2018-09-27 Before I Formed You.

Good Morning!

Now that we said, “Goodbye,” to Isaiah, we now turn to Jeremiah. Here’s another captivating book. Really, they all are, right? I do admit I have trouble with Ecclesiastes, but that is getting better. I just have a hard time with how bad King Solomon ended. I suppose I should feel the same way with his other books, but that one has a tone that disturbs me. I’ve read commentaries, so that helps. I suppose one day I will be able to appreciate it for what God intends it for me. Until then, I will trust God and wait on him.

I suppose many are equally troubled by the prophets. They aren’t easy reads. Jeremiah is a tough one, so much so that he is nicknamed “The Weeping Prophet.” His life was not easy. Yet, out of this, the book starts with one of the most cherished verses in Christianity:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

We like to use this verse to point out that God has a purpose for each and every one of us, too. Once we trust in our Lord Jesus, we desire to do his will and strive to obey. This is good and we are rewarded for our allegiance. I think this verse starts to become all the more liberating once we start thinking of it in terms of a divine assignment.

I remember as a kid talking about this stuff in religion class at my Catholic church. It terrified me. I remember the priests and nuns talking about being called by God. I remember them comparing it to Peter and the other apostles who immediately left their whole world behind at the single request from Jesus. Perhaps I misunderstood, but I was left with the impression that God’s call was to the priesthood. I knew that was something I didn’t want (and still don’t), but I couldn’t help notice SOMETHING was stirring inside if me. Here’s what I knew. I knew that I had to confess my sins to a priest to go to heaven. I also knew that as soon as I stepped out of the confessional, some nasty thought would go through my mind. Certainly, by the end of the day, I had totally ruined whatever good that confession had done for me. I was doomed. Before you say that was just the misunderstanding of a child, I have carefully examined Catholic doctrine, trying to figure out my official position with regard to Mortal and Venial sin. I’m toast.

That was a problem for me. What if that stirring inside of me actually was God calling me to priesthood? I couldn’t live a clean life like they all said one must live. Besides, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to. After all, I looked at the life a priest lived. Who in their right mind would want that? Then, there was the problem that, with the exception of one, none of them seemed like THEY wanted to be a priest or a nun. In all fairness, none of the people sitting in church looked like they wanted to be there, either.

So, the idea that God was calling me was awful. Simply awful.

Then, one day, in my weakest moment, God had mercy on me, and I came to understand. I willfully agreed to do whatever it was that he required of me. That wasn’t just lip service. I meant it from the deepest part of my soul. What I came to understand is that this wasn’t a choice but rather my acknowledgement of what God intended all along:

Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

You see, what terrified me even more than turning down his calling was the idea that I couldn’t turn him down. In other words, I would be forced into servitude. In all actuality, that is exactly what happened. I didn’t want to serve God. I wanted to drink. Yes, I wanted to live, too, but my desire to drink was greater. I simply couldn’t find a way to do both. God led me to a different answer.

You see, if we carefully look at the two passages above, God does not give us a choice. Can you see that? If Jeremiah is appointed prophet, he is appointed to prophesy to a limited number of people: 1) those who will believe, and 2) those who won’t. Do you think for a minute that God doesn’t know who is who – even before they were formed in the womb? Of course, he does. And, we know that he has formed EVERYONE to bow and confess Jesus as Lord. The question for us is whether we do that before or after our physical death.

Still, is that a choice? My reading of scripture in its entirety is that it is not. Yes, we who are saved genuinely acknowledge it.

Here’s the thing to remember. We are all guilty and have willfully chosen hell through our sin. We can’t get around that in scripture. We also can’t get around the fact that God has mercy on those whom he saves. It has nothing to do with us. Yes, we repent and acknowledge but only in reaction to his call. We don’t deserve it. Our faith itself is a gift, a gift we need in order to be saved.

It may take some time to learn and accept this; but when Christians do, we can cast away all our inhibition and fear and truly relish in the Lord who has us in the palm of his hand, forever and ever. Jesus is the best of the best in life. If that means we must see how much we must suffer for the sake of his name, like Paul, we will also say as he did:

Philippians 3:7-8 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,

For those who refuse, they will never truly understand this. Why? Because they choose a life of sin. We all do. For some reason, God has chosen to have mercy on a few, not because he should, but simply because he chooses to do so. I, for one, am grateful that he does.

Father, let me be bold in my faith, to proclaim Jesus to those who will believe as well as those who won’t. He is worthy to be praised to all. He SHOULD be praised to all. He WILL be praised BY all! Amen!

Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers

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