Last week we heard God’s call to RETURN to His Way because His Way is Good! This week God calls us to return to Him because He is Faithful unlike any other kind of faithful person ever! Before we dig into Scripture, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Hosea’s Strange Choice for a Wife
Background of Hosea. Last week we read a section from 2 Kings that took place around 600 B.C. This week we are in the book of Hosea which takes place about 120 years earlier. It also doesn’t take place in country of Judah and Jerusalem, but in a sister country up north called --Israel.
A little bit about the climate of 8th century B.C. Israel. The people had gotten very into worshipping a statue called “Baal.” Baal was a ‘god’ of the neighboring nations. People worshipped Baal in a much different way than we worship the Lord today.
Instead of visiting the temple to worship the Lord, they visited Baal’s temple to worship a statue.
Instead of adopting the Ten Commandments, they had adopted the magical practices of fertility cults.
Instead of being intimate in prayer with God, they were “intimate with Baal” by being intimate with Baal’s shrine prostitutes.
Hmm…Seems like yet another situation where God needs to call his people to RETURN to Him.
Hosea is a prophet.
Hosea works for the Lord.
Hosea goes wherever God tells him to go.
Hosea does whatever God tells him to do.
Hosea is also a single young man.
He is a single young man who understood God’s plan for marriage:
That one man marries one woman and be united to that one woman for a lifetime.
He knew that such unity would be proclaimed via a public marriage ceremony and practice with exclusive intimate relations.
So…I doubt Hosea took marriage lightly.
He looks at ancient papyrus dating profile and swiped RIGHT on the women he was interested in knowing.
He took them out for dinner and watched to see if they ordered a BLT or respected his religious wish not to eat pork.
He made sure to ask them his make or break question: “Do you worship GOD or BAAL?”
And up to this point in his life --- Hosea did not have a wife!
Imagine Hosea’s excitement…when the long arduous process of finding a faithful wife for himself came to an end.
God called out to Hosea.
God had found a wife for Hosea.
God had found the perfect woman for Hosea.
He fell to his knees.
He said, “Yes, Lord! I can’t wait to meet her.”
And the Lord said:
“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her.” (1:2a)
Would you marry someone who is promiscuous? That’s a kind Bible word from someone who is sexually intimate with lots of people. Would you marry the woman who kisses 12 other boys on your first date? Would you marry the man that has text messages from 6 of his exes on his phone? Would you marry a spouse that made you think: “There’s no way that person will ever be faithful.”
You might date them.
They might be fun.
BUT...! They are NOT marriage material.
Yet the Lord told Hosea told Hosea to seek out a woman just like that.
It wasn’t his bad judgment.
It wasn’t even a few too many gin and tonics in Law Vegas.
The LORD told Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman.
Check out the answer in verse 2:
“For like an adulterous wife; this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (1:2b)
Hosea’s life is a living, breathing parable.
It’s a lifelong illustration.
It’s a picture of God’s relationship with his people of Israel.
It’s a picture of God’s relationship with his people of the Triangle.
II. The Unfaithful One
What do I mean? Take a look at chapter 2. Chapter 2 gets into the nitty gritty about how the people’s relationship is going with God. Pay attention -- Chapter 2 is going to reference a wife and a husband. At no point is it ever a reference to an actual wife and an actual husband. It is a reference to God as the husband, and his wife as his people. Look at verse 2:
“Rebuke your mother,” and mother is a reference to Israel…God’s wife. “Rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.” (2:2a)
Why would God say that?
Why would God break his covenant?
A new study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships surveyed 232 people who had been cheated on. The study showed that those who were cheated reported “experiencing great bouts of depression, anxiety, and distress.” (Psypost.org)
Why is it so damaging? I think the Bible answered that a long time ago:
The Bible says that marriage is a very special relationship.
There is a very emotional promise of faithfulness at an engagement.
There is a very public commitment to faithfulness in front of family and friends.
There is the physical promise of faithfulness that exclusive sexual intimacy implies.
The promise, the commitment, the exclusivity of intimacy bonds the two together as one!
One incredible being.
What the Bible calls “One flesh.” (Genesis 2)
To break the marriage bond with unfaithfulness is to sever the marriage bond – and leave spiritual, emotional blood of that one flesh all over the floor.
Keep that in mind and listen to God’s heart for those who are unfaithful:
“Rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and her unfaithfulness.” (2:2b)
It wasn’t God who stopped being a husband.
It was his people.
Let her remove her adulterous look! Because God’s people have been flirtatious. They have been looking for other gods.
“Baal, you are so cute! And not as oppressive as the God of Israel!”
“Asherah pole, you are in style. Not stuffy and old fashioned like the Lord.”
“Dear money, you really care about me and let me do what I want. God is always lecturing me.”
“Oh pornography! You are the best thing for me; so much better than God. I wish I was with you”
“Oh lovely beer bottle. I come to you and you make everything better – unlike God – who makes me feel so uptight.”
“Mmmm. Pride. I always knew that the perfect one for me, is me!”
And these adulterous looks lead to actual unfaithfulness.
It’s not just flirting with the idea of other gods.
But being intimate with them.
The intimate desires of a heart revealed in prayer to Baal.
The intimate time of worship spent in the temple of Asherah.
The intimate trust that all will be ok – placed in a few dollar bills.
The intimate need for value discovered in digital photos where the woman gives you whatever you want when you want it.
The intimate need for comfort looked for in a bottle of PBR – and another 16 or so.
The intimate need for acceptance found in the callous embrace of one self.
Brothers and sisters, this is unfaithful Israel.
Brothers and sisters, this is unfaithful us.
And that’s harsh.
Look at what happens to those who are no longer a part of God’s family. The Bible calls them…
Stripped. Verse 3 says: I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born. Because God is the one who brings home the bacon in the relationship with his people. God is the one who provides all the physical blessings! And in the settlement between God and the people who have been unfaithful to him? He gets everything! He gets the house. He gets the home. He gets the clothing. He gets the 401K. He gets the Jaguar. He gets the Xbox. He gets it all, because He is the one who has been providing everything to begin with!
And the unfaithful? They are naked. Everyone can see their sin. Everyone can see their shame. Everyone can see their guilt.
Parched. Verse 3b says: “I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.” For Israel, it meant that God was going to send a drought on the land of Israel. They would no longer receive rain. Without rain, their crops would die. Without crops, they would no longer receive nourishment. Because God is the one who nourishes us all and God stopped nourishing them.
And…So…Consider this: What if God didn’t provide for you? Where would you be?
A soup kitchen?
Eating the old dog food at the bottom of the dumpster behind the local kennel?
TRUTH: If God didn’t provide for you, you would not be nourished.
And why would he provide for those who aren’t part of his family?
And why would He keep the unfaithful as part of His family?
Blocked. Verse six says this: “Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
When I read this verse, I get this picture of this high-ranking jaded spouse. They are high up in government. They have been scorned and publicly humiliated.
And they will get revenge.
