Friday, February 22, 2008

Jesus Christ, The All-Sufficient Treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Or, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

What could be so precious and valuable that a man would sell everything to buy a field, and so have the treasure buried therein? What could be such a marvelous pearl that an intelligent merchant would sell everything just to buy it? Certainly, we know that this treasure is Jesus Christ. We know that this is a reflection of the gospel. But why is Jesus so precious? What makes Jesus such a sufficient treasure? You do not sell everything and risk homelessness unless you see this pearl as more valuable than anything else you currently have or will ever attain. What about Jesus is so valuable? We say that the Gospel must be enjoyed, and by that we certainly mean that the Christ revealed in this Gospel is to be enjoyed; but, why? Why is Jesus so precious?

Tonight is going to be very difficult for me to preach. It is as if I am holding the most beautiful and costly diamond and I have only a short amount of time to show you all of its intricacies and beauty and splendor. Not only that, but I cannot fathom all of the beauty in the diamond which I am holding. Nevertheless we will attempt to do this.

We could easily spend hours discussing all of the various qualities of Jesus. We could discuss his perfect humanity, we could discuss the fact that He is God—which would lead to a discussion of all of His attributes, we could talk about his mercy, his love, his justice, all of these things. But tonight I want us to focus on one facet of this beautiful diamond; the benefits that come to us through the work of Christ. What has Jesus accomplished for us?

So, if you want to picture this; everything we discuss tonight will be under this big heading of Substitution. Then we will discuss 5 different benefits of substitution. All of these are so intertwined and it is difficult to separate each one, but we can make distinctions in each of these.
Tonight we will look at Jesus Our Righteousness, Our Redeemer, Our Reconciler, Our Reward, and Our Ruler.

Throughout this message we will be using a particular phrase--the work of Christ. What does that mean? When we use that term we are pointing to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Specifically we are referring to Christ work of substitution. He took the punishment of our unrighteousness and gave to us His righteousness. It is known as the great exchange. If this has happened in your life this is the reason you are saved, the work of Christ. It is the ground for every one of these benefits. The first of which is:

Jesus Christ, Our Righteousness, has fulfilled the Law

The first place for us to turn is Romans 8:1-4. As you are turning there you must know the background. There are 7 chapters before this that builds the foundation for this beautiful verse. Paul has labored to show that man is not righteous before God. There is none righteous, no not one. Paul has beautifully shown that both Jew and Gentile stand guilty before God, as he says in 3:19, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world be held accountable to God.” Paul has then masterfully shown that our righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But this leads to a very important question. What do we make of the Law? Are the Old Testament and the Law of Moses (like the 10 Commandments) meaningless? In Chapter 7, Paul is showing that those that believe in Jesus Christ are released from the Law. Jesus has fulfilled it. The Law was only there to display our sin; the Law (as we learn in Galatians) was there to point us to our deliverer. The Law, as good and holy as it was could never save, it could only expose sin and provide condemnation. It is at this point, after Paul cries out, “who will deliver me from this body of death”, that we find ourselves in chapter 8, verse 1.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”. What does all of that mean? It means that, though I was under the curse of the Law, Jesus Christ took my place. He did what the Law could not do—save me. He did what the Law was powerless to do—produce righteousness in hopelessly depraved sinners.

Oh, do you see the beauty in this verse? Do you see what Jesus Christ has done for you? The Law was pointing a sentencing finger of death over you. You stood under the curse of the Law. We all stood condemned before the Law; without hope of any of the blessings of God. But God made him who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf.

