Grace Is Relentless
SERMON: Grace is Relentless
PASSAGE: Hosea 1:1-11 (NIV)
Big Idea: God is NEVER Going to Give You Up!
Location: Northside Community Church, CROWS NEST, SYDENY
AUDIENCE: Predominantly Young Adults (60%+)
SETTING; Sunday Night Church Service: 110 people
There was once a story told about a whole heap of biblical scholars that got together in a room…and they were all debating as to what made Christianity so distinctly different?
They spent hours and hours arguing and then after all this squabbling this guy walks into the room.
And he himself was a staunch atheist before he had discovered God…his name was C.S. Lewis. We’ve all heard of him, and he wrote those wonderful books, which are now superstar movies, “The Chronicles of Narnia”
And after hours and hours and hours of their squabbling, he said what’s the ruckus that’s going on here?
They said… They were trying to work out what makes Christianity so distinctly different? And in an instant he piped up and said "that's easy! It's Grace."
Which other religion in the world “dares” to call their God a loving, kind, merciful God?
And so tonight when we look at his theme of grace in the sermon series titled "Grace Anatomy" (and I do apologise for the play on words..it is my fault), we are going to look at different elements of this concept called Grace.
Because one of the funny things for me recently was, when I was going through this with my connection group, (we started to go through it a couple of weeks ago… sort of you know how university lecturers get their students to come up with cool ideas and then use them for their own, and then I could claim them for myself and preach them to you tonight.), we had this opportunity to go through Grace and one of the things we realised was, just how massive this topic is!
We had a page full of different ways grace is described in the Bible.
Some of the examples are that it is: (said at fast pace)
Given by Christ
It is described as:
It is the source of:
§ The Call of God
§ FORGIVENSS of sin
And the list goes on…
So the interesting task for you and I tonight is, to really draw some boundaries as to where I want to take this evening... and so this evening I want to put it to you that:
GRACE IS RELENTLESS
Grace is relentless… and throughout the series, just as a doctor would look at different parts of the human body, this anatomy we talk about... Grace, it's not my job tonight to give you the all-encompassing, super-answer as to what grace is.
I simply want to highlight a small portion of this massive topic that is Grace.
GRACE IS RELENTLESS... and so tonight we turn to passage that’s in the Old Testament, and if you have your bibles with you, you can turn to the book of Hosea and were going to have a look at Chapter 11, and it’s titled " God's love for Israel".
Hosea 11:1-11 (NIV) – Bible Reading
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. 3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. 5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? 6 Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. 7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. 8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. 9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
What a wonderful and emotional piece of writing from the Bible, that describes God is very heart for you and I!
It's a difficult concept for us to wrap our heads around, and I don't know about you, but have you ever heard that stereotype from people that says that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, and of judgement? Have you ever heard that stuff around, that the God of the New Testament is the God of love and grace and mercy and all that sort of thing?
Why we want to look at the Old Testament tonight, is because we see from this passage that clearly God is a God of love, and simply he is saying in verse 8:
How can I give you up?
God NEVER wants to give us up...
So just as Hosea was a prophet, (and a prophet was someone who would speak out in their day, they believed they have a divine message from God), he would speak out to his society and say: "Hey guys, this is what the Lord is saying."
And so I have a video clip of a modern day prophet who was saying exactly the same sort of message: Let's take a look
Music Video Clip: Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up (1m30sec)
Chorus Line: Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna turn around and desert you.
I’m sorry.. I couldn’t help myself, but I thought it was so perfect. You see...how can you forget? If there’s anything you get from tonight, it is simply that God says:
“I NEVER want to give you up!”
(Audience groans sarcastically..)
So moving right along – GRACE IS RELENTLESS (man o man o man, I’d love a haircut like that! good ole’ Rick Astley...) I tell you what, your gonna remember that one if you are dancing in the nightclubs down at the Bristol Arms Friday Night Retro! – You’ll remember the sermon this evening that’s for sure…
I was talking about the fact that Grace is relentless, God never wants to give us up. When we talk about relentless we talk about:
§ it is continuous,
§ indeterminable...it's non stop.
