October 2008


 

 

A Calling To Make His Salvation Known 

Not only does Jesus call us to walk in his justice, but also to make his salvation known.  He’s calling us to make his salvation known, because by God’s grace we know the Lord of Creation.  Look at Isaiah 42:5, “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.”  In V.1-4, the Lord was speaking about his servant the Messiah and now in V.5-9 he is speaking to his servant.  Before he says anything, the Lord uses four descriptions of himself to build the anticipation for what he is about to say. 

The Lord describes himself as the Creator of the heavens.  The God we serve is the one who made all things.  He made everything we see.  He owns it all.  He describes himself as the one who “stretched them out.”  This Hebrew word נָטָה can be used of someone putting up a tent and stretching it out.  So, the Lord stretches out the entire universe by his power like a tent.  It’s nothing at all for him.  He speaks and it flies into being.  He’s the one who spread out the earth.  Not only does he create life, but he sustains the life of every living creature.  He is the one “who gives breath to the people on it.  Have you ever thought about God like that before?  He is the one giving you breath right now.  Even people who claim there is no God; the Lord is supplying the very breath with which they dishonor him. 

He is the Lord is creation.  And this God has entered into a relationship with all those who trust in Jesus.  We need to be staggered by this.  We know the one who made it all.  Is there any more reason that we need to go make his salvation known?  He is calling us to make his salvation known. 

He is calling us to make his salvation known because we have experienced his redemption.  Redemption is another way of saying being rescued from the slavery of sin.  All true believers in Jesus Christ have experienced this.  Look at Isaiah, 42:6, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.”  So, here the Lord is speaking to his servant, Jesus Christ telling him, he is going to make him to be a covenant and a light. 

A covenant” signifies that the servant will be the means by which people come into a covenant relationship with God.  The Lord of creation around 700 hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ is announcing that he will be the way in which people come into a relationship with God.  Just before Jesus was crucified, the Bible says, in Luke 22:19, 20, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  When Jesus was crucified, he took our sin upon himself and God judged our sin in him, so that Jesus would be the way which our sins could be forgiven and we could have access to God.

The Lord also promises to make Jesus “a light for the nations.”  The person of Jesus Christ shines and beams the glory of God.  Jesus reveals and shows to us what God is like.  But God has made him a covenant and light for a purpose, redemption, Isaiah 42:7 says, “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”  Jesus came and was crucified and resurrected, so that we could see God.  He came so that we could be freed from the dungeons and darkness of our sins.  And now, Jesus is calling us to make his salvation known. 

Notice also the universal nature of the work of God’s servant in these nine verses; look at Isaiah 42:1, 4, and 6.  Think about the grace of God that Jesus would come down into the very world he created to serve sinners who have dishonored him.  What a mission trip!  Jesus came to bring us salvation to set us free.  Jesus is calling us to walk in his justice and make his salvation known.

One of the most powerful experiences I had in Brazil when I was there was the very last night and the last people I shared the gospel of Jesus with.  As I came up to their house, which smaller than most people’s storage sheds, I walked down a little path with weeds growing all around.  There was a small fire burning outside.  We greeted the couple and I went to sit down on an old rusty paint can and the husband, William offered me the only chair they had.  I began to share the gospel, I noticed his wife off to the side with tears streaming down her face.  I shared with them how they could be saved by trusting in Jesus and they both gave their lives to Christ.  What a privilege!

You know, Chris McCandless that April day walked off into the wild following the call of nature, but this lead to his own tragic death.  His life ended in desperation and hopelessness.  But you see Jesus is calling us.  His calling is wild too; it’s dangerous if you’re really listening.  Jesus is calling you.  Jesus is calling you into the wild to walk in his justice and to make his salvation known among the nations!                         

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In 1990, Chris McCandless, a recent college graduate from an affluent suburban family set out on a journey of self-discovery.  He was like many middle class young people in our culture; he was looking for freedom and the experience of adventure. 

So, he set out from Atlanta in his beat up Datsun on an adventure into the unknown.  His car eventually bit the dust in the hot Arizona sun.  In this situation, most would have turned back to the comforts of the suburban lifestyle.  But the more his security was stripped way, the more Chris felt in his element.  He buried his possessions in the sand and burned the last bit of money to his name.  For him this meant the true journey had begun. 

Chris wandered across the western landscape, hiking in national parks, canoeing the Colorado River all the way to Mexico and working odd jobs when he needed a little cash to survive.  His travels also brought him great hardship, living off plain rice for days at a time and he was exposed to the elements continually.  But through it all Chris kept moving on. 

In time, Alaska began to call his name.  To Chris McCandless Alaska was the ultimate destination for the true wanderer.  In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “It might be a very long time before I return south.  If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know you’re a great man.  I now walk into the wild.”  And this is exactly what he did.  He hitchhiked through the Yukon Territory and found himself at the foothills of Mt. McKinley.  And one April morning with snow still on the ground this young man walked off the edge of the world into the wild!

