I Know the Thoughts

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I Know the Thoughts

The Word of God is a powerful sword; however, it does not cut to wound us, but to heal us. The Word seeks to bring healing to our lives, even when we turn to God in the midst of negative situations we may have brought upon ourselves.

I remember that before I became a Christian, I lived a life of chaos—causing problems at home, being the class clown, and causing problems for my teachers. However, after having all the temporary fun that I wanted to have, there were times at the end of the day that I asked myself, what is the purpose of this life? Why do I exist? Does anyone really care about me?

 

I never asked whether or not God existed because I was brought up in a Christian home, where my mother and father instilled Biblical values in me. Therefore, my question was not, “Does God exist?” The question I had was, “Does this God (who exists) care about me?” God, through different circumstances in life, brought me to the point where I realized that, through studying the Bible, I would realize my value, my purpose, and His tender care for me.

Since I surrendered my life to Him, one major text has always stood out to me. However, in recent weeks, through intense Bible study, it has come to mean so much more. The exact text is Jeremiah 29:11. The text itself is potent in its meaning, but when understood in context, it stands out even more. Jeremiah 29:11, reads as follows:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

One morning a few weeks ago, I sensed the Spirit of God convicting me to study this text again, even though I had used it many times to comfort others. What I would see that morning, and throughout the week as I meditated on that text, would expand my mind as it concerns God’s love for us.

The context of this passage was that the Southern tribes of Israel had been taken into captivity—tribes such as Judah and Benjamin. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken them captive. The book of Jeremiah contains a plethora of warnings that the prophet gave to the people of Israel, warning them to turn from their sinful ways, that God might preserve Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

The antithesis of this was that if the people did not turn, they would be taken captive by Babylon, and the city, along with the temple, would be destroyed. The people would not turn, however, because they could not come to the point of believing that God would allow His city of Jerusalem, and the temple within it, to be destroyed. They saw Jeremiah’s words as treason of the highest order.

Sadly, many of us know how the story unfolds. The people continued in their rebellious ways; their sinful decisions landed them in the sinful predicament of captivity to another nation. Many of us as Christians find ourselves in the same predicament today. Granted, there are many times when bad things happen to us even when we make the right choices. Over time, God helps us cope, strengthens us, and ultimately vindicates Himself and us in the process.

What happens, however, when bad things happen to us because of the decisions we made, and we know it? How should we respond in this type of situation? How does God view us at this moment? For some of us, there are times in our lives when we saw God’s warnings, but still chose to go in the wrong direction and thus landed ourselves in situations that we regret.

This is one of the major reasons that the Bible is so potent in its applicability to all generations. Not only do the stories within the book tell us of the results of wrong decisions, but they are also a magnificent revelation of God’s grace. As the story continues, God gives Israel hope in the midst of captivity.

In Jeremiah 29, the story continues by showing us that the leaders of the people came to a point of wondering what they should do, now that they had found themselves in such a despicable situation. Should they lose hope? Should they feel that God had forsaken them because of their rebellion? Should they think that God now hated His people? The answer came loud and clear to them through the prophet:

Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

This is astounding and very interesting. God is saying to them, “Despite the fact that you may have rebelled against me, committed idolatry, persecuted my prophets, and despised my warnings before captivity, if you would turn to me in your captivity, I will cause you to thrive in captivity.”

There are times when we find ourselves in places that we do not want to be, and we become discouraged, as though all hope is lost. But the word of the Lord is the same towards us, His modern Israel (not simply corporately, but individually as well), that if we will turn to Him, we can build, increase, and have peace, even in the worst of situations.

It is Satan’s goal for us to lose hope in God, but the only way that a plant can grow is if sunlight and water are provided. Is not Christ our Sun of righteousness and our living Water? Therefore, if He bids us grow when we turn away from sin to Him, it is possible because He is with us. It is only possible if the sunlight of His presence is shining upon us, and the water of life is available to us. In other words, we must rise up, having full assurance that God will help us to grow again.

