Press on to Know the Lord
Sunday, October 19, 2014
1 "Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
2 "He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day
That we may live before Him.
3 "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth."
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early.
5 Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.
6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
8 Gilead is a city of wrongdoers,
Tracked with bloody footprints.
9 And as raiders wait for a man,
So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem;
Surely they have committed crime.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
Ephraim's harlotry is there, Israel has defiled itself.
11 Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you,
When I restore the fortunes of My people. NASB
As we read the prophets we would do well not to think too highly of ourselves. As we read about the loyalty of Israel and Judah being like the morning rain or the dew that evaporates quickly, we may be tempted to think we are better than they. We have the New Testament to guide us. They did not. We have the Spirit who has come to live within us.
We are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, the Bride of Christ. What great, magnificent accolades the Lord has heaped upon us. We are the people of God who have accepted His love and grace given through Jesus Christ. And such we are if we have accepted the gift of salvation offered by God through our Lord's death on the cross.
But let us be wary of getting so puffed up that we think our loyalty is stronger than Israel's and Judah's. How loyal are we to our Savior? If Jesus were to stoop down before us and write in the sand before us, what would He write to help us see our failures to love Him as He commands us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength? What would He write to help us see how far short we fall from having the perfect relationship with Him? What would He write to show us that we are failing to love our neighbors as He commanded?
Let us be wary of thinking we stand, lest we fall. Just how loyal are we to the Lord? We need to be careful as we bring the prostitutes of our world before Jesus to be judged. He is as concerned about our loyalty to Him when we are alone, or rather when think we are. When we follow the law to put on a good show for the world we need to remember that God sees us to the depths of our being and knows the weaknesses and failures we hide from everyone else.
Our purpose in the church is not to point out the sin of the world. Our purpose is to point the world to Christ. God loves them and they are wounded because He loves them. He was wounded so they might be healed. They openly rebel and their sin is obvious to them and to everyone else.
But then, our sin of judgment is seen by the world, better than we see it ourselves. They call us hypocrites. Are they wrong? Do we sin less than they do? Or are we just more aware of our sin? Do we do a better job of hiding it? To be fair, we are working at overcoming sin. We are seeking to be what God has called us to be, but are we not also falling short of God's perfect plan for us?
God did not call us to stand in judgment of the world, but to call them to accept His love, His forgiveness, and His Lordship.
I am struggling with an attitude I have heard expressed many times. “How can you call yourself a Christian and continue to do …?” You may fill in the blank with your own pet peeve. If this is your attitude, I would ask how long it took you to get to the level of maturity you have reached in your relationship with the Lord. Is He not still working on you? Changing you, helping you to improve?
Perhaps He is working on the other person you are talking about as well, but He has just not gotten around to dealing with that particular sin that you have so much trouble overlooking in someone else. Does this excuse their sin? NO! But by standing in judgment of them you are taking God's place. Love them. Keep pointing them to the one who can change them. Keep pointing them to the Word of God that God will use to lead them deeper in their relationship with Him. Keep reminding them to nurture their relationship with God. But also keep praying for them. Do not give up on them.
As we look at this chapter of Hosea, he starts off with words of warning and words of hope. The judgments that God spoke through His servants were always tempered with grace. Hosea calls Israel, and us today, to return to the Lord, “For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.”
We are called to confess our sin and turn to God for help in overcoming our tendency to rebel against Him. In Jesus we have the call of God to accept His grace and forgiveness. He judges us, and then He heals us. He wounds us, not to destroy us, but to move us to change our attitude and move us back into the proper relationship with Him.
The proper relationship is to accept His Love and His Lordship. If we accept His Lordship without His love we do not truly know Him. If we accept His love and feel we do not need to live under His authority, we have not accepted the One True God who is portrayed in the Bible, but a cheap imitation.
His judgment of us, His wounding of us, is to call us back into the proper relationship with Him. This is the ongoing struggle we are in as we daily die to self and live to God. We give up our own ideas and accept what He says to be true. We give up our own desires and live to bring honor and glory to our Lord.
The call of Hosea in verse 1 is “Come let us return to the Lord.” in verse 3 he calls us to “press on to know the Lord.” Paul used similar wording when he said, “not that I have already attained, but I press on”. Remember that from our study of Philippians?
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. NASB
Pressing on, pushing on toward a closer relationship with the Lord, to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
We were raised to life when we became a Christian. When we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we agreed with Him that we had not been living in that relationship with Him, but now with His help, we will begin to grow and learn how to live out that proper relationship to Him.
When we ask the question about how someone can claim to be a Christian if they do, or do not do certain things, we are equating the Christian life to being a simple matter of obeying certain rules. As I understand what the Bible teaches, Christianity is not about keeping the rules, but rather about living in relationship with God. The rules are important because they help us, or rather God uses them to show us the condition of our relationship. If we are having trouble following a rule God uses that to show us that there is a problem with the relationship.
The church is called to make disciples of Jesus Christ. That means we teach them to obey, not the rules, but God. The rules help us to understand what God is saying to us, how He is leading us. We are called to teach the rules so that God can use them to lead His followers.
Before someone comes to Christ, the rules, or the law if you prefer that term, show us our failure. God's Spirit speaks to that heart to say, to them that they are not in the proper relationship with Him. He is Lord and to refuse to follow the rules He has given, is to rebel against Him. Coming to Him and admitting that, or agreeing with God that this is true, is the first step in correcting the relationship. Accepting that God loves us and bore the cost of our rebellion, as demonstrated through the death of His Only Begotten Son, is the second step. At that point we have effectively opened the door to allow Jesus to come in and live within our hearts to begin being the Lord of our lives.
For the rest of our lives we are pressing on to know the Lord, to better understand Him and His plan for us, to become mature followers who then reproduce and encourage others to join us in following Him.
Paul says he has a righteousness based on faith, not Law. It is our relationship with God that makes us holy, not our keeping of the Law. It is our faith in Him to forgive us and to lead us. Our role is to continually nurture that relationship, to press on to know Him and the power of His resurrection.
Breaking the Law is a result of imperfections in the relationship. The relationship is not broken because we break the Law. This is an important distinction. Is our faith in God, or in ourselves to keep the Law?
I do not know about you, but I have a full time job listening to God and nurturing my relationship with Him. I do not have time to waste judging other people. I do have the time to love them and point them to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I do have the time to love them enough to help them learn the law, not so they can keep it in their own strength, but to help them learn to walk in the Spirit, to help them live out what it means to be connected to the vine.
Somewhere in the relationship with Him, we will learn how to love others and not stand in judgment of them. Those who criticize the church for being hypocrites are not totally wrong. Sometimes in our well-meaning efforts to live out our relationship with God and others, we focus more on the rules instead of on the relationship. This is when we come across to the world as being judgmental.
Lord, help us to love You with everything we have within us. Help us to love others enough to point them to what means so much to us, that is, Your Love and Your Lordship. Help us to see what You meant when You spoke through Hosea and said:
Hosea 6: 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
Help those who do not know You to see that You love them and want them to be loyal to You. Help those of us who do have a relationship with You to press on to Know You as fully as it is possible to know You.