“For me, the most formational passage in Jeremiah is Chapter 31, beginning with verse 31.
In this text, God speaks through his servant Jeremiah that he will “make a new covenant” with his people that will not be like the old covenant he made with their ancestors and Moses. He then goes on to prophesy that he will put the law on their minds and write it on their hearts and says “I will be their God and they will be my people.” No longer will people need to tell people to know the Lord because everyone will already know him and know forgiveness of their sins.
THREE lessons of spiritual formation we can take from Jeremiah:
1. Formation happens in the context of relationship.
Formation happens within an intimate relationship with God. This passage is intensely relational; God says he will be our God and we will be his people. We will all know God and be known by him. The covenant language itself is relational, as covenants are designed to bring two parties into relationship with one another.
Spiritual formation must begin with a relationship with God, and only in the safety and security of this relationship will people be able to be formed and become what God wants them to become.
This also implies that this is not just a relationship between us and God, but between fellow people.
We are God’s people, not God’s individuals.
We are designed for relationship not just with God but with one another, and within these relationships we can experience the love, the care, the compassion, the forgiveness, the accountability, and the faithfulness to continue on our spiritual journey together.
2. Law must be written on our hearts.
God’s new covenant is not a set of rules to change people from the outside in but a relational promise to transform his people from the inside out.
It is God reaching out toward us to deal with our sin and to heal our wounds and ensure our faithfulness to him and to this new covenant.
It is our job to recognize that formation only happens when we surrender to God and allow him to convict us, challenge us, and encourage us toward becoming more spiritually formed. It is not a matter of following a step-by-step guide toward spiritual formation but rather a surrendering of ourselves to God to allow his Spirit to refresh and renew us.
3. Jeremiah shows us the promise of forgiveness.
God promises to forgive his people’s sins and to remember them no more. In this promise, we can find the comfort that though we are far from perfect and far from a finished product, we can live in the freedom that God’s forgiveness provides us. Though we may sin, we can seek and receive God’s forgiveness and we have the opportunity to surrender this area of our lives to God and to learn and grow.
It allows us to know that we are “in process” and that God is patient with us as we struggle through this process.
Written by Steve Hoffman from Bethany Covenant in Bedford, New Hampshire