They talk to the city officials and make it impossible for their spouse to find a job. They make it impossible for them to find a living. They see to it that – you never work in this town again!
God’s Word says that if you are unfaithful to God, you will be against him.
And He will be against you.
And there’s no way that you will win.
And to be fair, you can turn to your other lovers!
You can turn to money.
You can turn to porn.
You can turn to alcohol.
You can turn to pride.
You can turn to whatever it is that has led you to be unfaithful to God.
You can Look for your lovers…but the unfaithful one will not find them.
Do you know why?
Because these “lovers” don’t care about you.
Not at all.
And you left the only One who did love you to go after them.
(And now…I’m alone.)
The Unfaithful one.
III. The Faithful One
Then…the only thing left…is despair.
Despair and return.
The unfaithful spouse will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’
I will go back to God.
I will return to my husband.
I will return to the One who really loves me, who always provides for me and who will never leave me!
I will return to the faithful One.
And they return.
And they fall on the floor.
And with tears in our eyes, they beg for God to take us back.
They beg for one more change.
They beg for forgiveness.
Who has been wronged.
Who has been wronged repeatedly
Who has been hurt.
Who has been betrayed by the One He loved most…says:
“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, In love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness.” (v.19-20)
If you have been unfaithful to God and you seek reconciliation with your faithful husband, hear his promise of betrothal again:
He will betroth in righteousness. Remember earlier when it talked about being without clothes and sin exposed? Not anymore! God covers up your sin and your shame. He clothes you with the impenetrable beauty of His forgiveness and the gorgeous fashion of His righteousness.
He will betroth in justice. He defends his spouse. He brings justice on his enemies. He defeats the devil. He defeats sin. He defeats death for the sake of his beloved wife.
He will betroth in love. Not just emotional, flighty Disney love, but real, tested, unconditional action love. Love that sends him to the cross. Even when we’ve been unfaithful.
He will betroth in compassion. Not lashing out – as would be understandable and as He should – but speaking…With kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness: whispering sweet nothings of HIS divine love.
He will betroth in faithfulness. Never getting “back” at you. Never getting revenge. Never being unfaithful.
Always, always, always faithfully loving you.
Every day of this life.
Every day of eternity.
Friends, hear God’s call to you today. If you have been unfaithful to Him, RETURN. Return to THE Faithful One. Amen.
Last week we started up our summer sermon series on Joshua. If you remember, we learned about a few themes: (1) the theme of the Promised Land – that God promised Abram and all his descendants they would one day possess the land of Canaan – just to the East of the Mediterranean Sea and (2) the leadership of Moses through whom God did awesome miracles in leading the Israelites for 40 years.
If you remember, both these things weighed on the heart of Joshua – our lead character. With the pressure of fulfilling the promise and the intimidation of following after Moses, God told Joshua – “As I was with Moses, I will be with you.” And Joshua was filled with confidence – he knew that he could trust God’s promises. And perhaps Joshua took a moment to contemplate the Red sea splitting, swarms of locusts sending, earth quaking, sky shaking, pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night God was with him! And there’s no one who could stop Joshua from reaching the Promised Land!
But then…there’s an extreme shift that takes place from verse 6 to verse 7. A shift that could have taken Joshua from a very high confidence to a terrified stupor.
What was it? Today we’re going to see what God told Joshua to do next, why it was so terrifying and yet why Joshua shouldn’t fear.
I. The Obedience Regiment
The message picks up in Joshua 1:7. God said to Joshua, Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night., so that you will be careful to do everything written in it. Then, you will be prosperous and successful. (1:7-8)
Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that intimidating to you. God just told him to obey him. No big deal. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re gathering to worship. We’re obeying him.
But…look closer. It quickly becomes apparent how downright terrifying this command was:
(1) Obey it All
Notice that opening phrase. Obey all the law my servant Moses gave you. (v.7a)
One of the last things that Moses did before he died was write down the first five books of the Old Testament. He wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. We call it the Pentateuch. (That’s definitely a Jeopardy question). It means the first five books of the Bible. (Take it home – tell your mom, she’ll be happy you learned something at church.) Granted there weren’t paperbacks or eReaders back then, so it was most likely etched on stone or written on papyrus parchment, but it was definitely there and available for people to read.
But get this – Hebrew scholars have identified over 613 laws if you add up all the different laws throughout these five OT books. Some of them are ceremonial – what to wear, when to eat, what holidays to celebrate and others are civil – what to do when someone wrongs you, how to sue someone if your horse falls into a pit -- and still other moral laws.
Now compare those laws with what God told Joshua here. How many of those was Joshua to obey?
Even if we are talking the simplest form of these laws – the moral laws – the 10 commandments. Notice that God does not say, “Obey some of what I said,” or “obey the parts that you like best.” He tells Joshua to obey it all.
This prevents Joshua (and us) from saying, “’Do not murder?’ No problem God! That’s not a temptation to me. I like people. But… this next one, the ‘do not commit adultery’ one? Well, I’m a guy so…I’ll just smudge some dirt on this piece of parchment and there! It’s gone. Forget white out; try dirt out!”
That’s not how it works. The reality is that you can put dirt, permanent marker or white out over God’s commands in the Bible, but that doesn’t remove the reality of that command. It does not remove God’s demand for comprehensive obedience.
As in – do everything.
(2) No Rights or Lefts
God continues. He tells Joshua, Do not turn to the right or the left. (v.7b)
Ever gone the wrong way when you’re using a GPS? It doesn’t matter if it’s Siri, Alexa or Cortana – they cannot get you where you are going if you do not listen to them. They’ll yell, speak in persistent, robotic annoyance (Make U-turn. Make U-turn. Make U-turn now!) – but if you keep going the wrong way you won’t get there! This is an especially big deal if you don’t actually know where you’re going.
For instance, if I turn left on Falls of Neuse and think heading north past I-540 will get me to downtown Raleigh. I will not get there. Ever.
God tells Joshua the same thing happens with obeying his commands. If they turn to the right or left and change course, they don’t end up in comprehensive obedience lane. They end up at the corner of Disobedience Avenue and Rebellion Boulevard.
The imperatives continue. Keep this book of the Law always on your lips; Meditate on it day and night. (v.8)
You’d get the impression that there’s a test coming up – and Joshua needs to study for the test. Only it’s not a verbal test. It’s not a written test. It’s not even one of those fill in the oval with a number 2 pencil tests.
It’s a 24/7 life evaluation test.
And in order to do well, look at the commitment needed! You thought studying for your SAT was hard. Study God’s Law day and night. When it’s light and when it’s dark.
AKA – all the time.
That’s what God is saying:
Do my commands.
Do them all.
Do them all the time.
And if you do them? You will be successful.
Don’t do them? Well…the implication is obvious.
Joshua knew all too well what happened.
He had seen it from the Egyptians – they were drowned in the Red Sea.
He had seen it from rebellious Israelites – they were banished to the wilderness.
He had seen even seen it from Moses…
Which was surprising.