GRACE IS RELENTLESS... and what it to you that Grace is relentless, through three different times, I'm going to touch on three different stories in the Bible:
That GRACE IS RELENTLESS - Even in times of un-worthiness
That GRACE IS RELENTLESS - Even in times of un-faithfulness; and
That GRACE IS RELENTLESS - Even in times of un-belief
It's funny to me because, one of the single biggest hindrance I think that people have when they try to enter into a relationship with God, and they're trying to accept God into their life, is that don’t think that they are worthy enough to do it.
§ I’ve got to be an A+ person
§ I’ve got to be perfect
§ I’ve got to have my life together before I can do sit at church and sing the songs and do all that.
As one of the guys said to me the other week: Oh I am not sure if I really accepted Jesus into my life… I figured I’m like a D+ at doing Christianity! And I said to him:
“Mate the beauty of it is, that with Jesus Christ… an F is the pass mark!”
That’s what we talk about when we talk about Grace even in Times of Unworthiness.
It’s nothing new when we look at this concept of unworthiness. We still sit in the Old Testament, and this chapter is in Exodus, where Moses (many of us may know it), God says to Moses: Hey Moses: you are going to take my people out of Egypt, away from this military tyrant that is Pharaoh!
And Moses say in Exodus 4:10:
“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
And then the Lord Said:
“Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Often the challenge is:
( when we don’t think we are worthy enough to go and do church..)
(when we don’t think we are worthy enough to take part in this Christian community…)
we sometimes don’t even think we are worthy enough to even ask God for his help!
That’s what God is simply trying to say to Moses here: “Hey I’m the one who has got this under control!”
And the funny thing with this worthiness is tat the big difficulty is that when we look at our sense of self, our sense of worth, we often compare our internals with someone else’s externals. You know… people can sit at church and we are:
Singing the songs
All bright and chipper
And How’s your week been and all that sort of stuff,
Yet we never get the opportunity to fully understand what is going on in all of our lives
So I love what C.S Lewis says when he talks about being unworthy to be a Christian. He used the analogy that :
§ “He was just a patient that had been in the hospital a little longer than the new Christian.”
That’s simply what church is about…so when we talk about Grace being Relentless, there seems to be 2 themes that always come to play here:
1. Firstly, there’s a barrier to us receiving God’s Grace
(In Moses’ case here he said” I’m not worthy to do it)
2. And then we see God’s saving deeds, this saving deed to rescue them from Egypt.
You see, I should step back for a second and say that when we look at Grace and define Grace, what’s one of the classic definitions we come up with? (for those that are really cluey with the bible)
Un…(Gestures to congregation)
Audience Member: Un-merited Favour
Unmerited Favour: Has everyone heard that one before? And it’s tough for me because I always go: well what does unmerited favour mean?
I mean how doe that work in my everyday life?
Another definition I saw was that it was :
God’s Saving Deeds. It’s a gift from God, Expressed in His action, of extending His Love, Mercy and Compassion to His people
It’s Action! Grace is Action on God’s behalf not ours: and so we see that there was this barrier to receiving God’s grace and then there was the saving deed of rescuing his people from Egypt.
GRACE IS RELENTLESS - Even in times of un-worthiness
Even when Moses thought that he was no good to rescue them, God proved them right and it became a central part of Israel’s history
Now we move tonight to the bible reading we are talking about and you see Hosea is a funny one because in the earlier chapters of Hosea (1-3) God tells Hosea to go and take this wife that was going to commit adultery. She was known as a bit of a prostitute, she was known to be unfaithful…and it seems a bit of a bizarre request don’t you think?
I mean I can think of better choices as to the sort of wife that we would like to have...and so Hosea obeyed and he went and chose this wife, and she goes and is unfaithful and then God says to Hosea that he is to go and ask her back in.
You see the whole point of the story is that God can parallel what he is trying to say to the nation of Israel, in the way that they have been unfaithful to him as well.
