A Glimpse Inside God’s Heart: Hosea 11:1-12

[Sermon Transcript]

Here at Living Hope Church we have been looking at the book of Hosea, and studying the incredible truth that our relationship with God is like a marriage. Every other analogy of how God relates to us: king to subjects, potter to clay, even father to child, falls short of describing what He is after in a relationship with us.

However, sometimes our relationship is more like a bad marriage than a good one, and so it was with Israel. But we have seen over and over again, that any deficiencies in our marriage with Him are always caused by us, yet He continues to pursue us, woo us, and shower us with His love. We saw earlier in the sermon series that God conveys this truth to us by commanding the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and remain faithful to her even in her unfaithfulness to Him, and thus demonstrate God’s faithful love to us.

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True Christian Conviction

What is true conviction? Is it necessary for salvation? How can we feel it? What are we to do with it?

Last week, we discussed with our college group that Christian faith has three essential parts: understanding, conviction, and commitment. This week we looked at the conviction piece, and how understanding it leads us in our pursuit of holiness, sanctification, a much deeper walk with Jesus. If we misunderstand this essential aspect of faith, we will seriously hinder our own walk with God, fellowship with others, and witness to the world. But if we do understand it, it will open the door for a vibrant, free, and exciting life in God.

 

 

Faith As Understanding

 

Hebrews 11 tells us that “by faith we understand…” A paraphrase might say, “by faith we THINK.”  But the modern perception is that Christian’s don’t think, that they would rather just accept what they are told and blindly believe. In this message we discuss the fact that not only is being a Christian compatible with thinking, but it requires, demands, and constitutes the most profound thinking in the world. We discuss that thinking leads to faith, how thinking leads to faith, and why thinking leads to faith, all of which will always lead us to Jesus Christ.

 

Six Key Benefits of the Necessary Evangelism Component in Discipleship

Yes. I am afraid. Every time I begin to share about Jesus with someone, millions of thoughts run through my head about how I may offend or be received wrongly. Have you ever felt the same?

This is the log jam in the discipleship process and to fulfilling the Great Commission: evangelism. Sharing our faith. Why? Often times it is because we haven’t seen it modeled, or haven’t been taught “how.” Even in our rigorous attempts at discipleship have not fixed the problem, because discipleship has come to be regarded as a practice without the necessary component of evangelism training or practice. However, treating evangelism as a necessary part of discipleship helps to grow mature disciples, and is absolutely necessary. I read a great article recently highlighting 6 reasons why. Here they are: Continue reading

Coming to the Blood of Jesus -Spurgeon

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”    – Hebrews 12:24

Reader, have you come to the blood of sprinkling? The question is not whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or an observance of ceremonies, or to a certain form of experience, but have you come to the blood of Jesus?
The blood of Jesus is the life of all vital godliness. If you have truly come to Jesus, we know how you came–the Holy Spirit sweetly brought you there. You came to the blood of sprinkling with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you came to take that blood, and that blood alone, as your everlasting hope. You came to the cross of Christ, with a trembling and an aching heart; and oh! what a precious sound it was to you to hear the voice of the blood of Jesus! Continue reading

Discovering The True Jesus (pt. 5)- The Dirty God

As I was driving to school in my truck this morning, I was thinking about what intrigues me the most about Jesus. What necessarily draws me to Him, what makes His character so different from any other religious leader or teacher? I came to one conclusion, and instead of diving into another biblical story this post, I simply want to share with you why Jesus is so attractive to me:

Jesus gets His hands dirty.

Does that sound odd to you? Jesus was NEVER afraid to get His hands dirty. He not only left heaven to come to earth, but He was born in a dirty feeding trough. He not only taught, He also healed. Not only did He preach, but He raised people from the dead. Not only did He teach His disciples, but He cast out demons in front of them. Not only did He eat with sinners, but He fasted and prayed for 40 days. Not only did He live a perfect life, but He gave Himself to be brutally beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Jesus got dirty.

One of my favorite examples of this is the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Mark 1:40-42. Now to gain an understanding of what Jesus does here, we need a little background information. Leprosy is a disease that causes flesh to rot and flake off, eventually leading to one’s death. Eyes rot, limbs deteriorate, and bones usually begin to show. In the religious laws of Jesus’ time, one would become “unclean” just by being near a leper- and have to go “wash” to be spiritually cleansed- from just being in the leper’s presence! Also, people with leprosy were cast out of society, left to die and rot on their own. Families disowned them, and whenever they were seen, shouts of “unclean!” would often resound. Here is a photo of an Indian man with a case of leprosy:

ICII-brings-joy-to-the-poorest-people-of-new-LifeThis is the type of person that comes up and talks to Jesus, the teacher who is growing in popularity and who has enormous demands to teach, preach, and heal. What does Jesus do? He gets dirty. Mark 1:40-42 reads,

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

The thing that amazes me about this story is what Jesus does to the man. Do you notice it? We covered earlier that even to be in the presence of a leper would make one “unclean.” To touch one would be downright abominable. But Jesus, “moved with pity,” reaches out and touches the man. Notice Jesus touches him before He cleanses Him. This man most likely did not have physical contact with a human for years, and the first person that touches him is….Jesus. Can you imagine how this must have made the man feel? Jesus does not only heal him, but he touches him. He goes a great length to show the man love and compassion, almost as to say, “You’re not too dirty for me,” and He does that for you and me, too. No one is too dirty for Him to cleanse. But to clean us, He had to get really dirty.

