Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Looking Forward and Godward (Full Sermon Manuscript)
In Psychology, our past shackles our present, hence we are still bound by these events in our life that affect our very present. But the alternative is looking to the future, letting the future—which is spotless and still clear—define the things that we do in our present.
Likewise, God calls us to “look forward to what lies ahead of us” (Phil. 3:13). In the same verse, it states that we need to forget what lies behind us. This phrase does not mean that our past is inessential, but it contextually means that we do not need to be preoccupied with the things or events in the past because it pulls us away from what God intended for us. It distracts us to reach the goal and forward-looking.
We know that the “futuristic” way of Thomas Frey is based on a historical survey, research, and other secular sciences. But we need to understand that even in the Bible, God calls us to do likewise. Remember that we are told to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). The term “conduct” means to follow or to live like you are part of this empire or kingdom. Paul is telling the church at Philippi to live as if they are already in heaven. Why? Because all Christians are already kingdom citizens.
To be clear, take note of this, the Israelites looked towards the future of the coming Messiah. Once it was fulfilled in Christ, the disciples looked towards the inauguration of the kingdom of God commenced in His death and resurrection. Afterward, the early church, together with the disciples, after the ascension of Christ, looks toward the future return of Christ, His second coming for the completion and consummation of all things. Indeed, throughout the Bible, the people of God are looking ahead, forward-looking, and focusing on what is set before them in the future.
In other words, Israelites hang on to this messianic hope—future-looking, focusing on what is ahead of them—both forward and Godward. It is in this certain future that they still have hope—a living hope.
Now, in verse 31, it speaks about the last days—we are living the last days, which is also known as the days are coming. It was inaugurated during the realization of the “new covenant.” What is this new covenant? We learn in verse 31 that it speaks about the unity of the divided kingdom—they were both included in the covenantal promise.
Focusing on verses 33 and 34, understanding that this new covenant is different from the old one. In verse 33, God said, “I will put my laws in their minds and write it on their hearts,” this statement alludes to the 10 commandments which were written in the two tablets given to Moses. Being part of the new covenant entails that this law is now in our hearts. These are no longer isolated nor ignorant to us, but instead, we know that these things are part of our daily living.
This also points to Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Finally, the gift of forgiveness that God will no longer remember our sins is only possible through the availability of this new covenant. That is why Israelites eagerly waited for the coming messiah because they will be once and for all forgiven. Being forgiven entails being put back to the promised land, having the blessings of God, anyone now will be released from the bondage of sin; those who are part of the new covenant will now have the opportunity to have shalom—wholeness and flourishing life.
Similarly, as the Israelites looked forward and Godward in the coming of the messiah—fulfilled in Christ, we—therefore, as Christians—also need to do likewise, to look forward and Godward in the coming of Christ for the completion and restoration of all things. In His return, the Celestial city will be brought down, the presence of God is now felt in our faces; no more cry, no more pain, no more depression—it will just be full of joy, love, peace, and wholeness.
Looking into Hebrews 12:1-3, it shows us that the idea of “forward and Godward looking” permeates the entire Bible. We are called to “look unto Jesus,” we already tackled that focusing our life on Christ is both forward and Godward. It is in this manner of living individually and as a church that we can truly experience and maximize the goodness of our Lord and Savior.
With the help of the Spirit who leads and points us to Christ, we—UCBC—will be able to stand firm, keep the faith, moving forward while clinging to the covenantal promises of God! Let us contemplate the beauty and the unspeakable joy of God’s faithfulness to our church in pursuing godliness, future hope, and full satisfaction in Christ.
by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
April 25, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.