It seems like I have quoted Martin Luther numerous times in the last few months, but here is yet another story the helps illuminate the beauty of the gospel. Luther often envisioned himself battling with Satan. In one particular battle, Satan was reminding Luther of all his sins. Luther asked Satan to bring out the scrolls and show him all of his sins. Satan brings out a scroll, very long. After laboring for a long time, they finally completed the scroll, sin after sin after sin. You can imagine some of the sins on there: lust, anger, pride, rebellion, gluttony, murderous thoughts, not treasuring God and many of these multiple times over. Certainly, Luther could have been replaying in his mind those sins. Some may have even caught him off guard. As they came to the last sin on the scroll, Luther looked at Satan and said, “Is that all?” Satan, surprised by this, goes in the back room and brings out another very long scroll. They go through the same process; Sin upon sin, upon sin. Treacherous sins. Vile sins. Secret sins that nobody even knew but Luther. All are exposed before him. He certainly would have felt the pain of many of them. But he stood and took every one of them. Finally, again after a long time had passed they arrive at the bottom. Again, Luther asks, “Is that all”? Satan, quite shocked by this question again, goes into the back room and brings out another very long scroll. They continue the labor, sin after sin. Each an offense. Each requiring the death penalty. Each enough to separate Martin from God for eternity. Even the smallest offense enough to bring about the full wrath of God. Finally, after a long time passes, they get to the last one on the scroll. Luther, to Satan’s frustration, but perhaps with exhausted glee, asks “Is that all?” This time, Satan trying to hide the wry smile from his face, says, “Yes, Martin, that is everything”. Now, Luther tells Satan to grab ink and a pen. Now, Satan, write upon every one of those, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son covers all sin”.

Luther could have easily told Satan to write Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. Only those of you that have spent time staring at these scrolls will feel the sweetness of this verse. Only those that feel even an ounce of the weight of even one of these sins will treasure the great that there is now no condemnation.

We could use many words in this section to describe the benefits of Christ. Clean. Freedom. Though our sins are as scarlet, they are now white as snow. Holy. Pure. Blameless. Forgiven. Right with God. This alone would be enough to encompass our eternal worship. Yet this is not the only benefit that Christ has purchased. There are yet four more we will cover tonight. The second of which is:

Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer, has delivered us from the bondage of sin
The second place for us to look tonight is Ephesians 2. At the beginning of Ephesians 2 we see a very bleak outlook. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. I am not sure that we really understand what this is saying. Earlier we read the words of Jesus, “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. God’s standard is absolutely high. We must be perfect in all that we do. We must be perfectly righteous. Everyone in here probably knows that they are not 100% righteous. But I am not certain that you understand what this text is saying. This text is saying that not only were you not 100% righteous you weren’t even 1%. Furthermore you were so dead in your sin that you could not even muster up 1%. The biblical picture is that no man on his own initiative will ever seek God. Even if God is mercifully offering forgiveness, without God first doing a work in our heart we will not even come to Him for this mercy. We are dead in our sin.

This is a reference to human inability. We are so in love with our sin that we will not come to Jesus. There is not a soul in here, saved or not saved, that woke up one morning of his own initiative and said, I think I want to love Jesus now. No, we love Him because He first loved us. Or to use the words of Paul here in Ephesians 2, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” The Puritan, John Flavel, has a rather striking comment to say about this. “The blood that runs in our veins is as much tainted as theirs in hell”. We, like every soul in hell today, at one time were in bondage to sin. We loved sin. We treasured it. We refused to come to the light. This is our state without the work of God.

But listen to verse 4. But God…oh, what wonderful words…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” What does this mean that God has made us alive together with Christ? It means that just as the power of God raised Jesus from the grave, so the power of God raises us from our state of death. Meaning we are no longer in bondage to sin.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 7:24-25. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The body of death that Paul was talking about was the slave body; the one that is a slave to sin. But thanks be to God, he has made us alive with Jesus Christ.

To really catch what is taking place here we must take our minds back to the prophet Hosea. Remember in Chapter 3 when God urges Hosea to buy back his harlot wife. The idea of “buying back” is the concept of redemption. This is what God is now doing with us. We are in bondage to our sin. We have prostituted ourselves. We have run away and rebelled from our Creator. And now, we, like Gomer, and the people of Israel she symbolized, are empty, alone, and hopeless.
Yet listen to the amazing love of God. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” At this point we see that God speaks of a covenant that He will establish. This is how he will buy back his wife, this is how he will betroth her to Himself forever; it is through the Redemption that Jesus Christ has secured.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you are in Jesus Christ then you are free from the bondage of sin. That means you do not have to sin any longer. You choose to sin. It’s almost like you have to work to sin. You have to make it intentional. You have been freed from its treachery. Because of the work of Christ you now have the ability to see and savor Jesus Christ. What a wonderful blessing. These two would be enough to secure our happiness for all eternity. But they are only faint reckonings of two aspects of this precious diamond. We still have three more.

