You know, one person’s redemption can become another’s challenge. No sin is unredeemable; no sin trumps God’s lavish grace (Romans 5:20). All sin can be repented of, and all sin will be forgiven if we truly repent (1 John 1:9).
Incredibly good news. But our good news can become another’s challenge!
Years ago in our church, we had a courageous person share about how they had committed adultery and one day God brought them to their knees in repentance so that they confessed their sin and received forgiveness from God.
But this confession of sin, this reaching out for God’s redeeming grace became a challenge for their spouse who now faced a new challenge – the problem of forgiving.
One person’s redemption can become another’s challenge!
I was in court once supporting a minor who had been sexually abused. The man who had perpetrated the abuse was there near to me. Looking smug, his lawyer was there too… I’m glad I didn’t own a gun that day because I wanted to dish out some instant justice as the sense of righteous indignation pulsed through me.
And then it struck me!
I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to consider; ‘What if this man calls out to God and asks God to forgive him of all his sin? What then? What will be required of me and of those I was supporting? Would Jesus forgive Him if he repented? And how would we have to change our feelings towards him if he approached us having repented?”
I knew the answers to my questions.
I knew if he repented and called on God for forgiveness, God would forgive him, and in that instant, he would become my brother in Christ. What he had done would not be changed in the slightest, and yet the way I related to him would be challenged in a whole new way…
And this is something like what Philemon faced with Onesimus. Paul wrote to Philemon challenging him to re-think, to forgive & to reconcile with Onesimus.
For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. (Philemon 15-17)
Paul wanted Philemon to receive him back not as a slave or an employee or as the scum of the earth but to receive him back as a brother in Christ (vs16), loved and honoured because Onesimus had accepted Jesus as his LORD & Saviour (vs17).
Onesimus had stolen from Philemon (vs18), so Philemon’s sense of having been wronged was understandable and yet the now the strong exhortation of the apostle Paul’s to him was – forgive & reconcile(vs15-18)!
Forgiveness is hard because forgiveness is unfair; it isn’t a response to deserved behaviour but undeserved behaviour. Forgiveness is hard because forgiveness is only necessary when there has been hurt, pain or a wrong committed. Forgiveness is not earned; it’s given.
What a challenge! So how can we grow in forgiveness?
Remind yourself of what you’ve been forgiven:
Unless we see the extent of the grace and mercy of God that has extended to us, we will be unable to extend grace and mercy to others in forgiveness.
Sitting in that court, looking at that man, I realised that without minimising his sin at all, my sin was just as bad as his, different but just as bad.
Like him, I was rotten to the core, and yet God had saved me! Not because of anything I had done or managed to not do, but purely because of His infinite grace and mercy. I sat there realising that God had justified me – the ungodly (see Romans 4:5). God did not justify me because I deserved it but purely because of His goodness and grace. I was no different from that man; I needed grace as much as he did.
And that realisation is the foundation on which forgiveness is built. We are to forgive others’ just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32).
Paul wanted Philemon to recognise God’s gracious work of redemption in Philemon’s life SO THAT he would see that extending grace and forgiveness to Onesimus was what God required from him now.
Paul writes to him;
“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.” (Philemon 18-19)
Philemon is reminded that he owes God (and Paul) everything. So before he demands pay-back or withholds forgiveness from Onesimus, Philemon should pause and consider how God has treated him.
In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus connects our being forgiven by God with our forgiving of others! And in Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus similarly taught through a story of how serious unforgiveness on our part is when we have been forgiven by God! I believe Philemon knew the weight with which Paul was writing when He urged Philemon to forgive and to be reconciled to Onesimus.
Brothers and sisters, when we see the grace of God extended to us, it fills our ‘grace/mercy tank’ enabling us to then pay it forward and share the grace of God we have received with others, SO THAT we can be restored in our relationships with one another.
- Who’s your Onesimus?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to freshly reveal to you the depth and depravity of your own sin which God has forgiven you for.
- Now, prayerfully move towards forgiving your Onesimus as God in Christ forgave you.
Do you like torches? I do, always have been fascinated by how this small device can illuminate a path or space. Go into any camping shop, and you’ll agree by the array of choice of torches and lights that others share my interest in a good bright torch. Light displaces darkness, and something in us really likes that.
A dim light might be insufficient to light up a whole room, and so conditions can exist in which darkness and light seem to cohabit. However, even with just one light bulb, most average-sized rooms are lit up, and darkness flees.
Not to mention how every morning the Sun rises in blazing glory banishing the night across an entire swathe of the globe north to south all at once. Light displaces darkness; darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. There is no struggle, just darkness receding when the light appears.
