Sunday, October 25, 2009

Taking Inspiration from Hosea

I read the Book of Hosea last week and as I did I couldn’t help but feel the words God gave him for Israel are very similar to that which should be spoken to the Church in the United States today.

The Hebrew people were in a lot of trouble with God during Hosea’s time due to their failure to honor Him and His Word, and much of this short fourteen chapter book was spent telling them of the behaviors God had taken issue with and how He would bring judgment upon them for their sins, and that after doing so, He would also bring restoration if they would only seek Him.

It seems to me that we here in the U.S. are in the same condition as the Hebrew people of Hosea’s day.

When I say “we,” I of course could be speaking of the U.S. as a whole: the sins our nation commits and exports on a daily basis have piled up to the heavens, what with all the abortions, pornography, adulteries, fornications, whoredoms, immodesty, pride, vanity, lying, deceit, hatred, violence, murders, greed, thefts, covetousness, cursing, witchcraft, etc. and etc.

One could go on and on.

Yes, our nation is in a great deal of trouble, no doubt about that.

But for the purposes of this blog when I say “we,” I mean we the people of the Church of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who are in trouble first.

Why? Because 1 Peter 4:17 tells, 

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

In light of this scripture it's easy to wonder how can God judge the world for sin if He doesn’t first judge us, especially when the same sins that the world freely partakes of are also practiced with little hindrance in the Church.
In addition to the worldly sins as listed above in which the Church finds itself entrenched (and perhaps more foundationally problematic), false doctrines and the “traditions of men” are more honored in the Church than the Word of God, which means we aren’t standing on the solid rock of the Word, but on the shifting, wind-blown sands of the teachings of man.
The latter error – following traditions of men – is a huge impetus for the former – practicing worldly sins – for if we were teaching, preaching, receiving and living the correct doctrine straight from the living Word of God we would be far better equipped to resist worldly iniquity.
Yes, the U.S. Church is in trouble, big time.
Also, because we have been blessed with the entirety of God’s Word with little interference from those in secular power, we as a consequence are held to a higher standard, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…” [Luke 12:48).
But even with that higher standard the Church isn’t even attaining to the bar of superficial morality set by the secular culture of the United States during the 1940’s and 50’s. The Church’s present day immodesty alone proves that we as a people have dropped below that level long ago.

No, we the members of the Church of Jesus Christ in the good ol’ USA are not a holy people.

I don’t think I’m saying anything surprising or new. Each person reading this blog knows of his own personal issues and can readily see that many of us in what calls itself the Church these days are not truly fighting sin as if our lives depend on it, and as a consequence we are not attaining to the holiness portrayed by the Biblical fathers of our faith.

To purify oneself means adopting a lifestyle which is obedient to God and His Word while learning to detest and cease the practice of sin. Why? Because sin is the opposite of obedience. Sin is denial of and opposition to God’s commands, commands that were given so we could know how to properly behave in order that we may love Him and others.

Again, we as a people are not living out consistently obedient lives to the Lord and as a consequence are walking out lives of sin. I should rephrase this statement a bit because when I say “we” I am speaking in general terms catching the sum of all Christians in the U.S. in one net, but some of us are indeed living holy, obedient lives, though those of us who are totally committed to doing so amount to very few. And those very few obedient ones who may read this blog are surely only nodding in agreement and don’t mind that I’m using the more global “we” in the description of the Church’s behavior.

But returning to the matter at hand, as mentioned before, our doctrinal errors are at the root of much of the Church’s problems with sin. For example, a large majority of the Church does not practice or teach deliverance, and thus only a tiny percentage of the members of the Body are actually casting out the demons attempting to lead them into sin. Those of us not doing so are consequently unable to win our battles against iniquity because we are not picking up the weapons God has given to enable us to do so.

Demons also know that when they can persuade us to accept and embrace just one type of sin then we will all the more easily fall into other types, even in areas in which we had little trouble before.

There are lots of spiritual sayings to describe this phenomenon:

“A little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump.”

“Sin begets more sin.”

“Sin takes you farther than you want to go, makes you stay longer than you want to stay, and makes you do things that, in the end, you don’t want to do.”
Jesus put it another way,

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first..." (Matthew 12:43-45).

