First of all; I would like to introduce my readers to a good friend of mine, named Jeremiah. ( 'Jeremiah was a bullfrog.....................wazza good friend o' mine.........') Sorry, just had to slip that in! Jeremiah seems to have a 'Jeremiah complex': he's a bit of a self-proclaimed preacher ( prophet, if you will ) that has a problem, as do most of us, when it comes to putting into practice what he preaches. In this way; he is not quite 'on par' with his name-sake. I remember quite often, as does my friend, the prophet's words in Jeremiah 20:9; 'Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But ( His Word ) was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones: I was weary of holding it back, and I could not'. Whenever Jeremiah, almost pridefully mentions this; I have to remind him that, although the situation that he faces may almost be compared to the situation that the prophet faced, it is nowhere nearly as dire, because Jeremiah was being persecuted for speaking the truth of God's promises of adverse judgment upon His typical Old Covenant 'children' because of their disobedience. I tell him, 'You are under no such persecution for declaring such things; you are surrounded by God-fearing people, though maybe a bit mixed up, that 'persecute' you, not so much because of what you preach, but because you don't practice what you preach, as you should.' 'You're right, brother Charles', he says, ashamedly 'but I still feel like the prophet must have felt sometimes, because when I do remind those around me of God's Word and face 'persecution' because of it, I'm almost sorely tempted to say, 'forget this', and stop preaching, because I don't always practice; it seems like my conscience just won't let me be, ya know, kinda like when God's Word was like a burning fire in Jeremiah's heart.' I, along with other friends, then remind Jeremiah ( B) that we shouldn't stop preaching just because we don't always practice; rather, we should do our best to always practice, not only because it's the right and grateful ( thankful ) thing to do, but because it does help our witness, helps those around us to see that, 'hey, he really means what he's saying, he's not just spouting off at the mouth!' I went to see Jeremiah the other day, and after the usual talk about the weather, sports, etc. ( we usually end up gravitating to discussing religion; it's rare that we don't! ); he remarked to me, 'ya know, Chuck; sometimes I almost sympathize with those prophets of old ( like Jeremiah ) when God used them, not only as His mouthpiece ( 'Thus says the Lord........' ), but as examples of what He was about to do to His Old Covenant 'children''. When I asked him why he would say something like that, he told me that he found that some things that he naturally did ( I must make a note here, and I hope that Jeremiah's not reading this; my friend can be a real jerk sometimes, insensitive, selfish, immature, prideful, etc.............), he realized later that, although he was acting wrongly ( proudly, selfishly, immaturely, etc...........), he was really showing others around him their own weaknesses and helping them to see the wrongness of their own actions and to correct those actions. I told him that this sounded a little like he was trying to rationalize, and he said, 'I realize that, Chuck; and I try not to act like that, but I also realize that God uses our actions, wrong or right, for His own purposes, and I thank Him for that!' 'Remember what He said through the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 55:8, 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.' Before I could accuse him of proof-texting, he quickly said, 'I know I'm kinda pulling that out of it's context, as I might seem to be doing with Jeremiah's words, but I believe that, even though the historical context of the prophet's words is quite a bit different than the situations that we face today, we can still find application for God's words, in that there is a tendency today to try to put God in a 'box', and say, 'well, this is the way we do things ( or more to the point, the way I do things ), so it must be the way God acts, too', or 'God wouldn't ( or doesn't ) do things that way'. 'This is not to say that my actions are without fault, and that I'm inculpable because I believe God's 'using me for His own purpose', just that, as Christians who, though chosen and perfected (although still being sanctified-Hebrews 10:14 ) still act wrongly ( sin? ) sometimes, we must remember that we have been forgiven 'once for all', not that........' ( I rudely interrupted at this point ) 'Are you trying to tell me that Christians can now sin for free, that we don't have to worry about consequences because 'once saved, always saved'?' Jeremiah replied, 'if you'd let me finish; I'm not saying that because of Christ's work, and yes, I believe 'once saved, always saved', that we can live however we please and we'll be okay, rather, because we've been forgiven and healed of all our iniquities ( I John 1:9 ) we are free to do what's right, we don't have to worry that our little slip-ups are gonna separate us from the love of Christ; as Paul said, in Romans 8:38 & 39, 'For I am persuaded that nether death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' I had to remind my friend, yet again, of the historical, not to mention immediate, context of Paul's words. ( Although thinking of Paul's remonstrations in the previous chapter almost makes his point, huh? ) When I did mention this to him, he reminded me of Paul's words in Romans 7, and that, although the historical context may have been quite different; the situation ( on the surface, anyway ) that Paul treated in that chapter was not so different from the situation that so many of us face today. 'Paul's words in Romans 8:38 &39 though', he continued, 'should give us all the comfort of knowing that no created thing ( does that include us? ) can separate us from God.' 'You're preaching to the choir here, Jer,' I amusedly told him; 'but one might argue that God, through Isaiah, told His Old Covenant 'children' that 'your iniquities have separated you from your God.' ( Isaiah 59:2 ) 'Whoa', he replied, 'now it is I who must remind YOU of the historical context!' 'God was speaking to those under the Old Covenant, not the New, and although Christ's atonement and redemption had been prefigured since day one and revealed, in a sense, to some of the faithful ( Hebrews 11 ); salvation had not yet been fully revealed, and their iniquities had not been pardoned: as we can see by reading the end of the Bible first, their sins finally and irreversibly separated them from God.' As sometimes happens; my friend was right, so I had to cede his point, and I promised that one day, we would get back to the subject: right now, my head hurt ( from overuse, maybe? ) and I had some things to do at home. I left my friend with this thought; 'if you're really serious about being a Jeremiah to those around you; you need to start being more serious about practicing what you preach, and controlling your own actions: start seeking God's will rather than your's more'.
As I got on my bike to pedal home; I distinctly heard him mutter, after our usual 'c-yas!'; 'till next time, Chuck, till next time...........................'