The Bible describes our hearts as leprous- dying, rotting, and unclean. Yet Jesus gave himself over to a bloody death on a cross and took on God’s wrath that was meant for us, so that we might be cleansed forever, and have our leprous hearts made new. If we ask Him to heal our hearts, His response is a warm, “I will, be clean,” and He will reach and touch us, too, as He makes us a part of His family.

This is one of the many reasons why Jesus is so attractive and amazing to me. What other faith or belief system in the world has a God who comes to save His creation through serving them and getting dirty? There are none. Jesus stands out from all of the rest. He alone is the only one who can save.

And I hope you will place your trust in Him, because He is the ONLY one who can make you new. Will you trust Him?

Jesus got dirty…for You.

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.1)

For one of my Marketing classes this fall, I am required to write ten different blogs about anything that I am passionate about to practice gaining a presence on the web and to better “market” myself to employers/network associates/etc. So…I had to choose what to write on that would have a consistent theme throughout the semester. After much thought, I decided to write about….Jesus. Instead of marketing myself, why not market Him? Most of what I do in my life is based off of who He is and what He did- so why not share that with my peers and fellow students?

In order to do this, I plan on analyzing ten major events, stories from, or teachings about Jesus from the Bible, so that I can paint an overall picture of who the true Jesus is, and what He came to accomplish on earth. I hope that you will join me regularly on this journey, and comment and interact with me as I seek to unveil the truth about the most influential human being that ever walked the earth!

So, for my first post, I will simply introduce Jesus from a historical perspective, and how He is viewed by the world. Most credible historians agree that a man named Jesus did live 2000 years ago, and quickly gained a following that changed the course of the future forever. Josephus and Tacitus are some of the main secular historians who wrote about Jesus as they recorded events in Jerusalem and Rome near Jesus’ lifetime. However, there are countless hundreds of individuals who wrote about Jesus’ life, relaying information that they heard from eyewitnesses, within 100-200 years after His death. Any argument that Jesus never existed is not very credible, and goes against the grain of many leading (even secular) scholars. So then, if Jesus existed, what do people believe that He actually did? Who was He?

People of Jewish descent believe that Jesus was a man who claimed to be a messiah (a savior for the nation of Israel) but that He was a false messiah. Muslims believe that Jesus was just another prophet in a line of prophets before Muhammad. Secular historians believe that Jesus was just another religious individual who gained popularity after His death and started a new world religion. Christians believe that He is the Savior of the world, the Son of God who ransoms mankind. But most would refer to Jesus simply as a “good teacher” or a man with many helpful and wise teachings.

However, if Jesus is only a “good teacher,” what must we do with the fact that He claimed to be God’s Son? That He said He was the Messiah? That He said He would raise from the dead? Would “good teachers” say these things about themselves? I think not! Jesus, then, must either be a liar, a lunatic, or who He said He was. He cannot be just a good teacher, or even a prophet (because good teachers or prophets would not make false, incorrect claims about their identities and still be considered “good”). He is either intentionally lying (trying to deceive others), or He is crazy (He thinks He’s God’s Son!) or He is who He said He was (He was telling the truth!). These are the only three options for who Jesus can actually be.

So….who is He? What evidence is their to back up some of the world’s major views of Him? Is He who He claimed to be? Or was He disiluusioned? To learn about anyone’s life, we must go to the people that knew them best: their family members, their friends, their colleagues. Thankfully, Jesus’ closest friends wrote about His life in four distinct books called the Gospels. We will take a look at one story in the next blog and try to come a little farther in answering the question, “Who is the REAL Jesus?”

Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.

Jesus: Giver of Living Water

At the very beginning of the story of the woman at the well, we see Jesus do something that yet again sets himself apart from most religious leaders at the time. We are told that he had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4). Most devout Jews would avoid Samaria on this journey to and from Judea, taking a much longer route, due to their racism and hatred of Samaritans. Jesus, however, walks right on through, and sits down for a divine appointment with a sinful Samaritan woman.

Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” -John 4:14

The woman suddenly makes a request for this water, but she does not understand what Jesus is saying. This is clearly shown in the latter part of her sentence, “..so I will not be thirsty

Jesus came to quench the “thirst” of those longing to know God. He alone provides the “living water” for us to be in a relationship with God and be satisfied with Him forever!

To aid the woman’s misunderstanding, Jesus helps her understand who he is by telling her he knows of her five husbands (4:18) and prophesying that people will eventually be able to worship anywhere (because God will no longer dwell on a mountain or in a tabernacle, but in the hearts of believers). When the woman tells Jesus that she knows that a “Messiah” is coming, he responds with what would be an incredibly dramatic scene in a movie by saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

I trust that at once the woman knew who Jesus claimed to be, and she believed- she drank of the living water.