You can’t help when you hear this story to sense the restlessness that was calling Chris McCandless.  Something was calling him away from the comforts of this life.  Something was calling him beyond himself.  He found the answer to this call in a place, Alaska.  But as followers of Jesus, we have heard a call to something greater than ourselves and beyond ourselves and have found the true answer not in a place, but in a person, Jesus Christ, the son of God.   

A Calling to Walk in His Justice

In Isaiah 42:1-4 Jesus is calling us to walk in his justice. The word “justice” is mentioned in V.1, 3, and 4.  It is the key word of this section.             

In order to understand what it means to walk in the justice of Jesus Christ, we need to know what “justice” means in this particular context of Isaiah.  First of all, Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Israel around 740 BC.  He was a preacher to the nation of Israel.  You see, God had chosen the people of Israel from all the nations of the earth to be his own special people.  They were to be the ones through whom the world would know about God.  They were to be the ones through whom salvation from sin would come to the world.  The Creator God rescued them from slavery in Egypt through his servant Moses.  Then Moses led them into the wilderness, where they met the LORD at Mt. Sinai.  It was at this mountain that the LORD entered into a “covenant” with Israel.  By his mercy and grace he took this people and entered into a binding relationship with them.  Moses then went up onto the mountain to receive this covenant.  This is what the book of Deuteronomy is in the Bible. 

So, Isaiah and all the other prophets were preachers of the covenant.  Israel had agreed to follow the LORD with all their hearts and to obey his word, but they had forsaken his ways and Isaiah was proclaiming they had broken the covenant with God.  This is the heart of Isaiah’s message the covenant is broken.

As Isaiah and the other prophets sought to apply the covenant to their life situation and they found new and condensed ways of doing this.  Sometimes this would be a single sentence or phrase or word.  Even, the Ten Commandments upon which the entire covenant is based are condensed version of the whole.  Isaiah therefore, uses different word pairs or phrases to describe this covenant. 

One the word pairs that Isaiah uses to refer to the “covenant” or Ten Commandments or the whole book of Deuteronomy is “righteousness and justice.”  So, “righteousness and justice” is Isaiah’s slang for the “covenant.”  It’s his way of saying “social justice.”  It’s a condensed version.  This can be clearly seen in Isaiah’s portrait of the Messiah throughout the book.  The Messiah would be someone who would truly embody the covenant.  The Messiah would truly reflect the character and glory of God by keeping his law. I am relying heavily here on Dr. Peter Gentry, who has written about this in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

Look at Isaiah 9:6, 7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” 

You may know this passage it is frequently used during Christmas time to refer to the birth of Jesus.  In fact, it is a reference to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  So, the Messiah was going to be a king who would truly live out the law of God, the covenant of God.  Isaiah is using this word pair “righteousness and justice” as an expression for social justice and also as summary of the law of God. 

When we come to Isaiah 42, we see Isaiah’s second presentation of the Messiah.  This time instead of being presented as a king, the Messiah is presented as a servant.  This servant is indeed Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted in Matthew 12, speaking about Jesus Christ.  But here in Isaiah 42, the Servant’s agenda is the same; it is to bring about “social justice” in the earth.  Except now, Isaiah has further shortened the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy down to one word “justice.”  Look at Isaiah 42:1, 3, and 4.  The servant of God, Jesus Christ is going to be the one to do what Israel failed to do, to show the nations what it truly looks like to be human.  Jesus Christ’s mission and calling was to show the world a true reflection of God by keeping the covenant of God.    

Is this not what Jesus did with his life?  Did he not display true justice in the way he lived?  Did he not show us how to truly live?  Did he not demonstrate for us social justice? 

Jesus loved others even those whom the world would write off as outcasts.  Matthew 9:10- 13 says, “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Jesus loved those who society had forgotten about.  Maybe, you think that you’re so far gone that Jesus would never want anything to with you.  Well, this is what Jesus’ specializes in.  There is no sin that he cannot forgive.  There is no life he cannot change.  Even in Isaiah 42:3, Isaiah says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  The idea here is of a reed that is useless and a wick that is almost burnt up.  These types of people Jesus will not break.  There is no life that he cannot salvage.  He will bring justice to them.  He will bring God’s covenant love to them.  He lived for the poor and hurting. 

In June, I went on mission trip to Brazil.  We were working in an invasion, which is basically an area where people have taken over the land and are living in extremely poor situations.  Among the many things we did there that week was to put on a clinic for two days.  We had three doctors and three nurses.  So, for two days, all day long people came to see these doctors.  These people don’t have any medical insurance or way to see the doctor.  We saw around two hundred people and then we paid for all their prescriptions.  This is just one small way were trying to live out the justice of Jesus Christ in Brazil.  There was also a lady we met who had four young boys and was pregnant with the fifth.  They had no place to cook or hardly any space.  So, we paid for them to have a small house built. 

