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HELP THE HURTING, SUPPORT THE LAME!
|1. DEALING WITH THE DEVIL|
|2. TELL THEM AND SOME WILL BELIEVE!|
|3. GODLY SERVANTHOOD|
|4. PIERCED FOR OUR INIQUITIES|
|5. FOLLOWING CHRIST|
|6. HELP THE HURTING, SUPPORT THE LAME!|
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DEVIL DELIGHTS IN CONFUSING US
The goal of this paper is to cut through six thousands years of myth and superstition and unravel who the devil is because he delights in confusing us. He delights in trying to get us to not worry about him. The devil, despite popular fiction, is not an impish character that's half goat and half man with horns, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork. He is not simply a force for evil. He is not simply the dark side of humanity. He is not simply something in each one of us that wants to do the wrong thing. Satan is a renegade angel and he is awesome. That is a word we generally use to refer to God. But Satan is awesome compared to humans. He is the most beautiful, the most powerful of all of God's creation. In fact, he had so much influence that one-third of all heaven's angels chose to follow him into rebellion. That does not describe a little guy with a goatee and a forktail. That is not a little, insignificant character made up by human imagination.
IS SATAN IN HELL?
Where is Satan? Our first thought is that he is in hell where he belongs. "No, he is not!" Satan has never been to hell. It is guaranteed he is going there, but he is not there now. In fact, Peter tells us clearly that Satan is roaming the earth as a roaring lion looking for someone whom he can devour. Satan is the unseen power behind distrust in God. Satan is not omnipresent, as God is, but his powerful influence over the world of men is enormous. He cannot be more than one place at a time, but those angels who sided with him are many in number. Their mission, and his, is to overthrow God's people and God's ways from this earth. He wants to bring you down. Many of the things he has placed in this world are designed to do just that, bring you down!
SATAN - A CREATED BEING
Who is he, exactly? First, he is a created being. I want you to recognize this fact. Satan is not God. He is a created being. He is the highest of the created angels. The first creatures God created were beautiful and intelligent beings called angels. Recognize this important fact, God did not create a devil. He made an angel who was corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom. Satan is neither god nor human, he is a renegade angel.
There are only three angels mentioned in Scripture by name. First, there is Gabriel who is associated with the redemptive work of God. He is God's messenger to humans. Then, there is Michael who is the warrior angel who fights with Satan to resist his rebellion. The third one is Lucifer who is described as the most beautiful of all God's creatures. Ezekiel 28 describes him as full of wisdom and beauty from the day he was created. He was not a self-made being. Whatever he had came as gift from God. But his "heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty and [he] corrupted [his] wisdom for the sake of [his] splendor" (verse 17). God had given Lucifer position. He was the highest ranking angel and was the guardian of God's throne. He had enormous power and purpose. But they were not good enough for him. He wanted more. He thought he deserved more.
LUCIFER: SHINING STAR
Isaiah 14:12 calls this being "shining star, son of the morning," or "Morning Star." In Latin these words mean Lucifer. Lucifer was a created being of enormous power, beauty, and intelligence who gazed too long at his own beauty and admired too greatly his own wisdom. Lucifer, the Morning Star, became Satan, the adversary. Satan literally means 'adversary' in Hebrew. He went from being God's trusted guardian to His vile enemy.
Let us learn from Isaiah 14:12-14. These verses tell us what happened to Lucifer. "How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, 'I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God's stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High." Lucifer wanted God's place in the universe. He wanted God's prestige. The respect and honor that God, the sovereign God was getting, he wanted for himself. He wanted God's control over all of creation.
HE WANTED TO BE LIKE ALMIGHTY
Based on his outward beauty and his God-given wisdom, he felt in his heart that he could be like the Almighty. Lucifer was an awesome creature but he lacked the character of God. Lucifer was created without sin but as a creature he did not possess the holy and loving core that God possesses. His outward splendor meant too much to him. In contrast, the Son of God voluntarily laid aside His outward splendor and put on a crown of thorns. Lucifer did not possess this kind of inner greatness. He let his beauty deceive him into thinking he was more than he was. Lucifer became Satan, God's chief adversary.
SELF-CENTERED WILL OF SATAN
Satan's will is always self-centered. God's will is others-centered. God values His own goodness because it overflows into the lives of His creatures. Lucifer valued his splendor because it made him 'better' than anyone else. Satan plans and connives to destroy God's world and attempts to build his own. But God loves His creatures too much to allow Satan to take control. Satan would dominate the universe and would be a despotic king, making all bow before him, ruthlessly punishing all who opposed him. God in contrast is known for His mercy and forgiveness. He does not want any to perish but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Satan will stomp on anyone who stands in his way.
We often interpret other people's motivations by our own motivations. If you're greedy, you cannot understand someone else who will give something up for free that does not try to get something in return. If you are an angry person, you cannot understand someone who is calm and peaceful, who does not get upset over trivial things, who does not get upset every time a personal right is violated. We often interpret others character by our own character and that is how Satan interprets God. Satan could not see God's goodness because he was too busy looking at himself. He led a rebellion against a gracious and wonderful God who only deserved to be honored and praised for all He had done.
WE HAVE RECEIVED WHAT SATAN COULD NOT RECEIVE
Satan lost everything that he had before the rebellion. Understand, God willingly gives His children everything that Satan lost. We are the inheritors of what he gave up. We get a place in heaven. Ephesians tells us that we have been raised up with Christ and will be seated with him in the heavenly realms. We will be given power to serve God and rule the earth. We are given important places in His kingdom. He puts his imprint on our personality and one day we will be like him. All those things that Satan could not have, we have received. God has given these things to us as an inheritance, as a free gift based on the redemptive work of Christ. Can you imagine how it must feel to him? Puny people like you and me getting what he lost, insignificant beings, in his view, getting what he had. When we try to grab the above things for ourselves we fall into the same trap as Lucifer. It is God who enables us to have these abilities and privileges.