In verse 28 we are told, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into the town..”

She left her water jar! This is not astounding to 21st century readers as it should be, because we do not understand the difficulties of retrieving water. Most women in the 1st century would walk some great distance to fill their jars for the necessities that the day held: cooking, bathing, drinking, etc. Also, the fact that the woman came at approximately noon is a possible indicator itself that she felt ashamed and didn’t want to be seen in public (potentially due to her having 5 husbands)- which makes it all the more interesting that this is the woman that Jesus speaks to. Nevertheless, what we do know for sure is that the retrieval of water was a big deal-so to leave the jar behind and return to town without it-was a big deal!

This is to say that the most important thing in the woman’s life at the time was dropped when she encountered Jesus. I believe she understood that she had encountered something far greater than a necessity for this physical life- she encountered the necessity for a spiritual life in God- Jesus.

You see Jesus offers this living water to us, it is ours for the taking. To trust him, to drink of the water that he offers, to be brought in relationship with Him, and to never thirst again- is the offer on the table. Will you take it?

If you are dying of thirst in a desert and you stumble upon a pool of water, would you look at it? Would you admire it? Would you try to understand how it got there? Or how you stumbled upon it? Would you memorize its color and study it? No- You would drink it at once!

The woman not only left her jar, she ran into the town, among the people she was ashamed to be seen by, and emphatically told them about Jesus. Her previous worries of being mocked or looked down upon were gone! She knew who she had encountered- the King of the universe. You can encounter him, too.

My friends, please drink of this living water! Drop everything else your worrying or thinking about. Nothing is as important as this- Have you accepted Jesus? Have you drank of the living water? Throw yourself upon Christ. He is waiting to quench your everlasting thirst!

Please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu with any questions!

God’s Word- Purpose Beyond Salvation

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God’s Word is amazing. It is inerrant, infallible, and is the literal Word of God! No other book holds the keys to eternal life; We have everything that we need within the Scriptures to lead us unto salvation. Life can be found through them, and a sinner can be eternally changed by them. What other book can provide this kind of strength, meaning, and power?

However, I believe many Christians (including me for a long period of time)think that after salvation, the Bible is supposed to be used for retracting a verse that makes us feel good, or to help convince us that what we believe is true. For years of my Christian life, I read the Word because “thats what good Christians do,” and because I wanted answers to theological arguments that I enjoyed having. I never read the Scriptures for application, I never read them with thoughts of, “How can I apply this?,” “What does this mean for me?,” “How can I actually live this out?,” or “What is this calling me to DO?” Because of my surface level reading and incorrect motives, I believe that I misused a lot of reading time, time that could’ve shaped me into a more Godly man.

At the beginning of my Sophomore year I was challenged by the guy that disciples me to read the scriptures with a different mindset: seeking applications from them to help me walk out my faith. I began reading the Word with the questions mentioned above, and my life started to change. I was convicted of certain sins in my life, encouraged by verses I never noticed before, and developed a genuine hunger for the Word of God. I started reading every morning, journaling my thoughts, and praying through the scriptures, asking for help to do what it commanded of me, and giving thanks for verses that built me up or declared what Christ has done for me.

This morning, I was reading in Luke 11, where a woman exlaims in a crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb you came from!” and Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28. I recalled a passage I read from a few days earlier, where someone else calls out to Jesus, telling him that his mother and brothers are waiting to see him. Jesus continues teaching, and says, ““My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21. I was reminded of the importance to coming to Scripture with the attitude and stance of coming to hear, and hearing so that I can do.

Reading the Scriptures with this mindset provides such a beautiful alleyway into faith and prayer. Upon reading the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus, I cannot help but to be humbled and drawn to my knees asking the Father to empower me to be able to do what my Savior teaches. Reading the Scriptures with this mindset has drastically changed my walk and relationship with Christ, as well as my relationship with others! I have come to notice the Spirit working in my heart now more than ever, and I’ve also become more and more aware of sin that I need to repent of! Reading the Word this way has also developed an increase faith in Christ, because I need his help to even begin to do what he says, and after I continue to fail, my eyes are lifted back unto him, who has saved me from my inability to live up to God’s standards!

Let me make this clear: I do not believe that we must read scripture like I have talked about to merit salvation. Salvation is a gift. A gift cannot be earned, it can only be received! However, lets say you receive an amazing Christmas gift that comes with an instruction manual, wouldn’t you read the manual to make sure you can reap all the benefits and learn all the components of the gift? My friends, this is no different! The fact that Christ reconciled us to the Father and saved us from death by his sinless life and willing sacrifice on the cross alone contains so much beauty that we need all of eternity to admire it. However, theres more to this gift than just Heaven! The Scriptures also give us practical applications on how to live, how to walk with Christ, and how to be conformed to HIS image, which Scripture defines as a life full of joy and life abundantly! Christ refers to those who read the Scriptures who do them as his “brothers.” O, what a beautiful opportunity we have to please him, rely on him, and acquaint ourselves with him daily through reading the Word like this!

I challenge you to read the Word and ask the Father to empower you through his Spirit to DO what is says this week!