This post is taken from the message I preached at Southside Baptist Church this morning. While it was preached in a larger context to discuss the state of the church in general, the central question is this: In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Does this really apply to the church of the 21st Century? I think it might, but before it does, there are three things that we must consider before we can claim this promise for ourselves.
First, is God’s covenant written on your heart? You see, the promise of prosperity is made for those who are God’s people. Listen, I know that you might take offense in this question, but I am truly asking this out of love. Billy Graham has said it and I am in full agreement with this statement: the greatest evangelism field in the world is the church roll and the church pews. We have gone for too many generations pronouncing people saved when Jesus said that we will know true Christians by the fruit they produce not by the professions they make. And because of our easy beliefism, we have names on rolls and people sitting in pews who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the tares among the wheat that Jesus spoke of. They are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are the ones who will say to Jesus, Have we not prophesied in your name? Have we not cast out demons in your name? And Jesus will say, Depart from me, for I never knew you. It doesn’t matter what kind of works you do, if you do not have that personal, intimate love relationship with Him based on God’s grace that comes through faith in the shed blood of Jesus on Calvary’s cross – the blood that covers your sin – faith in His death, burial, and resurrection that provides forgiveness of sin and acceptance into the family of God. If you don’t have that kind of relationship, then you don’t have the covenant of God written on your heart, and you cannot claim God’s promise. But let me tell you how you can take care of that right now.
You need to admit to God that you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. You, me, all of us. And if you believe the Bible, it’s easy to admit that you are a sinner. So just agree with God. Tell Him right now. Just say. it I’m a sinner. That’s the easy part. Next, understand that according to Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death. In other words, what you deserve because of your sin is to die spiritually and eternally. That means what you deserve is to spend eternity in hell, a place of eternal torment – a place where a fire burns eternally and infinitely hot but puts out no light so that it is infinitely and eternally dark. I can’t imagine a place like that, but Jesus says it is real, and it is where everyone who does not have this relationship with Jesus will spend eternity. But the rest of that verse says that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The opposite of spiritual death is eternal life. The opposite of hell is heaven. The opposite of eternal darkness is eternal light in the presence of God, and that’s what you get when you trust in Jesus. Why? Because in Romans 5:8, Paul says, that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still in our sins, Christ died for us. The shed blood of Jesus. For us. So how does it work? Romans 10: 9, 10. Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. What does that mean? Pray right now. No, this is not the invitation. But right now, everyone bow with me. If you want to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, pray. Tell God you are a sinner and that you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. Tell Him that you believe that He rose from the grave on the third day and that you want Him to be Lord of your life and that you want Him to be your Savior. Now thank Him for Saving you.
Now if you did that, and you meant it, His covenant is written on your heart, and the rest of this message is for you.
The second thing about this promise that we need to consider is found in v. 10. The promise of prosperity comes after His judgment is complete. I know that this isn’t what we want to hear, but it’s what I have been saying for the last several weeks. I don’t think it matters that our next president is going to be Donald Trump. I fear that it is too little too late. The church has failed to be the church God intended it to be for too long. We say things like “if God doesn’t judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” But we don’t mean it. We don’t even have to go back that far. Look at the history of the church in more modern times, and you will see the same pattern. We beg God for mercy; He gives it, and we go right back to our old ways. And since the election, I have already seen evidence that we are ready to go back to being the church we have always been. Isn’t that just like us? We pray for God’s mercy. We beg Him to give us a certain president. And when He does, we say, “Okay, thanks, we’ll take it from here.” Folks, nothing has changed. And nothing will change unless we the church humble ourselves and pray and turn from our wicked ways – unless we repent of our apathy and cry out to God for mercy. Even then, I fear, judgment has already begun.
But even in judgment, God took care of His people. He told them to build houses. Plant vineyards. Get married. Have children. And live lives of holiness. And if they would be faithful during that time, He would visit them, and they would be restored.
Did you see the third part of this promise? Look at v. 12. The promise of prosperity is contingent on His people truly seeking Him through repentance. Listen to me. There is joy in repentance, but it comes only after the crushing. King David said it in Ps. 51: 8. “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice.” But that’s where repentance comes from – the bone-crushing, agonizing weight of sin. Paul said it in 2 Co. 7:10. True repentance comes from godly sorrow, and that is what leads to salvation. True repentance recognizes that our sin is hideous in that it brought God’s judgment first on Jesus, and now it is bringing His judgment on His church and on this nation. Only when we have come to the point that we recognize this truth will we ever truly seek Him with our whole heart. And that is when the promise of prosperity comes. That is when His plan to prosper us comes to fruition.