What is Satan's agenda? He is working to overthrow the kingdom of God. His strategy is to destroy anything that has to do with God. What do terrorists do? They try to hurt anything that you care about, to inspire fear, to make your life miserable. Satan is doing the same thing. Jesus said it this way, "The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I have come to bring you life and give it in abundance." Satan is after your homes, your marriages, your family, everything that God cares about. Everything God wants to invest His heart and energy into, Satan wants to tear down. The better we understand our adversary, the better we recognize his strategies.
MASTER OF DISGUISE AND DECEPTION
This fallen being is given several names in Scripture that derive there meaning by some role he fulfills or some behavior he enacts. He is called the prince of this world because this is his headquarters. This is his territory. He is called the destroyer because he wants to destroy all that God has designed and all that He loves. He is called the dragon because he is a vicious and ferocious enemy. He is called the deceiver because he is the great con artist. He disguises evil as good. And he is called diablo because he is the father of lies, the father of all lying. Satan is the one who makes something so bad, so dangerous, look good.
Satan is like that hunter who sets bait for bears in order to kill them. This hunter does not mean the bears well. His act of feeding the bears is not a kind act. It is a deceptive act that appears like kindness on the outside but once the motive is known becomes treacherous to the bears. The bears are deceived into thinking that all is well when in reality they are being set up for destruction. Satan attempts to do the same thing to us.
A GOOD FISHERMAN, JUST AS A GOOD HUNTER
Satan is a good fisherman? Satan is an exceptionally good fisherman. I remember as a child in Canada I used to love to go fishing every summer and catch Northern Pike. When fishing for Northern Pike one often uses long shiny spoons. There are red ones, silver ones, gold ones. You throw it into the water and they swivel and shine in the water attracting fish. Let me ask you, "What are the shiny spoons in your life? What is the bait Satan uses in your life? Is it live wiggly things? Is it plastic things? Is it metal things? Is it a net? What does Satan use to attract you? What does Satan use to pull you away from what God has for you?"
THREE THINGS THAT WE CAN DO TO COUNTER SATAN
What should we do? I will give you three things. The first is to smarten up. It may seem harsh for me to tell you to smarten up but the more we know about our adversary the better chance we have of defeating him. You understand what God says in His Word and you say, "OK, I am going to trust that. I am going to start doing things God's way. I tried my own way long enough. I have been my old willful self long enough. It is time to try things differently. I want to smarten up. I want to know what the enemy is doing. I want to understand his tactics. I want to recognize that lure before I feel the pinch of the hook. I want to know the truth in order that I will not be deceived." Do not simply be hearers of the truth, but be doers.
Secondly, we need to suit up. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. Do not let Satan push you around, but stand firm with what God gives you. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist. We need to be clothed in truth, to be surrounded with rightness, with integrity, with clarity. We are to put on the breastplate of righteousness to shield our hearts with rightness. Our feet are to be covered with an attitude of peacefulness that wants to live a life of peace.
Peacemakers are never aggressively hurtful toward others. We are to take up the shield of faith that protects us from the lies of the enemy. We trust that God's ways are indeed the best ways, despite what we see around us or hear from the enemy. We place the helmet of salvation on our head, which protects our thinking from the many assaults it receives each day. We know and use the Word of God that we will never be deceived and as our primary weapon against lies and falsehood. And finally, we are to pray in the spirit on all occasions, praying for all the saints.
We do not simply smarten up and suit up but we also need to team up with God. As you maintain a close communication and connection with Him, you are strengthened. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure. He will give you exactly what you need to survive. Every encounter you have with Him is a true opportunity to win.
A MYTH ABOUT SATAN
I want to dispel one final myth about Satan. I remember Twilight Zone as a kid and seeing the devil trying to get people to sign a contract to sell their soul to him. Any of you remember that? Satan does not do that because he does not have to. You are already under contract to him. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Our hearts are born into that contract. That is bad news, but there is good news.
There is a way to escape from Satan. Just one! By the name of Jesus Christ you are saved. Do not sit condemned under Satan's rule in your life any longer. The only thing you have to do to escape is to accept Jesus Christ and the redeeming work He has accomplished at Calvary and you shall live. Reject Him and you shall die the second death, which is eternal and irrevocable separation from God where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42)-hopeless suffering and pain.
WHAT IS SUCCESSFUL EVANGELISM
Successful evangelism isn't leading someone to the Lord. Successful evangelism is being obedient at scattering the seed. I do not want you to think that you have to be a Billy Graham. You just have to be an obedient servant. Let me tell you about a flashlight I found recently. It was in one of my cabinets. It is a large one. I found it the other day after several months of not using it and when I tried to shine it I discovered it did not work. The light did not come on, not even a faint glow, nothing. I knew that I had put new batteries in it, so I figured the batteries had run out of power. I unscrewed the lid and tried to take out the batteries but they would not come out. I started shaking and shaking and shaking. What a mess! I had battery acid all over the place. Those batteries that I put in were new when I put them in, but now they were badly corroded.
WE ARE NOT DESIGNED TO BE IDLE
Batteries are not designed to be idle. They are designed to be used. I opened up that flashlight and inside it was terribly corroded. There was stuff all over on the inside, the walls, the switches, the springs, the lightbulb, were covered with battery acid and corrosion. The flashlight became useless. Isn't that how we are? God has designed us to be the light of the world. We were not created to be in a safe environment, warm and snuggly. We were designed to cast light amid the darkness.
You and I were created to share God's message of good news to the world. Isaiah 40:1-11 describe that good news centuries before Jesus Christ was born into this world. "Comfort, comfort my people," says God. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for. That she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Verse 3: "A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up and every mountain and hill made low. A rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Verse 6: "A voice says cry out and I said, what shall I cry? All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall but, because the breath of the Lord blows on them, surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord, our God, stands forever." Verse 9: "You who bring tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up and do not be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, here is your God. See the sovereign Lord comes with power and his arm rules for him. See his reward is with him and his recompense accompanies him." Verse 11: "He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms. He carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young."