Jesus is calling us to live out his justice.  Not just when we’re on mission trips, but everyday.  This means Jesus is calling us to live out his justice in our relationships with one another.  He’s calling us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  He’s calling us to serve others and to put others before ourselves. This affects how we relate to our family and in dating relationships.  These relationships should be characterized by justice and holiness.  If not then we’re not treating people in a truly just way.  This affects the way we think about every situation in life.  Jesus is calling us to live out his justice on the earth.     

I have posted some sermons, I preached awhile back. You might wonder why I would do this, maybe pride or some other reason? I assure if you listen to them, you’ll see there’s not much to be prideful about 🙂 I am growing in this gift that God has given me. 

One reason I put these here is that I preached several of them through dark times and to hear them and to know what I was experiencing is I hope encouraging not only to me, but I hope to those who listen. I put them here for family and friends and whoever is just curious. I also welcome you criticism or advice. How else can I learn and grow?

With that said there they are. Just click on the “sermons” link on the above 🙂

Satan wants to destroy your life! Especially, if God has called and gifted you to be a leader in the church. What greater wound could he cause to the body of Christ then to bring down one to whom others look to for strength and guidance? When Satan ambushes the unsuspecting servant of Christ, there will be many clinging to him who also go down.

At least this seems to be the case. It seems to be what Peter was getting at, when he was speaking to leaders within the church “So I exhort the elders among you…Likewise, you who are younger…Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:1, 5, 8).

It has been my experience that Satan uses two very powerful temptations after someone has committed sin: 1) after falling into some sin, he tempts us to not believe the gospel and 2) after sinning, he tempts us to quite serving!  It is the second one of these temptations that I want to warn you about and encourage you to fight against with all your might.

It is this temptation that I have went through many times, since God by his grace saved me. When we have sinned against God and dishonored his name, our hearts and minds are flooded with guilt and shame. This is when the lion comes roaring with all his might and growls and snarls at us, telling us “How can you preach or teach about sin, against sin? Look, you suck! You’re a sinner! What right do you have to think you’re better or more spiritual than other people. You better just take some time off to get your life right or better yet just give up all together. You’ll never get back to where you were! You’ll never be able to conquer this sin!”

So what do we do about these temptations?  How should we fight in this situation? This semester at Southern Seminary, I am taking a class on the Puritans and I have recently come across some help in this area. One of our assignments was to read through The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. I would like to share with you some of the helpful things Sibbes says to those who are being tempted to give up on service, because of sin in their lives.

 WE SHOULD PERSIST IN DUTIES

“1. Our hearts of themselves are reluctant to give up their liberty, and are only with difficulty brought under the yoke of duty. The more spiritual the duty is, the more reluctance there is. Corruption gains ground, for the most part, in every neglect. It is as in rowing against the tide, one stroke neglected will not be gained in three; and therefore it is good to keep our hearts close to duty, and not to listen to the excuses they are ready to frame.

2. As we set about duty, God strengthens the influence that he has in us. We find a warmness of heart and increase of strength, the Spirit going along with us and raising us up by degrees, until he leaves us as it were in heaven. God often delights to take advantage of our averseness (Having a feeling of opposition), that he may manifest his work the more clearly, and that all the glory of the work may be his, as all the strength is his.

3. Obedience is most direct when there a nothing else to sweeten the action. Although the sacrifice is imperfect, yet the obedience with which it is offered is accepted.

4. What is won as a spoil from our corruptions will have as great a degree of comfort afterwards as it has of obstruction for the present. Feeling and freeness of spirit are often reserved until duty is discharged. Reward follows work. In and after duty we find that experience of God’s presence which, without obedience, we may long wait for, and yet go without. This does not hinder the Spirit’s freedom in blowing upon our souls when he pleases (John 3:8), for we speak only of such a state of soul as is becalmed and must row, as it were, against the stream. As in sailing the hand must be to the helm and the eye to the star, so here we must put forth that little strength we have to duty and look up for assistance, which the Spirit, as freely as seasonably, will afford.

 

Yet in these duties that require the body as well as the soul there may be a cessation till strength is restored. Whetting a tool does not hinder, but prepares. In sudden passions, also, there should be a time to compose and calm the soul, and to put the strings in tune. The prophet asked for a minstrel to bring his soul into frame (2 Kings 3:15).”      

If your interested in hearing more about Richard Sibbes, pastor Mark Dever gave an excellent lecture at Southern in 2002 for the Gheens Lecture. His topic was “The Evangelical Church, Richard Sibbes and the Sufficiency of the Gospel.” You can listen to it here.