Summary: Our vision (Striving to see the Living Christ in a thriving church of giving people) did not originate with us, but with God.
Striving, Living, Thriving, Giving
Pastor Jim Luthy
At the top of our invitation cards, on our information brochure, and on our web site, you will find a vision statement for our church: Striving to see the Living Christ in a thriving church of giving people. Striving. Living. Thriving. Giving.
Today I want to wrap up our series in Hosea by providing a basis for that vision and to paint that picture once again.
After all the pronouncements of judgment against Israel, Hosea concludes with a message of hope and blessing. This became the vision of Israel. It is also the hope of all mankind, fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We would do well to listen and respond appropriately.
Chapter 14 begins with an admonition to return to God. Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord.
It is difficult to remember that the most important work we do is returning to God. One of the dangers of using the word striving in our vision statement is that it brings to mind our labor. When we think of striving, we think of busyness, servanthood, and effort. We think of sweat equity.
Certainly we ought to be serving God and men, but this is not the work of striving that will bring about our vision. All the work in the world could not bring us back to God. Our striving ought always to be the work of returning to God. We must make every effort to ensure that we are right with God. Again, this is not the work of our hands, but the work of our hearts. And out of the heart ought to come the reply of our mouths, as suggested by Hosea…
Say to him (meaning "say to the Lord") "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips." Hosea adds that Israel will confess that Assyria cannot save them and that they will never again say "our gods" to what their own hands have made.
These are the words of hearts that are turned to God. Such hearts confess their sin and ask for forgiveness. Such hearts worship God with the fruit of their lips. Such hearts turn away from trusting in man, as Israel trusted in Assyria to save them with military might. And such hearts turn away from worthless idols made by men. This is our work of striving, and it is done here (point to heart) with brokenness and repentance and humility.
In such striving, it is the promise of God that we will know him through the Living Christ. In Hosea 14:4-5, he promises three ways that the repentant will know him.
I will heal their waywardness nad love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel."
First, they will know him as a healer of waywardness. This is the promise of the power of God to transform our lives. Jeremiah 3:22 says "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." Jesus himself said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13) Jesus did not come to die on the cross so you could understand what it means to give up your worldly pleasures as some sort of a religious sacrifice. He knows that we are sick with sin and in need of a doctor, so he died on the cross for you and I to experience his mercy. When we return to him, he comes to us with mercy as a healer of our foolishness and pride, our addictions and our self-indulgence.
Second, he will love us freely. Because of what Jesus has done, he will have no reason to be angry with us. To coin a term from Aretha Franklin, he will be on "the freeway of love," only it won’t be in a pink cadillac! It will be God’s love showered on us in great abundance. And we will be free to receive it because we will have returned to him through the forgiveness afforded us by the blood of Jesus.
Zephaniah 3:17 paints a picture of that love: The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
And finally, the Living Christ will be "like the dew". One of my favorite commercials is the commercial where the guy butts heads with a bighorn sheep over the Mountain Dew. The ad implies that people will do anything for the refreshment of a Mountain Dew.