Look at verses 3-5. In the desert there is dryness, aridness because of a lack of water. Spiritually, there are people in our community who are dry and thirsty who need to be watered. In the wilderness there is aloneness. Many people suffer daily with loneliness. We, like the prophet, can bring God's words of encouragement to them, maybe even bring them some companionship.
Verse 4 says, "Every valley shall be raised and every mountain and hill made low. The rough ground shall become level and the rugged place a plain." For those who are arrogant and haughty this is a warning. God is saying, "I am the sovereign Lord, you are only a human whose heart can stop beating at any time, trust in Me. For those who are lowly in this world, entering into My purposes and plans can give a significance and satisfaction that will last beyond this temporal world."
LOSING SPIRITUAL FOCUS: ECHO THE VOICE OF THE PROPHET
I was reminded the other day of a basketball game I saw in 1987. LSU was playing Indiana. It was the regional semi-finals in the NCAA tournament and LSU was ahead by 8 points. They were milking the clock, focusing on the clock. But what got them 8 points ahead had nothing to do with focusing on the clock, but playing wholeheartedly. One of the announcers saw this and said, "Look, they are no longer playing like they are trying to beat Indiana. They are trying to beat the clock." As they lost their focus, concentrating on the clock, Indiana crept closer and closer. Indiana won the game. Indiana went on to win the national championship. Brothers and sisters, do not lose your spiritual focus. You are in an important 'game', do not focus on the clock. Jesus is coming with justice for the downtrodden and abused. You were created to share. Echo the voice of the prophet.
THE VOICE OF GOD
The second voice in this passage is the voice of God. The Lord cries out, "All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord falls on them. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." As you are sharing with others, communicate this truth--that we are temporal and weak. The things that we focus on, the houses, the cars, the bank accounts, whatever it is, are temporal and destined for destruction. We are all subject to death and judgment. We are powerless to prevent either!
WHAT GRIEVES YOUR HEART? WHAT ARE YOU CRYING OUT AGAINST?
Chuck Colson wrote in his book, The Loving God, about a 4th century Christian monk who lived in a remote village and as he was praying he heard the word of the Lord. He heard God's voice and it said, "Go to Rome." The monk spent weeks traveling to Rome. He arrives just as a festival was starting and follows the crowd into the Coliseum. His heart was full of Christ's love and concern for others. When he saw the gladiators killing each other for the pleasure of the crowd and their own glory, he was grieved and horrified. He went down into the fighting arena and walked over to the gladiators and said, "In the name of Christ, Stop!"
As he said this, one of the gladiators drove his sword into the little man's body. As he collapsed on the Coliseum floor, he shouted again, "In the name of Christ, Stop!" A hush fell over the crowd. One person in the stands got up and made his way to the exit. He was followed by another, then another, and then another. Colson writes, "That day was the last day that people died in that Coliseum for pure entertainment." What are you crying out against? What grieves your heart? That little man made a huge impact because he stood with Christ against injustice and brutality. What are you willing to side with Christ to oppose? Anything?
"You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift up your voice, do not be afraid. Say to the towns of Judah, here is your God. See the sovereign Lord comes with power and his arm rules for him" (verses 9-10). We should do the same thing for our community. We were created to share. If that little monk can look those huge gladiators in the eye and say, "Stop!" then surely you can speak to those God puts in your path.
THE SHEPHERD IS WORTHY OF OUR TRUST!
Verse 11 likens God's role of protector and nurturer to that of a shepherd. It says, "He tends his flock like a shepherd and He gathers them in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those who have young." Does that sound familiar? Psalm 23 comes to my mind. Look at Psalm 23. Let me read the first couple of verses. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul." What did we say would happen? Revival would break out. "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff will comfort me." It's a beautiful picture of the shepherd with his rod and his staff gently guiding and protecting his beloved sheep. This Shepherd is worthy of our trust!
WE ARE CREATED TO SHARE. DO NOT LOSE YOUR BEARINGS
I was reminded recently about a race boat driver who had a racing accident. The racer was traveling at top speed and catches a wave at the right angle and spins out of control. He was thrown out of the boat. In fact, he was going so fast and the angle of trajectory was so steep that he was thrown deep into the ocean water. It threw him down so far that he had no idea which direction he was facing. He said he calmly waited for a few moments so that the buoyancy in his vest could begin to move him in the correct direction. He followed that buoyancy and swam to the surface. Some of us have our lives filled with so many things that when we emotionally and spiritually spin out of control we lose our bearings. We do not know how to escape. We need to learn how to be calm and allow God to protect and direct us.
You were created to share. Echo the words of the prophet and the words of our Lord. Echo the voice of the people. Tell others that their Savior has died and been raised to new life for them. Tell them that forgiveness is available for all who receive the redemptive work of Jesus Christ at Calvary as their own. Tell them and some will believe!
GOD USES EVERYDAY INCIDENTS TO TEACH US
My son, Levi, is about four and a half years old and the little guy has a heart to serve. For example, if during Awana time someone falls and hurts himself, the first thing he wants to do is get his favorite blanket and give it to him to make him feel better. During supper time his inclination, his nature, what he wants to do, is to take the water cups or juice or whatever it is, and take them to the table. He wants to serve. He has the inward desire to serve others and it is really, really neat.
Recently, when I was mowing the lawn something happened that taught me a lesson. God has a way of doing that. He uses everyday incidents to teach us life lessons, if we are willing to listen. When I mow, it's like, "Get out of my way, I've got to mow! I want to get this thing done." But Levi loves to serve. He has a little toy mower and he will literally walk the whole yard with me. We will be mowing and he will stop and wait and I will go past and he will start mowing. He will mow every inch of that yard with me and I know there is going to come a time when he is going to be walking along mowing and he is going to slip between the mower and me and he is going to move my hands out of the way. He is going to grab my mower and he is going to try to push it. On those days that I get real concerned about trying to get the yard done, I am going to have to make a decision, am I going to say, "Get out of my way, kid!"