Because Moses had done a pretty good job of listening to God’s commands. He had spoken to Pharaoh when told; he had raised his staff over the Red Sea when commanded; he had delivered the Ten Commandments as directed.
But one time – Moses had enough.
One time – Moses couldn’t handle the people’s whining.
One time – Moses got so angry that the people were complaining – You’ve left us out here to die Moses. We’re thirsty Moses. We don’t believe you have our best interests in mind Moses.
Moses was supposed to speak to the rock.
Instead, he hit it.
With a stick.
It was only a bit different than one God said.
Only a bit to the right…
But God’s punishment was complete: Moses, because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy…you will not bring this community into the land I give them. (Numbers 20:12)
God warns the same will happen to us.
God warns that disobedience will deny us access into the Promised Land of heaven itself.
And outside that Promised Land?
There’s only death.
2) Regimental Strength
And again – just like last week – Joshua feels the pressures of the situation.
Again, Joshua is confronted with the inability of his humanity to do what God wants.
Again, Joshua realizes that he cannot do this on his own.
And that’s good.
To that God says this, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (v.9)
Take note of this. Joshua was already a sinner. Joshua had already failed to do everything God said all the time. Scripture is clear “All have sinned.” (Romans 3:23) That includes Joshua.
Yet God comes to Joshua, the sinner, and says, I will be with you wherever you go. (v.9)
Today I’m speaking to you what God spoke.
I’m speaking to you God’s Word.
I’m speaking to you and God is speaking through me to you.
In other words --- God is coming to you, the sinner, and saying, I will be with you wherever you go. (v.9)
And we know that’s truth! Because of what Jesus did!
He removed all your sins of partial obedience.
He removed your turning to the right and to the left.
He removed your sporadic and episodic keeping of a minor portion of his commands.
God is saying to you, “I will be with you wherever you go,” because I have always been with you.
I reached forward through eternity and gathered up your sins.
I took you to the cross.
I died with you.
Three days later I rose and in doing so I implanted my obedience onto your soul.
My perfect, round the clock, straight and narrow, comprehensive, never turning to the right or left, obedience on your soul.
That’s what God sees when he looks at you.
That’s what God sees through faith in Jesus Christ.
III. What Now?
1. Be Very Courageous
Did you notice that in verse 7? It is the only part of this section that increases the courageous command by one word: Very.
Part of that relates to the challenge before him – because obeying God’s every word, completely, all the time—all the time – all the time--- is eons more challenging than driving out millions of people from fortified cities over thousands of miles of lands.
That’s what attempting to obey the holy commands of a holy God is like for the sinful.
But then again – that be very courageous statement comes from God --- with good reason! Not only is He all powerful, but he is the one who told us to do the very things he promises to be with us for in the first place.
It’d be like if I told you to get Doritos and you came back, a bit sheepishly to tell me, “I looked through the chip section and sadly Pastor all I could find was Doritos – so I got 5 bags. Please don’t be mad.”
I’m not. You did what I asked.
It’s the same with God. He loves it when you do what he asks, because he asked it!
It’s the same with God.
He empowers you to do his commands. And he wants you to do his commands.
That makes us courageous.
2. Enjoy Success
There is a very interesting thing that God’s Word says in verse 8, Keep the book of the Law – Then you will be prosperous and successful.
That does not mean that upon completing an hour of obeying God’s Law – suddenly you can check your Wells Fargo Account and fine a deposit of $1000 into your checking account.
It also doesn’t mean that if you keep the law perfectly for the next minute, you will have earned one minute in heaven. Again – that’s not how it works. Heaven is a gift of God’s grace obtained by faith.
Yet that does not mean that God doesn’t gift us with blessings as we follow his Word.
What am I talking about?
What happens if you honor your Father and mother? God gifts you with the fact that you aren’t grounded and you can play your video games after dinner.
What happens if you are faithful to your wife? God gives an incredible intimacy or closeness that only you both share.
What happens if you don’t steal? God gifts you with the blessing of – wait for it – not going to jail!
In short, God’s an awesome giver. Because he should have just said, “Obey me – just cause!” But he shapes his commands in such a way that obedience to them leads to incredible blessings. Not that we’ve earned it, but God provides grace upon grace that following him leads to prosperity!
Yet Joshua didn’t feel that prosperity. He felt the weight of his task. The words of God echoed in his ear, but they were no longer audible. He sat on a cold rock – alone. God is with me. Be strong and courageous. He promises blessings…be strong and very courageous. Then, he began his very first obedience tasks.
He had to gather the troops in order to begin the push into the promised land. But here’s the problem:
There were 12 tribes in Israel. (named after the 12 sons of the guy named – Israel) 2 ½ of those tribes: the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and ½ the tribe of Manasseh had already settled on the east side of the Jordan. Before they had asked Moses and he had allowed them under the conditional promise that their fighting men come and help them when the time was right to enter the Promised Land.
But…Moses was dead.
It had been twenty years.
Did these men really want to leave their nice new homes and risk losing their lives for the sake of some other Israelites that they barely knew?
Or was it more likely they’d say, “Nah, man. I’m good.”
But God had promised.
So, Joshua took a deep breath.
He approached their leadership.
He did what God commanded.
And God blessed Joshua.
Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and whoever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous! (v.16-18)
Did you hear that last phrase? It’s exactly the phrase that God had already told Joshua.
I can’t help but think that God engineered that.
Another reminder – that God was with Joshua.
And another reminder – brothers and sister – God is with you.
I was standing in line at Kroger the other day and there it was – right next to the package of Certs and Three Musketeer King Size bars that are about the size of an actual king’s scepter.
Improve your Intimacy Now! -- 5 Rules for Better Sex -- Secrets of the Bedroom: How to Connect with Him Better.
I’m not alone in this, am I? There’s at least one of those assertions on the front of every Cosmopolitan. As if intimacy could be achieved by a quick top ten list or the $3.99 magazine that I was going to use on a bag of Doritos.
Fear not. The truth about intimacy is not found on the grocery store aisle shelf. It’s found on the little shelf in the back of the pew in front of you. (Or on your shelf at home.)
I. True Intimacy isn’t about You
The section of God’s Word that we’re looking at today starts in 1 Corinthians 6. It begins in verse 12 by helping us to understand the attitude of the times. This is kind of the way that Corinthian society viewed sexuality and unfortunately it’s the way that many in the Corinthian church viewed sexuality. In fact, it’s in quotation marks in your Bibles because scholars are pretty well convinced that this was a catchphrase of the 1st century day. If there would have been hashtags back then, there would be all kinds of people hashtagging the first part of verse 12.
“Everything is permissible for me.” #EverythingIsPermissable
The idea is pretty simple. If it’s legal in Corinthian culture, then why not do it? Stop being burdened by moral laws and start doing whatever makes you feel good. What do you think? Does that sound familiar?
But listen to the Bible’s objection:
Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. In other words, “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Just cause it’s legal to sleep with a cactus in bed, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Just cause you won’t go to jail for emailing your boss that he’s a no-good-scuzzer-muffin, doesn’t mean you should call him a no-good-scuzzer-muffin.
