Jentezen Franklin - The Greatest Love Story
If you have your Bibles, I'd like for you to open them with me to the book of Hosea. The Old Testament, Hosea 1. Let me tell you what was taking place. Hosea was a preacher, and the woman in the story named Gomer was a prostitute. So this is a story about a preacher and a prostitute. Immediately I have your attention. And Hosea was a, we would call him, he's just a good man. He was a young preacher. He was an upstanding leader, an outstanding preacher. He was a man of God. He was pure. He was clean. He was keeping himself, we would say. He was unspotted by the world.
A life of integrity, a life of purity, and an up and coming, very known preacher. And like a lot of young people who make the decision to stay in church and serve the Lord, they dream of one day, they keep themselves and hold themselves back for one person. You know, Hosea was not practicing safe sex with girlfriends. He was having no sex. It's called abstinence, and this generation needs to learn about it. And God says, I've heard your prayer one day. I found you a wife. It's time to get married. Enjoy married life. Praise God.
Which one is she, Lord? Is she that cute blond in the praise team? Is she that brunette? That new girl in the youth group? I like her. I thought she was looking at me. Is that the one, Lord? I know she's gonna be a good church girl. The Lord says, I want you to go down to a certain street on the wrong side of town, and I'm gonna show you which one I want you to marry. And he thinks to himself, well, that's a rough area over there, Lord. But oh, praise God, I know what it is. She's got a kitchen. She's feeding the hungry, and she has an outreach, and she's blessing people that are down and out. And she's on the wrong side of the town, but I'm sure it's a little ministry she's opened.
And he goes over, and when he gets there, he sees prostitutes, call girls, harlots, sex trafficking on the corner. And there's standing a girl with fishnet panty hose, high heels, tight mini, mini, mini, mini leather skirt, biblical blouse, low and behold. She's smoking a cigarette. And the Lord says to the preacher, there's your wife. Marry her. Can you imagine? And Hosea goes, but Lord, she's a hoochie mama. You want me to marry a hoochie you want me to marry a harlot? That's the one I want you to marry. And as bad as that was, Lord, not only do you want me to marry her, but her name is Gomer. You can't be in this. But God says marry her.
It's a story not just of the fact that he married her because God told him to. Because if he'd have just married her because God told him to, all that is is obedience and submission to what God told him to do. But it's more than that. What is astonishing about this scripture is it says he married her and he loved her. It's the power of God's love in the story of Hosea and Gomer. It's the power of and story of our love that God has for us. It's not just that Jesus Christ was willing to go to the cross and die. If all He would have done is gone to the cross for your sins and my sins, that would have been an act of submission and an act of obedience to the will of the Father. But John 3:16 says that He did not do it as an act of submission. He did it because He so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever would believe on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.
It's a story, God said, in other words, Hosea, I want you to preach an illustrated sermon with your life of how much I love the world by you marrying a prostitute. And in the same way you love her, even though she is not faithful to you, I want the people to understand, my love is not based upon their performance. It's based upon the fact God doesn't love you because you come to church on Sunday morning. God doesn't love you because you're paying your tithes. God doesn't love you because you sing in a praise team or I preach. That's not why He loves me. He loves me and He loves you because we're people, and God loves people. That's it. It has nothing, you bring nothing to the picture.
You see, Jesus was the spotless lamb. The upstanding, sinless preacher. And you and I were the prostitute. We were the unholy, the unclean, the unworthy. We brought nothing of value to the relationship. It has nothing to do with what we bring. It has all to do with the fact that the Lord left His luxury in Heaven to come down to the dirty streets of our world to save and marry and redeem us by His blood. It's an astonishing love. It's an incomprehensible love that God has for you and I. And just like Hosea loved the prostitute, Jesus, the God of glory, died on a cross to manifest I don't just wanna remove your sin to do it. I love you.
The miracle is not that He died. The miracle is that He loved you. He loved you just like you are. And then life happens. They have a baby, and Hosea's ministry starts growing. And, you know, things pick up at the church, and he's going, and the ministry's growing, and he's spending more and more time in the church. And she's resentful, and she's mad because she's at home with the baby all day long, and where are you? And you're not, and on top of that, she's upset because she's kind of let herself go, and her body's not what it used to be.
In her eyes, she's not pretty anymore. And you understand the background she came from. You understand it was all about her sex appeal. And now in marriage, you know, it's not just that all the time. And so now, she's not hearing her husband desire her like those other men, and so she's not getting the attention. And she's at home, and she decides I've gotta do something. And he's ignoring me. He doesn't have time. He doesn't praise me, and he doesn't love me. And so she goes to the gym, and she starts working out. And there's a cute trainer there. And I'm gonna ad lib just a little bit. There's a cute trainer there, and he begins to help her. And he's touching her back as she's doing her set ups, and he's gently, strategically placing his hand on her leg as she's working out.
