November 23, 2003
New Hope Baptist Church
There is a little word that is used quite often, both in the English and the Greek language. It is quite simply not thought of often in our everyday speech. It can be used as a noun, pronoun, conjunction, a preposition or an adverb. Most often the word to which I refer is used to show exception to an aforementioned thought.
Today, as we explore the reasons for being thankful and the goodness of our God, today as we look at Hosea and Peter and ourselves, and see the love of the Father towards us; as we reminisce past failures towards God and His constant faithfulness towards us; as we postulate our tomorrows through dark colored glasses, yet be reminded of His plan of a glorious future; as we remind our children of the foods we had to eat when we could do no better, while setting our tables today with the whole chicken, the high part of the hog and the choicest beef, cornbread dressing and collard greens; as we look back at the muck and the mire that we stepped from, and picture the long white robe we’ll wear in glory as we walk around singing “How I Got Over”, I can only title this message with that little word, But….
It has been said that big things come in small packages, however where this word is concerned, the all-important things is not the smallness of the package, but the One who has sends the package.
Naturally, at this time of the year, people begin to remember things to be thankful for. Not just Christians, but people with no object of their thankfulness, are thankful.
The sad thing is that the Christian’s gratitude lists seems to have fallen in line with the worlds’: cars, clothes, shelter, jobs, food, and the list goes on. There is nothing wrong about being thankful for these things, these needful and necessary things. However, the object of our thankfulness should be God.
Today, I would like to redirect our thoughts from the “things” that we have been blessed with to the God that has given the blessings. I don’t know about you, but when I stop and think about it, I am just amazed that a God like ours can so love a person like me. The question is begged; just what is our God like? Not what we have made Him to be, but what is He really like?
You see, I don’t much fancy the idiom that He’s a right now God. That just seems to place Him in a bottle that we expect Him to emerge from whenever we rub it the right way. A right now God seems to allude to the misconception that we are the determiners of His actions and not the other way around. When you say He’s a right now God, it seems that we set Him up and dare Him to disappoint us. When you call Him a right now God, it just seems to me that we have initiated a role reversal. I don’t postulate today that you should call Him a right now God, but I can suggest a few other adjectives that just might accommodate His Person. You see, I know Him and can recommend Him as:
An all right God – sometimes, as situations determine, He’s right now, sometimes, He wait a minute, and sometimes, He’s just plain no; but whenever He acts and however He acts and whatever He does, it’s all right.
There are three other ways that we want to see God today:
(Faithful and forgiving God) in Hosea
(Interceding High Priest) in Hebrews
(Constant Visionary and Protector) in Luke
I. First we see a Faithful and Forgiving God –
He is a faithful, forgiving God in spite of a faithless, adulterous people. The book of Hosea dramatically portrays our God as having a constant and persistent love towards His people.
God had consistently provided for His people, but they refused to see what He had done, and they showed no interest in thanking Him. You see, ungratefulness is a common human fault. For example, when was the last time you thanked your parents for caring for you? Oh, your childhood might not have been like you thought it should have been, however, you made it and now it’s your turn with your kids. When did you personally thank your pastor for the service he gives to the church? Or, your child’s teacher for the care taken with each day’s activities, instead of focusing on the one time the teacher admonished the child for disrespect or misbehavior? Or, your heavenly Father for his guidance and all of His blessings, rather than pouting over His correction and disciplines?
Background synopsis of Hosea:
Hosea is a book that illustrates God’s steadfast love for Israel in spite of her continued unfaithfulness. He assigns Hosea the huge task of marrying a prostitute that would adulterate herself after they were married, and uses his situation as an object lesson to illustrate just how the nation of Israel behaved toward her God in ignorance and indifference; and how devoted her God was to His love and desire for her.
It was a time of material prosperity and spiritual bankruptcy under Jeroboam II. Judgment seemed remote, but by 732 b.c. Damascus had fallen to the Assyrians and by 722 Samaria, the capital of Israel, fell and the people were deported.
Hosea’s name means “salvation” - the message that God wanted His people to hear and understand.
The upper classes were oppressing the poor
Hosea was the prophet to the Northern kingdom, Samaria and Ephraim, and he wept over their sins.
