I grew up in a home without any pets. I can’t remember ever really longing for a pet or even asking for one, but I am sure there were times when I wished to some degree that we had one.
My wife, Tara, and I got a cat a couple of years into our marriage and we had that cat up until a few years ago when it went out one night and never came back home. I liked that cat at first, but we had a “falling out” for a few reasons so I was OK with that. Heartless, I know.
Since then, my wife and kids have brought up the idea of getting another pet (just no more cats!) a few times but each time we looked at the hectic nature of our lives and ended up not getting one. Until several months ago when we got a parakeet named Charlie. I was OK with Charlie because birds don’t require much work.
But then my family began asking about a dog.
Now I like dogs. But I also know that dogs come with a lot of work—work I really don’t care to do. So initially, my response was that we could get a dog, but they couldn’t count on me doing the work to take care of the dog. We explored the idea for awhile but opted not to get one.
And all of that takes us to several weeks ago when my wife shared a compelling reason to get a dog—a reason I could not disagree with and I actually supported to the point of agreeing to help with the work necessary for us to have a dog.
Soon after, we adopted a chocolate lab puppy named Della (short for Ghirardelli—the chocolate company). Had you told me a couple of months ago that I would be getting out of bed at 3:30 am to take a dog outside and cleaning up you know what, I would have said you were crazy.
But I am. And here’s the kicker—I don’t mind really. Why? Because I have had a heart change. I see how much joy Della brings my kids, especially my daughter, and that makes it all worth it. Della is a great dog that is loved by our family—including me. Even now as I am writing this on my back porch, it’s comforting and enjoyable to see Della explore our yard and lay by my feet.
It’s amazing how a heart can change, isn’t it? Some heart changes like this one can be somewhat important. Other heart changes can be rather inconsequential. But there is one heart change that is vital. And that is a heart change that we will explore this week in Jeremiah Prophesied a New Covenant. (Unit 15, Session 2)
Jeremiah is often called the “Suffering Prophet” or the “Weeping Prophet” because his prophetic ministry was so difficult, as God had told him it would be. Jeremiah’s words of prophecy were not heeded by the people and as a result, they continued to plunger deeper and deeper toward God’s discipline. But in the midst of all of this, Jeremiah shared a beautiful message of hope—a new covenant that God would initiate with His people one day. We read about this new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord ’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord ’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord ’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord ’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”
Notice three key aspects of this new covenant.
- God will unify His splintered people. At this time, Israel and Judah were divided, but God promises that He would make this covenant with both houses. That’s important because it shows us once again the relational heart of God. The sinfulness of man tears us apart and divides us. The trinitarian nature of God brings us together and unites us. We see this heart of God here and it reminds us of the vital importance of gospel community.
- God will bring this to pass—no matter what. God references the Mosaic Covenant—a covenant that was conditioned on Israel’s obedience. If you read through the Books of the law, you will see several places where God shares the promises of blessing for Israel if they obey His law and promises of curses if they broke it. They broke it and experienced those curses. The New Covenant is not conditional though. It is based on God’s word and His perfect character. The New Covenant would come to pass—period.
- God will change the hearts of His people. This is the sweet spot of this covenant. God would change the hearts of His people so they would truly know Him and love Him. This is essential—it is why God’s people failed over and over again and why they were facing judgment in Jeremiah’s day. Their hearts were far from God. They did not love God, so they did not obey Him. A changed heart is a prerequisite for obedience and relationship with God.
We know that this covenant centers on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way that God would forgive His people’s wrongdoing and how we can know God, love Him, and obey Him joyfully out of gratitude for what He has done for us and who He is.
As you share the New Covenant with your kids, make sure they understand that they need this same heart change. Remind them that their hearts are not able to love God apart from God working on them and changing them. Let them know that God delights in changing hearts—including their hearts!
How have you seen God change your heart toward Him, the gospel, and the world? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the November 13, 2016 session (Unit 15, Session 2) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.