(Summary of the sermon:13 Sep 2015)
CARRY THE CROSS
During Jesus’ earthly sojourn, His disciples often asked Him for timelines in changes in the world. Jesus responded by saying that they would be able to sense the changes when they looked at the world around them.
Today, if we glance around our Globe we will be in for a surprise. Science and technology have leaped ahead. In fact the last 20 years has witnessed a spurt in growth across all fields that have been unparalleled for almost 200 years. Silicon Valley in California is the IT capital of the world. Money and prosperity is on the rise. People all over seem to be doing so much better now.
But the truth of the matter is that the outward prosperity is definitely not an indicator of the heart.
Let us look at a group of people in the Bible whose lives were testimonies to this truth.
CHASING AFTER IDOLS
At one point in history, Israel was doing well. The land and the people enjoyed much prosperity.
Everything seemed totally fine on the outside. But deep within, decay had set in. The stench was becoming unbearable every day.
When God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites, He asked them to wipe out everything in the land. Well, the people obeyed… just almost. There were a few things that they kind of left behind. Those things grew to take a deep root in their lives. One of them was idolatry. The people started worshipping a god called ‘Baal’. Now, Baal was the god of rain and sex. The worship of Baal involved offering sacrifices to him so that the land would get rain. One of the ways of doing that was to sexually arouse Baal. So within no time, Israel was down this path of prostitution. They fornicated under every tree. The house of Bethel changed to the house of Bethaven (iniquity).
Our world too is in a similar darkness. Gay and lesbian relationships, adultery, live-in relationships and other sexual immoralities have become accepted. Some countries have even legally accepted these practices. It won’t be too long from now, before we will come face to face with some of these situations.
How do you think we will respond?
MARRYING A PROSTITUE
Well, returning to the story of Israel. In this context, God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute called Gomer.
Yes, you heard that right. A prostitute for a wife!
Strange as it sounds, God wanted to speak to His people Israel through Hosea’s life. You see, Israel was God’s bride. Now they had forsaken Him and went after another god. Essentially, Israel was prostituting. God was telling them through Hosea’s life that even though they were committing harlotry, He still wanted them to be His bride. He still loved them.
God didn’t consider only Israel as His bride. Each one of us who is a follower of Jesus is His bride. He loves us. No matter how messed up our past has been, He still cares for us with a husband’s love. He runs after us and calls out saying, ‘Beloved! You are mine. I love you forever.
What are the areas in our lives where we forsake Jesus? Paul says in 1 Corinthians that, ‘I am fearful that the way Eve was deceived by the craftiness of the serpent you can be deceived by not understanding the simplicity in Christ Jesus’. Anything that turns us away from the simple and deep love of God is an area of prostitution in our lives.
After a few non-incidental years of marital bliss, Gomer began to get bored. So she left her husband and children behind and eloped with some other men.
Hosea was heartbroken.
But God’s Word came to Hosea again in Hosea 3:1 saying, ‘Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.
He went in search of his wife and found her in a slave market. Imagine the heart wrenching pain that this husband must have felt seeing his wife in such a state! Hosea wasted no time. He bought Gomer for 15 shekels of silver and took her home.
Once again Hosea declared his love to Gomer. He says, ‘Please do not return to that wretched life. I love you with all my heart’.
The God who put Hosea up to this is still alive. He loves us, His bride, with that same passionate love. He bought us from sin’s slavery by paying His own blood. We have been bought with a cost. We are His Beloved.
CARRYING OUR CROSS
All that God expects of us is to love Him back. We can do that by carrying our Cross.
As we live in a world that wants only the blessings and fruits of the Cross, let us be a generation who is willing to bear the Cross.
We can take encouragement from our patriarch David. As a young shepherd boy who volunteered to fight the Giant Goliath, he was up for a huge challenge! King Saul offered his armor to David. David tried it on and realized that it wasn’t meant for him. Humbly, he returned the armor to the King. He was satisfied to face the nasty Philistine with just his stones.
Closer home, there is a modern day hero called Usain Bolt. He is the fastest runner in the world. After breaking records in the Olympics, he was invited to numerous parties. But Usain Bolt refused all of them. He says that he couldn’t get distracted by such trivialities. He needed to stay focused if he wanted to be a champion.
As a response of our love for God, we may have to deny certain things in the world. It might be painful for a brief moment. But we can be certain that in the long run, denial is wonderful. We will never be called to deny or turn away from being in the center of God’s will. We only have to deny the temporary luxuries that could cost our championship.
The world around us can be enticing and tempting. But let us be careful about guarding our lives and ensuring that it is a message to the world. We don’t have to chase after fame, position, job or spouses. We only have to respond to the amazing love that God has showered on us. Let us be careful about our responses. The Bible says that very soon after that, Israel was enslaved by the Syrians because of their disobedience to God. May our lives not result in God’s punishment as a result of our waywardness.
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