John says, God is light (vs5) – a light on another magnitude entirely! John doesn’t say God is like light or like the Sun, rather light is God’s essence, His very nature. And because God is greater than my torch or a light bulb, greater than the Sun in all its brilliance, because of the greatness of God’s light – there is no darkness in God at all (vs5).
Describing God as ‘light’, is John’s way of explaining that God is entirely and utterly holy, sinless, blameless, pure.
All of which leads us to vs6. The apostle John says to you and I – that just like darkness can not cohabit with light of any significance, so too you and I can not claim to be ‘following Jesus’ or ‘walking with God’ if we lie and do not practice the truth if we are living a life of sin and compromise (darkness).
Light dispels darkness, so if we are living a lifestyle of sin and darkness, then the truth is we are not walking with God, we are far off from the brilliance of His light.
I urge you at the start of this year to reconsider your lifestyle, your patterns of behaviour and thoughts your rhythms and habits. It’s all too common to find believers in Jesus who claim to be following Jesus, and yet their lives reveal the truth.
The apostle John sounds a warning, that it is ridiculous to claim to walk with God and yet to live as though God’s moral commands and imperatives are optional or unimportant.
But John knows the human condition and John knows the Gospel. No one can claim to have no sin in them – not one (vs8). According to Tim Keller the Gospel is that;
‘We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we dared to believe, yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.’ – Tim Keller
So we have a problem. God is holy, and we are not – we need a Saviour! God is light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all, and darkness and light cannot cohabit, and we are dark in our sinfulness! So what are we to do?
Enter the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
‘The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (vs7). Which then makes it possible for us to ‘confess our sins’ (vs9) trusting that God will respond to our confession and our trust in Jesus’ saving work and will forgive us of our sins and to make us clean, holy, pure, light (vs9). And so because of this work of Jesus, we can have fellowship with God who is holy. What a Saviour!
What darkness is there in your life at present? What sin are you involved in? Don’t lie that what you are doing is not sin and don’t grovel either that you have sinned. Rather confess, acknowledge to God your sin and ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin and to make you clean again. Then walk free of it, live in the light, makes changes to your life pattern and walk with God thanking Him always for this amazing gift of forgiveness because of the cross of Christ.
Consider this, who is God faithful too in vs9 when it says; ‘he (God) is faithful’?
You could think God is faithful to you because you confessed your sin and trusted in Jesus to be forgiven. However, I believe John is saying that God is faithful and just to Jesus. How so?
Because God’s righteous, holy wrath was satiated by Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross in our place for our sin (1 John 2:1-2), it would be unjust for God to punish us for sins Jesus paid for already!
So, God is faithful to Jesus, honours Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice for us every time we ask for forgiveness. Next time you need forgiveness, worship Jesus for making forgiveness possible and thank God the Father for being faithful and just to Jesus – which makes your forgiveness possible and glorifies Jesus again and again.
‘My little children’ – says John (1 John 2:1). He urges them to not sin but knows that they will at times sin, and so assures them that we have one who argues our case on our behalf in the heavenly realms – Jesus our advocate, Jesus the righteous (2:2), Jesus the one who took the penalty of our sin away (2:3). What assurance, what good news!
How now shall we live in response?
Don’t deny that you do struggle with sin & don’t continue living in sin. Aim to live free of sin (2:1), aim to keep Jesus moral commands (2:3-4), aim to follow the counsel of His Word (2:5), make your goal to follow Him in the way that you live (2:6), and confess your sins when you do sin and receive His forgiveness (1:9).
Why is the birth of Jesus so important?
I think many people cherish Christmas for different reasons. The unbelievers will be excited because it is a time where families come together and gifts are opened. Christians might feel that Christmas is important as it is Jesus’s birthday and it is important to celebrate the birth of someone special in your life.
You see, the birth of Jesus Christ was not like the birth of anyone else. We do not only celebrate the birth of Jesus because this is the day He was born. No, we celebrate the birth of Jesus because of what it means to us and the world around us.
What does the angel say to the shepherds in the midst of the glory of God? (Verse 10 and 11)
Verse 10: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Now what is this great joyous news?
Verse 11: “For unto you is born this day..a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
This is the reason the multitudes of heavenly hosts praised God by saying “glory to God in the highest”; for it is by God’s gracious mercy that He sent His son, His only son, that we might be saved. Oh, how He loves us!
This, I believe, is the main reason why the shepherds walked away from the birth of Jesus by “glorifying and praising God”. Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour of Israel, the one everyone has been prophesying about for thousands of years, was born!
I don’t know about you, but I have too many times before only celebrated Christmas by rejoicing in the birth of Christ and not also in what His birth has meant for me.
Salvation is possible because God decided to send His Son! Hallelujah ! Praise the Lord !
