A Call to Repentance (Part Two)

Hosea 6:1-6

What am I going to do with you, Ephraim? What am I going to do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes. This is why I have used the prophets to cut them down; I have killed them with the words from my mouth. My judgment strikes like lightning. For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (6:4-6 CSB).

The Lord warned Israel about her failure to repent (6:4-5). God is not pleased with half-efforts. He always wants our whole heart. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV).

The Lord wanted a proper relationship with the whole nation. The clergy-laity distinction still persists in very many evangelical minds, (except when the churchgoer is in a dispute with their pastor). “You’re supposed to do that because you’re a pastor or missionary,” or “I don’t have to do that because I’m not in full-time Christian service.” Wrong! God wants you to share your life with him.

So the Lord sought a whole-hearted, lasting response. The Lord wants us after the troubles have disappeared, when our lives are bright and happy. Israel had tried to satisfy God with a little affection when they were in need.

God reminds them of his displeasure. Spiritual judgments would fall on them. The messages of the earlier prophets, like Elijah and Elisha, had fallen on deaf hears. The people were hardened, not helped. There is a serious danger of having your heart hardened while you listen to God’s word. Lord, give us hearts of flesh; soft, responsive hearts always. Physical judgments would also fall on them. Their crumbling nation was sufficient proof of this. Let us listen to Christ’s words to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19).

The Lord taught Israel about true repentance (6:6). God permitted no substitutes. From the time of Cain, people have been trying to buy God’s pleasure with something less than what he wants (Genesis 4:3-7). Even performance of God-appointed ritual is insufficient, if we lack a heart for God and an urge to please him. Attendance at a church preaching the gospel of God’s grace will do you no good, unless you love the God of grace.

The living God pointed out the way of true worship to them as Jesus did to the woman at the well. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24 ESV). The Lord wants mercy or steadfast love, which as Jesus emphasized, means love for people as well as love for God (Matthew 9:13; 12:7; cf. 1 John 3-4.) The Lord wants us to know him. To know God is to recognize and appreciate his involvement in my life as holy, sovereign and loving Father.

Do you know the Lord in this way, with a love that reaches out to all people, including people that know the Lord and yet with whom you disagree?

Grace and peace, David

More on Meeting Together

20140916_160521Hebrews 10:25

Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (NIV)

After thinking about the desire that the Lord has for his people to gather together as a church (assembly, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:18), next let’s think about the reason. The writer might have mentioned a reason such as the worship of God. Or there is the opportunity for a gospel witness to friends that do not yet know the Lord but are willing to come and observe a loving and caring church that proclaims hope (confident expectation). Or, thinking of the passage already cited from First Corinthians, a church needs to gather for a meal to remember the Lord together. These are all good reasons to meet together.

However, the writer of Hebrews concludes this great passage with another reason. We are to meet together to encourage one another. While the Holy Spirit has come to encourage us, the Lord wants his followers to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). “Encourage one another” is one of the basic differences between an edifice church and a sharing of life (koinonia) church. Those who attend an edifice church are very concerned about the “service” that will happen there. By the service, they mean the public program that is presented. In various edifice churches this means different actions, whether the observance of rituals and sacraments, or a strict order of service that is planned to the minute (that is no exaggeration), or a musical performance (dominated by the worship leader, band, and singers), or listening to a long, carefully constructed doctrinal sermon, or an evangelistic message that is followed by an emotional invitation (altar call), or some sort of combination of the above. The important matter in the edifice church is to have the best possible performance of the desired program. Before and after the program, there might be some chitchat about sports or children or politics or vacations. But to encounter personal encouragement is rare.

To meet together in a sharing of life church is to be involved with people, not a program. Yes, such churches will have worship, music, prayer, a message from the word, etc. But the concern is not to get through a program and then to evaluate how well the leaders lead the program. The Lord and people matter in a sharing of life church, because the Vine gives life to the branches, and he wants them to love one another with his kind of love (John 15:1-17). For this reason, there is a lot of time invested in talking together about the Lord and our lives in our families, job places, neighborhoods, and activities. Another time we will go into more detail. But the difference is the focus is on the Lord and people, not on any program. The Holy Spirit is in control, not an “order of service”.

When you are not in your local gathering of believers, your place in the body is vacant. Often when we meet together, it’s like being without a finger, a foot, an arm, or ears. You can’t contribute and the body is crippled. “My oh my, where is our ‘liver’ today?” Someone answers, “Oh, don’t you know? The ‘liver’ is off doing something or other with the ‘knee cap’. And by the way, the ‘back muscle’ is grumpy today, so be careful what you say!” You are at liberty to think that is a crazy illustration. But please listen to this. The exhortation to meet together to encourage one another is not merely “good advice”, but it is God’s will for your life. And this exhortation is addressed to people who have every reason to comply with it. The writer addresses those who are forgiven, those cleansed by the blood of Christ, those who may approach God boldly, yes, to those who are in covenant with the living God. As a person loves God and his family, he or she desires to be at family gatherings.

When we gather together, we must encourage each other.

  • Encourage one another to believe, to hope and to love. Notice how faith, hope and love occur in this paragraph (10:19-25), as well as many places in the New Testament Scriptures.
  • Encourage one another to grow in knowledge of God, of the word he has given, and in the Christian way of life.
  • Encourage one another to endure. It is tough to live for Jesus Christ in a world that hates him. Loving words of hope in the Lord’s resurrection victory can be greatly used by Spirit to strengthen each other in spiritual warfare.
  • Encourage one another to do good (1 Peter 2:11-15). The writer said this in 10:24, but we forget too easily that we are to do good works, so that others might see them and glorify our Father in heaven.

The writer adds a solemn motive. The Day is approaching. “The Day” means the “Day of the Lord”, which is the time when he will act openly in the greatness of his glorious power. The result will be salvation for his people and judgment for his enemies. Are you ready for Christ’s coming? Believers look for the dawning of that Day. We are watching for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires us to grow in grace in the light of that Day: “all the more”. Since every day brings us one day nearer to the return of our Lord, we ought to be better prepared each day. For this reason, meet together regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Grace and peace, David