Notice that God reveals to Israel the length of time they would spend in captivity:

For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. (Jeremiah 29:10)

I always wondered why God kept them in Babylon for that long. I began to realize that the length of time God allows us to stay in a negative situation is in proportion to the softness or hardness of our hearts. The faster we turn and learn God’s way, the faster our deliverance will be (in most cases). In this context, God told them that they would be in captivity, not only in light of the fact that they did not give the land rest for a number of years, not only in light of prophecy, but also in light of the time that He knew they would be ready to be delivered.

Now, as mentioned before, God wants us to build, grow, and have peace in the midst of bad situations. Jeremiah 29:11 states:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

This verse reveals that God has thoughts of peace towards us. The next question we might ask is, “What is the medium through which God’s peace condescends from His mind to us?” It comes in understanding, and whole-heartedly believing, one pivotal, overwhelming principle.

This principle is found in Romans 5:1. The verse states, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” The peace comes when we are justified by faith through Christ. The word “justified” is truly applicable to Israel’s situation. The Apostle Paul’s understanding of this word deals with three major components: 1) forgiveness of sin, 2) receiving credit for a life we did not live, and 3) being made into a new creation.

Firstly, when we come to God, in the process of Him giving us His peace He forgives our sinful motivations and choices. Once we come to Him, confessing our sins and turning from them through His power, He pardons our past choices which brought us to where we may be, and no longer holds them against us. It does not matter how filthy, degrading, or messy our past decisions were.

Some may say, “Maybe I should start making some good choices before I come to God. Let me change first; I cannot come before God as I am.” Respectfully, this is the first mistake that human beings make in coming to Christ. In reality, if we can turn from sin and make right choices in our own power, what is the purpose of coming to Christ? The reason that we come to Christ first is because He is the One that gives us the power to change our lives.

A man or woman may be able to overcome certain wrong habits, but there is no one who can change or erase the sins of the past, or completely transform the entire life, except for Jesus Christ. We must come to Him as we are, and He will receive us as we are and take us to where He wants us to be. The reason God is able to pardon us is because the Son of God died willingly to take the penalty of our sinful choices upon Himself at the cross. Christ became our substitution that we might experience restitution.

Secondly, after coming to Christ as we are, and after He pardons our past decisions of sin, He then credits to us a perfect life that we never lived. It is the life that Jesus lived, which was filled only with right choices, and which resulted in a perfect character, untainted by sin.

This is why at this moment it is said that when God looks at us, He sees us as though we have never sinned, for Christ’s perfect life is clothing us. What an awesome thought! The good works of Christ are credited to us, as though we did them. As undeserving as we are and feel, because God is love, it brings Him the greatest joy to justify us—to make us righteous.

Lastly, God does not simply forgive us, neither does He only give us credit for a life that we never lived, but He also instantaneously makes us into a new creation. In other words, we are “born again.” A life is now created that is distinct and separate from the old life, separate from selfish and carnal desires. It is a life in which Christ not only clothes us, but begins to live out His life within us. As Paul states in Galatians 2:20:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

This is exactly what God wanted Israel to experience, even while they were in captivity; it is the same thing He wants for us today. God delivers us spiritually from captivity before He delivers us physically from captivity.

Sometimes, before God changes a situation, He first seeks to change us. When Israel finally came out of Babylonian confinement, there was a great revival that took place; this was because God changed them in the middle of the predicament which they themselves caused.

Many do not realize that if God does not change them spiritually before He delivers them physically, when delivered they will make the same choices, which will land them right back in the very situation which God delivered them from. It would be a disservice for God to not attempt to change us through our trials.

In conclusion, we have seen exactly what God seeks to do with us, even when we fail. He seeks to justify us. If we will only come to Him, He will pardon, He will credit to our account the perfect life of Jesus, and He will make us a new creature. This does not mean that we will not struggle against sin, but the promise is given that if we will trust in God, we will be more than conquerors through Christ.

Once we have gone through this process, we may have a peace that surpasses all understanding. As we look at what God has made available to us, all we can say is, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us…” (1 John 3:1).

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About the author

Akeem James

Akeem James is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and has lived in the United States since 2001. At the age of 16, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, and became a Seventh-day Adventist. Currently, he obtained his Masters in Divinity degree from Andrews University and is the director of Ultimate Cry Ministries.