One could envision from Jesus’ description that a demon’s invitation to you to sin is as if you’re having a dinner party and a there’s a knock at the door. You look through the peephole to discover an uninvited, unwanted guest who is very dangerous. But instead of telling him he is unwanted and commanding him to leave you instead crack the door to hear a little better what he has to say. As you begin to hear his plan you (seemingly unknowingly) open the door a little wider and all of sudden he’s standing over the threshold and blocking you from closing the door. You let him in further and with incredible speed, seven more of his friends are also pushing through. Your dinner party is now crashed and ruined, as these intruders aren’t so friendly once they’re inside and can now create absolute havoc.

When sin and demons get in the door and fully invade, they know then that they can blind us to our sin. They “poke our eyes out” as it were in the same way the Philistines poked out Samson’s (Judges 16:21) and this blindness helps us to embrace sin even further.

The backsliding Christian in this state will not only accept and justify his own sins but will see others who refrain from and speak out against sin as legalist fuddy-duddies at best and the enemies of God at worst.

Remember, the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day were those who desired to kill Him most! And what did Jesus call them?

“…blind leaders of the blind…” (Matthew 15:14).

What were they blinded by? 1) Their false doctrines and traditions of men, and 2) the resulting sin.

The only way to break free of this type of blinding sin is for the person to surrender his life to God and ask God to reveal the sins he can’t see.

The sinner needs to say as David did,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).

Without continually making this simple request throughout one’s Christian walk, even those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior will most likely continue in the stubborn pursuit of sin, all the while remaining blind to our own sinful condition.

This is the main issue in the Church, an absolute blindness to the nature of sin and its hold on us as a corporate body.

We as the Church in the USA do not spend enough time sincerely asking God to search us, and oftentimes when we do we are not really looking for a reply from the Lord, as deep down we don’t really want to change. This is obvious because the answers He responds with are often ignored or seen as “not from Him” as what the Lord requires always calls for a letting go of the world and of sin, and many of us don’t want to do that. The process can appear to be painful and sacrificial and many of us aren’t willing to undergo this perceived discomfort and loss.

This is especially true in the U.S. Church when it comes to traditions of men. When God asks us to let go of them because they are against His Word we cannot grasp how or why these traditions could be sins against Him. We also imagine that if we were to stop those traditions, then we would be seen as peculiar by the rest of the Church and too many of us are way too worried about what others think, and having such an attitude, we are even less willing to consider God’s voice may be leading us out of some of these long-held yet anti-biblical traditions. We close our eyes and ears to the simple Word of God and continue to our hold on man-created doctrines that allow us to continue our traditions.

This happens because many of us have failed miserably as individuals to read our Bibles enough to know what God actually expects. This is the main reason that when He does respond to our asking Him to search us, we are not ready for His response. We don’t know His Word and therefore don’t know His voice or even when it is Him who is speaking to us. As a result we make no effort to change, even as the Pharisees and Sadducees made no effort when God sent His Word to them through John the Baptist and then His Son Jesus Christ.
It’s this not knowing the Word of God that enables so many of us to continue in sins of ignorance, which feeds right into a word that God gave to Hosea,

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” (Hosea 4:6).

According to this scripture, in God’s economy there is no “I didn’t know, I was ignorant” escape clause. This should especially be so here in the U.S. where, as stated before, we have enjoyed unlimited and unhindered access to the Word of God for so many years.

And yet we (and again, I’m not talking about the world here but the Church), we, the ones who should be reading our Bibles and ARE NOT, consequently don’t realize the depths of sin that we’ve waded into.


Not waded.

Wading implies that we’re in shallow waters, but indeed many of us have swum into and have remained in the depths of sin, deep down in the dark, filthy, murky waters of iniquity.

Our lives are so out of order that we as a people are participating in manifold sins on a daily basis. Many of us seem to be doing very little to exhibit self-control in the desires and leadings of the flesh.

In addition to the doctrinal errors, all the sins of divorce, porn use, adultery, abortion, alcoholism, etc. so readily apparent in the secular world can also be found in large measures within the Church.

I’m not just talking to you dear reader. I am under attack as well. We all have areas of weakness demons want to exploit.

The question is are we fighting against these sins? A large majority of us aren’t fighting hard enough.

I personally feel I need to show more vigilance. Actually, in certain areas I know for certain that I need to fight with more determination. Demons would love for all of us to consider certain behaviors that God forbids as acceptable and will do everything in their power to soften us in those areas.

What about you? Are there areas in your life that need to be looked at more closely so that you can gain the victory? Or, do you believe the false gospel that it is a matter of fact that you can’t stop sinning so why try to fix something that can’t be repaired?