Just cause you won’t be arrested for drinking the Kool Aid made by your preschoolers with 9 more times the amount of sugar than normal, it does not mean that you should do it!
Just cause doing something sexual with someone you aren’t married to feels good, does not mean it is good.
For your relationship with God.
Look at the next reason that the Bible has for not just doing whatever you want sexually. Paul says, “Everything is permissible to me, but I will not be mastered by anything!”
Thing is: It’s so very easy for sexuality to become your master.
That guy’s no good for me. He beats me. He bad mouths me. He hates that I’m a Christian. But…I really love sleeping with him. So I’ll stay with him.
That was nice looking at porn. Now to spend hours making sure that every bit of it is deleted from the internet history.
I could put my marriage and my job in jeopardy by flirting with this coworker. Oh well. I’ve gotta obey my desires.
That’s the problem. When you’re obeying your own desires, than the only one you’re intimately connected with…is yourself.
Let me say that again. If you are only obeying your own sexual desires, then you are becoming most intimately connected with yourself.
Not with God.
Not with your spouse.
Just yourself and your sin.
One more passage: 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” That’s what we read last week in Genesis 2:24. It’s the blueprint for marriage that husband and wife become one together. That they become so intimately connected that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
What’s it like to become one with sin?
What’s it like to introduce people to porn as your spouse?
What’s it like to run all your decisions through your own sexual addiction?
What’s it like to be so connected with adultery that when you look in the mirror that you don’t see anything else but that?
Lonely. Guilt filled. Far outside the kingdom of God.
II. True Intimacy Starts with God
Kind of like the woman in the Gospel Lesson:
That’s what the men called her. That’s what they were shouting at her. “Adulterous!” “Sinner.” “Death.”
With tears in her eyes, she fell to the ground. A cloud of dust hit the air. It’s what she deserved though. She had sinned. She had broken up someone else’s marriage. Everyone would now. She might be better off dead.
She heart them shouting in the background! “Jesus! Get over here.” “Jesus, join us!” “Jesus, she sinned…won’t you help us condemn her!?!”
Then, it was quiet. She heard whispering, but she didn’t dare look up. She waited. Waited for her impending doom. But it didn’t come. She waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
Then, she felt a gentle voice beckon to her. She looked up. “Woman, has anyone condemned you?”
She looked around. All the angry men were gone. Nowhere to be found. “No. I don’t think so sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
If you have been like the woman. If you have let your desire get the best of you. If you have sinned, sexually. Fall at his feet and hear his voice: “Neither do I condemn you.”
And understand this: You were meant for so much more than that. Take a look at 13-14: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
Do you get that? You were meant for the Lord. You were meant for the divine Creator of heaven and earth. He wanted you to become intimately connected with him. He didn’t want you connected with a momentary high OR the excitement of a glance combined with the guilty aftermath. God wanted you connected with his divinity, with his holiness, with his wisdom, with his incredible, love!
When we have failed to give up our bodies for the Lord, that’s about the time that He gave ups his body for you. In fact, take a look at this truth:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Have you heard of the Antilla? It’s a 27 story high skyscraper owned by Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. It’s huge. It has a garage with room for 168 cars. The lobby alone has nine elevators. It’s estimated at 1 billion dollars!
That’s nothing compared to what God paid for you. He paid his eternal blood.
Do you get that? It’d be as if you went on Zillow or were searching in the real estate ads and there was your Facebook picture. With a list of all the qualities you have – disgusting sinfulness, awful sexual sins from the past, up in the attic are all kinds of skeletons, and what’s under the carpet? Don’t ask.
And God said. Yes. I’ll have that! I will make an eternal, infinite, everlasting deposit of my holy, precious blood so that I can put my name on the deed and she will be mine forever.
That’s how much God loves you.
It means whatever your past – whatever your struggle with sexuality – whatever your devotion to your own public intimacy – God still paid for you. He paid to free you from that master’s clutches. He owns you and that sin doesn’t.
You are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
The more you understand God's forgiveness, the more confidence you will have in God’s love. You’ll stop worrying about yourself and what you need to feel good about yourself and instead… you will start to give over every aspect of yourself – to your spouse.
(1) Reserve Yourself for Your Spouse.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-4:
Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
Focus in on marital duty. What’s that? Are we talking about the Honey-Do-List? Are we talking about doing the budget? Are we talking about cooking meals? Are we talking about refusing to call the plumber, because ‘they cost too much and all I need to do is YouTube it and I’m sure I can figure it out!”
Nope. Marital duty is Paul’s polite term for sexual intimacy. The beautiful, physical, literal expression of two becoming one.
I know. What the Bible is proposing here is the exact opposite of what our world proposes. Because it is so common for sexual intimacy to be all about when I feel like it and when I want it. But God is telling us to be all about your spouse or your future spouse. Isn’t that something? It means you keep your spouse in mind when temptation comes.
I’m sorry. I can’t do that. That will harm my future spouse.
Honey, I’ll stay away from that guy since he makes you uncomfortable.
I will not look at my coworker like that, because I want to reserve that kind of look for my wife.
(2) Become an Expert In Your Spouse
Guys love to be experts in sports. We love to quote batting averages and drop the names of players from over 40 years ago, just to show off. In fact, I remember back in grade school – trying hard to fit in—and spending each day trying to memorize the stats in the Watertown Daily Times just to be an expert in whatever sport was going on at that time.
What if we put the same effort into learning about our spouse? What if we learned about their likes and dislikes? What if we asked them about their favorite color, favorite ice cream flavor and favorite Backstreet Boy? It’s what God has called us to do! To know them and learn them intimately.
But, pastor, what about my needs? Doesn’t God care about them?
Don’t worry about it. Because in the perfect version of this—guess what? The husband is thinking about his wife’s needs. The wife is thinking about her husband's needs. And their needs are both—taken care of—because God is taking care of them through each other.
God’s smart, right?
He’s smart and he loves you. Which is more than just a witty conclusion to this whole sermon. It’s the truth. He loves you more than you. He loves your spouse more than you do. He knows you more than you. He knows your spouse more than you.
He know you’ll be happiest when you’re intimately connected to him and one another.
It happened not that long ago in Philadelphia. March 26th the newspaper headlines were “4 people, 1 Dog Killed in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.” Apparently, a gas pipe had broken up and the gas made its way up into the apartment overnight and silently took their lives.
The people didn’t see the gas because it’s colorless. They didn’t smell it because it’s odorless.
In other words – while it seemed completely tame, the air was deathly toxic.
Today we are continuing our series called BREATHE. We’ve been talking about how breathing in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection gives us peace when we are afraid and lifts us out of grief and sadness. But today we’re heading in a different direction.
As positive as breathing in Jesus’ resurrection is – God’s Word also warns us about the spiritual equivalents to carbon monoxide. Some things that appear fine, but are deadly toxic to our souls.