As we celebrate the birth of Christ today, let us also thank God for the reason He sent his son to us. Take some time out of your day to sit down for 5 minutes and focus on the real reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ. Do not let another Christmas slip away without doing as the shepherds did, for when they heard the news they went hastily to God. Go to Him for He is worthy to be praised, salvation is in his name!
1 Luke 39-80
Growing up in a household where gifts were opened up on the evening of the 24th , I remember experiencing this uncontainable excitement of what was to come. It felt like years had passed before I could finally open up the gifts under the Christmas tree and experience the joy that it brought.
In the same manner, there was great excitement surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God was at work in the hearts of Elizabeth, Mary and John. It was as if the Spirit of God could not contain the excitement. Mary is overcome with joyful praise, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and John leaps for joy in the womb. This wonderful “hoorah!” moment is all under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
What a beautiful example of how we should worship God “in Spirit and in truth!’ These individuals were totally overcome by the Holy Spirit and it was the Holy Spirit within them that was ultimately worshipping God. They were being led by the Spirit.
John 4: 24: ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Phillipians 3:3: ‘..we who worship by the Spirit of God…’
Sometimes we do not know what to say or how to pray but the Holy Spirit within us knows, He is our Helper (John 14:26) and without Him it is impossible to follow God as He enables us to do the will of God so no one might boast.
It is quite remarkable what is being revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Mary is told in verse 35 that the boy will be called the Son of God and in verse 43 the Holy Spirit gives Elizabeth a revelation of who Jesus is:
Verse 43: ‘And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’
This baby boy has not even been born yet and Elizabeth believes, because of what the Holy Spirit has revealed to her. She believes not because she has seen miracles or heard fancy teachings, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit within her. I thank the Lord for the working of the Holy Spirit in us, so we too are able to believe.
My prayer is that we will allow the Holy Spirit to put Christ at the centre of our Christmas celebrations. That we will not miss him in between family time, cooking and socialising, but that He will once more be celebrated as our biggest gift.
May we burst into praise like Mary, be continuously filled by the Holy Spirit like Elizabeth and leap for joy like John this Christmas!
I remember encountering the short story genre in senior school with Jeffrey Archer’s, “A Twist in the Tale”. You needed to read to the end of each story to work out what the whole story was about.
Hosea is something like that. If you had stopped reading Hosea a few chapters back, you might have reached an inaccurate, premature conclusion about God.
You might have felt that the God portrayed in these pages of this prophetic book seems too far removed from the God on the pages of the New Testament.
But Hosea 14, however, is a clear demonstration of the fact that God has never changed and never will (Malachi 3:6). The God of Scripture has always been the God of grace.
Hosea 14 begins with the frequent OT refrain; “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hosea 14:1). God’s harsh words through the prophet have been justified at every point, and yet the heart of God is that His people would recognise their sin and repent, that they would repent and return to God.
God, through the prophet, invites Israel to ask God to forgive them, ‘to take away all iniquity’ (Hosea 14:2). God appeals to Israel to say to God;
- Assyria (humankind) will not save us (vs3)
- Abandon faith in false gods and human-made idols (vs3)
- Say that you will never bow down to these idols again (vs3)
- Say that in God alone will we find mercy (vs3)
And then God will respond saying;
- ‘I will heal you of your faithlessness my love will know no bounds for my anger will be gone forever’ (Hosea 14:4 in the NLT)
- I will refresh Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven causing flowers and fruitfulness (vs5)
- I will be like shade to Israel, and so Israel will flourish again like the vine I originally intended it to be (vs7)
- ‘O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.’ (Hosea 14:8 in NLT)
The question is, will we repent, will we stop our sinful ways and love and worship God only? Only we can respond to God’s invitation – I urge you to respond and to keep responding to God daily.
Old Testament prophecies are a little like onions in that they often have layers of meaning. They meant something in that day to those people; they often prefigure Jesus the Messiah in some way, they often have direct application in our lives in the present and sometimes they have an as yet unfulfilled future relevance too.
Hosea 6:1-3 is one of those portions of OT prophecy that from our perspective in redemption history suddenly takes on a fuller meaning.
“Come let us return to the LORD” – vs1
God’s repeated call to His people is that they would reach this point, that they would come to their senses and would return to the ONE who had covenanted to love them. Here the prophet includes himself and appeals to Israel to join him in returning to the LORD.
The good news of the Gospel is this – is it not? God has openly displayed His love for us; God has made it possible for us to have our sins forgiven so that we could return to Him and be reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Have you sinned? Confess your sin and then return to God through Jesus Christ, your Saviour King.