Many other questions remain:

Are we as the people of God determining to hate the sins that God hates even though our flesh can thoroughly take pleasure in those sins?

Are we fighting the demons who tempt us by daily taking up our crosses and following after the Lord (Matthew 16:24), that is, are we dying to our fleshly selves in order that we might live above sin and walk in the Spirit, which is life?

Are we reading our Bibles daily to learn the ways of God so that we may identify the sins in our lives that are offending Him, both doctrinal sins and those of the flesh?

In my next blog I will more directly address many of the Church traditions that do not line up with the Word, but may I ask you a couple questions in advance of your reading it?

When these traditions/practices are presented as unbiblical will you be able to discern by the Word of God if what I say about them is true? That is to say, have you read the Bible enough to know if what I present is Biblical, or will you just go by some gut feeling?

Therein lies the rub. If you don’t know the Word of God for yourself, how do you know if what anyone tells you from the Word is actually true or a just a twisting of the Word?

I encourage you, dear reader, to spend time reading your Bible each and every day. Tackle three chapters a day and you can read the entirety of scripture in a year. Why not start with the Book of Hosea?

Also, read it out loud because “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). It’s time you got the Word deep down in you so you will not be blown about by every false wind of doctrine that comes your way.

In the meantime, ask God to help you look within for whatever sins may bind you and pray to Him to help you get free. Ask Him to uncover not only the worldly sins that are easier to identify in your life, but the traditions of men you may be following that may be leading you astray as well.

It’s time for us to clean up our acts as members of the Body of Christ in the U.S., and indeed the entire Church worldwide needs to do so, but let us begin with our individual selves.

Let us judge ourselves now, so that we may avoid the judgment of God. Let us make ourselves right without Him having to move His hand to force us to do so. His hand is already moving. Can you see it? Be a leader in changing yourself for Him and others, when God’s judgment comes with greater intensity will see your efforts and want to do the same.

God bless you and look for further messages that address the Church’s traditions that are hamstringing us in our pursuit of a Holy God.

It seems like many of us have either given up this fight against sin, or, because of false teachings, never took up the fight to begin with.

A great part of the blame for our laxness falls upon the sugary sweet “gospel of grace” embraced by most American Churches that has allowed many of us to erringly believe we can go on living in sin without eternal consequences because according to this false gospel we are all “sinners” and will never be able to stop sinning.

The hushed implication is, “Why should we even try to stop sinning if it’s impossible to do so?” If this gospel is true that we can and will never discontinue our iniquity, and that this is not really a problem because the blood of Jesus covers all of these sins, why then we have nothing to worry about. We can just go on sinning.

But from the scriptures we learn that the blood of Jesus does cover our REPENTED sins, but sins we stubbornly continue to practice and hold onto, the ones that we do not repent of, are they still covered?

Think about that question as we address the matter further.
When sin is allowed a foothold and is not repented of, that means that it has become accepted, and once accepted, the next logical step is to embrace it.

Those of us who get as far as embracing sin, that is, we have decided to allow it full reign in our lives without standing up to it, are in big trouble. It is of little consequence if we’ve said the sinner’s prayer and believe we have salvation if we continue in sin.

Let me tell you why.

No, better that Jesus should tell you Himself, He said,

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

So we see from this scripture that God does indeed require a standard of holiness, and there are at least two measures as listed in this passage that determine if we meet that standard. They are:

Do we do the will of the Father?

Do we practice iniquity (sin)?

We can readily see that Jesus’ standard of holiness is much higher than the standard that has been set by today’s “we will always be sinners” American Church. How is it then that Jesus says one thing with regard to His expectations, and yet we preach, teach and believe another?

While most of the Church is right in the sense that no one can be saved without believing in Jesus’ sacrifice and shedding of blood, it is not enough merely to believe that Jesus did this.

According to the epistle of James that most of the Church believes is part of the Canon, when it comes to believing in one God “…the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

Just believing that Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, died, was buried and resurrected alone does not gain us eternal salvation, even though it is the most critical first step.

But the fruit of this eternal salvation blossoms when this belief in Jesus’ work here on earth and subsequent resurrection actually draws us unto holiness.
John tells us the following with regard to those who seek an eternity with the Lord,

“…every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (1 John 3:3).

1 comment:

  1. Did you use disappearing ink because I can only see the text when I highlight it. lol