I can see it now. He is going to have a hold of the mower and I am going to have to come up around him and put my hands on and open my legs and straddle and push the mower. I know if I let go, it's not going to get done. God showed me that our relationship with Him is like my relationship with my son. We want to come alongside of Him and be about the business of the kingdom. We often mess things up, we delay successful outcomes. He does not need us to get the task done. He is about seeking and saving, transforming lost lives. But He is also interested in shaping us. Although God does not need us to fulfill His work, He enjoys co-laboring with us. I want my son to grow up to be a kind, responsible adult. With this goal in mind, I have to be more concerned with his development than I am with 'getting the job done'. God feels the same way about us!
GOD IS IN SUPPORT OF US
Isaiah 42:1-9 are powerful verses that directly tell us that God wants to support our work for Him. The basic theme of Isaiah is found in his name. Isaiah means "salvation is of the Lord." In fact, the book of Isaiah has the word "salvation" in it 26 times. Isaiah is concerned with the theme of salvation beyond the other prophecy books combined. Salvation is a major theme in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah does not view salvation as just something spiritual that will occur in the distant future. Salvation in Isaiah also concerns social, political, and spiritual conditions that are against His truth and ways. Conditions that corrupt. God wants to save His people from the consequences of sin, of an unholy, unrighteous lifestyle. In Isaiah 42:1-9, we see this theme of salvation.
NATURE OF A GODLY SERVANT
We also see the nature of a godly servant. "Here's my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice and he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth and in his lull the islands will put their hope. This is what God, the Lord says, he who created the heavens and stretched them out and spread out the earth and all that comes out of it. Who gives breath to his people and life to those who walk on it. This is what God says. I, the Lord, I have called you in righteousness and I will take your hand, I will keep you and I will make you to be a covenant, a covenant for the people and the light for the Gentiles. To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord. That is my name and I will not give my glory to anyone or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place and now things I declare before they spring into being I announce them to you."
THREE THINGS ABOUT BEING A GODLY SERVANT
This passage in Isaiah 42 teaches us three things about being a godly servant. First, you must portray a servant's character. Look at verses 1-4. He is talking about the coming Messiah and he shows us very clearly the character that the coming Messiah will have. "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight and I will put my spirit on him." Gods' part is very important for us to understand. He is the one that lifts us up in times of difficulty. God said, "I will uphold, I will hold up, my anointed one."
Before God set Himself to create everything, He had a plan that Jesus Christ would come. He would step from out of eternity and into time. His plan also included us, all who will receive His Son as Savior and Lord. Scripture is clear that He chose us before we chose Him. So, if you want to have the character of a godly servant you must be willing to be upheld and supported by God. You must be willing to give God praise and honor above everything and everyone else. You must realize that you cannot do it yourself!
Secondly, the godly servant must focus on the world around him or her. The godly servant in verse 2 (Christ) will promote justice and comfort the weak and hurting. Verse 3 says, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." In gentleness He will comfort and promote justice. He will not falter or be discouraged until he establishes justice on earth. He will persistently pursue justice and deliverance for all who are hurting and willing to listen to His voice. If we want to be godly servants, we will have to follow Jesus' example. We will have to be concerned about others, especially the hurting and downtrodden. The godly servant brings light where there is darkness. The godly servant attempts to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. To free the captives from sin, death, and hell.
Third, a godly servant must respond to His call. Apart from responding to His call, we are shackled to our own weaknesses and spiritual inadequacies. We must possess the call of God in our lives. We must realize that unless God is in something, mere human effort will not yield eternal results. The successful Christian life is not based on mere human effort. It is a partnership. Without the Christian being conscious of God's call in his or her life that Christian will flounder and struggle. God's call involves His general call to a righteous and godly life, behavior that is set apart toward Him, and a specific call to be involved in some activity or profession. Awareness of both calls gives direction and guidance to our lives.
GIVE GLORY TO GOD
If we want to be godly servants, we need to give God the glory for anything that is accomplished spiritually. Our allegiance is to Him. Yea, it's nice to get accolades, "Nice job, nice job," but never forget, a godly servant reflects and portrays the image of the Son. He or she responds to the call, but it is all about Him. We often have our own agenda rather than consider what God wants. The nature of a servant is that the servant is where he is in order to do the will of his master. A servant serves. That is the way it is!
Margaret Fankster Thippen writes about her dad who had a muscular disorder that caused muscular atrophy. Knowing that he was withering away and would not be able to move or even swallow soon, he threw himself into his work as a British minister working with foreign mission homes. At Easter, two weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In the letter he said: "It would be terrible to wake up one Easter morning and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen.' But it would be more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout." He wrote many letters, many books. He believed that because of the disease that afflicted him, he was able to contribute more time to writing and prayer. His work sparked prayer cells all over Europe. Before his death, he was more focused on serving God and working for His kingdom than at any other time in his life. It was then that he bore much fruit.
WE ARE GIFTED TO SOMETHING UNIQUE AND SPECIAL
God has gifted every one of us to do something unique and special. He has created you to work alongside of Him in some special way. To repeat, the first step in following God is developing godly character. Maybe you have responded to His call for godly behavior and you are developing that character. The next step is involving yourself in some ministry or service that glorifies God. He has gifted you to bring Him glory and honor. If we will use those gifts in service to Him, we will bear fruit. We will grow and mature spiritually and others will be benefited as God ministers to them through us.
SEE THE CROSS AS GOD SEES IT!
I have one point to make in this paper. "Christ died for you and you should never take it for granted." We take things for granted when we become accustomed to having them, they become commonplace. We take things for granted when we forget how valuable they are, how much they cost. I want you to see the cross of Christ as God sees it. The cross of Christ is not a mere historical event that occurred 2,000 years ago, it is an event that should color the way you see the world. It is an event that should affect the priorities that govern your life. It is an event that should shape your character and impact your relationships. The cross of Christ is not just an historic event, it is a personal foundation upon which you can build your life.