Jesus Christ, Our Reconciler, has brought us back into fellowship with God

For this point we will be looking at Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, and Colossians 1:21. There is an assumption behind this. That man is not currently in a state of fellowship with God. Mankind, apart from Jesus, are not in a right relationship with God. We have offended God. We have set up obstacles to our relationship with God. He cannot dwell among sin. His holy wrath and anger must be poured out upon sin, and the sinners that it encompasses. Therefore, we are most definitely God’s enemy.

We have looked in the past at the fact that we are not merely mad at God; He is infinitely ferociously mad at us. We are by nature objects of wrath. We are not born into this world having intimate fellowship with God. This is the background to Romans 5:10-11:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” We were enemies and yet God reconciled us. What was the obstacle? Sin. “And you once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds”. But what has God accomplished in Christ? “he has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…” What has Christ done? He has reconciled us with himself. We have been adopted as Sons. We are now in fellowship with the King.

Do you realize what this means? Do you know what it is to be the son of a King, the daughter or Royalty? Let me ask you this, if you have a Father that is very much in love with you…and he has the intent to lavish all of these gifts upon you…and he is passionate about your joy…what do you think that means for you? The God that owns everything, the Creator that hung the stars, we are now in fellowship with Him. We are his children. We are reconciled to Him. Can you imagine the benefits?Now, lest I be misunderstood as to be preaching a prosperity gospel, part of this fellowship is also a fellowship of suffering. At least that is the way it is at this point. But even suffering is used by God to further our joy. Oh, it is difficult joy. It is painful to have things you love ripped from you. Yet we have fellowship with God.

Only those of you that already have a relationship with God understand how wonderful this is. While you are not reconciled this does not sound appealing to you. This sounds boring. But, for those of you that know God, this is wonderful news. But we are not finished.

Jesus Christ, Our Reward, has lavished upon us gifts instead of wrath.

For this point turn to Romans 8:31-32. This section will serve to close out the first part of the book of Romans. Paul has gone from Romans 1-8 and has shown our helplessness before God and that we are under wrath. By chapter 8 the gospel has been unveiled for us to see and rejoice in. As Paul closes out what God has done, and gives us confidence that God is going to complete His work, he says this:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
If you understand this verse in light of what Paul has revealed to us thus far it is astonishing. If you really understand that we are by nature objects of wrath. We are enemies of God. We are guilty of putting Jesus on the Cross, the vilest act any human could commit. We would kill God if we had the power. It is for worms that God is doing this. For dust, the Son of God would come and die.

This is Paul’s argument. What is the most difficult thing for God to do? Now certainly, it is risky to talk in such a way. But Paul is doing this. He is saying, if God can (and will) do the unthinkable--give His Son for His enemies—then what do you possibly think He will withhold from you. How will he not give us all things? What are these all things?

I would venture to say that they are all of the gifts of the gospel. It is peace. It is joy. It is freedom. It is spiritual giftedness. It is blessing upon blessing. But more than any of this it is the gift of God Himself. That is where Paul leads us to at the end of chapter 8, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is the goal that Paul is moving us toward. As Piper has eloquently put it, “The greatest gift of the gospel is God Himself.

Oh, we will receive countless blessings. There are fringe benefits to this. There is peace that transcends understanding. There is joy that is inexpressible. There is hope in the midst of suffering. There is love that is lavished upon us. But all of these are but rays of blessing that are emanating from the source. If all of these little gifts are enough to cause us great joy and sustain us. If these gifts are attractive enough to adulterate into idols, how much more precious must be their source?

