************ Sermon on Hosea 5:5-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 7, 2004
"I Don't Need Jesus"
"I don't need Jesus!" We expect atheists and unbelievers to say this. We expect those of other religions – Muslims, Hindus, those in the New Age Movement, followers of Confucius, Spiritists, and Devil Worshipers – to say this. But today we find there are those within the church who think this, though they may not come out and actually say it.
I Spiritual Blindness
A It is sometimes said that we are tormented most of all by our own guilt. I have met and worked with Christians who have been terribly bothered about the sins in their life. They have been bothered to the point where they confess the sin over and over again. They have been bothered to the point where they doubt or even deny their own salvation.
Having said that, my experience as a pastor tells me that for most Christians it is not their own guilt that bothers them the most. Do you know what seems to bother most Christians? What seems to bother most Christians is the guilt and faults and shortcomings of other Christians. Sin bothers us. Especially the sins of young people, elders, pastors, and other leaders in the church and kingdom.
I don't see much evidence of people being tormented by their own shame. What usually happens when someone is caught red-handed, so to speak? Usually they come out attacking the sins and faults of others instead of confessing their own sin and guilt and shame. We ourselves are never the ones to blame. Like Eve, we point the finger at the serpent that deceived us. Like Adam, we point the finger at the woman God gave us. We point the finger at everyone but ourselves.
Let me try an experiment. [HOLD UP A BLANK PIECE OF PAPER.] "What do you see?" [GET THE RESPONSE: "A blank piece of paper."] [PUT A DOT IN THE CENTER OF THE PAPER AND HOLD IT UP AGAIN.] "What do you see now?" [GET THE RESPONSE: "A dot."] "What I see is a page that is 99.9% blank." Imagine this paper is a person. The small dot you see is his/her biggest fault. The white surrounding the dot represents all of this person's worthwhile qualities which we so easily fail to see. Often, all that we see is a person's faults and overlook everything else. Often, we focus in on the black dot and don't see the rest of the page.
Let me ask a question. Does the sin of others bother us so much that we drop to our knees in prayer on their behalf? Does the sin of others bother us so much that instead of talking about it we pray about it?
It is sad, isn't it?! It is sad that we are quicker to point the finger at others than we are to point the finger at ourselves.
I cannot help but think of the words of Jesus, words that apply as much today as they did during His day:
(Mt 7:3) "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
B It is in this light that we need to hear the words of Hosea in verse 5 of our text:
(Hosea 5:5) Israel's arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them.Here is a reminder that things are going to go wrong, that Israel will go under, that she will fall and perish.
The prophet also tells us the reason: Israel's own guilt and sin and shame will be her undoing. Israel will fall because of her own sin. Of course, Israel will never admit that. When Israel finally does collapse, her downfall will be attributed to the overwhelming power of the enemy. Or, it will be blamed on the Lord Himself, Who abandoned the land and His people. Or, it will be blamed on the prophets, priests, and kings who led the people astray.
"Hosea," they said to one another, "you don't mean we are to blame, do you? How can you possibly say that? Has there ever been a people as religious as we are? Has there ever been a nation that brought sacrifices so faithfully and in such numbers as we do?" No, the people of Ephraim (which is another name for Israel) and Judah could not understand what Hosea was talking about. They were blind, spiritually blind, to their own sins.
We know from the Bible that there was a small number of people in Israel who were deeply troubled by their own guilt, and by the guilt of the country and nation. But they were only a remnant. For most of the Israelites said, "I just don't understand it! Why do we, the people of the Lord, receive blow after blow?"
Things have not improved much since the days of Hosea, have they?! We still play the blame game. When it comes to troubles and trials and problems we still tend to blame anyone and everyone but ourselves. We cannot deny the fact that our society is in a state of decline. Nor can we deny that the church too is declining.
Who do we blame for this decline? In society we point to greedy businessmen, irresponsible government, single-parent homes, drug abuse, public schools that no longer teach morality, gang violence, and so on. When it comes to the church we blame Grand Rapids, Synod, Classis, The Banner, liberal ministers and churches, and so on. We see all sorts of reasons for decline in all possible corners and places.
When society declines, when the church declines, when the family declines, there is one place we don't look for blame. We don't look within our own hearts. We are blind, spiritually blind, to our own sins. You see, we all get the family, the church, and the society that we deserve. Our family, our church, and our society are but a reflection of ourselves. So, if we want a better family, we need to start with ourselves. If we want a better church, we need to start with ourselves. If we want a better society and country, we need to start with ourselves.
The Lord wants us to do painful surgery. When it comes to sin and guilt and shame the Lord Jesus directs our attention not to others but to ourselves. Before looking at others take a close look at yourself. Before pointing at others point at yourself. That's what Jesus wants.
A What was the sin that caused Israel to stumble and fall? How did Ephraim dig his own grave? The answer might surprise you. Normally when we think of a sin that leads to someone's downfall, we think of something very offensive and serious. The drunkard or addict, for instance, drives herself and her household to the brink of collapse. The adulterer destroys his marriage and devastates his children. The thief brings shame upon the entire family and leaves doubts in everyone's mind. There are many such sins that lead to ruin and even death.
