"Repentance- A New Beginning"   (December 2007)

At the beginning of each new year there seems to be a “buzz” word or “catch phrase” in Christendom.  You are familiar with what I am talking about-- “Free in ‘03”; “Alive in ‘05”; “More in ‘04”.  I am sure there will be another one this year.  I haven’t heard what is being predicted for the upcoming year, but I know that someone will come up with something.  Some of what will come forth will be from the Lord- a true word of prophecy; some won’t- it will be self desire.  While I don’t know what the Lord is saying to others in the Body of Christ, I do know what He is saying to me.  I believe that what I am hearing is from the heart of God for His people in the upcoming year.

I wish I could tell you that I have a word from the Lord that this will be a great year for financial increase.  I wish I could tell you that God is going to bless you with houses and land, riches and honor.  That’s the kind of message that our ears “itch” to hear.  We all want to hear that the Lord is going to make us “billionaires” in the next year-- He may or He may not.  If it suits His purpose and you can be trusted to use it for His glory, He might bless you in such a way.  But this is not what I am hearing.

The word that I am hearing is one that is calling God’s people back to Himself.  We have gotten so far “off track” in modern Christendom.  We have left our “roots” and the teaching of Jesus.  We have neglected true, sound Biblical preaching and have substituted it with a doctrine that appeals to and appeases the lust of our flesh.  Most Christians believe that Christianity is about God saving them from hell, then being a “Santa Claus” who gives them their every desire.  They think that it is all about them- what they want, what makes them happy, what God can do for them.  It’s not.  Christianity is about us loving and serving God.  It’s about “following Him”, it’s about “denying ourselves”, it’s about “dying to self”, it’s about making Him the “head of your life”, it’s about Him “increasing” and you “decreasing”.  It’s about being bought with a price and because you were bought out of the slavery of sin with the price of the blood of Jesus you no longer belong to yourself, you belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:20)  That means that He “owns” you.  You do what He says, not He does what you say.  It means that you present yourself as a “living sacrifice; holy and acceptable to Him, which is your reasonable service”. (Romans 12:1)  It’s about “loving Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and loving your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

What I am hearing from the Lord comes from the Book of Hosea.  One morning while in prayer the Lord impressed something upon my heart and then had me read in the Book of Hosea.  What He said to me was- “When My people begin to draw near to Me, I will do great things in and through them, and nothing shall be impossible.  When a man pleases Me, even his enemies will be at peace with him.”  The key in what He said is- “draw near”.  When God spoke that to me, I could hear the message behind the words.  I knew that God was saying that His people don’t draw near to Him, they have forgotten Him, they only think of Him when in trouble, they only turn to Him when the need they have is greater than their ability to meet it.  God’s people no longer draw near to Him.  They have lost their desire to seek the Lord.  In the Book of Revelation it’s called, “Lost their first love”. (Revelation 2:4)  They seek Him only when it is convenient for them.  Then what we do is not really considered “seeking”, it more of placing a demand on God to do what we want Him to do.

In the Book of Hosea the prophet marries a woman named Gomer.  She plays the harlot and cheats on her husband.  This happens many times until she comes to the place where she is sold into slavery.  I believe that the church has been sold into slavery.  We have listened to the preaching that centers around the message of materialism.  This message draws our hearts to riches and possessions.  Once our hearts are drawn to these, they are drawn away from the Lord.  (“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24)  Gomer couldn’t have Hosea and her lovers.  Neither can we.  Whoever has your heart, has you.  (“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21)  (“If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” Psalms 62:10b)  Let me stop for a moment and make myself clear.  God does bless His people.  The Lord wants good things for you.  (“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11)  He wants the best for you.  He came to give you eternal life and abundant life.  (“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10)  There are many who He gives wealth to.  (“But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18)  We also read in the Bible that He made Abraham wealthy, King David, Job and many of the patriarchs.  God does bless His people with wealth.  I thank God that I drive a nice automobile, have a house, have nice clothes to wear and plenty of food to eat.  My God richly supplies all my need.  I don’t take it lightly or for granted.  But I am not talking about God meeting our need.  He does, and many times He meets it not just according to the size of our need, but according to the size of His riches (“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19)- “exceeding, abundantly, above all you can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  What I am talking about is a gospel that breeds a spirit of discontentment- it always wants more; enough is never enough.  We are never satisfied.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)  It is a one-sided gospel whose primary focus is on making you financially prosperous- rich!  When we turn our hearts to and focus upon this gospel, we go into slavery. 