And all of these are given to us. They are given to us in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, Our Ruler, has brought us into His Kingdom

For this last benefit, turn to Colossians 1:13-14. This last point is very crucial. It helps us see something very important about all of these blessings, they are conditional. Another place to put your finger will be Matthew 10:34-39. Before we turn there, lets look at Colossians 1:13-14. We see here something very drastic that Jesus has done.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Again you can see here some of the themes that we have already touched upon. You have forgiveness. You have redemption. You have deliverance. Assumed in the text is reconciliation. In order for us to be “transferred” and “delivered” it must be assumed that we are not already in His kingdom. And we must understand from the Scriptures that the benefits that we have been talking about are only for those that are in the Kingdom of God. Only those that have been “transferred” enjoy these benefits.

Forgiveness is not found outside the kingdom. Righteousness will not be given to those that are not within the kingdom. Unless Jesus is your King he is not your Savior. You are not reconciled to God unless you are reconciled under the throne of King Jesus. You are not redeemed unless you have been delivered from death and transferred into this glorious kingdom. You cannot say to have the reward of Christ or any of the secondary benefits if you are not in his kingdom. You can not have the benefits of citizenship in America unless you are a citizen. So, it is in the Kingdom of God, unless you are a citizen you do not have the benefits.

And this takes us to our conclusion; our main application of this sermon.

One other fruit of the work of Christ, might be seen as a negative one. But it is necessary nonetheless. It is that of division. If you turn to Matthew 10, you will see this. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.

Jesus divides men. Either you are for him or against him. If you are not willing to break from even the most basic familial relationship for the sake of Christ then obviously you do not see Him as a sufficient treasure. Obviously, you do not want Him as your King. If He is not your King then He is not your Savior. He must be your Ruler as well as your Redeemer. But if He is your Ruler then you should rejoice because all of the benefits of the Kingdom are yours. Eternal life, righteousness, redemption, all of this. And the most precious gift of all—God Himself.

This is what Jesus Christ has secured for all those that are in His Kingdom. What are you exhorted to do tonight? If you are in the Kingdom, then act like it. Live like it. Live like you are redeemed. Live like you have been broken away from the bondage of sin. Do not present your bodies to death anymore, live in holiness. If Jesus is your King, then act like it. If you are reconciled to God then enjoy that. If you’ve been given the righteousness of Christ then live that out. Enjoy the Gospel.

If you are not certain tonight whether or not you are in Christ, then hopefully God has opened your heart so that you can see tonight Jesus as a sufficient treasure. Your application is straightforward, you need to be in the Kingdom. How is all of this appropriated, or applied to you? It is by grace through faith. It is believing that Jesus has done these things. It is by crying out to God for mercy. It is by trusting in what Jesus Christ has done. It is by asking Him to be your substitution. Cry out to God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Suicidal Exchange of Licentiousness

The Suicidal Exchange of Licentiousness
Jeremiah 2, Luke 15

As we began this series we looked at 1 Peter 1:8-9 and noted that Christ died to purchase our inexpressible joy. You were encouraged to pursue this inexpressible joy. The central theme of that first sermon was this: The Gospel was meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy it. That is all great and wonderful, but our experience tells us that we do not live lives of inexpressible joy. As we try to stay on the path of God-centered joy we often fall into a ditch. The last time we met we discussed one of these ditches; legalism. This time we will discuss the ditch on the other side; licentiousness. Eventually we will look at the all-sufficiency of the Cross of Christ and we will close up this series the last week of February by looking at the life of a man named John Newton.

Last time as we looked at the ditch on our right we discovered the pitfalls of legalism. We defined legalism as, “seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through our obedience to God.” It is self-salvation. It is our subtle attempts to smuggle our character into God’s work of grace. And we saw that it is deadly. We exposed it as an impossible burden and we were driven to the Cross for refuge from legalism.