GOD'S COMMAND TO US
In Isaiah 52, we are commissioned to share the good news to a world that is barraged by bad news. The world of today is a world thirsty for peace, for love, for purpose. In fact, that's the picture, literally, that God paints for us when He commands His people to take the good news to Zion. Zion literally means "parched place." God essentially tells them to go to that parched place and tell the inhabitants that their God reigns and that living water is available.
In Matthew 23 Jesus calls the Pharisees and Scribes hypocrites. Pharisees and Scribes were the religious elite who based their religiosity on memorizing and teaching the law. If anyone should have known about the Messiah Isaiah wrote about, it should have been them. But their unbelief prevented them from accepting the obvious interpretations that pointed to a divine savior, a divine rescuer. Passages such as Isaiah 9:6, where the Messiah is called "mighty God," or Isaiah 53:11b-12, where His work is described as "bearing the sins of many" and suffering "death," are clear. They accepted neither implication. They rejected Jesus because He claimed to be God's literal Son, equal with the Father, and because He predicted that He would die for the sins of Jew and Gentile.
To them, both claims were blasphemous. Instead of seeking God's grace through His provision, they were committed to earning God's favor through keeping the law. Jesus called them hypocrites because they overlooked their own violations of the law. They overvalued themselves and their efforts at self-righteousness and undervalued God's holiness. They wanted God to honor their efforts instead of honoring Him for His.
THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE MESSIAH
Regardless of what they believed, Isaiah is very clear about the nature and work of the Messiah. Isaiah 53:1-12 is remarkably clear and concise in its description of the person and work of the Messiah. As we read this together, ask yourself, How did the Pharisees and Scribes not see the truth about Jesus Christ?
"Who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power? My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins-that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave. But it was the Lord's good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs…. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins…. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners."
THE SAVIOR WILL LITERALLY SUFFER
Combined with Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 clearly describes a savior who will literally suffer and die for the sins of people, Jew and Gentile.
The coming of Christ was a work of God. To convince the world that the cross was actually a work of God, God declared exactly how it would happen. Seven hundred years before that star would rise in Bethlehem, 500 years before Rome would even become a world power, God instructs Isaiah to describe in detail the key events of the cross, to prophesy about the mission and future work of Christ. A prophecy is the future told in advance by God through a prophet. God does this to validate what is happening. Isaiah 48:3-5: "I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.'"
PROPHECIES IN ISAIAH
Following are some prophecies in Isaiah made hundreds of years before they were fulfilled:
GOD COMES TO EARTH AS A MAN
Isaiah 9:6-7: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."
BORN OF A VIRGIN
Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
Mattthew 1:20-23: "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' --which means, "God with us."
FROM THE HOUSE OF JUDAH
Isaiah 37:31: "Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above."
Matthew 1:1-2, 16: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…. and [a later] Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
FROM THE ROOT AND STUMP OF JESSE
Isaiah 11:10: "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious."
Isaiah 11:1-5: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist."
Romans 15:12: "And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.'"
Matthew 1:1-2a, 5-6, 16: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, … Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David…. and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
FROM THE HOUSE OF DAVID
Isaiah 16:5: "In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it--one from the house of David--one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness."
Matthew 1:1-2A, 6, 16: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac,… and Jesse the father of King David…. and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
BE FROM NAZARETH OF GALILEE
Isaiah 9:1-2 : "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan -- The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
Matthew 2:22-23: "But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.'"
Matthew 4:13-16: "Leaving Nazareth, he [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 'Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles -- the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.'"
MISSION WOULD INCLUDE THE GENTILES.
Isaiah 49:6: "He [the Lord] says: 'It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6: "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope. I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles."
Matthew 12:14-21: "But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.'"
MINISTRY WOULD INCLUDE MIRACULOUS HEALINGS
Isaiah 29:18: "In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see."
Isaiah 35:5-6a: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy."
Luke 7:20-22: "When the men came to Jesus, they said, 'John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, 'Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'"
MINISTRY WOULD DELIVER SPIRITUAL CAPTIVES
Isaiah 61:1-2: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn."
Luke 4:16-21: "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'"
DESPISED AND REJECTED BY MEN
Isaiah 53:3: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Isaiah 49:7: "This is what the LORD says-the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'"
John 7:48-49: "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a curse on them."
John 15:24-25: "If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'"
POETRY AND THOUGHT
Hebrew poetry does not rhyme words. It rhymes thoughts. Let me put Isaiah 53:4-5 together for you. It says, "He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities." There are four verbs and four nouns in these verses.
Concerning the verbs, the action is all on Christ's part. Actively, He took up our infirmities and He carried our sorrows. Literally, in Hebrew the words describe taking the handles of a duffle bag that is so overloaded we cannot pick it up. We cannot even slide it on the ground. He picks it up for us and takes it to our destination. What we are too weak to do, He is able to do. His strength is able to move what we cannot budge. Impassively, it continues, "He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities." He is not only strong enough to do what we cannot do, He is willing to endure the pain and penalty while doing it. He was pierced and crushed. Pierced by the spear of the executioner as it was thrust into Him. Pierced by the two-inch thorns woven into a mock crown and then rammed into his skull. He was pierced by the chunks of bone that were tied to the lash that ripped into the muscle of his back and his legs. He was crushed by the metal balls also tied to that lash that would strike him with enough force to break the meat away from the bone like a tenderizer. He was crushed by the club used to batter his face. He was crushed by the weight of the wooden beam lashed to his back.
IT IS OUR PROBLEM, NOT HIS, BUT HE TOOK IT UP!
It is our problem, not His, but He took it up and dealt with it. It is our problem, not His, but He paid the price to resolve it. The four nouns of these verses-infirmities, sorrows, transgressions, and iniquities-tell us something significant about humankind's predicament and the purpose of Christ's work at Calvary. Infirmities and transgressions describe a condition, a state-of-being, of the human heart. Sorrows and infirmities describe the consequences or results of that condition.
There is a spiritual sickness in humankind that prompts us to rise up and shout, "You won't tell me what to do." We have a pride, a stubbornness, a hardness of heart that too often ignores God's commands. Infirmities indicate that we are helpless, by ourselves, to get over it. At times, we want to not be stubborn, we want to not be proud, but it still swells up in us. It rises up when we least expect it. Transgressions indicate that we have willfully violated God's commands for our lives. Humans are prone to seek a direction in life that does not include the true God!