I. Spiritual Toxins
This message is found in the book of Ephesians. That’s a letter written by one of Jesus’ disciples named Paul to a group of Christians that lived in a place called Ephesus. Listen to what he tells us brothers and sisters. He says we are to “Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love.”
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? In fact, I don’t know of any Christian who wouldn’t agree with those two statements. They sound so nice in that positive sense. But when you reverse it and put it in its negative form, it immediately becomes a lot more difficult to hear.
Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking which are out of place.
I have a friend who is allergic to gluten. She was gluten free long before gluten free was cool. She is allergic. Gluten would make her so sick that just a hint of it would make her stomach sick for a whole day. One time we went out to McDonald's and she ordered very specifically, “I need to have a hamburger patty, but only a patty please. No bun.” So that’s what they gave her – by simply taking it off of a bun. No more than an hour later, her body reacted violently to the hint of gluten – the few crumbs left on the patty had made her very sick.
This is how much of sin makes God sick. His Being can’t stand even a hint of it. It’s also how toxic sin is to his people. Even a hint of it, can infect us – and put us in grave spiritual danger. This is true of all sin, but in this section he gets very specific about a few sins.
(1) ….of Sexual Immorality.
What’s sexual immorality? In order to define it, we first have to define sexual morality.
That takes us back to the Creation of the World. God had just finished creating human beings. He loved them. He created them and He wanted more of them so he gave them the ability to reproduce. Then, God did something really clever. He wanted them to actually fill the earth, so God made human beings attracted to one another. He created a very special, a very intimate act that two people share with one another – sexual intimacy.
Take a look at this passage from Genesis. It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two, the husband and wife, will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Think of it this way: How many people have you high fived in your life? Quite a few, I imagine. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not all that intimate. We high five friends, associates, coworkers, even a random stranger at the bar after your favorite basketball team makes the winning shot.
But sexual intimacy? God meant that to be between two people and only two people. He wanted it to be a special connection between a husband and a wife that only the husband and the wife shared with one another and no one else.
Sin? Sin poisons it. Sin takes the gift of intimacy and ruins it. It links you to a third person, a fourth person, someone who isn’t your spouse. It divides. It conquers. It leaves one feeling guilty, heartbroken, and defeated.
If you’ve ever sinned in this way, you probably know what I’m talking about. Sexual immorality poisons relationships.
Back to our Ephesians passages. God tells us to avoid the poison of sin by avoiding sexual immorality. If sexual morality is “Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage covenant,” immorality is intimacy in anything else.
Some of you are thinking, “Aha! Homosexuality is wrong then.” You’d be right. That’s not compatible with God’s definition of marriage. But understand this – God is not just talking about that.
He’s says, "Not even a hint..."
…if you are heterosexual, but you aren’t married to the person you’re sleeping with, that needs to stop.
…it means if you are dating a girl, you aren’t plotting ways to touch things that are reserved for the marriage bed.
…it means you aren’t flirting with that guy at work who is married to someone else, while you are married to someone else.
…it means you aren’t just glancing through the Victoria’s Secret website in your spare time.
…it means if that one show on HBO gets you thinking thoughts that should be reserved for your wife, about someone who isn’t, stop watching it!
God says not even a hint, because even these "smaller sexual immoralities” are poison. They hurt your relationships with others. They hurt your own perspective. They hurt your relationships with God. Every time.
(2) Not Even a Hint of Greed.
The second toxic sin – is fairly similar. Greed. It’s similar because both greed and sexual immorality are extremely selfish. One says “Give me my sexual desire, I want it! ” the other says, “Give me that money, thing, stuff, because I want it.”
Greed just like sexual immorality poisons relationships.
I was in the preschool this past week. One of the kids was having their very last day. So she brought in some treats. Little cookies for the others to eat. I was in there celebrating because – cookies are great – and one of the little kids started complaining – “Where are the sprinkles? This one should have sprinkles. I’m mad this doesn’t have sprinkles.” She started crying. The kid who brought them heard her making fun of the sprinkle-less cookies and she started crying too. They didn’t get along very well for that five minutes.
Greed poisons relationships.
A lot of you are thinking, Great! I love this message. Let’s go storm Wall Street right now! Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that Wall Street has greed on it. Absolutely it does.
Not even a hint means more than just “Let’s get Wall Street.”
…it means you aren’t adding a few extra miles to your mileage reimbursement on your taxes because “I really want those extra $10.”
…It means you aren’t refusing to buy your wife a vase of flowers because I really want that bag of Doritos.
…It means you aren’t holding back on your offering to church because they aren’t doing the things in church that I want them to.
…it means you aren’t arguing with your spouse over the budget because “I want to spend the money this way.”
Even these seemingly smaller greeds are poison. It poisons relationships. They poison relationships with others. They poison your own way of thinking. They poison your relationship with God.
(3) …Sinful Talk.
One more toxin: There shouldn’t be any coarse joking, foolish talk or obscenity.” It’s a couple of different sins, all wrapped up in one phrase: “Sinful Talk.”
There’s an old saying that the tongue is the most powerful muscle in your body. That doesn’t mean that the tongue will literally what wins the next World’s Strongest Man competition. Far from it. It’s a reference to just how much poison the tongue can inflict. James 3:8 say this, “The tongue is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison.”
Maybe you’ve experienced this.
Raise your hand. Have you ever heard anyone say that they hate you? How’d that feel? Not good?
Ever heard anyone use a racial slur against you? How’d that feel? Not good?
Ever heard anyone refer to you as a four letter word? How’d that feel? Awful?
Ever heard anyone whispering about what you did at church? How’d that feel? Terrible? Me too.
The phrase is “Stick & stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s a nice sentiment – it’s just not very true. It does not give us the right to verbally assault one another.
Sinful talk is poison. It will poisons your work environment. It will poison your relationships. It will even poison a church!!! We’re getting very close to embarking on some very awesome ministry together. One of the biggest things that can halt us in our tracks? It isn’t money. It isn’t architectural plans. It isn’t even bad weather.
It’s sinful talk. Even small, seemingly insignificant sinful talk – a little bit of gossip here – some grumbling and complaining there – that can poison a church. It can poison God’s kingdom.
And here’s the thing about God’s kingdom.
Do you remember a few years ago when you could smoke a cigarette in just about any bar and restaurant? Recently, just about everywhere is now a SMOKE FREE ZONE. What’s that mean? It means that cigarettes were deemed toxic -- even as second hand smoke. Therefore, these areas were to remains completely free of the toxins.
This is how God feels about sins. He wants his Kingdom to be a sin free zone. He wants his people to actively seek to destroy it. Eventually…eventually he plans on doing it himself.
"Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
II. The SIN Antioxidant
Wow. God’s really serious about sin? If you’re like me, you’re feeling pretty low right now. I’ve let all of those things into my life. Sexual immorality, greed and foolish talk – they have all infected me. What hope is there for me? In fact, sometimes these things infect me so much that I struggle to stop myself from continually hurting others.
I’m poisoned. I need help.
Read verse 8.
