Think of someone who means something to you. What would you give that person if time, cost, and imposition meant nothing?
While we’re on the subject, what would you give God this Christmas if time, cost, and imposition meant nothing?
You may be surprised to know that God has one item on his list—and you may be surprised by what he’s looking for.
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INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Hosea 6:1; 3 John 2. Compare these two passages of Scripture:
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 2
Some prosperity preachers point to 3 John 2 as proof that every good follower of Christ has the God-given right to enjoy good health. Barring unconfessed sin, negative confessions, and Satanic attacks, we should expect to enjoy good health because God never willingly allows pain or hardship to enter the lives of his followers. That’s hogwash. John’s salutation in this verse was a standard greeting of the day. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with desiring good health, but God doesn’t owe it to us. In fact, as we’ve read through the Bible we’ve seen that God can use sickness and poor health to direct us, purify us, and even bless us. In Hosea 6:1, we read that God tore his chosen people to pieces—not with the intent of destroying them but in order to restore them.
3 John 1-14. John likely wrote this epistle at the same time as his previous two epistles. And, like his previous epistles, John was addressing false teachers—in this respect, a false teacher who refused to accommodate the teachers John had sent out. The recipient of this epistle is a man named Gaius, whom we know nothing about.
Notice that John uses the phrase “walking in the truth,” just as he did in his second epistle.
Psalm 126:1-6. This psalm was written about Israel’s return from exile, most likely their return from Babylon. Verse 5 reads, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” The great preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) commented on this verse:
If we were never captives we could never lead our captivity captive. Our mouth had never been filled with holy laughter if it had not been first filled with the bitterness of grief. We must sow: we may have to sow in the wet weather of sorrow; but we shall reap, and reap in the bright summer season of joy. Let us keep to the work of this present sowing time, and find strength in the promise which is here so positively given us.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
For most pastors, the Christmas and Easter seasons are a bit surreal. Actually, they’re a little like a semi-annual reunion for everyone far and wide who considers your congregation their church home. The holiday season also seems to put everyone in a generous mood, making December the high giving month of the year.
I don’t begrudge people who make their semi-annual pilgrimage to church. Their participation and generosity are greatly appreciated in most churches. If you’re one of those people, thank you for thinking of us.
Deep down, I think most of us consider church attendance and giving to be one way that we show God we love him. I know this is true because if I were to stop attending church or giving, I’d feel guilty.
But see, God isn’t interested in your church attendance or gifts. What God really wants is something much more than that..
In Hosea 6:6, God speaks through the prophet Hosea,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
The word translated “mercy” probably isn’t the best word choice because the same Hebrew word is translated “love” in verse 4. God is telling his chosen people, “I don’t want your religious rituals, I want YOU!
During the holiday season, many people fulfill their religious “obligations” by giving a little extra and making an appearance in church. But God wants so much more.
In the next verse he says, “Let us press on to acknowledge him.” It means literally, “Let us press on to know the Lord.” In that time, to know someone carried sexual connotations. In a spiritual sense, it means deep intimacy. Our heavenly Father longs to be one with us, to be known intimately by us in the same way that he already intimately knows us.
That’s the best Christmas gift you can give.
More than getting you to stop sinning…
More than “guilting” you to serve food to the homeless…
More than prying open your clenched hands so you can give more in the offering…
More than convincing you to share your faith more courageously…
More than forcing you to read your Bible and pray more…
God wants YOU. He wants you to come to him with your problems, your pains, your hopes, your joys. He wants to be your life. He wants you to trust him completely. He wants you to experience the joy of knowing him.
This Christmas season, I encourage you to give generously and worship in the church of your choosing, but please remember that knowing God pales in comparison to doing good things.
And that’s what’s so great about the Christmas season. It draws our focus to the greatest gift of all: God’s only son Jesus Christ.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What would you give God this Christmas if time, cost, and imposition meant nothing?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.