OUR CONDITION IN AMERICA, OUR SPIRITUAL REBELLION
Our spiritual rebellion leads us into trouble. We go our own way and pay a heavy price. Not only are we under the moral condemnation of God, but our inner being and our social conditions are in a constant state of deterioration. A lot of hard work by a lot of spiritually committed people can work to combat social deterioration, but there seems to always be that tendency for corruption and violence. Look at America today!
We have been blessed beyond any other nation but still many persist in turning freedom into license for predatory aggression and self-indulgence. Our tendency toward deterioration leads to sorrows and iniquities. Pains and perversities are literally what sorrows and iniquities mean--hurting ourselves and others and distorting truth and goodness. Calling what is wrong, right. Our rebellious attitude declares that, "I'll do what I want to do. I'll say what I feel like saying even if it destroys my friendships. I'll have sex with whom I want to have sex with even if it means betraying a trust and a commitment to fidelity. I will replace God's design for life for what I see depicted on television. After all, it looks like it is working for them." The results are perversion of family, of marriage, and of our character. This is what is meant in the simple word "sin." Sin is the rebellious attitude that leads to individual sins, selfish acts.
CALVARY AND US
At Calvary He was pierced for our Sin, for our rebellious attitude. Our rebellious attitude stabs at His heart every day. Our selfish acts pile up as a crushing weight against us. We want to avoid blame. We try to deny responsibility. We try to wiggle off the hook of responsibility for Calvary. Calvary is not just where forgiveness can be found but it is where we see God's colossal hatred of our rebellion. It took the innocent and vicious suffering and death of God's own Son to make the way for forgiveness to be possible.
There was no other way! A holy and just God could not, cannot, overlook sin. Nor can He merely decide by His sovereignty to forgive those who make the most religious effort. "After all, He is God, can't He do what He wants?" The answer is "Yes!" He can do what He wants. But recognize that His parameters for decision making are different than yours and mine. His decision making comes from a core that is a perfect harmonization of holiness and love. A mere declaration of pardon based on nothing more than a divine decision is open to criticism. The price for sin must be paid or justice will be violated. Violate justice and you are no longer holy. Based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, God can forgive without violating His holiness. "Yes," God can do what He wants and aren't you glad His love moves Him to want to forgive you and bless your life! Calvary is the result of that love. Without that divine love you have no hope!
THE MEANING OF CALVARY
Calvary was not just about God satisfying His holiness 'requirements'. It was where the depth of His love for humans, and all of creation, shone forth. Does a disinterested sovereign talk like God does in Isaiah 49:16? "I will not forget you. I have engraved your name on the palm of my hand." God is vastly different from any image you have of powerful kings and despots.
This engraving idea goes back to the high priest who was directed by God to take twelve stones and engrave the name of each of the sons of Israel on them and put them into the breastplate of the High Priest who wore it when he went into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer shed blood to atone for the sins of the people (which prefigured Christ at Calvary), that he might bear the names of the sons of Israel that they might be forgiven and spiritually healed. When the soldiers pounded those nails into Jesus hands your name was there. As His spirit left Him in death and blood dripped from His side your name was there. He did it for you, as well as Himself! You were on His mind.
Calvary frees Him to bless your life. Jesus says, "You no longer need that high priest, I am your high priest and I have written your names on the palm of my hand." How then, in light of this, in light of who Christ is and what He's done for us, shall we live? What difference does it make? I tell you to live each day in light of the cross. Do not trample that glorious act of God under your feet by living as if it never happened!
Remember the story of the prodigal son? If we were to flash forward a year and see the relationship between the father and his son, what would we see? What is the son doing a year later? Is that son's attitude any different than it was before he left? Wouldn't it be tragic if we see the son still rebellious toward the father and still wishing that he had his father's money to spend on riotous and self-indulgent living? Wouldn't that be a tragic end to the story? But is not that how many Christians live their christian lives? "Hey," they might say, "I have a ticket to heaven, I am forgiven and so I can do what I want. I can live the way I want because I am taken care of, my sin is forgiven. I am fixed." Are you living that way?
There is another ending to that story. It is where the son realizes how much his father loves him and that he wants to be in the father's presence, to walk with his father, not away from him. Which kind of child are you? Jesus gave us that illustration because we can relate to it on a personal level and he wants us to personally be like the son who says, "I want to be back with you. I do not simply want your blessing, I want your presence in my life. I want your guidance. I am willing to be your son, not a man in rebellion to you."
LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE CROSS
Living in light of the cross means three things. First, we are to take sin seriously. Sin does not go away when we become Christians. We can still rebel against God's plans for our lives. We may accept His forgiveness and recognize His person, but we still want control over our personal lives. Sins can still be part of our character unless we submit to the Father and say, "Lord, I do not want to live that way. Strengthen me, guide me, help me." Sin is still serious. Beware of thinking that because God forgives you can live the way you want. God does not forgive you just because He loves you. That would be like God saying, "It does not really matter, I accept you anyway, you can do what you want."
Divine forgiveness is not cheap. God forgives you because of the cross of Christ. He sent Christ to the cross because of His love for you. But His holiness demanded that justice for sin be paid and He paid that price for you on the cross. He forgives us because His Son took the penalty. Sin is still a problem. He does not wink at it or sweep it under the rug. He does not say, "Well, never mind, it doesn't really matter." Do not continue to pierce the heart of God with your rebellion. God still hates sin. Calvary is the spectacle of that hatred.
We need to regain the conviction of sin. Being under grace, receiving the grace of God does not give you license to sin against God. First Corinthians 6:19 is very clear, it says, "You are not your own, you are bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." With your body, with your life, with your essence, with your strength, with all that you do, honor God. Rather than being abandoned to your old nature and habits, God says, "I have put in you a new nature. You have a choice." He strengthens our hearts and spirits with His spirit so we are no longer slaves to our selfish nature. We can learn to choose to listen and trust His urgings.