Tonight we are going to look at the ditch on our left, the suicidal exchange of licentiousness. I understand that it is kind of a foreign word, so I hope to explain to you what it means. I would like to choose a simpler one but if I do I think the meaning will get lost. So, I will try to teach you a word you may not be familiar with. What is licentiousness? It sounds like something you get checked for at church camp. Or maybe it is the act of applying for a driver’s license. Now, we do check for licentiousness at church camp, but not in the way that you think. And this word does have something to do with a license. There are 3 definitions in the dictionary for licentiousness. One refers to being sexually unrestrained. That does have something to do with what we are talking about, but it is far too narrow. The second and third definition is what we are going to look at tonight. Two, “Unrestrained by law or general morality; lawless; immoral,” and three, “going beyond customary or proper bounds or limits; disregarding rules” are the definitions that we will use.

But that is a drab, meaningless definition. That definition probably does not stir you or cause you to camp out there and wonder if you struggle with licentiousness. We probably need to paint a picture for you of licentiousness. What does licentiousness look like? What is the driving force behind someone that is licentious?

Imagine with me for a moment driving your car on a really narrow bridge. It’s kind of exciting, but a little scary too. It is scary because on both sides of this narrow bridge is a deep canyon. If you fall off on either side you are certain to have a damaging wreck, possibly even death. Now in our little picture this narrow road that you are driving on is the gospel. It is the God-centered inexpressible joy that we talked about a few weeks ago. This is where God is calling you to live. This is the life that Christ had died to secure for us. Some day we will drive only on this road without the danger of the cliffs. But for now we have violent winds against us. Sometimes causing us to teeter to the left a little too far, and sometimes causing us to teeter too far to the right. Legalism is on your right side. It is partially faithful to the narrow road because it exalts holiness. That is good. It shutters at the judgment of God. That too is good. It strives to please God. That is also good. But legalism is a damning cliff because it is pitted against God-centered joy. It is pitted against finding pleasure in God. In fact it is pitted against God. You might not think it but at its core is self-salvation. Legalism will never please God. On the other side is licentiousness. Licentiousness loves pleasure. It treasures freedom. It is far from legalism. Licentiousness offers fun, legalism offers strict rules. Licentiousness offers freedom, legalism offers bondage. Licentiousness offers fulfillment and great pleasures. Licentiousness offers life. Yet for all that it offers it does not come through, because licentiousness is also a deep pit. Legalism is guilty of not finding pleasure in God. Licentiousness is guilty of not finding its pleasure in God. Licentiousness pursues another lover and rejects the gospel.

If you want a biblical example of these look at the Pharisee and the Prodigal Son. The Pharisee is the legalist. He follows strict rules. The Prodigal is the licentious man. He wants to take all of his father’s inheritance and go have some fun. He thinks that fun is found outside of the Father’s house. We can easily see licentiousness in the story of the Prodigal Son. But we will not have that text as our central starting point tonight. Tonight we are going to spend most of our time in Jeremiah 2. We will come back to the prodigal throughout the story, but we will focus here on the words of the prophet Jeremiah.

READ Jeremiah 2

These people are licentious. They have cast off all restraint. They have fallen headlong into idolatry and sin. They have rejected God. They are like the prodigal son that is gathering up his inheritance and is now spending it on prostitutes and the pleasures of the world.

Notice that I said pleasures of the world. I am not denying the fact that there are pleasures to be had in the world. He probably had moments of grand pleasure. I am sure that he enjoyed being with prostitutes. There was probably a season where his partying was really fun. Sin can be fun. Sin does hold pleasure. Listen to Hebrews 10:25 and what it says about Moses, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin”. There are two things for you to notice from that. One, Moses would have enjoyed these fleeting pleasures even though they were sinful. But now notice the second thing, they are fleeting. And that is where the big problem of licentiousness is. It is fleeting. It does not last. We can see this throughout the second chapter of Jeremiah.

Licentiousness offers much and delivers little. It offers a life filled with fun and excitement. It offers riches and fulfillment, and provides emptiness. It offers freedom from the shackles of rules, yet drives us into a deeper form of slavery. It offers flexibility, growth, life, and vibrancy and causes us to be hardened, rigid, betrayed. Licentiousness offers much and delivers so little, that is why I call it a suicidal exchange. Licentiousness is forsaking that which is all of those things it deceivingly offers all the while leaving you in the despair of all that which you wanted to escape. As we look at Jeremiah 2 we will see these things more prominently.

