The Renegotiated Deal (It's Sweet)

Sermon 1720 Jeremiah 31.31-34 November 8, 2020

Major league sports has had an impact on this town. Oh, I don’t know if it has changed underlying loyalties. If you were born bleeding green and gold, that’s the way it’s going to be. You will watch the Raiders if they are the late afternoon game on a Sunday. And if you sleep under a 2008 Stanley Cup Red Wings pennant, you will still root for the Golden Knights, as long as they don’t play Detroit. No, we’ve all become attuned to the money angle of major league sports. The off-season becomes the hot-season as we argue about who got cut or traded. And what really takes center stage is when the team and the star player renegotiate. What riches will spill from the owner’s treasure chest? How well will our hero earn his contractual, guaranteed king’s ransom? Forget about battling on the boards or linemen fighting in the trenches. Renegotiation is where the real battle is.

We’ve got a renegotiated contract before us today. As a fellow member of the sinners union, I would advise we accept it.

The Renegotiated Deal (It’s Sweet)

1. God will forgive our sins (31-32, 34b).

2. God will give us a new heart (33-34a).

The season was drawing to a close for God’s Old Testament people. Once again they were not going to make the playoffs—not even close. At every step and turn they had thrown out the playbook, ignored coaching and gave in to their most undisciplined desires. It was only a team in the sense that every man was out for himself. On that, they were united. There is no “I” in idiot.

No wonder the owner wanted to renegotiate the contract. The old way of doing things wasn’t working.

“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.

“For I will forgive their wickedness

and will remember their sins no more (31-32, 34b).”

It is meaningless to talk about the new covenant, the new agreement, unless we know something about the old covenant, the old contract God had hammered out with his people. Jeremiah calls the old covenant the one God “made with their forefathers” when he led “them out of Egypt.” He is talking about giving the Ten Commandments together with all the other rules and regulations the Children of Israel were to keep. Through Moses, God cut a deal with his people. If you keep these commandments, I will be your God. You do A, I will do B. And the terms were very nice. “God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore we should love and trust in him and gladly obey what he commands.” Bonuses! But the Children of Israel didn’t keep the old covenant. While God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments, the Children of Israel were melting down their Egyptian jewelry into a Golden Calf to worship. That’s almost one-upping Adam and Eve who ate the forbidden fruit right in the Garden of Eden. The track record didn’t get any better. Jerusalem killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her. She would not rest until she had crucified the very Son of God.

If we intend to make God’s team under the terms of the old players’ agreement, we also will experience a God who “threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments.” We will find ourselves under God’s curse, a curse for everyone “who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Continue. Everything. That says 100% to me. Isn’t that what it says to you? We always have to keep God’s Law. We have to keep all God’s Law. Only perfection matters. So that first time we lied to our dad when he picked us up and, since we smelled like a malfunctioning sewage treatment plant, asked if we had a load in our diapers and, with unblinking baby blues, said, “No, Daddy,” poof! Charcoal briquettes. And the only difference between now and then is that we’ve been potty-trained. The old agreement isn’t going to work for us, either.

No wonder God wanted to renegotiate. It’s a sweet deal. God will forgive our sins.

Let’s comb through the entire text of this new deal. Let’s look over every word, because the devil is in the details, you know.

“For I will forgive their wickedness

and will remember their sins no more.”

The “I” is God. He’s the one who is speaking throughout our text. He “will.” That’s a fact. God will do something. It is not “might” or “maybe.” It is not if he feels like it or has the chance he will get around to it. It is “will.” When a contract says “will” it means it will happen. No ifs, ands or buts.

God will forgive. That means he will let go our sin, discharge our sins, send them away. It’s not like the neighbor cat that you always have to shoo away from the birdbath in your back yard. That cat will be back tomorrow. This is a “don’t you ever darken my doorstep again,” send-off. And in good legal style, it is repeated, but in different words, just so the party of the first part can’t squirm out of his obligations to the party of the second part. God will “remember their sins no more.” So far have our sins, our wickedness been sent away, God no longer remembers them. The record has been expunged, the files destroyed. This send-off is gone for good, gone and good riddance, so gone you don’t even remember old What’s-His-Face anymore.

That’s what God is going to do. He’s the party of the first part. Now, every contract has a party of the second part. This contract recognizes the party of the second part as “their.” “Their” is opposed to “my” and since God is “my,” “their” is everyone else except God. Their is the entire human race. You, me, everybody. You have a birthday, you are part of that their. Sun shining on you? Heart still beating? You are part of that their. Still got flesh and bones? Welcome to the their party of the second part.

All that remains is to look at the obligations for the party of the second part.

Hmmmm. Uh-huh. Very interesting.

I can’t find any. God is doing everything. There is nothing for the party of the second part, you, me, the entire human race, there is nothing for us to do. It is a totally one-sided contract. Really, there is nothing for us to do. God does it all. He will freely forgive our wickedness, all our wickedness. Without any reason in us, he will forget our sins, every one of our sins. We don’t have to earn his forgiveness. We don’t have to deserve his pardon. There’s not even a need to display worthiness, however we might define that.

I told you it was a sweet deal. The renegotiations went better than we could ever expect. And God was the one who drove it forward.

The renegotiated deal. God will give us a new heart.

What happens when a sports star gets a sweetheart deal in the renegotiated contract? Oh, sometimes they can have the worst season ever. With everything guaranteed, why break your back? Maybe they weren’t the star we thought they were. They are in the game just to chase the bucks. To get a new contract but to sit out the whole season on the bench, even though you are physically and mentally able to get on the ice, nobody would do that. Just look at our goalie, Flower. He was getting mad he didn’t get enough time in the playoffs as the team fell before the Dallas Stars. We all feared he was itching to be traded, but then they kept him. He’s hoping, in a tight season, with so many back to back hockey games, he will get plenty of time in the net. Well, that’s a lot more sports analysis than you bargained for coming from a preacher this week, but suffice it to say it shows the heart of a champion. They want to compete. They want to excel. They want to win.

Here’s how the renegotiated deal has affected us.

“‘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.

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 (33-34a).”

The Lord has given us the heart of a champion. We have a heart that is in tune with the Lord. We have a mind that agrees with the Lord’s law. We have a heart that is eager to follow what the Lord commands. We belong on the team. We are God’s people, with all that means. And he will always be our God, no matter what.

This inner change shows in our lives. From the oldest to the youngest, we know the Lord. Instruction in the Lord is not an introduction, as if it were information we were completely ignorant of. Everyone among God’s people believes in him. Their faith in the Lord shows by their faithful deeds.

Is this real? Does this exist? Or is it a philosopher’s Utopia, a songwriter’s “Wouldn’t it be nice?”

Peter describes this reality. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2.9).” This is what we are now, what we are here, in this world. This is not a reality that only can be found in the next life, in heaven. Paul tells us of this reality, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3.12-13).” Paul is not urging the impossible. He is not asking pigs to fly. He is asking the Lord’s people to live up to what the Lord has made them, his holy, loved, chosen people. “Only let us live up to what we have already attained (Philippians 3.16).”

The Renegotiated Deal (It’s Sweet)

1. God will forgive our sins (31-32, 34b).

2. God will give us a new heart (33-34a).

That’s the key to a long and successful career in sports. That’s the key to prosperity both for the face of the franchise and the owner. All-star effort flows out of admiration. The owner becomes more a partner in their joint success.

That’s the key to our eternal relationship with our Lord. We love him because he first loved us. He has bound himself to us with everlasting cords of compassion.

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