Included in my daily prayer list is a special group of people. These are those who have been brought up by godly parents, who have heard the gospel from a young age, many of whom have even at one time made a profession of faith. But they are for one reason or another no longer in a close relationship with Jesus. I have asked the Lord to make 2017 a year of miracles. The greatest miracles are those where hearts are changed from darkness to light and delivered from the power of Satan to God. If I had the ability, I would like to have these thirty some people all in one place and give them a message. Following is what I would like to tell them.
I would like to say very confidently that there is hope. There is hope for you. Even if you have wandered a long way off. Even if you have found yourself in prison. Even if you are a substance abuser. Even if you are enslaved to pornography. Even if you cannot control your anger. Even if your morals are a complete shambles. Even if you are such a consummate liar that you no longer know what to believe yourself. There is hope.
There is hope for you to find God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is hope that you can be restored to a life that pleases Him. To the people of Israel who had strayed a long way from God, Hosea was sent with the message that there was hope for them. Hosea describes a people who had betrayed their homes, embraced evil practices, flirted with false gods, and left their families in mourning. Yet the message to them was that if they returned to God, He had a place for them, “a door of hope.”
Your hope is in the truth. Jesus said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:37b). He said, “I am the…truth: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). If you are living away from the Lord it is because of a lie.
Lies come in many forms, but they all stem from the first lie of the serpent: “Ye shall be as gods.” Lies substitute our thinking for God’s truth. Lies give all kinds of excuses for doing what is wrong. But lies are founded on false hopes. In Hosea’s message to Israel, he noted that the people credited their adulterous lovers for giving them good things for they said, “I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” (Hos. 2:5b). The reality was that the Lord had given these things. “I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (Hos.2:8).
What God gives for good, the enemy twists and then takes credit for. For example, it seems restrictive to follow God’s guidelines for all of sexuality, but God’s way is really a blessing. Satan twists it into many forms and accuses God of being a killjoy. But that is a lie. The eyes of a man are never satisfied, says Proverbs. No matter how much illicit sex or perversion one engages in, it is never enough. There is always tomorrow with new allurements and they will never satisfy. It is following a lie to try.
Opposite of the lie is the truth. Instead of giving false hope, the truth brings freedom. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31b, 32). Your hope is directly related to the truth, and the truth is established by the word of God. You cannot have hope if you try to make up your own truth. Many of you have made for yourselves a hiding place of your own made up ideas. But that will not stand, for truth “shall sweep away the refuge of lies” (Isa. 28:17). The hiding place of lies keeps you a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there is real freedom in the truth, and the truth centers in Jesus.
Jesus said, “Follow me.” He calls us to Himself. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 28:11). Instead of continuing in a wicked way which is “like the troubled sea,” come to Jesus and find rest. Follow Him.
Following Jesus will take you to Calvary. There all of your sins, your selfish acts, your own made up reality, will be nailed to the cross. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3b). You will find that His is a strong cross. No burden is too heavy for it. No sin is too grievous, no act too wicked, no thought too dark, no doubt too deep, but that His cross can support it. The song is true, “Jesus blood can make the vilest sinner clean!”
Following Jesus will take you to the tomb. He really died and was buried. Go with Him. Be buried with Him. It is death to the lies, the sins, the old life, the old habits, the fleshly living, the world’s falsehoods. Go to the grave because that is the staging place for the resurrection.
Following Jesus will allow you to be part of the most glorious thing in the whole world. On the third day He rose again! “Buried with Him…you are also risen with Him” (Col. 1:12). He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). When you follow Jesus you have the awesome opportunity to start over. With a clean slate! The past is gone. New life has come. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
All this is good news. It is the gospel. And it is for you. If Jesus were here in flesh and blood, it is what He would say to you. In this case, I am His ambassador. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). But it is not only I, but others who plead with you. It says “we are ambassadors for Christ.” Be reconciled to God. You have family that prays for you. You have Christian friends who bring your name regularly to God. All are reminding you that there is a Savior who is tenderly calling you home.
Where do you start? Go to Psalm 51 and make it your prayer. It was the prayer of David, a murderous adulterer. “Have mercy upon me, O God,” he began. Go through the prayer. Then look to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He will create in you a new heart and put a right spirit in you. Look to Him!
So here is your hope. It is tied directly to the gospel. “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5).
We preach, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9-13)