I. The fruit of licentiousness

A. Licentiousness leads to emptiness (2:1-13)

One of the things that Nikki and I enjoy doing together is watching American Idol. A couple of weeks ago, in one of the first auditions, there was a young man that had never kissed a girl; he desired to keep himself pure for his wife. Now, I have no clue if he is a Christian or if his passion was legalistic or if it came from a pure heart. What I did notice was the reaction that the judges gave him. They thought that he was utterly ridiculous and depriving himself of fun. They advised him to go kiss a girl and have a little fun. That is the deception that permeates our society, just as it did in Jeremiah’s day.

But I do not want this to fall into a discussion about the evils of society. The point of this text is not the evil of society that is attracting and hurting the Israelites. The point of this text is the evilness of our hearts. Our problem is that our hearts have disordered affections. Our fundamental problem is that the remaining corruption in our hearts lures us with disordered affections. If you are not saved; if the Holy Spirit has not made your heart new, then you always struggle with disordered affections. That is what this text is showing us. And it is showing us that if we are left to ourselves we will continually pursue idolatry and we will forsake that which gives us life. Left to ourselves we will go down the path of licentiousness and it will lead where licentiousness always leads, in emptiness.

Ask the prodigal son that finds he is starving and longing to eat the leftovers of a pig. Licentiousness always leads to emptiness. This is what God’s Word says in Jeremiah 2:5, “…and went after worthlessness, and became worthless.” In other words, you become what you behold. If you give your life to that which is worthless then that is exactly what you will become. The question is what did Jeremiah mean by “went after worthlessness”?

We see a common theme in these first thirteen verses. It is exchanging that which is beautiful for that which, “does not profit”. I take that to mean that what Jeremiah is talking about is the suicidal exchange of God’s glory for anything else. Paul picks up this idea in Romans 1 when he says, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” In other words they engaged in the suicidal exchange of self-worship and self-gratification. You can see where this leads in Romans 1. It leads to all kinds of immorality and inevitably to emptiness.

You become what you behold. You are what you treasure. If you treasure what is empty you will inevitably end up empty. What this means is that if you are living your life as the prodigal did then you will end up in pig slop. It may take 40 years. It may take 4 years. It may take 4 days. Licentiousness will lead to emptiness always. Therefore, we are urging you to abandon that which does not profit and come to the fountain of living water and drink.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Silver Chair, Jill is lost and thirsty in a strange land. She finds a brook, but she sees Aslan the Lion (a symbol of Jesus) lying beside the water. Aslan growls and tells her she may come and drink.” May I … could I … would you mind going away while I drink?” said Jill. The Lion answered with a look and a very low growl and as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Do you promise not to – do anything to me if I do come?” said Jill. “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said.” I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh, dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

There is no other stream! Everything else but Jesus Christ leads to emptiness. There is no other stream. As verse 13 says the Lord is the fountain of living waters. If you forsake that fountain of living water, no matter where else or to what else you turn it will lead to emptiness.

B. Licentiousness leads to slavery (2:14-

What did the prodigal son hope to do? He wanted to leave his Father’s rule. He thought that his happiness would be in freedom from his Father’s rule. But what did he find? He found that as he pursued freedom he ended up enslaved. He ended up having to work for a farmer feeding pigs. He had to hire himself out. He lost his freedom.

Is this not what sin always does to us? Stop telling me what to do! I can live my life how I want! I am free! Who are you to tell me what I can and can not do?!? Every alcoholic starts out totally free and then ends up enslaved. Sinners are convinced that they are extremely free. Listen to what Jesus said about sin and slavery. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”.

The truth of the matter is that everyone apart from Jesus Christ is enslaved. The biblical picture is that man apart from Christ is enslaved to sin. Given the choice between Christ and sin, the unsaved man will choose sin. But it is never this obvious. Our sin is so subtle and so enslaving. When the heroine addict took his first hit, he did not see 20 years down the road losing his job, family, life and becoming enslaved to heroine. When the alcoholic took his first drink he did not see what he would do to his family and his own life. Even those of you that do not know Jesus Christ may not become alcoholics and heroine addicts. But you will be enslaved by something far more deadly; yourself. You will live your entire life for yourself. You will never turn to Jesus Christ every bit of your life will be spent on that great idol of old—yourself.