(long deliberate pause)
So it’s an issue of UNFAITHFULNESS
And unfaithfulness in the case of the Israelites is (deliberate um to simulate on the spot thinking)… well it’s a bit of a teenage philosophy. (and I’m sorry if we have any of the youth in here tonight, I know all our youth are wonderful, well-behaved, obedient, parent-loving individuals… so its all OK I can speak with confidence there) (13.42)
BUT.. if you were like me when I was a teenager… I was rotten to my parents.. and ah, Dad would pick me up from school and he would be like: How has your week been?” and I would be (In a grumpy tone) “Well how do you think my weeks been?.. it was hopeless…stupid”
And ahh.. I remember he always had a good saying:
“You Should Always Leave Home while you know Everything” (Audience Laughs)
“You Should Always Leave Home while you know Everything”.. and that was a bit like what was happening in this passage here with Israel, because God is saying:
But the more I called Israel,
the further they went from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals…
Which was a different religion of the day. They got caught up in another religion which was a massive thing for God because on of the ten commandments was that:
“You shall have no other Gods before me” (Ex 20:3)
…and they’re off worshipping other God’s. I mean what the “flip” were they doing?
And the funny thing for me in being a teenager and then moving into adulthood is how often (when we move into our early 20’s and early 30’s), how often (and I don’t know if you have had the same experience) but how rotten we were to our parents? Has anyone else had that same experience?
It’s OK.. you don’t have to raise your hands ( congregation laughs) (15.00)
You see there’s this recognition as to how patient our parents have been with us, an how they have endured us through all these rotten times as teenagers. And the thing is for me that often its during those times that I realised our parents were the ones that:
Did your nappies,
Spoon fed you
Looked after you
And loved you
And did all that sort of stuff for you and during those teenage years you go and throw it all back in their face!
This must be something that’s part of the human condition, because God says through the prophet Hosea in verse 3:
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, (He’s talking about a certain region of Israel here)
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck
and bent down to feed them.
God is talking to his people like they are an animal that he treasures..that he is leading along with these cords of kindness.
(Long deliberate Pause)
The reality is that Israel was drifting further and further and further away from God and into their own sin.. and often it is when we move away from God and into things that are not of God.
and sin… (when we talk of falling short of his benchmark for us) this sin is often the barrier that we are talking about when we receive God’s grace.
Ahh.. I can’t ask God for help again because I have done this, and I have done such a terrible thing, that nothing can blot out what I have done in my past!
The wonderful message we see here is that no matter how far away from God they were, God still remained faithful to the Israelites. How far away from God do you feel tonight?
Is there something deep down inside of you that is keeping you from accepting his grace? Is there something stirring in there that is this barrier to you accepting this relentless grace of his?
GRACE IS RELENTLESS
And so we’ve seen that we have had Moses and his little story there.
We’ve seen in this book of Hosea that Israel was unfaithful to god
And so Grace is Relentless – Even in times of Un-Faithfulness
And the we move ever forward to the New Testament, and we see that God is wanting to be in relationship with us… have you ever heard those phrases in the bible when we talk about God being our Father?
I always used to ask myself when I was sitting down in the chairs there: where in the bible does it say that and where do we get that from? Clearly from all the way back in the old testament it says in verse number 1 of this chapter 1 of Hosea it says:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more I called Israel,
the further they went from me.
And then Jesus, when he teaches his disciples how to pray, he says – this is how you should pray: You should call him Abba – Father
We call God our heavenly father, not because we put that label on him, rather it’s because he chose first to give us that relationship to him…he chose to call us his Children.
Now… the whole story of the Old Testament is; God we are gonna do right by you and then they’re unfaithful. Right by you and then they’re unfaithful.
And he’s forgiving them so many second chances… now how difficult is that in real life? I’m sure most of us here have been hurt by a friend or a family member… most importantly by a loved one.
God’s relationship with his people was so strong it was like that of as marriage. It was a “covenant relationship” as they call it and these people, the Israelites, chose to disobey this covenant relationship. I mean if you were in a marriage relationship (and most of you are), how much would it break your heart if your partner went and committed adultery?
A terrible pain would be inside you.. that’s what God is trying to express in this passage! And he’s giving them so many chances.. he’s calling them to turn around and repent…stop doing what you are doing, through these guys called the Prophets.
And then we get to the new testament and this is where God really says.. now look I am going to sort this out for myself, and he sends his only son – Jesus Christ.
Now.. we begin to see why they had problems with the messiah because (I don’t know) if I was in God’s position, and these people had been so unfaithful to me. I would want to seriously kick them in the “you know what”.
