Let us pray: Dear Savior, in an age where legal requirements predominate and every person tries to gain the most with the least amount of effort and sacrifice on their part, You have shown us and given us a better way to live! For You have agreed to bind Yourself to paying for our souls without any work or effort on our part. Yes, You have bestowed upon us Your grace, Your undeserved love. Warmed by that priceless gift may we respond in love and give You our hearts and minds from this day forth unto life-everlasting. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MASTER ARBITER BETWEEN GOD AND ALL MEN
TEXT: Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Labor relations. They are messy, contentious, and affect all of us. Recently we’ve been “treated” to the spectacle of contentious players vs. hard-nosed owners hammering out a new contract in the National Football League. Now it appears that Delphi, the parts maker for General Motors, will seek to break their contract with the United Auto Workers under bankruptcy laws to force lower labor costs.—And strike talk is already in the air. Yes, contracts and agreements are always hard-nosed, hard-edged and very unloving.
Contrast that approach to life with our text and you’ll be amazed! For in our lesson God binds Himself with a Divine oath to forgive and forget our sins in Christ. He binds Himself to an agreement of: grace, His undeserved love for us in Jesus. In God’s approach there is no tit-for-tat. There is no: you do this and I’ll agree to do that. There is only one-sided love showered upon us sinners. Amazing! Yes, this really is:
GOD’S CONTRACT OF LOVE
In preparation for this sermon I went back and looked at the Old Testament books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It was interesting to read chapter after chapter of God’s Old Testament covenant given on Mt. Sinai to His people. That agreement didn’t just include the 10 commandments, no there were many more chapters to it which encompassed every aspect of their political, moral, and religious lives. And after God gave this Divine guidance to Moses, he conveyed it to the people—and repeated it on more than one occasion. And after each session of going over that contract written by God, the people agreed to follow it. They bound themselves to it after God had also bound Himself to it. Hence the name: covenant, or agreement. It was just that, an agreement between God and human beings who sought to be His people.
But then sin raised its ugly head. God kept His side of the bargain, but man did not. Today we’d say that “labor relations broke down.” The workers in His kingdom didn’t live up to their side of the bargain. They adopted idol worship, they cursed, they failed to keep His holy day holy, they treated parents with contempt, they engaged in physical violence, they failed to keep their marriage bonds holy and misused their sexuality, they stole, they cheated, they lied, they ruined other’s reputations, they let greed predominate in their lives.—And we won’t even recount their repudiation of the religious ceremonies spelled out in that contract or their breaking of the political guidelines either, all of which were designed to preserve them as a holy nation in the midst of a heathen world.
Now that contract of Law also had a penalty clause for those who broke it. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” And by that, it meant not just physical death but an eternity in hell, as well. How all this must have broken God’s heart! Here He had laid out a perfect pathway towards unending happiness and prosperity for His people. He held up His end of the bargain, but they failed miserably, time and again. What would you do in similar circumstances? What would you do if the workers you employ did that to you? No doubt, you’d become disgusted, fire them all, and get new employees. Yet, God didn’t follow that approach. Instead, He bound Himself to a new contract, a contract they didn’t even ask for, a Contract of Love.
“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. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time. I will put my law (my Gospel truth) in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”
This new agreement was and is totally one-sided. In this case God does all the giving. Period. He doesn’t demand anything from us. He doesn’t require that we be holy or perfect. He doesn’t expect or demand our praise and our honor. In this new covenant He makes no demands, He only gives—blessings and love. In our world this sounds fishy. We wonder: What’s the catch? There is none! For God’s well of forgiveness and the depth of His love for us in Christ will never run dry. As the Bible says: “God is love and in Him dwells no darkness at all.”
This is a prophecy of Christ and His work of saving our souls. In the 2nd verse of our hymn: “Rock of Ages” we have this love-filled, love-motivated agreement spelled out for us. “Not the labors of my hands, Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands. Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.” Then in vs. 3 we sang: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
There you have it! God’s contract of love was to forgive and forget our sins in Christ. It was to punish Jesus in our place. It was to have His Son die on a cross so that we might be cleansed from guilt and shame through His precious blood. It was for God to reconcile the world to Himself in Christ, not counting our sins against us any more, because Jesus had already paid for them!
This contract of grace is for all people—infants, teens, middle-agers, and seasoned citizens. It is for rich and poor, men and women, for all races, for all time. No one has to speculate about how God feels about them. Look to Jesus Christ and you’ll know! You’ll know that forgiveness is His middle name!
Well, now that you know about God’s contract of love, signed with Jesus’ blood, what will you do? How will you live? Will you throw it away? Will you disregard it as too good to be true? Will you try to go backwards and seek to live under the old covenant of tit-for-tat, thereby giving your pride something to boast about—even though such boasting is really a lie? Or will you embrace His agreement of love and freely love and trust Him in return? Well, I know what I’ll do. I’ll sing with my lips and with my heart: “On my heart, imprint Thine image, blessed Jesus, King of grace!” Amen