Now, this tendency does not only happen to those that are not believers. Even those that are regenerate will struggle with this because of our remaining corruption. It might be subtle hidden things. Pornography addictions. Bouncing from boyfriend to boyfriend and then spouse to spouse. Constantly going from one idol to the next, whether it is television, sports, games, friends, work. Pretending to be passionate about Jesus but all the while you are enslaved to fears and doubts and questions and even, dare I say it, a secret atheism.

This is what licentiousness does. This is how sin entangles us. Notice what it says in Hebrews to cast off the sin that so easily entangles us. That is what it does; we are easily lured and entangling by sin because of our remaining corruption. And if we are not cautious, even as believers, we can end up enslaved. Now, if you are not in Christ you are a slave, period. That is what the Bible says. You are in bondage to your sin. You may think that you are free but you are not.

This is what we see here in Jeremiah. They refused to serve God. Just as the prodigal they wanted freedom from their Father’s rule. But what happened. As they sold themselves off to foreign nations they slowly became enslaved to them. And what a sad comment is verse 20-22. They refuse to serve God. The beautiful glorious loving Father. They refused to serve Him. And instead they bow down like whores and go after everything else. Yet, God continues in His mercy and what do they do? They continue pursuing sin. And what is the result? It is feelings of guilt. Sin holds with it consequences. They cannot seem to get clean enough. They try washing and washing away their filth but they cannot. Their guilt is always before the Lord.

Now, lest we become arrogant lets try to find ourselves in this passage. Is this not what we also do? Perhaps this passage describes you perfectly. You are stubborn and refusing to serve your gracious Heavenly Father. You would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. Do you not see your ignorance? Can you not see the futility of bowing down to all of these worthless idols and forsaking the living God? Oh, will your foolish pride be broken.

Even for those of us that are believers, are there not areas in our lives of remaining corruption? Do we not also sometimes play the harlot? How many times do we become enslaved by our idols that we pursued for the sake of freedom?

C. Licentiousness leads to hardening

Now if you find yourself going down the path of licentiousness let me tell you it is a very dangerous path to go down. If you have not and are not trusting in Jesus Christ to save you but are instead pursuing self-gratification, I hope that you will see the urgency of this text. I hope that you will see that after hearing this sermon and being confronted with this text, that if you do not heed the words of God you are one step closer to hell today than you were yesterday. One step closer to hell puts you one step further away from the Lord.

Look at what happens in this text. The Israelites have forsaken God. We have seen that it leads to their emptiness. But it is not as if they are just empty and alone and we should feel sorry for them. They have forsaken the Lord and they have water and food in front of them but they are too foolish to drink it, they would rather find their own spring. This downward spiral then leads to slavery. They have become slaves of their own desires and their pride. And now it will spiral even further down into what is known as hardening.

Hear the words in verse 25. “It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners and after them I will go.” They have become hopeless. They are now being further hardened to the gospel. And notice what God is doing at this point. He is letting their sin takes it’s natural course and giving them exactly what they wanted. They find themselves empty and estranged. So, God says, “call out to your precious idols”. Call out to your other lovers, maybe they will save you.

This might sound extremely unforgiving and unmerciful of God, but there is a point in which God says, you have come this far you will go no more. Friends, God’s mercy is not unending. It is for his children. But there is a biblical precedent for believing that there are those that have become so hardened that they will never turn to Christ. God has given them over as it says in Romans 1, and as it appears here. God has given numerous and numerous corrections, invitations, pleas, warnings, offers of grace, etc. and they have time after time rejected Him.

Look at what has happened in this text. God corrects, no response. Day after day he pursues them. He provides for them. He blesses them. He punishes them. He cares for them. Everything to draw them into fellowship with Himself, but what happens? “Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” God provides and blesses they thank the gods of Egypt. God corrects and rebukes they flee to Assyria for help. Never do they come to God. And they continue in this downward spiral of sin, even to the point of taking innocent lives and never do they turn back to the Lord.