The prosperity gospel neglects to tell us the whole truth.  As a result, we have gotten “sidetracked” and missed Jesus’ whole purpose for coming, we have missed our purpose for being, we have missed the will and plan of God for the church.  Gomer wound up in slavery because she left her husband.  Her lovers promised her more- more happiness, more pleasure, more love.  They didn’t live up to their promises.  Instead they made her less desirable, miserable, unhappy, used, abused and in bondage.  When we go after materialism, and attain it, it only temporarily fills a place of happiness.  After a while it leaves us feeling empty.  The thing Gomer didn’t realize is that true happiness and security came from having a solid relationship with her husband, not temporary lovers that would steal something precious from her and then abandon her.  She sacrificed a relationship of love and security for a moment of pleasure.  The gospel of materialism does the same thing.  It steals a relationship that is solid and secure.  It robs you of true love- the true love that only Jesus can give you.  “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5)  Only Jesus can satisfy the longing in your soul. 

This gospel also causes you to trust in it’s promises and self rather than God.  Gomer thought she could trust her lovers.  She thought they would provide for her, take care of her, protect her and nurture her, but they didn’t; they took her deeper and deeper into bondage.  She got so deep that she was not able to help herself out of the pit that she had dug.       

I believe God’s message for His people this year is that it’s time for His people to return back to Him.  We have followed after other lovers for too long.  We have neglected Him and gone after those things that fulfill the desire of our flesh, that make us feel good, that promise us more and more, bigger and better.  We must draw near to Him and turn to Him with our whole hearts.  How do we do that?  This is why He had me go to the Book of Hosea.  The theme of Hosea is one of repentance.  “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.  Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.  Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” (Hosea 14:1-3)  It’s time to return to the Lord.  It’s time to seek Him while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)  It’s time to put away our idols and abandon our “lovers”.  It’s time that He have the preeminence in our lives.  It’s time we remember that He is our God and we are His people.

This message is not about the “prosperity” gospel.  It’s a call from God to turn from anything that is taking the place that He alone rightfully deserves in your life.  What is standing between you and the Lord?  Gomer’s lovers- her adultery, her lust, her dissatisfaction- stood between her and her husband and kept them from having a relationship that was intended for them to have.  Jesus Christ came to reconcile us to the Father, giving us back the relationship that God originally intended for us to have with Him.  “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.  And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” (Colossians 1:20,21)  God’s plan from the beginning was to have a relationship with mankind.  In the Garden of Eden He would come down during the cool of the day and commune with Adam.  In the scriptures He refers to Himself in His relationship with man in terms of endearment- Father, husband, friend.  Sin broke the relationship, but Jesus Christ brought it back.  God is the same, He does not change.  This means that if His original desire was to have someone to bestow His love on and have a relationship with, then it’s still His desire.

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12)  We cannot continue to go as we have been.  The days are getting short, the time is drawing near, the return of Christ is on the horizon.  We don’t have time to continue as we have been- neglecting so great a salvation, being consumed with self, following after fleshly desires, playing games, centering around entertainment, treating the things of God casually, not seeing the seriousness of the hour, seeking our own way, fulfilling our own plans and not being concerned about the lost world around us.  If we are going to do anything for the Lord, if we are going to fulfill our destiny, if we are going to fulfill the Great Commission then we are going to have to repent.  Gomer sowed to herself in unrighteousness, she reaped the whirlwind.  She reaped heartache, pain, turmoil and hurt upon herself.  If we don’t turn to the Lord and begin to sow in righteousness we will reap destructive things in our lives too.  In the Book of Revelation the Lord gave warnings to the churches of Asia.  I believe they are warnings to us as well.  If we don’t heed them we will reap the consequences of our actions. 1) Our candlestick will be removed- we’ll lose our light.  2) He will fight against us- the Lord will be our enemy.  3) Great tribulation  4) He’ll come like a thief and we won’t know when.  5) He will spue us out of His mouth. 

Hosea saw his wife Gomer on the auction block to be sold as a slave and paid the price to deliver her and bring her back into his home.  He restored her to her place as his wife even though she had left him, gone after her lovers, brought shame and reproach upon him.  This is a beautiful picture of what the Lord will do for us when we repent and call out to Him.  He desires to show us mercy and forgiveness.  When we begin to sow in righteousness, we reap mercy from the Lord.  Instead of giving us the punishment we deserve He forgives and restores.  “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; They shall be revived like grain, And grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. “Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.” Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:4-9 NKJV)

Gomer had messed up her life by turning from her husband and turning to her own heart’s desire.  She had reached a place where her only hope was for her husband to purchase her from the bondage of slavery.  When he did, she got a new beginning- a second chance.  She was restored as his wife, the mother of her children, the woman of the house.  If we have followed anything other than the Lord, we need restoration, reconciliation and deliverance just like Gomer did- only our Heavenly Husband Jesus can do that.  The number eight is the number of “new beginnings”.  As we are entering the year 2008, God wants to make it a “new beginning” for you.  If you will repent of anything in your life- materialism, lust, addictions, neglect of your relationship with the Lord, spiritual laziness, taking your Christianity for granted, etc.- and draw near to Him, He will make it a new beginning for you.  You can be restored in your relationship with Him and you can fulfill your destiny.  “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works (a second chance.).” Rev. 2:5