Of course these are terrible sins! But there is another sin that causes even more people to fall. It is the sin Israel struggled with. It is the sin of self-righteousness. Ephraim stumbled over his own piety and over the altars he built.
B Hosea tells us about the supposed righteousness of Ephraim, the holiness of Israel. He says, "they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD ..." Of course that's what they bring. That's what they always bring when they worship the Lord. They are forever offering Him sheep and oxen.
Israel should know better. The Lord is not interested, first of all, in Ephraim's sheep and oxen. Let me read to you the familiar words of the prophet Micah:
(Micah 6:6-8) With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? (7) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (8) He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.This passage is so clear. It isn't my gifts – no matter how big they may be – that the Lord wants first of all. It is our hearts that He wants. He wants us to walk with Him and to live with Him.
Let us also be reminded of the words of the Spirit-inspired psalmist:
(Ps 51:16-17) You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Finally, let us turn to the words of Samuel. You all know this story. God had commanded King Saul and the Israelites to totally destroy the Amalekites and everything that belongs to them. After the battle Samuel was surprised to hear the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle. He asked King Saul about this. Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest" (1 Sam 15:15; cf vs 21). That sounds pretty good and noble, doesn't it? Who could complain about saving the best in order to sacrifice them to the Lord? Then comes the immortal words of Samuel that interest us today:
(1Sam 15:22-23) Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (23) For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
What the Lord wants, my brothers and sisters, is obedience. What the Lord wanted from Ephraim, but did not get, was obedience. What the Lord wants from us is obedience. He wants us to walk in His ways. He wants us to serve Him in all of life. He wants us to give Him our hearts. And, all of our thank-offerings – whether they be by prayer, in song, through the giving of gifts – means nothing apart from this. Israel found that out, much to her sorrow and anger.
Though Israel did not come to God with a broken and contrite heart she fooled herself into thinking she was righteous. She fooled herself into thinking she was righteous because she came to the Lord with all those sheep and oxen. She was self-righteous!
C Nothing blocks grace and forgiveness and salvation like self-righteousness. Nothing leads to destruction and ruin like self-righteousness.
Take any sin. No sin need ever block the path to heaven. No sins by themselves, no matter how great or numerous they may be, will ever block the path to heaven. Nowhere does the Bible teach that someone's sins may be too numerous or too awful to be forgiven. That was Cain's way of thinking and the Lord told him he was wrong (Gen 4:15).
Why did Jesus come to the earth? Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Christ came for bad people, fallen people, sinful people. Or, as Jesus Himself puts it,
(Lk 5:31-32) "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (32) I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
That's the key: Christ Jesus came for sinners. Christ Jesus came for those who are sick. But Christ Jesus did not come for those who think they are already righteous. Christ Jesus did not come for those who claim to be good.
Self-righteousness, my brothers and sisters, is a great stumbling block. Jesus says there is more hope for prostitutes and tax-collectors than for people, like the Pharisees, who claim to be already righteous. People like the Pharisees have never noticed that God justifies and saves the godless and immoral, not the pious churchgoer.
Those who are self-righteous, do you know what they are saying? They are saying, "I am better than all other people." When it comes right down to it, they are saying, "I don't need Jesus."
Do you know what else the self-righteous are saying? They are saying, "Those young people who play around before marriage, those young couples who play around after marriage, those church leaders who go out for a night on the town, those single mothers who get themselves pregnant, those prisoners in area jails, they are the ones who need Jesus." They are right, of course. But unless they recognize their own sin and guilt and shame I am afraid they are saying they do not need Jesus. And, those who do not need Jesus are not saved by Jesus.
D I talked before about spiritual blindness. Now we know where spiritual blindness comes from. It comes from self-righteousness. Those who are self-righteous are never able to see their own sin and shame and guilt and misery. Those who are self-righteous are blind as bats and dumb as rocks. They have never understood, as Isaiah puts it, that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags to be thrown into the fire (Is 64:6).
Topic: MindThis adaptability in the physical realm is indeed a blessing. In the spiritual realm, however, this adaptability is anything but a blessing. You know what happens? Man produces a world of illusions. Man thinks of himself as pure when in reality he is guilty before God. Man thinks of himself as good when in reality he is a sinner whose deepest imaginations are evil.
Title: Distorted Illusions
Recent experiments have been made in which people were fitted with special prismatic glasses. These devices greatly distort the vision so that straight lines appear to be curved, and sharp outlines seem fringed with color. Within just a few days, however, the unnatural shapes, tinted edges, and inverted landscapes gradually disappeared, and the world began to be normal again, even though they still wore their optical fittings. The brain was able to overcome the false data that came through the prismatic lenses.
I want to warn you, congregation, about self-righteousness. I want to warn you because self-righteousness leads to spiritual blindness. And spiritual blindness leads to hell everlasting.
Did you catch what God said to Israel? He said, "When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find him." THEY WILL NOT FIND HIM.
Doesn't that sound a little strange? Doesn't the Bible say just the opposite? Seek, and you shall find! Knock, and the door will be opened! Ask, and it will be given to you! Do these promises of God mean nothing?
Of course they mean something. They are glorious and blessed truths. But they mean something only to those who know and say and confess their need for the Savior.
And, they mean nothing and count for nothing with those who say, "I don't need Jesus."
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