“Look.. c’mon seriously – thousands of years you’ve been doing this to me” – like.. just bend them over the knee and give them a smack on the bottom. You wanna just pull out a serious can of whoopee on ‘em (Congregants laugh) (20:00)
But God chooses not to do so. John 3.16 – We all know that verse:
God so loved the world that he gave his only son…however verse 17 says:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it
He didn’t come to smack us on the bum!
He didn’t come to make us feel bad about ourselves!
He just came to turn us back toward God
And that’s the beauty of the relationship that we have with him.. it goes against everything we would do in our own humanness.
And verse 9 of Hosea 11 gives us a good reason why… quite simply:
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.
You see there’s something about patience that is so difficult for us to relate to , yet in God’s case so easy for him to dish out.
So we see in the life of Jesus, that he was Grace personified:
Divine Grace rested upon him when he was first born
He grew up in grace – Remember the story of Jesus sitting at the temple talking to all the religious leaders of the day and in Luke 2:52, it said:
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.
And favour is one of the definitions for grace… one of the earliest Hebrew meanings of grace. So Jesus grew in grace:
He spoke gracious words
But he also displayed grace..
And I can’t help but think about the time in Luke 19:41-42 , we would have heard the story earlier in Easter: and it said that Jesus WEPT over Jerusalem. Jesus is love personified. And the reason that he wept was that Israel after all this time still couldn’t see that he was the messiah and so they couldn’t receive this full knowledge of God’s grace as Paul says in Romans, because they failed to see Jesus as the Messiah.. this “Promised one” that all these Old testament passages had talked about. (22:27)
And one of my favourite examples that I like is about the Apostle Paul. You see Paul was this guy in the bible… and he was perhaps one of the greatest persecutors of the Christian church. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:12-14. This is what Paul says about experiencing God’s grace:
1 Tim 1:12-14
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
See.. Jesus Christ in his saving deed of dying on the cross fro us was the most wonderful act of grace this world has ever seen! Talk about grace being relentless: Grace is not just something that is passive and sits back! Relentless is the sort f thing like Luke 9:51 that says:
“Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem” – Jesus knew exactly what he had to do! Even in the face of:
Jesus went out onto that hill step, by step, by step to have himself nailed to a cross for you and I.
There can be no better example of Grace personified
There can be no better example of Grace being relentless…
grace will not stop...regardless of the barriers we as human put in front of it! In Jesus’ saving deed, this was not god saving us from geography, from floods like in Noah’s time.. but instead God saving us from ourselves! From this waywardness, like the way these Israelites in this book of Hosea wandered away form God… and he brought us back into relationship with God.
The BARRIER: For Israel back then was unbelief
The Saving deed: was through Jesus Christ’s death – was the mercy that God had on the believer.
One of the greatest examples of grace in my life was as a little kid: See as a kid I always like to “tinker with things” –make propellers and cubby houses. I once (when our house was being renovated thought I was going to built a castle!) And so it was going to have ramparts and all that sort of stuff, and I bricked myself in, I mixed up all the cement before the builders got there on morning and started building a WHOLE CASTLE! I just had a big vision for the place it was going to be absolutely superb and I could dress up in these medieval masks and have arrows and capes and all that sort of thing… (I didn’t get too far, the builders did turn up)
In part of tinkering around, I was always playing with bits of wood (and our place was being renovated and a new deck was going in ) and I was playing around with bits of wood we would break up for the barbeque – Dad never like gas bbq’s – he always like the smell of real wood!
So we had these piles of wood around and I would break them up and this one day I just left it all in the bottom of this trench...and ah, Dad came up to me one afternoon… and I knew something wasn’t quite right…because you should have seen the look in his eyes. If you’ve ever seen the mix between anger and pain all merged into one, the this was it! (I actually didn’t know how to react)
You see.. what had happened is that Dad had jumped over the edge of a 5 foot trench straight onto the top of a nail.. interestingly enough my father has at least some sort of concept of the price Jesus Christ paid for us on the cross! (Audience Laughs) Having been quarter crucified through his right-hand foot.
I tell you what.. if that had happened to me.. I would have marched straight up to Sam’s bedroom and unleashed on him. As Dad told me the story as to what happened.. I instinctively began to bend over in and just wait for him to start smacking my backside.