This is what happens in hardening. Now the fool will reason thus: I think I may be one of those that God is dealing with in such a way. Oh no, it looks like maybe God has hardened me. Looks like I am not going to be saved so I might as well live it up and run as far away from God as possible, he is not merciful and will not save me anyways. Oh, foolish unbeliever. God is merciful yet today. That you have came under the teachings of his word and have even heard this admonishment is evidence that his offer of mercy still stands. He is offering you mercy yet once more. This may be your last offer of mercy. This may be the last time that God deals with your heart. Oh, dear friend, do not reject His calling. Do not reject His offer. It is urgent. He may withdraw it tomorrow. If Christ is offering you mercy today, you must not reject Him.

Believer, you know that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. You know that He no longer deals with you as a sinner but now as a dear child. If you are finding yourself go down the path of licentiousness I urge you to turn around. You do not want to go there. I believe that the story of the prodigal applies more to you than it does to an unbeliever. Come back. Come to your senses and fall back into the arms of Christ mercy. He is there to heal you. He will forgive your many transgressions. He will throw a party with you.


I was afraid as I put this sermon together that you would walk out of here and believe that the sermon was about how stupid licentiousness is and how you need to turn away from it, pull yourself up and just stop your darn sinning.

We must understand biblical theology at this point or else you will fall into the trap of legalism trying to pull yourself up out of licentiousness. The truth is you cannot pull yourself up from licentiousness. If you are not a believer then your heart must change. Guess what, you cannot change your heart. Only God can do this. That is not to say sit on your rear and wait for Him to do that. It is saying to cast yourself on the mercy of God and plea with Him to change your heart. And here is another aspect of biblical theology that you must understand. If you have such a heart that desires repentance and faith and a new life in Christ, where do you think that came from?

Jesus Christ has died for every transgression (licentiousness) of His sheep. Every transgression. This is the beauty of the gospel. But Jesus did not die for you to leave you just the way you are. He is in the process of making you holy and more like Him. In this process guess what you do. You cast yourself wholly on His mercy and trust Him in this. Put yourself in the path of the various means of grace. He uses Bible reading. He uses prayer. He uses ministers of the gospel and the preaching and teaching of His Word. He uses fellowship with other believers. He uses many things to cast out of our hearts the remaining corruption of sin. Surrender to Him in these things. Your answer to licentiousness is not to look down deep inside yourself and try really hard not to sin. Your answer is found in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Notice in Jeremiah that it said we cannot clean up our guilt no matter how much soap we use. Why is that? Because we cannot remove our guilt. But guess who can. Jesus. And he has, he does and he will. So, if you are in Christ and struggling with licentiousness I admonish you to follow the command of 1 John 1:9, “confess your sins” and cast yourself on the mercy of Christ.

If you are not certain whether you are in Christ or not and see that you are heading down the path of licentiousness I urge you to think about where you are going. It will lead to emptiness, slavery, and hardening. Jesus Christ is the opposite of all those things. He will change your heart and make it tender towards him. Instead of getting closer to hell each day you will be getting closer to Christ Himself. Instead of being enslaved to your sin, you will be given his freedom. Instead of the emptiness of licentiousness you will be given the bread of life and the water that will make you never thirst again.

How? Because Jesus Christ will step in your place. He has taken the punishment that your licentiousness deserves. He drank the entire cup of God’s wrath. All of God’s anger was poured out upon Jesus, so that it would not have to be poured out on His other children, believers, the bride of Christ. In doing so Christ has not only taken our punishment but He has also given us His righteousness; meaning that we stand before God in one instant justified, free from the guilt of sin. How does that become yours? God imparts to you grace and you latch on to that by faith. You believe Jesus. You believe in the promise of God. God does a work in your heart and you respond to Him. To make it simple, you cry out for mercy and God hears you. You believe that He has heard you and you live accordingly, giving your life to Him.