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Light versus darkness is an age old story. In Star Wars there’s the light side and the dark side of the force. In Harry Potter, there’s light magic versus dark magic. But here’s something for thought – all of these dark versus light battles come from the language found in the Bible. Language right here. Language that says “Darkness is bad. Darkness is what we were. The Lord made us light.”
Think about it: You can’t fix darkness with more darkness. Try it. Next time you fall asleep, wear black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt to bed. When you wake up at 1am because you’re sweating hot, notice how it is completely dark in the room.
Darkness plus darkness leads to more darkness.
Sinful humans trying to correct sinful human tendencies leads only to more sin.
But Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world. He is completely devoid of all the dark poisons we have been talking about.
Sexual Immorality? No way. Yet he came to this world and made a more intimate connection to you and me than anyone ever had or will – he took our sinful dark, disgusting moments to the cross. He linked himself to you and died for you.
Greedy? He was greedy for only one thing – you! He gave up the divine glory of heaven, exchanged it for a crown of thorns, your sins, and a painful death on the cross.
Sinful words? Sure – he hates sin. But he had no such harmful words to speak to you. In fact the only words He speaks in Scripture are, “I love you. I died for you. You are forgiven.”
This then is what this passage means. “You are light in the Lord.”
It means – the poison of sin is not fateful.
It means Jesus is the antidote.
It means by faith in Him you are now saved.
III. What Now?
(1) Get rid of the Poison.
We were talking about carbon monoxide earlier. One of the ways we fight carbon monoxide poisoning is to get a carbon monoxide detector. But when the detector goes off – beeps really loudly – it does no good to sit on the couch and say, “After this episode of House of Cards is over!” You have to do something. Get out of the house. Call 911. Get the leak fixed.
We just learned how poisonous even the ‘seemingly small’ sins are. It will do no good if you go back home and make no change in your life.
Instead, get rid of the poison. Put a filter on your Internet. Stop watching that TV show. Get rid of that friend on Facebook. Don’t talk about that one person. Increase your giving at Gethsemane. Do whatever it takes to make sure that not even a hint of sexual immorality, greed or sinful talk is found in your life.
(2) Evaluate Relationships.
This one is hard. Because sometimes the poison – is your friends. Yes. God does say “be in the world.” He says that we aren’t to be hermits. We need to be in and among unbelievers in order to share the message of Jesus.
But when spending time with your friends starts to lead to sin…when you find yourself saying, “I have to sleep with that girl in order to convert her to Christianity…” Stop. You aren’t converting them. They are infecting you.
Take a break. Recharge. Reconnect with God. Reinvest in Bible Study and reinforce your spiritual armor before you return to these people.
After all, we are light in the Lord. Therefore, shine! Shine where it’s needed most.
I’ll tell you what. It’s so easy to feel like shining here at church. You can sing really loudly. You can say a prayer with a crowd of Christians. You can down talk all these sinful things as sinful.
But it’s already pretty bright in here. You need to shine where it’s darkest. Out there. In the world.
When you are breathing the fresh air of Jesus’ resurrection, the pure teachings of his Word and you aren’t breathing in the poison of sin, you will be shining at your brightest. May God enable us to do so. Amen.
Genesis 1 paints a really a beautiful picture doesn’t it?
A man, newly formed, searches throughout all of creation for the perfect partner. But his work is in vain. He realizes that he doesn’t have the perfect partner. He has no one to share his life with.
Enter God. He causes the man to fall into a deep sleep. He removes one of the man’s ribs. He uses that rib to create the perfect partner. From man he created "out of man” or, as English speakers say, “Woman.”
When the man awakes, he is astonished. Mystified. He speaks her a love poem, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” She isn’t just another person. She isn’t just my partner. She is me. She and I are one. He holds her in his arms. She looks up at him and beams. She is pleased to call this wonderful man her leader.
Fast forward a thousands of years.
Again a man is sleeping. But it’s not because of God. It’s because of a few too many Busch Lights. He opens his eyes to watch the TV commercials on the ball game – if only his wife were more like those cheerleaders!
She’s in the other room. Literally on the phone complaining about the big oaf next door. What a fool! Why did she marry? He’s lazy, ignorant, and unattractive. She doesn’t respect him AND don’t worry, she lets him know every chance that she gets.
Suddenly, the man speaks. It’s poetic…
“Honey dear, can you get me another beer?!”
So what happened? Why the difference? How come modern marriages have fallen so far apart from the perfect union that God intended it?
The answer, or course, is sin.
Today God’s Word from 1 Peter 3 reminds us what God’s plan for marriage is. It speaks to wives about what Women of God will bring to a marriage and to husbands about what Men of God will bring to a marriage.
Scripture talks to women first in 1 Peter 3:1, “Wives, in the same way submit to your husbands.”
Immediately you see the “what” of what God calls you to do. It’s that word -- submit. It’s the same word that God used in our past two sermons on Chapter 21 Peter. Submit to the Government. Submit to your employers. Now wives are to submit to their husbands.
Remember what submit means. It deals with respect and honor. But with wives, it goes a bit farther. It is unforced. It’s not the husband’s job to make his wife submit. (And men, this is not talking to you!) The wife submits out of love.
It’s like the car turning left onto Falls of Neuse. It waits, out of love, for the pedestrian crossing the walk. Concession is necessary for things to work. Even if the car is carrying a vital organ to take up to Wake Med North and the pedestrian is a bum – concession happens. Out of love, unforced, and completely removed from one person being more important than another.
Submission then speaks of a loving, unforced concession of the leadership position to the husband.
Now, dear wives, maybe to a godly man that sounds fine. The logic is simple: He loves Jesus. He loves you. He should love you with a Jesus-like love!
But what if he is a jerk? What if he is rude? What if you are married to an unbeliever who doesn’t have your best spiritual interests in mind? Do you have to submit then?
God’s Word says this, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
Now certainly God’s Word doesn’t not want us to follow husbands into unbelief (or any sin). Yet it is precisely because of a wife’s faith in Christ that God wants you to submit even to an unbelieving husband. Because it is by this godly submission that the husband will notice a direct contrast to the unbelieving way of the world.
He will see it is better. He will say, “What’s the difference between my wife and my buddy’s wives? Why is she kinder? Why is she gentler? Could it be the Christian thing? Maybe I should learn more about this Jesus!”
It is clear. God’s Word tells wives to submit to their husbands.
Now when you think of it in theory. This should be easy, right? There’s an intimate relationship between husband and wife. You chose him as your husband. You love him. It should be way easier to submit to him than the government or your boss.
But how good are you at this submission thing really? Here’s a little test to see if you struggle with respecting your husband as your leader:
Women if you struggle with submission repent and turn to the one who submitted to your eternal, spiritual needs. Jesus, who was Master of the Universe, yet he submitted himself to a life on this earth. Then he submitted himself to your sins of selfishness, pride, and disrespect for your husband. He let hem overtake him and he submitted to death.