In Hosea we can see:
1. Ephraim (which was the first of the 12 tribes to backslide) Denounced:
a. Because of ignorance – the leaders had failed to teach the people the “Shema” – that the Lord is our God; the Lord is One
b. Because of idolatry - They made molten images, idols of silver were made by the craftsmen, and they worshipped them
c. Because of immorality – There was no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in the land; only violence everywhere
Israel sowed to the wind, but they reaped the whirlwind. Ephraim was everything that we were before Christ: without hope; ignorant, idolaters; and immoral.
2. But Ephraim was also Desired, even though she was described as:
a. a backsliding heifer
b. A wandering and lonely wild animal
c. A dried up root
d. An empty vine
God’s desire for His people never dwindled, and one day their faithfulness to Him will be realized.
3. Ephraim will be Delivered:
a. With disobedience comes discipline
b. With immorality comes judgment
c. With destruction come construction
d. With unfaithfulness comes consequences
e. But one day, all of Israel will be redeemed and restored.
The all-encompassing reasons that God is the object of our thankfulness is:
o His love is tender
o His love is loyal
o God is gracious
o His love is unchanging
o His love is undying
No matter what, God still loves us. There is still hope for those who turn back to God in real repentance; for those who turn to the Lord while the offer is still good. No matter how far you have strayed, God is willing to forgive you. It’s illustrated right in Hosea.
- verse 3:2 - Hosea had to buy his own wife back, but she didn’t even cost that much. See, she was no longer worth much to anyone except Hosea, but he loved her just as God loved Israel and us. No matter how low we sink, God is willing to buy us back--to redeem us--to lift us up again.
- 1 Sam. 2:8 says - “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor, For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.
- God is Almighty. He has shown Himself and His love and care for mankind throughout the ages.
II. 2nd we see God as our Interceding High Priest –
Hebrews 4:14-16 confirms our Lord in His present day ministry on our behalf: He is not just our High Priest; He is our Great High Priest. His title is superior to any High priest that was before Him. But, in what does our Lord’s greatness consist? Well, He is both God and man: He is Jesus, the Son of God. So His name is great. He is also great in His position: Aaron and his successors ministered in the tabernacle and temple precincts, but Jesus Christ has passed through the heavens and ministers in the heavenly tabernacle. Not only is He in heaven but He is enthroned on “the throne of grace”, grace that does not veil itself from the people or hide itself in a tent. What is more, common people were not permitted to enter the holy precincts of the tabernacle, and the high priest could go only as far as the veil. But every believer in Christ is invited and encouraged to “come boldly to the throne of grace.”
There is something else that makes Him great. He is ministering mercy and grace to those who come for help. Mercy means that God does not give us what we do deserve; grace means that He give us what we do not deserve. As believers, we can run to our Great High Priest at any time, in any circumstance, and find the help that we need.
Two conclusions can be drawn from the fact of His greatness:
1. There is no need in giving up our profession or confession of faith.
2. There is no need to go back because we can come boldly into the presence of God and get the help that we need. No trial is too great, no temptation is too strong, but that Jesus Christ can give us the mercy and grace that we need when we need it.
As a High Priest, He lives and ever makes intercession for His own
He is Holy, innocent, undefiled and separate from sinners
He is all you will ever need. His warranty is eternal. His love is secure. His eye is ever on you.
III. Finally, as our Constant Visionary and Protector -
Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, the devil has requested to have you to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith does not fail. When you have been converted, help your brothers”.
The word “you” here is plural. The Devil had requested to sift all of the disciples, for he’s an equal opportunity devil. Those he has already he doesn’t worry about. Those he has lost, he wants to get back.
There are three main characters in these verses: Simon, the Devil and Jesus. There is a common thread: there is something about their eyes to be noted:
1. Simon had an astigmatism - blurred imperfect vision; distorted nderstanding
You see Simon was the Greek name given at his birth. As you know from scripture, he was kind of inconsistent in his actions and applications. Simon was at times just wishy-washy. He was spontaneous, impulsive and instinctive.
o He was up today, down tomorrow
o Cutting off ears on Thursday, and hiding in cowardice on Sunday
o Ready to die for Jesus one minute, denying he even knew Him in the next
2.The Devil was near-sighted (myopia) an abnormal condition of the eye in which only objects close to the eye produce distinct images; and, glaucoma - a disease of the eye from increased pressure in the eyeball causing loss of peripheral vision and blind spots in the field of vision:
· He had short range vision and only saw Simon as the flaky one
o He was restricted in his viewing and did not see the future
o He was “TUFLOS”, blind to the real man
o The Devil wanted Simon, the flaky one for a couple of reasons: 1) He thought that he would be a push over. He thought that after he had sifted him, that he would find chaff and just blow it away. 2) The word used here as demanded means to claim back for oneself. Satan didn’t like the work that Simon was doing for the Lord, and he wanted him back working in his old fields, doing the things that he used to do.