And there's something, the chemistry's going on there. And then she decides to friend him on Facebook, and they begin to go back and forth. Just talking, you know? Because he listens to me, he talks to me, he shows me attention. My husband doesn't do that. He's too busy. And this is how the enemy does it, you see. And no marriage is safe from that. And she decides that, you know, what I'm missing is better than what I have. And so one day, she goes to the gym, and he says hey, let's go have lunch. And they start having lunch, and the next thing you know, it turns into a full-fledged affair. And before it's over, it's not just one man, but its multiple men. She goes right back to what he married her and saved her from.
Now she's having multiple, multiple affairs with man, after man, after man. And yet, God comes to him again, and God says to him, I want you to go to her. She ends up in sex trafficking. This is all in your Bible now. I'm back in the scripture. And she has a pimp who is trafficking her and has her on an auction block, selling her body for money to anyone who will pay the price. And God says to him, and I want you to notice it. He says in Hosea 2:14, I will allure her. I will speak comfortable to her, and I will give you, speaking to Hosea and Gomer. I will give you a valley, in the valley of Achor, I will give you a door of hope.
I want you to listen to me carefully. The family, the marriage is in a valley of Achor. The word Achor means trouble. And when the marriage is in trouble, and when the family is in trouble, God said I'll give a door of hope. I mean, I don't know of any marriages that would be in more trouble than this marriage that the Bible's talking about when there are multiple, multiple, multiple affairs. And the Bible said God said I'm making a promise to you and to all the families of the earth. Because Achan, or the valley of Achor is where Achan and his family were stoned to death.
So that, it's family trouble. It's where the family was stoned to death, and they were in the same valley of Achor. And the Bible said but I'm gonna give a door of hope. This is God's promise to every family here. I don't care what the enemy's trying to do to your marriage, what he's trying to do to your family. I don't care how severe the sin or the destruction has been in your family. God says, in the valley of trouble, I give you a door of hope. That's why Job 14:7 said there's a hope for, there's hope for a tree that if it be cut down, it will sprout again. Verse 9. At the scent of water, it will bud.
In other words, if you've been through divorce and you've been cut down, if you've been through sickness and it's cut you down, unemployment, trouble in your family and it's cut the family tree down, at the scent of water, God says as bad as the cut is, and into the family tree, and maybe there's been an affair. Maybe there's been all kinds of stuff that's gotten in the family, and the enemy's trying to cut the family tree down. But I will put in that valley of trouble for every family, a door of hope. I won't just do that, but at the scent of water, it will live again. And water is the spirit of God. I'm saying to you today that love never fails.
I'm saying to you that there are two ways to make a great marriage and to have a great marriage. Number one, do everything right. Good luck with that. Number two, walk through the valley of trouble together until you find the door of hope. Listen to me. We all say things that are cruel. We all mess up. We all sin. Here's how you do marriage. When you get in the valley of trouble in your marriage and in your family, you don't abandon one another. You walk through the valley of trouble until you find the door of hope. So you apologize, you repent, you make up, you cry, you forgive, and then you mess up again. And then you apologize, and you repent, and you make up, and you hold on to each other, and you find the door of hope. And then you mess up, and you say things, and you get in arguments, and you disagree, and you mess up, and you find the door of hope.
As long as you stay together, God says I don't care what kind of valley of trouble your marriage or family gets in, if you will stay together and keep walking through that valley, I won't leave you there. I'll always give you a door of healing, a door of hope. For you and your family. So here he is. He's buying a woman who has gone so low that she's now standing on an auction block, being sex trafficked to the highest bidder. And you would think that that would be enough. But here's the, as you do this, this is how I love Israel. And he says no longer will you call me, he says this to his wife that he's remarrying.
Over, and over, and over. Even though you've the thing over, and over, and over, I forgive you, and I love you. And he says I will not be called Baali, which means master. But call me Ishi, which means husband. In other words, I'm not purchasing you to be my slave. I don't want you calling me master when I take you home. I want you to call me husband. I restore you fully. I forgive you completely. I am your husband. I'm not ashamed of you. I'm not humiliated. I love you. Call me husband. Call me Ishi. He doesn't want a relationship of slave and master. He wants a relationship of bride and bridegroom. And he purchased her, and he bought her, and he loved her.
And what I'm saying to you is in the Bible, names determine people's character. Hosea means deliverer. Isn't that interesting? But Gomer means complete. She's a street walker, a prostitute, but her name means she's supposed to be so much more. God says you see a prostitute. I see a preacher's wife. You see a used, unworthy, unclean, never be anything. I see someone that my grace can get a hold of. And you see her incomplete, but her name means complete, and God says I see her complete.