In doing so, He saved you. In Christ, you are forgiven. In Christ’s forgiveness for you sinful thoughts and attitudes as a wife, you are a WOMAN of GOD.
Be that woman of God. Verse 3 explains more: 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
About a week ago Beyonce performed at the VMAs. I didn’t see it, but I did read a review. Apparently there were stripper poles, backup dancers wearing lingerie, and songs about doing things in the back of cars with boys. Then, near the end of our performance a big LED sign lit up behind her displaying what was apparently her message – “FEMINISM.”
Really? Sexy? Lewd? That’s feminism? Bowing to society’s expectations and self consciously trying to allure men to do what you want by playing on their physical attractions? That’s power?
Do not be deceived. Scripture says to worry less about how you look and more about what’s in your heart. Instead of striving to be like Beyonce; strive to embody real, Biblical feminism. Verse 5 says this, “This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
How’s that for a romantic term? Not “Cutie.” Not “babe,” Not even “Love muffin.” But “Master.”
But before you throw her under the bus as “Ancient” and “old fashioned,” consider what this Old Testament patriarchess meant with such an endearing name: “Abraham, I trust you. I trust God. I’m going to ignore my pride and I’m going to ignore my selfishness and I’m going to let you be my leader.”
Wow. That’s real feminism. She defined herself not by her looks, not by her role in marriage, but by God’s love for her.
God’s Word shifts its attention to the men in the family next. Look at verse 7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
The directive is simple. It’s clear: Be considerate about her. Think for her. Act for her. Love her.
Yes, you see that word about the weaker partner. The simplest and easiest way to interpret this is physically. Guys are generally strong and have bigger muscles.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? God gave the leaders the greater physical strength NOT so they can show off. Not so that they can hold it against their wives, but so that they could honor, cherish, protect, and provide for them! Ephesians 5 adds to it, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
In other words, God’s perfect plan for marriage involves a woman’s unforced, loving submission, but it also involves a husband loving leadership that submits itself to his wife’s needs.
A man is to love his wife more than his life!
But we aren’t all that good at this are we gentlemen? Men too have a problem with selfishness. We too have a problem with pride. We too have sinful attitudes that have infected the way we treat our wives.
Sometimes we don’t even love our wives more than the football game on TV.
Think if you don’t showcase these same sinful attitudes:
Men, if you do these things and have this attitude you are wrong. You are not leading your wife. You are heeding and impeding her.
Thank God Jesus wasn’t selfish. Thank God Christ didn’t get to the end of his work, to the end of his perfectly lived, perfectly obedient life and say, “Well, I’ve worked hard. I know the next part is for me to die and substitute myself to save these people – the church, but I’m not gonna. I’ve worked too hard. They’ve done nothing. It’s their sins they are in trouble for, so they can take care of it themselves.”
Instead, Christ gave up his life. He led us all the way to eternal life. Even when it means giving up his life, Christ did it because he was the perfect leader – completely submissive to his people’s needs. GOD OUR SAVIOR did what it took lead MEN to God. Now he asks you to be MEN OF GOD who do what it takes to bring your wives to God!
Be those men of God!
Do you have any collectibles at home? Maybe it’s an autographed baseball. Maybe it’s a sports card. Maybe it’s a hotrod car. Maybe it’s a PEZ dispenser. (Some collections are more manly than others.)
I’ll be you treat that collection with care. You got a case for your sports collections. A pedestal for the baseball. A full wax treatment everytime you head into the garage for your car.
Love your wives in the same way. That’s what MEN OF GOD do. They cherish their wives dearly. Put their needs before yours. Treat them like that autographed baseball that you never treat harshly and take care of them nicely. They treat their wives. Their buy their wives gifts. They give their wives hugs. They do the laundry so their wives can rest. They take them aside and whisper, “I love you!” They give everything to take care of this precious gift God has given them. The one with whom they share everything.
Men of God love your wife more than your life! Talk about romantic. That can only come from a man of God!
I want you to focus back on a phrase in verse 7. “Heirs together” Not HEIRS APART. Not heirs of SEPARATE THINGS. Heirs together.
Men and women are different. But we aren’t different to oppose each other. And, if you are married, you and your husband are different, but you aren’t different to oppose each other. You are to complement each other. To encourage each other. To walk hand and hand together till you reach eternal life.
You know – perfection. Like the Garden of Eden. United with each other. United with God.
It’s a beautiful picture again. Amen.
Have you ever seen Let's Make a Deal? On the show, a contestant is called to the stage. Wayne Brady offers a nice and shiny package. He says, “It could be a nice new watch or some diamond jewelry. Pick this box. Trust me.”
But not so fast. The musical leader holds up a crisp, new envelope. He tells her, “It could hold a gift card, plane tickets, a check for a thousand dollars. Pick mine. Trust me.”
She turns them both down.
Because the voice over announcer has offered her what's behind curtain number three. He promised her that when she uses the prize she’ll have "a party on wheels." Could it be the new convertible? “Trust me.” The announcer says.
She does. The curtain opens and it’s…it’s…a donkey wearing a sombrero on roller skates.
Life is kind of like that isn’t it? We are constantly having to evaluate whom we should trust. It’s not an easy question. Banks send emails telling you to trust them with your mortgage. Diet plans advertise that you trust their plan to make your body slim. If you’ve dated lots, perhaps you’ve heard someone sell themselves. “I’m a really good person. I’m great fun. I’d be the perfect mate. Trust me.”
In John 4 Jesus met a woman with trust issues. Listen to how he helps her figure out where to put her trust. Then, consider how putting your trust in the same place is of great benefit!
I. The Problem with Trusting Worldly Things.
Jesus was on a long journey from Judea to Galilee. This is before cars so it’s fair to assume he and his disciples had walked quite a distance. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he got tired. Unfortunately, there weren't any Waffle Houses along the way for him to rest at. So he sat at the edge of a well while his disciples went into town for some food.
While he was a waiting, a woman approached the well. She began lowering her buckets to draw some water. As she working, Jesus asked her, 7 "Will you give me a drink?"
The woman herself was astonished, 9 "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How is it that you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
In other words, she was annoyed by what she perceivedw as an arrogant Jew! "You Israelites are so hoity toity. You always act like you are so much more religious than us. Now you are claiming to have a better grasp on water than us too? Do you have some kind of special filter? Did you give it some kind of ‘holy blessing?’ You do realize that the water you are badmouthing comes from one of your own -- the patriarch Jacob himself! Think twice before speaking again, sir.”
Jesus replied to the hostility with an explanation. 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
In doing so Jesus exposes the first problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the body!
Take the substance in question. Water. Science tells us that water quenches our thirst, but only for so long. Even if you buy the water for $10 at Whole Foods and the label claims to have bottled this water from the top of a hidden spring on Mt. Everest… you will be thirsty again.
It’s not just thirst. A delicious BBQ (Western or Eastern depending on your taste) satisfies hunger, until you’re hungry again. A Starbucks Blonde Roast makes you feel more awake, but eventually it’ll wear off and you’ll need it again. If you have a pain in your elbow, the Tylenol works until it’s effects wear off.