3. Jesus is Far-sighted - simply meaning He has the ability to see far:
God has a way of heightening us. He does not look at us as we are, but only as what we will be. He sees the finished product. When the Lord said that He had prayed for Peter, He did not mean in the same way that we pray for others or ourselves. He did not pray with a “hope so” attitude. He did not pray just to hear himself talking. He did not pray with a “wait and see” attitude. The word used for prayed here is used with another word attached to it: hina. It gives the idea that the Lord prayed in order that whatever He prayed for would come to pass. It was a certainty; A sure thing. The idea is that because He prayed, since He prayed, His petition was a sure thing. He prayed that Simon’s faith would not fail. Oh, He knew that Simon would stumble because He predicted that in the following verses. But He prayed that his faith would not fail; that all he knew about the gospel, that his confidence in the knowledge that he had about the gospel, the confidence that would cause him to produce good works, that it would not fail. He knew that Simon would stumble; but He also knew that Peter would become one of the most prolific writers of the N/T and a preacher of the Gospel.
o The Lord prayed for Peter and He is praying for you.
o He is our Great High Priest, and He ever makes intercession for us.
o He keeps us at the center of His attention with a spotlight shining.
o He renamed Simon, Peter, because he had prayed for him and knew the great leader that he would become.
We can be thankful today because of a little word in the English language and in the Greek. The little conjunction called “but”; A little word in our text today that introduces a whole new world of possibilities, milestones, high points, landmarks, goals, and targets that seemed impossible; All because Jesus has prayed for you.
- The Devil has asked to sift you like wheat, Simon, but…
- You are going to deny me Simon, but….
- You’re going to run and hide, Peter, but…
- You might have sinned this morning, but…
- Your life might be in shambles right now, but…
- Your job might have let you go, just before the holidays, but…
- Your children might be acting every which way, except saved, but…
- The doctor might have shrugged his shoulders, but….
- Your pockets might be empty, but….
- Subjects may be hard in school, and people may say you aren’t going to make it, but….
- Because of your past, in the world you have a bad reputation, but….
- You might not be able to remember that last time you had a great day, but….
- You might not know just what tomorrow will bring, but….
- You might be down on yourself because you just keep messing up, but…
- You might be to ashamed or proud to tell anyone about all the troubles you are really having, but….
I’ve prayed for you, “That your faith does not fail you” not your saving faith, but the knowledge of the truth of God’s love and mercy and grace; your confidence in His Word; your confidence in His will for your life. Whatever you do, whatever your circumstances, whatever your situation, just don’t forget Who I Am! Don’t forget what I’ve done for you! Don’t forget to trust Me! Don’t forget to thank Me! Because I am your Great High Priest, I know the plans that I have for you, I can see way down the road, where you and others have put question marks and periods, I have already said but…
The Lord is praying for you. Because he is praying, things are going to change. Things are going to improve. No matter what you have been through, He says it’s going to be converted.
When our will is weak, when our thinking is confused, and when our conscience is burdened with a load of guilt, we must remember that God cares for us continually; his compassion never fails. When friends and family desert us, when coworkers misunderstand us, and when we are tired of being good, God’s compassion ever fails. When we can’t see the way or seem to hear God’s voice, and when we lack courage to go on, God’s compassion never fails. When our shortcomings and our awareness of our sins overcome us, God’s compassion never fails.
Even if you are lost today, you can find the way by turning from your sin and following God. You can join all of us who will recall the goodness of the Lord during this thanksgiving season and every day of our lives. You too can identify with the songwriter in saying:
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
The Master of the sea, he heard my despairing cry,
And from the waters lifted me, now, safe am I.
You see, it was --
Love lifted me, love lifted me,
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.