Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 61: All or Nothing
January 1, 2012
Scripture reading: Hosea 8:1-7
Minor LEAGUE prophets?
One of the jobs I had in college was concessions for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Never heard of them? Not surprised, they were a minor league feeder team for the LA Dodgers.
If you a pretty good player, the Dodgers would draft you and send you to the Quakes. If you were got good enough, they would send you up to the majors.
Today, we start a short series on the minor prophets, but that does mean they were the second string Bible writers. It just means they wrote shorter books.
* It’s like short stories verses long stories Tom Clancy verse Garrison Keillor.
After taking several months off, we are back in our Inscription series. The title comes from the Biblical reference to “write God’s Word on our hearts.”
In this series, we are reading through the Bible and I have been preaching on topics from it. It has been invaluable to me and has totally changed the way I understand God and the Bible.
There are calendars in your bulletins and I would encourage you to read with us. These readings are shorter than in the past because I wanted to spend more time in these books.
* Slight change: Now I am preaching ahead of the reading.
A strange calling
Today we start with the first book of the Minor Prophets, Hosea. It is certainly one of the most interesting stories in the OT: God told Hosea to make his life a living analogy for his relationship with Israel.
Israel had this habit of worshipping God because they were Israelites, and he was there national God, but then also worshiping the idols of the nations around them.
* Back and forth they would go – kind of love God, then go love on a bunch of idols.
Q What would make a good illustration of that?
God told Hosea to go marry a hooker.
Hosea 1:1-3 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel: 2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Or as “The Message” paraphrases it:
Hosea 1:2 (Message) The first time GOD spoke to Hosea he said: “Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, GOD.”
* Marriage becomes a running analogy for God’s relationship with us throughout this book.
Now, whenever we read OT prophecy, we must be careful that we are accurately applying it. There is a tendency to uncritically apply it to the modern church, and now we see that almost all Christian are compromisers
* I don’t know about you, I’m not sacrificing kids to Molech.
I want us to look carefully to see what ways we are like Hosea’s audience and be warned.
The trouble with normal
I just finished the series on being Radically Normal and I tried to warn against the “radical” form of Christianity that removes everyday joy from faith.
* I believe that it is a damnable heresy that separates God from joy; many people have been led astray by that heresy.
But reading through Hosea, I am forcibly reminded of just how wrong it is to be “normal.” This is what I mean:
When I was a teenager, my family lived in Texas for five months while my dad was trained at an Air Force base. I made friends with our neighbor, this Texan kid a year or two younger than me whose family was waiting to ship out to Germany.
I think his name was Bobby. Even if it wasn’t, it fits. Bobby and I loved playing Monopoly; we would literally play 6-7 games a day. We got down to a science. We didn’t even need to count out our roles; to this day I know where I will land by sight.
On day I asked Bobby if he was a Christian. He said, “I reckon I am; Momma said that we are Americans, and that means we are Christians.”
That is normal Christianity; when your faith is more about your cultural or family identity than genuine and complete devotion to Christ.
Sure, you might be moral, you might be a really nice person, you might even pray and love God, but in the end, he is a component of your life, not the center.
A part or the whole
Q You’ve said the “Sinner’s Prayer,” but is that Biblical Christianity?
Q In the NT, Jesus told us what the greatest command was; What was it? He was quoting from Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
While they mean something different by heart than we do – they saw the heart as the seat of intellect, like we say mind. But soul included emotions, the net effect is the same.
* The point is that we are to love God with all of our mental, emotional, and physical ability.
There are two ways we can view our priorities:
1. God gets the biggest piece of the pie.
2. God is the pie.
Q Which one do you think is the most Biblical?
Q What does “all your heart, soul, and might” leave?
* Nothing – all means all (Hebrew or English); the Bible doesn’t know anything about priorities – God is the only priority,
It is normal to just give God a piece of the pie; the bigger the piece the better of a Christian you are.
* What’s the problem with this? It is a problem of devotion and faithfulness.
The analogy of marriage expresses it well:
Men have a tendency to segment their lives; they have their work life and their home life and their friend life. This isn’t entirely bad – when we are at work, it is good to be able to focus all of your energy to the task at hand.
But what can happen is that our wives can feel like they are a checkbox on our “to do” list:
* Get up and eat breakfast: Check.
* Go to work, like a boss: Check.
* Call wife on lunch break: Check.
* Go home and play with the kids: Check.
* Talk to the wife and have sex: Check.
For some reason this doesn’t leave your wife feeling deeply cherished, and suddenly something on your list isn’t on hers!