Earthly things only can be trusted as temporary, quick fixes to our bodily needs. They don’t last.
The woman at the well knew this. That's why she replied, almost sarcastically, "Sir, give me some of this water, so that I don't have to keep coming back to get water to drink."
But Jesus didn't keep this conversation at surface level. "Go and call you husband and come back." He told her.
You can almost see her begin to fidget. "I don't have a husband," she said.
Jesus replied, "You are right in saying that you don't have a husband. The fact is that you have had five husbands. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jesus isn’t saying this to make her feel bad. He simply wants her to realize that her trust was again in the wrong place. Because earthly things –and people-- don't satisfy the heart.
There's a longing in humans to be loved, treasured, and accepted. To be whole. Obviously this woman wanted that. Five times she thought she had it! Five times she trusted men to bring it to her. Five times – they didn’t give it. Whether it was unfaithfulness, physical abuse, verbal abuse, or just plain being too busy with work to be together…each time she trusted a man to love her and that trust was broken.
Now? Now she was with a man who hadn’t made any marriage promises of commitment and sticking through the tough times to her. Instead, he basically had given her the watered down promise of, “I like sleeping with you. I promise to stick around as long as that it entertaining. Trust me.”
The saddest part? She was so empty and broken that the reigned intimacy of uncommitted sex helped her forget about the void in her heart.
Are we so different? We desire to love and be loved by spouses, children, and friends. We trust people! We give our hearts to them. Then kids tell us that they hate us. Spouses shout at us to sleep on the couch. Friends betray us!
It’s why earthly things—even people—don’t really satisfy the heart!
Ashamed of the sudden change in the conversation, the woman changes the subject. “Our father's worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that he place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus kindly responds to her question. "A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Jesus was pointing out that it didn’t matter where they worshipped. The earthly action wasn’t that important at all. What mattered was a true spiritual relationship with God.
And in bringing this up, Jesus exposes one last problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the soul.
Ever feel really Christianity? You go to the Christian book store. You buy a few nondescript Christian items: a cross necklace, a Jesus candle holder, a few devotionals with cool looking covers. You pay for them and walk out with your head held high! Your soul feels close to God as you rock out to Chris Tomlin on the drive home.
Then, you enter your house. The kids have left a mess. You lose it. And after letting out a few choice words, you’re back to feeling unsatisfied in your soul. Apart from God.
These failures in human things to satisfy and keep promises leave us with a dark void in our hearts. Then, just like the woman who kept trying man after man after man, we get caught in vicious cycles of trusting untrustworthy things to satisfy.
Perhaps you could list a few examples. Perhaps you are living a few examples:
*Beer after beer after beer till the stress is gone. But then it comes back. And this time with a headache. We drink another beer to cure it.
*Pornographic photo after pornographic photo. A high. Then this shameful feeling that can only be erased by another pornographic high!
*Money, money and more money. You finally get enough and buy a nice HD TV! You start watching shows about people’s relationships. It reminds you that your relationships are lacking. The problem? You probably just need more pixels. Better get more money.
*Success. You work hard for it. You crave recognition. You work all the time and have no time for God. No time for family. But an employee of the month pin! Until...People don’t appreciate me as much as they used to. I want that “appreciated feeling again.” Time to put in 90s hours this week again.
*Gossip and more gossip. It makes you feel better. Whenever you start to feel bad about something you have done, you go find your friends and repeat this process until you feel better again.
Here's the bottom line: Earthly things do not satisfy. There is not a single earthly thing worthy of garnering our complete trust to give us eternal, unending, complete, total and real satisfaction.
II. Jesus' alternative.
Ever been on a diet plan? Some diet plans you drink shakes. These are the healthy alternative to a normal unhealthy meal. Less calories all the vitamins. Unfortunately, none of them taste like Doritos, so…I haven’t tried them.
Jesus has an alternative that offers completely, total, eternal, unending, real satisfaction. He mentioned it throughout our lesson. Listen to what he said about it:
#1 -- It is eternal. Jesus said, "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." This means that Jesus' alternative doesn't run out when you get to the bottom of the can. There isn't a monthly fee to keep it going. It doesn't become diluted over time. It doesn’t lose its effectiveness.
#2 -- It is personal. Jesus said, "It will become in him a spring of eternal water." This isn't something that works for some people and not for others. It isn't some uncaring inanimate object that is only after your money. It isn't some uncaring animate person who is only after his own selfish desires. It is for you.
#3 -- It is truth. Jesus said, "true worshippers worship in spirit and truth." Jesus' alternative isn't some half-truth combined with a lie to make it sound more enticing. It isn't some phony idea concocted to play on your desire to be whole in order to make money. It isn't just true for some and not true for others.
#4 -- It is satisfying. It doesn’t do half the job. It doesn’t require you to finish the job. It satisfies. Completely. Always. Every time.
What is Jesus' alternative?
The woman had an idea. In verse 25 she told Jesus the truth that she did know, "The Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to me." Jesus didn't correct her. He just revealed something to her that he had kept hidden from many.
"I who am speaking to you am he."
This means that Jesus’ alternative was none other than himself! There is only one worthy of full, complete and real trust is Jesus! Because he is the only one who fully, completely and really satisfies all our needs!
Jesus is eternal. His love burns as strongly for you as when he died on the cross to take away all of your sins, will never fail. It will always be true no matter what time of day it is or how often you have turned to it. It is a bubbling spring...always overflowing for you.
Jesus is personal. He knows who you are. He cares specifically for you. He knows when you have been abused. He knows when you have struggles at work. He knows when you struggle with dark, dark thoughts. He knows you and still he promises to you that "Surely, I will be with you always to the very end of the age." (Mt. 28) "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life." (John 3:16) Even…”Your sins are forgiven." (Lk. 7)
Jesus is truth. Miracle after miracle after miracle. Seen by thousands of people. Proving his authority to make the claims that he did. He told the blind to see, they saw. He told the lame to walk, they did. He told the dead to rise, they did.
He said that he would die. That he would stay dead three days. That he would then rise from the dead, completely well, all on his own. He didn't lie then and he doesn't lie now.
Jesus satisfies. It doesn't matter what kind of emptiness you are feeling, Jesus’ love satisfies. If you struggle with finances, his heavenly riches fill your pocket. If you struggle with emptiness, his relentless pursuit of you fills you with love. If you have been hurt by a relationship, Jesus’ love reminds you that there is one who will never hurt you. In fact, who was hurt by you and for you! And you are satisfied.
Brothers and sisters, do you know what the woman did after Jesus talked with her? Scripture tells us that she left her bucket behind and ran to tell her friends!
That’s pretty neat. Suddenly, finding Jesus her Savior, her earthly needs were no longer important. All she needed was this love of Jesus. She ran to her friends to spread this message!
Do the same. This Easter – spread the message of Jesus. Tell your friends about the one who completely, fully, and absolutely fulfills all their needs. There’s no one better to place your trust!