By David Wise
Yesterday we went through chapter 15 of The Story. What God put on my heart was a heavy message about Israel’s (and our) unfaithfulness. There are sermons that are fun to preach, and there are those that are weighty, yesterday was the latter. Comparing our actions to that of adultery was not easy and I found myself emotionally exhausted after preaching. Part of what goes into every sermon is prayer and study during the week leading up to Sunday. This last week was full of the weight of the message of Hosea and I found myself nervous to see how the message would be received.
As with most churches, we have people who are in pain, some who have cheated in relationships, and others who have been cheated on (sometimes recently). To explore the message of Hosea meant to grasp with and try to understand the pain of adultery and then to apply that in our relationship with God. All week I thought about ways that I’ve been unfaithful and I have never had a problem coming up with a list of idols and other gods that I’m guilty of worshipping, but to reframe those sins within the lens of adultery emptied me emotionally.
Yesterday I found myself wanting to block everything out and just move on to a new sermon and a new theme, as if the concept of adultery was simply too much for me to deal with. This morning I woke up and began reading the next chapter of The Story, but I couldn’t shake the reality of my unfaithfulness. All morning my heart was heavy and I felt defeated. While most sermons leave me feeling convicted, today I feel condemned.
As I was thinking and praying earlier, I was reminded that, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). Although I am too often guilty of cheating on God, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set [me] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2). The Apostle Paul goes on to say, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
I know that we as a people need to hear God’s message, and more than simply hearing it we need to obey the message and return to God with all of our hearts. In the midst of that message I would hate for anyone to hear that it depends on our work, because really I am powerless. It took God sending His own Son. Because of everything God has done, now I am able to live according to the Spirit, and by His power, I no longer have to commit adultery on God. I can’t restate this enough; this is only possible because of the Holy Spirit’s work in me.
When I think about my unfaithfulness, the tendency can be to try harder and often that leaves me in a place of hopelessness because my best effort is simply not good enough. When I put the focus back on God and what He has done through Jesus, then (and only then) I am left with hope. While God wants us, desperately, to return to Him, He does not manipulate us with feelings of condemnation. God may convict us through His Holy Spirit, which will not leave us feeling hopeless, but rather empowered by His very Spirit.
Although each of us may struggle with adultery in different shapes and forms, do not allow the enemy to make you feel condemned. Christ has taken our condemnation so that we can live according to the Spirit. As we strive to live according to the Holy Spirit then we no longer focus on our adultery, we focus on our good and loving God who sent His very Son to set us free and give us life.
As we begin this year and continue through The Story, may we be a people who return to God with all of our hearts. May we be a people who strive to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Although we’re each guilty of adultery against our God, may we constantly remember that there is no condemnation because of Christ Jesus.
Cling to that truth and move toward God constantly, listen to the convictions the Holy Spirit gives you, but do not allow condemnation to cripple you. We have an enemy who wants to disable us from following our Lord, and he is cunning and will use whatever works against us. Too often I have allowed my own mistakes to take the focus when I should have simply been focusing on life in the Spirit. May this message bring comfort, peace, and freedom from condemnation as we get rid of the flesh and follow the Holy Spirit.