You will get the best sense of the key points of this study if you listen to or read the message from June 28 on the worship page first. In terms of Jeremiah readings, chapter 17 is a primary text.
Spoelstra’s contention in this section is that God cares deeply about the condition of our spiritual inner life referred to often in scripture as our “heart.”
Read the following verses from Jeremiah, then note what God is suggesting about our heart conditions:
How would you complete the following statements set up by Melissa Spoelstra based on the scriptures you just read?
Now “Think about your own heart. If God were to write two specific ‘be careful’ statements for your heart, what might they be?
Spoelstra shared a very long list of heart conditions based on verses of scripture. I am putting several here to give you a good but random sampling.
As you read each verse and decide what that condition is, decide whether that is an unhealthy and undesirable condition or a healthy, desirable heart condition. Then do some self-reflection and decide which of these are a strength for you and which you need to take to God for repentance and healing that you may have a renewed heart.
Read Jeremiah 3:13.
What two things does God say we need to do with our sin in order to change our hearts?
Confession does not come easily. We have a hard time admitting our sinful attitudes or behaviors to ourselves or to confess them to God. It is even harder to confess and apologize to someone you have hurt, but it is necessary for both of you to move on and heal, either to reconcile or go your separate ways.
Spoelstra asks these pertinent questions:
Read James 5:16.
Though it may seem easier to keep your confession to yourself, just between you and God, what does this suggest? Why do you think this might be important? How could this relate to prayers of confession in a worship setting?
Read Jeremiah 3:25.
Why would it be important to confess old sins including those of our ancestors? Why is it important to confess not only individual sins, but also corporate sins as a community or society?
Many people choose not to deal with their own sin or the sins of society, past or present. We justify things, make excuses, and play the blame game. Spoelstra suggests, “Blame is an epidemic in our culture.”[iv]
“Recall a time who you played the ‘blame game.’ Why were you unwilling or reluctant to take responsibility for your actions? How might things have been different if you had been willing to ‘own it’?”[v]
In Jeremiah’s day, the people made choices that took them away from God’s will. God is heart-broken and reaches the point that enough is enough. Read Jeremiah 4:3-22 and notice the wrongs of the people from God’s perspective. Also note six references to the word heart.
What do you learn about the concerns of Jeremiah’s day from these heart references? How would you apply these concerns and issues to our own day?
Jeremiah 6 begins with a last warning but says it is already too late. Read Jeremiah 6:10-11a. This is the point Jeremiah has reached as a disheartened prophet.
“What are some of your current disappointments, frustrations, or problems?”[vi]
Go on to read Jeremiah 6:22-26.
What was God warning the people of Judah? What warnings do you think God would give us today?
What instruction did God give in Jeremiah 6:26?
Read Jeremiah 6:27-30.
Why was God putting them through “fiery trials?” What trials has God put you through? What was the result? What trials is God putting society through right now? What do you think will happen?
Spoelstra gives additional Bible passages about going through these trials.
What do you learn from each of these?
Read Proverbs 4:23. Just as we must guard our physical health, so we must protect our spiritual health.
Consider the many things that can influence you. Which of these are positive for you? Which are negative? Can some be either or both? Add other influences in your life. I used the ones mentioned by Spoelstra and added a few more.
How do you determine which are healthy and which are unhealthy for you?
How do you limit the negative influences?
This is important because, as Spoelstra puts it, “What goes into, or influences, our hearts, directly affects what comes out of our hearts.”[vii] As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
Spoelstra suggests “One of the best ways to guard our hearts is to guard our minds, because heart attitudes are largely determined by our thoughts.”[viii]
Read the following:
What do each of these tell us about guarding our minds and hence our hearts?
Read Jeremiah 9:3-9.
In what ways is the evil proceeding from Judah’s heart evidenced in their evil behavior?
In your own life, which of the following might be a concern regarding your thoughts?
Read Jeremiah 24.
“What type of fruit did God show Jeremiah in this vision? What did the good fruit represent? What did the rotten fruit represent?”[ix]
Spoelstra suggests the problem with King Zedekiah was that unlike verse 7, he was half-hearted in his faithfulness to God, whereas God seeks those who are whole-hearted in their faith commitment.
She goes on to apply this to the Church in the United States.
[i] P. 2120
[ii] P. 2130
[iii] P. 2327
[iv] P. 2370
[v] P. 2378
[vi] P. 2463
[vii] P. 2585
[viii] P. 2586
[ix] P. 2642