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Writer and preacher, Stuart Briscoe tells of a time he was in Scotland:

I was in Edinburgh about a year ago speaking at Charlotte Chapel, and a delightful young lady gave her testimony. She had come back from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was a missionary nurse. She said how she was really enjoying the work she was doing there, and then she'd met a young man and fallen in love. He'd asked her to marry him, but she had said, "I made a commitment to my church back home to serve on the mission field. If I were to marry you, that might change everything. So before I can give you an answer, I need to talk with the leaders of the church." And so that was why she was home. She'd flown home all the way from Afghanistan to talk to the leaders of the church.

As I was looking at the congregation, I noticed a fellow sitting in the front row who had the weirdest look on his face. So when she was through and sat down next to me, I said, "Who is that fellow? Do you know him?" She said, "That's the young man." I said, "I thought he was in Kabul." She said, "He was. He heard I was flying back to Scotland to talk to the leaders of the church, so he said he wanted to talk to them as well. So he jumped on the next plane."

You can always tell lovers: they don't give up. They "come after," as a lover comes after the beloved. And that's the picture that Jesus gives: "If you're going to come after me, it's because you love me because I . . .

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.      Jeremiah 31:31 &33

Writer and preacher, Stuart Briscoe tells of a time he was in Scotland:
I was in Edinburgh about a year ago speaking at Charlotte Chapel, and a delightful young lady gave her testimony. She had come back from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was a missionary nurse. She said how she was really enjoying the work she was doing there, and then she'd met a young man and fallen in love. He'd asked her to marry him, but she had said, "I made a commitment to my church back home to serve on the mission field. If I were to marry you, that might change everything. So before I can give you an answer, I need to talk with the leaders of the church." And so that was why she was home. She'd flown home all the way from Afghanistan to talk to the leaders of the church.
As I was looking at the congregation, I noticed a fellow sitting in the front row who had the weirdest look on his face. So when she was through and sat down next to me, I said, "Who is that fellow? Do you know him?" She said, "That's the young man." I said, "I thought he was in Kabul." She said, "He was. He heard I was flying back to Scotland to talk to the leaders of the church, so he said he wanted to talk to them as well. So he jumped on the next plane."
You can always tell lovers: they don't give up. They "come after," as a lover comes after the beloved. And that's the picture that Jesus gives: "If you're going to come after me, it's because you love me because I first loved you, and there's something about me that draws you irresistibly to me." 1

In Jeremiah's time, exactly the opposite is happening on the nation's part. It seems that no matter what God does, Israel and Judah just have little interest in the LORD.
God uses many analogies to describe their relationship with him: an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious child.
It seems that far from loving God and pursuing Him, they have pretty much turned their backs on Him.

After many chapters of describing this sorry state of affairs and the punishments in store for their disobedience, God offers this glimmer of hope. He says, "you have totally broken the covenant I made with you. Not just once, but repeatedly and it seems that all my pleas fall on deaf ears. But even though I will punish you, there is hope for the future: A day will come when you will not live by the covenant of law I gave to Moses, but will have a new covenant which I will write on your heart and implant deep within you."

God made covenants or agreements with others. He made a promise to Noah to never destroy the whole earth again. He made a promise to Abraham to give him a family and turn that family into his special people.
Then he made a promise to Abraham's descendants at Sinai when he gave the law to Moses. This was to be the basis upon which they would relate to the living God.

We know how that went.
We don't even have to know history or read the Bible to know. We only need to look in the mirror.
As soon as God gives us commandments to follow, its just a matter of time until we leave them in shreds.
The problem is that our natures are such that we cannot live by rules alone.
There is nothing wrong with the rules God gave us. They make perfect sense and are the best guide on earth to a peaceful society.  The problem is our natures.

As soon as someone draws a boundary line, something in us wonders how we can get around it. It's just a matter of time.
So what is this new relationship about? This new covenant?

It is about love.
We will never follow God because we are compelled to do so.
We will only follow because we want to, because He is the object of our love.
The irony if you call it that, is that we do not really love God because of who God is.

God first loved us, in spite of us turning our backs on Him.
There is no amount of cajoling or even educating us to the worthiness of God that will keep us loving Him.
During some periods of time even the power of the state has been brought to bear on its citizens to make them obey the law of God. People may obey outwardly when coerced, but nothing can force us to love.

So why is God so confident that He can "write His new covenant on our hearts"?
Because He knows the infectious power of being loved.
And He knew that on our own we could not do it, that He would have to give us the means.
So God sent Jesus to take away the guilt of sin, and then when our conscience is clear, He put His own Holy Spirit inside us to keep us connected to heaven.

We could never have done it on our own. We needed someone to take away the penalty and power of sin.
He took our place and then put us in His place.
Only God could have done it for us.
We could never do it on our own.

Love is still the greatest motivator.
Image how powerfully motivated God is to embrace you.
Will you return that love?

Pray with me as we do:
Lord, I know my nature and I cannot obey you consistently on my own. I continually fail you. Forgive me I pray and send your Holy Spirit to give me your love so that I might return it to you again.
In Jesus name. Amen



Preached  April 2, 2006
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia

Notes
1. Stuart Briscoe, Ordinary Folks Make Great Disciples," Preaching Today, Tape No. 47




Online Resources Consulted
http://www.preachingtoday.com/
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