And it took all he had to not bend m over his knee and unleash all his pain and anger on me… and he didn’t. How is it that I didn’t’ cop a hiding of a lifetime from my own Dad who is on the sound desk this evening>
Simply.. because he’s my dad.
And He loves me
Simply.. because he’s my dad.
And He loves me
It’s funny because we see it in real life, and we see it in the scriptures, that no matter how much we hurt our heavenly father, there is something deep inside us and our heavenly father, that can’t bear to unleash his wrath upon his children. And so we see that through verse 8-9. God says:
"“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man— the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath." (Hosea 11:8-9, NIV)
God had the opportunity to give Israel the hiding of a lifetime, for the pain that they had caused him. And the compassion that was aroused in his heart because of the fatherly relationship he has with us stopped him from doing so.
He is never gonna give you Up! Do you realise that tonight?
He is never going to give you Up!.
GRACE IS RELENTLESS…
Grace is so relentless (and I am no historian here)
(Stage based Illustration: Sam moves to very far left of stage)
If God gave the promises to Abraham here, and then we move a bit further along and we see the story that we heard tonight about Moses and the Exodus and then we walk up here and we see the story we heard from Hosea in about 737BC (approximately
(Walking and pointing across stage as if it is a giant timeline)
And then we have here to the most central character of the bible – Jesus Christ and his death on the cross(Currently centre of stage)
And if we move the same distance all the way across to present day (Now at Far right of stage)
The we start to get a new sense of the perspective of this Relentless Grace we have been talking about.. and it’s funny because all of this different stories are like little strata’s in the fossil records.. they are evidence as to what has gone on over time.
I’ll tell you what’s gone on over time…
(moves all the way back to far left of stage)
let’s move back to Abraham.. (there’s Moses.. Hi Moses)
We’ve got: (now moving slowly back toward right of stage)
GRACE (Said Loudly) – In Jesus Christ
(Now back at right hand side of stage)
And now we have his church… alive and living today
I pray that tonight you have a sense of just how RELENTLESS God’s grace is..
He is Never going to give you up
He is Never going to give you up: If you feel unworthy to be apart of his church
He is Never going to give you up: no matter how many stupid silly things you have done in your life like I have.
He is Never going to give you up: simply because at this point in time you don’t believe in Jesus Christ
If God has waited 2000 years to get from Abraham to Jesus, and then another 2000 to this message tonight, to this very point in this auditorium for you to hear his message of love & mercy & compassion…what’s a lifetime of 80 years?
So it’s not my job tonight to try and cajole you into making a decision, but when we see this perspective tonight, how unstoppable God’s grace is throughout the ages:
Can I really encourage you: If you don’t have a faith in Jesus Christ, if you haven’t asked God into your life. Can you get a sense of perspective of what we’ve been through as a faith community for you to hear this message tonight!
I am not a betting man, but I GUARANTEE… that if you make a decision tonight your life will never be the same again! Why? Because not only do we see stories of grace that are throughout the bible for thousands of years, but because I also see in the faces of those looking up at me this evening, God’s grace being lived out…day by day…in this very church.
I have got a lot of reasons for going all in for Jesus Christ tonight. So I want to really want to encourage you if you’ve never really thought about making that decision:
If you feel unworthy
If you Feel Unfaithful;
If you feel that God is just not there and he’s not real;
Then I want you to take a look around at the lives of the people in this auditorium. I would love to pray with you up the back this evening..
And give you the opportunity to turn your life around… stop being such a teenager and ask God into your life
GRACE IS RELENTLESS…
Will you pray with me.
Peterson, E. H. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo., 2002), Hos 11:1-8
The Holy Bible : King James Version. (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Bellingham WA, 1995),Hos 11:1-8
The Holy Bible : New International Version. (electronic ed.). (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996, c1984), Hos 11:1-8
The Revised Standard Version. (Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA, 1971), Hos 11:1-8
Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S., Hosea in , “New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.)”. (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2001)
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Torrey, R.A., The treasury of scripture knowledge : Five hundred thousand scripture references and parallel passages.(Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, 1995), (Ho 11:1-11)
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Willmington, H. L. 1999. The Outline Bible (Da 12:12-Ho 11:11). Tyndale House Publishers: Wheaton, Ill.