And here's the point. If you're pointed in the right direction, your direction is more important than your present location. And you may have all kinds of issues, but if you turn and change directions and move toward the cross, God's love will not abandon you. And maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you haven't got free from everything yet. But if you're moving in the right direction, the love of God will not let you go. It will not let you, abandon you and then walk away from you because your direction is more important than your location. You may be moving slow, but if you're moving there, the love of God is gonna get you there. Love never fails.
That's why Jeremiah 29. He said I know the plans that I have for you. Plans of good and not evil, listen, to give you an expected end. I don't look at where you are. I know where my grace is taking you, and I will not abandon you with my love. Ephesians 3:7. That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height, and to know the love of Christ. He's saying the love of God is so great that you can't find the bottom. You can't find the top. You can't go this way or that way and find the end of it. He just loves you over and over.
And I love how when you preach like this, church people like to act like... Do you know how many times, since I married Him at the age of 16, and got born again and gave my life to Him, I wish I could tell you that I've never gone back, and never said, done, thought anything I shouldn't. The truth is I'm just like that prostitute in that I have failed the Lord. And you have, too. Over, and over, and over, and over. And His love says go again, go again, go again. I won't leave you. I'll never forsake you. I'll never let you go. No man can pluck you out of my hand. That's the love of God.
Last point. Some of you, it's hard for you to clap on that because well, I have read, I understand. I've been born again. I've changed my ways. But I'm just telling you, if we put your stuff up on that screen, and people would say ooh, I never dreamed, oh my God. And God would, but people would be saying I didn't know they would do, and God would be saying I didn't know that either. Because the last thing I have in my records is he repented, and he asked for forgiveness, and the blood of Jesus, the love of God cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Now either that's the truth, or we're working our way to Heaven, and good luck with that. Everybody, thank Him for the love of God. Come on. Thank Him for the love of God. That doesn't make me wanna sin more. It makes me wanna serve Him more. It makes me wanna love Him more. It makes me wanna be thankful I've found complete. I'm complete in Him. Stand up on your feet and clap, and thank God for His love. So here's the bottom line.
I read this this week on a plane. It said when the judges ruled, during the Book of Judges, when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. You ever read that? Any time judges rule, there's a famine. But the day that we turn to mercy and grace and the love of God, there's blessing. There's forgiveness. There's healing. And here's the point that I conclude with. Gomer liked to be with Hosea because he made her feel whole. He didn't bring up her past. He didn't talk about her. He loved her. And that's the way God loves you. Every head bowed, every eye closed. But why don't you respond? For God so loved the world, look at that verse 17. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. There it is.
And if you're in this room, and you would say Pastor Franklin, pray for me. I need Jesus Christ to cleanse me. I didn't know He loved me that much. I thought that I had disqualified myself. But this is the message. God loves you, and He will never stop loving you. And if you'll move in His direction, His love will get you, and transform you, and change you into the image of Jesus Christ. Pastor, pray for me. I need the love of God to wash me, and cleanse me, and redeem me today. I wanna marry Him. I want my Ishi. Pray for me.
If that's you, boldly raise your hand right where you're standing, all over this room. Come on. Do it. Be bold. Get that hand up all over this room. There's a hand. There's a hand. There's a hand. There, there. Pastor, I need a change. I'm in the valley of trouble, and I need the door of hope. Pray for me. Raise that hand high and unashamed. Every one of you who raised your hand, I'm gonna ask you to boldly get out of your seat, and walk down that aisle, and stand right down here. I'm gonna lead you in a prayer, and the door of hope, you're gonna find.
Jesus said I am the door, and the door of hope is gonna be discovered in your life today. Here they come. Come on. Here they come. Come on. Here they come. Come on. I feel this, church. I feel this. I feel this. That's awesome. That's awesome. That's awesome. That's it. That's it. That's it. Love is the answer. Forgive. The key to life is giving and forgiving. The key to marriage is giving and forgiving. Giving and forgiving. It's continual. Giving and forgiving. Giving and forgiving. Giving and forgiving. Come on, come on, come on, come on. Get in as close as you can. We're gonna pray. Everybody in this altar, lift your hands toward Heaven and say:
Ishi, I marry you. From this day forward, I receive you as my Lord, Jesus, Yeshua. I call on your name, and I ask you to save me. Cleanse me again. You'll never give up on me. I'm nervous. The reason I haven't responded is I'm afraid I'll go back to it. But I've heard a message today that when I'm weak, you're strong. When I don't have the strength your love comes again, and again, and again. And today, just move me in the right direction, and I'm gonna rely on your love, and I'm gonna rely on your grace. And by your grace, I am free. You didn't save me to put me in religious chains, but you saved me to free me. And I receive freedom from every addiction. From every chain of shame.