“Set Your Heart”
The Lent series for this year is entitled “The Nobodies” and for good reason. You have been learning about those people that society often overlooks and you have seen how God can use their position to glorify His because it is the meek who will inherit the earth.
If it is okay, for today, I would like to change our series name from “The Nobodies” to “The Every Bodies” because today we are talking about Prostitutes and Prodigals. You may say that sounds a bit harsh, I have never sold myself for money or gone so far away from God that I have had to run back, but today we will find that these inclinations lie in all of us. We are “The Every Bodies”
Today we are dealing with two very different types of people.
The difference between a prostitute and a prodigal is the direction of their heart. Luke 12:34 says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” God always deals with the heart. The prostitute runs away from the things of God by selling his or her heart to the world, while the prodigal turns his heart towards the things of God, he knows the Truth because he has seen life without it and he comes back towards grace in a newly humbled position.
To really get a grasp on how God defines the word “Prostitute” we must spend some time in the Old Testament. This is, after all, the world’s oldest profession. God is not shy in His use of the word and neither should we be.
He uses it often in reference to Israel- His own people. See, Israel had this tendency to depart from the Lord. To get comfortable in their blessing and move beyond their territory to seek out other sources of fulfillment.
In the book of Hosea 1:2, it is written “the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” God told Hosea to live his life in a way that mirrors that of Israel. To marry a woman named Gomer who would be unfaithful to him the way Israel was to God.
The thing that caused Gomer to stray from her husband was the love of things. In Verse 5 “She 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.” In Hebrew the name Gomer means “filling up of the measure of idolatry.” Gomer’s life was a parable.
The root of prostitution is idolatry. We worship a God who provides all of our needs, He makes himself available to us 24 hours a day, when we speak He listens and responds, and yet we prefer that which is easy, that which we can get our hands on. We tire of seeking out His mystery and instead seek money because we can instantly turn money into stuff: clothes and cars, things of this world that offer a false sense of comfort and stability.
But these are not the only idols of this world. An idol is whatever we place our hope in. Whatever comes between us and Jesus. It can even be that thing the enemy brings against you.
I can turn my worry into an idol. My anxiety and even my disbelief can become the bedrock of who I am. I can become so self-righteous that it becomes my comfort.
In the South we are blessed to have church everywhere, but this too can become an idol, a hindrance to a true relationship. The Pharisees spent their whole lives in the Word, yet they didn’t recognize Jesus when He stood right in front of their faces. They didn’t see the Truth because they were so blinded by religion and ritual. Just like the Pharisees, what we see the most can become the thing we pay attention to the least. Our “it will always be there” can become an idol of familiarity without knowledge, “Having a form of godliness but denying its power” as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5.
In our reading this week we find the story of “The Prodigal Son,” the son who lacked patience and could not wait on what was rightfully his. Jesus tells forty-six parables in the New Testament and this is one of those that almost everybody knows. A son who takes the gifts of his father, squanders them on the pleasures of life, is humbled by his lack and returns to open arms.
We love this story because we are this story. Our lives are a parable written by God.
Luke 15:13-15 describes this wayward son: “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine”
That son left the comfort of his family and traveled into a foreign land. He walked away from his Father and followed an idol of discontent, going somewhere he had no business going. Looking for company he then joined himself to a citizen of that country. He found someone who knew the lay of the land thinking that would help, but instead he found himself with the pigs.
It would be easy for us to have no pity. To say he got what he deserved. But when we place ourselves in his shoes, when we say, “I remember a time when I was selfish, when I broke the Father’s heart, when I made myself my own idol,” then with our next breath we say “God have mercy on me, the sinner, who by my very nature is not worthy of your love.” And we begin to dream of our home and the safety of Jesus.
When we leave where we belong for the unknown we put ourselves in a dire position. It’s a matter of life and death and we should take it as such. Without Jesus we starve.
The prophet Ezekiel had a word from God.
Ezekiel 14: 1-8 “…Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel which separated himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself; And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For a few years I suffered from insomnia. If you have ever had bouts of sleeplessness then you know what it can do to your life. You don’t feel like yourself anymore. It changes the way you think and the way you respond to people. Just going through your day becomes an obstacle. After much prayer and teaching through the Holy Spirit, Jesus eventually freed me from this struggle, but what happened was my new sleep became too precious to me. I placed it at a high value. There were times when I should have stayed up late reading my Bible, but I chose sleep instead or gotten up early to pray, but I chose sleep instead. Sleep was an idol to me.
Our God, Jesus, hates idol worship. There is no wiggle room there. His Word has no sway to it. Luke 16:15 says “What is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” The world will tell you where to invest yourself, where to place your heart, but the world does not require holy, it seeks to make man selfish and double-minded. The world is against you, not for you.
The cry of our hearts should be “Lord, show me those things that interfere with my relationship with you…show me my idols!”
It isn’t pretty and our flesh wants to avoid it at all cost, because “the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” ( Hebrews 4:12) There is no hiding anything from God, only denying to ourselves. As Luke 12:2 says “For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed neither hid that shall not be known.”
And once God speaks to us and shows us what our idols are, it is up to us to walk away from them. To pick up our mat and head in the other direction, back from that foreign place to the comfort of our Father.
We turn to idols because it is in our human nature to do so, but Jesus gives us a new nature. Not one of ease but of godliness. He never said it would be easy, He said it was worthy. He promises to take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh.
Thank God, He is a keeper of His promises and His promises are good. He is for you and not against you and His banner over you is love.
In Ezekiel we hear God say, “I will answer them according to the multitude of their idols.” The distance between you and Jesus is the length of your idols.
The good news is that God never gave up on Israel, He didn’t give up on the prodigal son, and He won’t give up on you. He knows your tendencies because he made you. He knows you stray so He gave you a shepherd. He knew you would behave this way so He provided you a way to reconcile your nature with His.
This is what it means to walk humbly with your God. To know who you are and where your flesh will lead you.
Paul said, “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” That is the plight of man and we have to come to terms with our humanity. There is no shame in it, we were born into sin. But unfortunately, some will never turn around. Becoming a prodigal is a decision that must be made. It is born from humility- knowledge that you work against your best interests and you can not provide your own means. It is setting your heart in the direction of Jesus and running with all your might, knowing He has set His heart towards you and is running with all of His.
God is a God of promises and He promises good things for His children.
These are God’s words to Gomer, to Israel, and to you:
“ Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt…” Hosea 14-15; “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; ya, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” Hosea 19-29; “And I will sow her unto me in the earth: and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” Hosea 23
We have to set our hearts. We are meant for higher things. Our love was not built for objects made by man or feelings flared by the enemy. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)