GRACE INSPIRES MERCY TOWARD OTHERS
Secondly, His grace should inspire our mercy toward others. His grace should inspire our graciousness. Remember the older brother of the prodigal son. He did not have that characteristic, did he? It was not fair that the father received the son back from such riotous living, he thought. Jesus made it perfectly clear. In the Lord's prayer He said, "Forgive and it shall be forgiven you. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Forgive as you have been forgiven. He says very plainly, "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive their sins, your father will not forgive your sins."
Are you holding any grudges? Are you waiting for your day of revenge and retribution? And maybe you are not going to do anything, but you are thinking, "I am waiting for God to get him. It is only fair. I am not going to do anything to him, but God get him." Don't let that bitterness destroy your heart, because it will. God says, forgive them. Let it go. Has not Christ done enough for you and forgiven you enough that you can let it go? God wants you to experience not simply being forgiven but the joy and restoration that forgiveness can bring in your own life. Micah 6:8 says clearly: "No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Let His grace inspire your mercy, your graciousness, and then walk humbly with Him.
DELIGHT IN WALKING WITH GOD
That leads us to the third point. We are to delight in walking with God. He has good things planned for you, a wonderful adventure ahead. There may be trials, persecutions, and hard times but if you stay by God's side, He will give you rich and wonderful experiences and opportunities to serve Him. A couple years ago I rode a horse into church to teach a spiritual point.
The point of doing it was to show how two different beings could interact together to accomplish great things. To go when God says to go. To stop when God says to stop. To turn when He says to turn, otherwise you are of no use and He will put you out to pasture. Do what God says so He can use you, so He can lead you on wonderful trails, so He can trust you in desperate or difficult situations. Let Him be the master. He knows where to go. He knows what you need. He will care for you every step of the way. Delight in walking His route.
IS GOD ASKING YOU TO DO SOMETHING HARD?
Right now do you feel like God's asking you to do something too hard? "Oh, I don't see anybody else having to do that. Lord, why are you making me do it? Why do you want me to do that?" And we start whining at God. Jesus did not do any whining on the cross. "Oh, they will not really appreciate this anyway. They will just take advantage of it-why do I have to do this, Father?" He stepped to the cross in loving obedience to the Father, trusting Him and you can trust Him as well.
Do you take the cross of Christ for granted? If you do, then you do not see it clearly. The Cross is where the same Person who inspired the angels in Isaiah 6 to shield their eyes and cover their feet out of reverent humility, exchanged His heavenly robe and glorious throne for a crown of thorns and cross made of wood. This One who sat majestically on a heavenly throne only He could sit on was nailed and fasten to a wooden cross previously used to punish thieves and murderers. Live in light of the cross. Live as though it means everything to you. Live as though it was central to all your actions and attitudes. Value it as God the Father values it. To Him it was the central event in the history of the universe, because by this event He will redeem sinners and remake the universe into a place of beauty free from death and destruction. Follow Christ by living in the light of the Cross!
A ROOM WITH FULL OF PEOPLE
It was early in the morning on a Sabbath when bearded men with long robes passed between pillared columns and took their seats in the room. A room that was lit with low-hanging, oil-burning lamps. In the very center of the room was an angled desk atop a low platform and backless benches were arranged on all sides looking toward the center.
A balcony above was filled with women, with wives and daughters of the men occupying the room below and a row of dignified men sat in front of a heavy curtain at the far end of the room. One of them rose from his seat and spoke briefly to several others in the room. Finally, he went over to a carpenter, a young carpenter whose name was Jeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, son of Joseph.
The room was full with many men standing when Jeshua walked up to the raised desk in the middle of the synagogue, the same place where as a thirteen year old boy He stood during His bar mitzvah. The eyes in the room are riveted on His lean form that was even more gaunt than usual because of the recent ordeal He had experienced during a 40-day fast in the wilderness of Judah.
THE SPIRIT OF THE SOVEREIGN LORD
An air of expectation arose in the room as He ascended the rostrum. Sensational rumors had been spreading all over the countryside about Him. The Sabbath appearance in His hometown of Nazareth today might bring something special. The carpenter's strong voice began reciting a series of prayers and then He waited briefly while the Chazzan, the man whose duty it was to carry the heavy scrolls from the cabinet to the rostrum, made his way over to Him. He unrolled the bulky scroll with skill as the crowd waited. He found the passage and lifted His eyes to the congregation and spoke without another look at the scroll. "The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me," He said.
Immediately, puzzled looks were exchanged among the men as they recognized this is not the scheduled reading for the day. Up to that point Jesus had done everything in the synagogue in a customary fashion. But this was unconventional. This was a jarring departure, it was unexpected.
The son of the carpenter was reading from a passage of His own choosing. The ancient words flowed from His mouth, ringing in with new meaning. He finished the passage: "The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then, in surprise and quietness, this carpenter rolled the scroll up and handed it back to the Chazzan and sat down in his seat. He looked around the room at the man and then in the stillness, He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Words that do not mean a lot to us, but it meant everything to them. Jewish bible scholars interpreted this passage as referring to the Messiah. Jesus was telling them, early in His ministry, that He was their Messiah.
JESUS' INAUGURAL SERMON
This sermon in Nazareth was Jesus' inaugural sermon. Scholars agree that Jesus had read something that was not the normal reading for that time. It was not the Haphtarah, the scheduled reading for synagogue worship. In other words, He did something that was almost never done, especially by a layman, especially by a carpenter's son. He chose his own text, a specific text for a specific day, for a specific purpose. Luke (Luke 4:18-19) tells us that He unrolled that scroll until He found that specific text, for the specific purpose of announcing his mission.
WARNINGS AND JUDGMENT
Isaiah is filled with warnings of judgment and sprinkled with promises of hope. In Isaiah 58:1 it says, "Shout it aloud and do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion. To the house of Jacob declare their sins." Then Isaiah 59:1 says, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor his ear too dull to hear." Further down verse 20 adds, "The redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins." These verses promise that God is going to send His redeemer and deal with sin. Then in Isaiah 60:1, we find a promise of how good it is going to be: "Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over all the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you." Hope is coming.
