---not just members, pastors too! Plucking up is God’s way of protecting his harvest. Next, breaking down is what God does inside of us to make us more pliable, as the New Testament says, so that we’ll have a heart of flesh instead of a hard heart. Then, thirdly, there’s the destroy word. Gulp! But it’s not us God desires to destroy, but the sin that causes us to keep taking the same hills. We might have many bases covered in our faith walk, but having one pet sin weakens us to the leaky cistern syndrome. God wants it all destroyed so that we aren’t continually running to him for crisis management. He wants us grown up, reserving our prayers for a needy world (Jer. 2:4, 7:6). Last of all’s the subject of overthrow and that’s the easiest application. Jesus is the only One worthy enough to occupy the throne of our heart and mind. When we allow His gentle kingship to overthrow our selfish ways and desires, we give him permission as an expert Repairman (since he made us) to move in and start rebuilding the leaky spots in our life.

2 Cor. 4: 8,9 says that we are afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing (giving up); persecuted but not forsaken; we are struck down but not destroyed when we carry inside of us the dying of Jesus. That means that we are emulating him, dying to the demands of our self, the desire for distractions and clutter and collecting and buying and gorging followed by purging that results in perpetual crisis after crisis. If the Body of Christ will simply grab hold of this one basic truth, we’ll have to shut down our counseling centers. Pastors will be overrun with high quality help because they’re not trying to install leaky disciples in places of responsibility. Correction means the correction of our ways and it precedes punishment—allowing it turns God’s heart from punishing us to blessing us and he LOVES doing that! Surrendering to Christ’s gentle correction will then be followed by a fresh fountain of living water that won’t leak out.