‘For he has torn us, that he may heal us…’ (vs1)
God has punished Israel’s sin, purifying Israel so that healing could come to them. God justly struck them down, but God will bind them up…
Israel was punished for their sin; they were struck down; some were killed; they were exiled.
We too deserve the wrath of God against our sin, our compromise and rebellion against God. And yet God doesn’t strike us!
No. God allowed Jesus’ back to be torn by whips, ripped open by the rough wood of the cross. God allowed Jesus to be killed in our place for our sin. This all happened to Jesus so that it won’t happen to us, to those who put their trust in Jesus. Jesus was struck, we get bound up, healed by His finished work on Calvary.
“On the third day…” (vs2)
The prophet announced to Israel that although their sin was about to be punished, it would not last forever and they would be revived. Hosea and the people of his day could not have known what all was contained in these words of the prophet.
But we know the story. We know that Jesus died but ‘after two days’ (vs2), ‘on the third day’ (vs2) God raised Jesus up just like Hosea prophecied!
Jesus was struck for our iniquities, but He rose again victorious. Not even death could hold him down and because Jesus rose again from the dead we too who believe in Him have His resurrection life in us.
This all happened so that; ‘we may live before Him.’ (vs3). This is the Gospel, hidden in the pages of OT prophecy. Jesus took on Himself the punishment that was ours and rose again victorious on the third day SO THAT we might be forgiven of our sin, cleansed from all our unrighteousness and be reconciled back to right relationship with our Holy God.
We are a ‘third day people’. We have hope because Jesus died and rose again on the third day. It was foretold about 740yrs before Jesus Christ – this was God’s gracious plan all along.
‘Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD’ (vs3)
All that Jesus did for us is worth nothing unless we take hold of the opportunity God has given us and press on, press in to know the LORD.
Jesus has removed every obstacle, removed the sin that separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2); there is no reason why we ought to be far off from God. We can know Him.
But will we? Will we remain far off or will we press on to know God intimately, deeply?
About 28years ago, my Father in law was once asked by my friend who had recently given his life to Jesus on a youth camp; ‘Jeff, pray that I would know God better.’
To this, Jeff replied; ‘I can’t pray that!’
My friend (and I) were horrified at his seemingly unloving response. Then he said words that I have never forgotten; ‘I can’t pray that you would know God better, that’s up to you. But I can, and I will pray that you will WANT to know God better.’ And so he did, and now that friend leads one of the most significant churches in Cape Town South Africa.
Do you know Jesus? Let us press on to know the LORD! The more we know, the more we will love and worship Him.
How long was Gomer waywardly unfaithful to Hosea? We don’t know exactly, but it was long enough to have conceived and weaned two children – so presumably a minimum of 4-5yrs!
All that time, Hosea must have cycled through the whole exhausting range of conflicted emotions. Then God spoke to the prophet; “And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and loves cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)
This woman who is not named, who is not even called Hosea’s wife she is so estranged relationally from him (see Hosea 2:2), is still rightfully understood to be his wife Gomer for this is the dominant illustration of the book.
And yet God commands Hosea to love her again. Since this is what God does to us, His people, loves us even when we are unlovely.
Hosea obediently goes and buys his wife back from some form of slavery or bondage she has gotten herself into. The fact that Gomer had to be purchased back reveals the desperate situation she has sunk into. No detail is given as to how she got into this situation but for Hosea to reconcile her back to him would cost him the guiltless one.
Forgiveness always precedes true reconciliation, and forgiveness always costs the one who was wronged.
Hosea’s having to pay a ransom price to be able to be reconciled with his wife foreshadows what it cost God to be reconciled back to right relationship with us wayward sinners (Rom. 5:6–11).
God was going to purify Israel through exile in a foreign land – a time when they would have no king of their own. In exile, they would be removed from what had become their everyday idolatry so prevalent in the Northern Kingdom during the years preceding this. (Hosea 3:4)
But after that appointed time, Israel would; ‘return and devote themselves again to the LORD their God and to David’s descendant, their king’ (Hosea 3:5 in NLT). God would reconcile them to Himself after this time of exile. The wayward tribes of the Northern Kingdom who had been in rebellion against God’s appointed line of kings will have to return to be included in the covenant promises to David’s line and the ultimate King of kings who will come from that line – King Jesus!
What does this mean for us today?
- God is patient, merciful and forgiving!
- God loved us and still loves us even when we are unlovely & ungodly.
- God wants a real relationship, a loving, committed relationship with us, and because of that God paid the ransom price by sending Jesus the Son to die on the cross in our place for our sin SO THAT we could be freed from the penalty of our slavery to sin and be reconciled back to right relationship with God.
- What a love story! What a King, what a Saviour. Worship and love Him with all you have for He is worthy.