After a Hebrew reads Chapters 58-60 with the general promises for deliverance and divine action, he reads Isaiah 61 that speaks about the One who will come to do the things promised in Chapters 58-60. It was Isaiah 61:1-2a that Jesus read and applied to Himself. "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord's favor has come."
FREEDOM FROM POVERTY AND BONDAGE
That phrase "to tell those who mourn of the Lord's favor" rang in the men's ears. They knew that referred to something the Old Testament calls the year of jubilee. God gave Israel a custom that is interesting.
As I tell you about it, keep in mind what debt has done to many in this country. Every seventh day God called the Sabbath, a special day of rest. It was to be a day of focusing on important things, family relationships, and our relationship with God. Then He gave them another tradition to follow. Every seventh year was also called a Sabbath. The purpose was to give farming land a rest to replenish. They would not farm that land for an entire year. Then after every seventh Sabbath year, or 49 years, the 50th year, a year of jubilee would commence. The year of jubilee was special year. In that year all slaves would be set free.
All men whose poverty had forced them to sell their lands would receive them back. All those who had lost their family members because of slavery or imprisonment, would be reunited with their loved ones. Get the picture. If grandpa, who had to sell his land to pay a debt and then finally himself to provide for his family, he would get to come home in the year of jubilee. His house, his land, his family would be completely restored, a fresh start. God wanted the people of Israel to have their land continually, and to see it distributed to all the people, not just the rich. And so every 50 years it reverted back to its original owners. Families would be reunited and made whole again. It was a reminder of God's grace and forgiveness.
GRASP THE HERITAGE AND CELEBRATE THE JUBILEE!
You can be sure the Israelites looked forward to that time every 50 years, especially those who were poor and oppressed. It was comforting to know that one day all would be forgiven. Can you begin to grasp the heritage and the power of Jesus' selecting Isaiah 61:1-2a to read?
Jesus brought worldwide jubilee, not just for a year, but every year and every day. Israel was waiting for a temporal, temporary jubilee, but Jesus brought an eternal spiritual jubilee, and later will bring new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21-22). Until Christ's blood covers our sin, we are all slaves to sin. Each of us has a debt to God and it is a debt we will never be able to repay. But Jesus proclaimed, "I have come to give you life and abundance. I am the good news. I bring healing, forgiveness, liberty and deliverance. I bring jubilee. Freedom for those who feel controlled. Release for those who feel trapped."
When you call to God in prayer, trusting that Christ paid it all for you and you throw yourself on His mercy and grace, then you receive pardon. Your record is wiped clean, the ledger is marked "paid in full." I hope that is you today. I hope you can call yourself a "paid up" child of God. The year of jubilee freedom is still going on, so spread the good news about it. If it is good news for you, then it is good news to someone else.
A CHURCH DOES NOT EXIST FOR ITS OWN BENEFIT
Jesus defined his purpose at the outset of His ministry and the purpose of the church is to partner with Him in His purpose. The purpose of every local church is to equip believers for worldwide ministry. We are to bring the healing power of Jesus to broken hearts around us. We are to proclaim the power of God over evil. That is the purpose and mission of the church. A church does not exist for its own benefit, but actually for the benefit of others. The leadership of a church is not there just to meet its members' needs, but to show them what they can do to meet the needs of those in their community. Like our master, we are here not simply to be served, but to serve.
ANSWER THE LORD'S CALL TO MINISTRY IN YOUR LIFE
To help you answer the Lord's call to ministry, we want to help you think, not in terms of, how can my church meet my needs and cater to my preferences? But how can my church help me meet my neighbor's needs? Do you see the difference? The longer a church exists, the more likely its resources are used for its own preservation rather than outreach and evangelism. The natural human tendency is to design ministries that meet our own needs. God's tendency is for us to design ministries that meet the needs of a lost world.
Being a Christian defines your stance before God. You have accepted Christ as your personal savior. Being a disciple defines where you are going with God. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. We are called not just to make Christians, but to make disciples. And so our focus is equipping believers for worldwide ministry. That does not mean there will not be Bible studies and Sunday School classes and family fellowship events and youth and children's activities and women's and men's groups, but it does mean that we want to be diligent to ensure that all that we do helps us to achieve our purpose of equipping believers for worldwide ministry.
Most people miss the incredible impact of what Jesus said in the synagogue. After all, there are many texts that Jesus might have taken for his first sermon. He could have stopped a few chapters earlier at 42 and simply read, "Here is my servant whom I will uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I will put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not falter nor be discouraged until he establishes justice on the earth."
But that is not the passage Jesus chose. He chose none of those texts, nor did He choose one of the hundreds of other passages that speak of His coming. Instead He chose a simple one with only 24 Hebrew words in it. Jesus' mission statement made it clear that people are His priority. People who are broken, people who are battered, people who were bruised by the lost world around them. If you look closely at Jesus' purpose statement, you see that it is all about restoring and strengthening people. And that is the church's mission, as well. Our purpose is worldwide ministry. Catch that. Not church ministry. Not church-centered ministry, but ministry that takes Jesus to the streets of your town, of your city, of your country, and finally the streets, hills, and valleys throughout the world.
Presented by Trinity Evangelical Free Church, Eustis, Florida.
HELP THE HURTING, SUPPORT THE LAME! - Lessons from Isaiah | AGENTS OF CHANGE | STRONG DESIRE - A KEY TO RECEIVING GOD'S PROMISE | BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL! AND THANK HIM FOREVER! |LIVING FROM THE HEART | THE PROBLEM OF SPIRITUAL PASSIVITY | JACOB - THE MAN WHO BECAME THE PRINCE OF ISRAEL | SOME NEWS OF INTEREST, AND SOME NEWS FOR CONCERN | IN THE MIDDLE OF ANYWHERE BUT SOMEWHERE | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
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