Q Is God just another thing on your check list?
Q Would your devotion to God be enough for your spouse or boy/girlfriend?
It is very easy to make your relationship with God about the religious obligations. Go to church, pay tithe, do good deeds. But that alone is as meaningful as the customary good bye kiss.
All or nothing
In Hosea, Israel hadn’t rejected God; they were going through all the motions:
They kept the rituals, they were still going to church and tithing, but the problem was that they also had little mistress gods on the side.
(ESV) Hosea 6:6-7 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
* If we don’t get him everything, he doesn’t want anything; with God it’s all or nothing.
Q Isn’t that a little bit unreasonable?
* What if you decided that your faithfulness to your wife only extended to your time at home:
So long as you were faithful to your wife at home, you were faithful; what happened at work with the secretary or on the business trip didn’t matter.
* Marriage means that your wife is the center of your affection, that she is the center of your devotion; that’s how God feels.
This is the normal way to be a Christian: Here is the God part of your life and you are faithful to him there. But then you have the other parts of your life.
* That just isn’t good enough for God.
The Compartments We Keep
How do you know is you are keeping God out of certain parts of your life?
Q What in your life right now are you trying really hard not to think about here in church?
What are the areas in your life you have shut up tight? Here are some common ones:
1. The money part
Q Have you ever wondered why Israel was so prone to idolatry?
They basically thought that the local gods could do a better job providing for them:
Hosea 2:12 I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them.
They thought it was their idols who provided for them, even though it was God. The pay is probably a reference to the fertility rituals.
* We don’t look to wooden idols anymore, we look to the idol of ourselves, our jobs, the government.
In reality it is God who gives us the tools to work, the job, the very breath; our money is more like an allowance than a paycheck.
Here is the symptoms of money uncommitted to God:
* You view your money as your own, you give part(maybe), but the rest it yours.
* You are willing to bend the rules and cut corners to make your money.
* You are anxious about how the bills get paid; rather than trusting God.
* You are afraid to pray for God to direct your finances.
2. The relationships part
You know when there are parts of your relationship that you have closed against God:
* Dating a person you know that you shouldn’t.
* Satisfying yourself with pornography rather than working on your marriage.
* Serving yourself rather than serving your spouse.
Look, I know that marriage is really hard, it is basically two selfish people getting along. Sometimes it is only a commitment to God that keeps you going.
3. The everyday morality part
* Gossiping at work.
* White lies.
Q What areas in your life are not his?
You don’t need to rack your brain for this; if it is important God will bring it up.
It’s all his
This is the big point that I want you to take away from this message: In the same way that your spouse has rightful claim to all of you intimacy, God has rightful claim to your entire life.
This doesn’t mean only love God or else we couldn’t “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Rather, he is our master over everything and he permeates every part of the pie – everything else flows from him.
* God says, “Love your family,” so you do. God says do all your work to his glory, so you do.
Give and get back
Here is where I have to warn against being radical: The radical Christian says, “I obey God even though it makes me miserable.”
That is non-sense. Obedience brings joy. When you give every area to God he gives most of it back to you, but in far better shape than before.
Hosea 2:14-17 14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. 15 There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 16 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ 17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.
God isn’t trying to take life away; he is trying to give it to you. He wants to save you from all of the cruel masters.
As the story goes on, it becomes apparent that Hosea’s wife slipped back into prostitution to the point of being a slave.
Hosea 3:1-2 The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.
* This is the picture of grace; though he was wronged and cheated, Hosea buys his wife out of her slavery.
I have always read this story and thought about how unfair that was for Hosea. But I realized something different this time: It may not have been so great for Hosea, but it was for his wife.
* She was shown love and acceptance that she did not deserve.
Pleading with you
Many of you are fully devoted to God. That doesn’t mean you don’t fail, but that your stance is “I am devoted to God, I will obey him even if I don’t understand.”
* But many of you are not; you are far too normal.
I feel I am like Hosea, pleading with you with increasing desperation. His message gets more harsh and jarring all in hopes of awakening his audience.
Likewise, I plead with you: The life of compromise, of God being a component of your life your life not the center is not worth it. You think it is fun, it is not.
* The danger of it ranges from mediocrity to destruction when God’s way contradicts yours, and you ignore him to your harm.
I stand convinced that I am calling you to joy and fulfillment, that when God is at the center of your heart, he gives you all you really want.
* And at the same time, I want show you God’s love, acceptance, his grace and desire to take you back time after time.
* PPT: Please text Sarah; service is almost over: 631-8727
Q & A