Archive for August, 2008

Friends,

Here is the latest Skycast. This is from August 24, 2008 and the sermon is from Isaiah 2:1-5. The printed text is found in a separate post here at Life Under the Blue Sky. The sermon is about 25 minutes long and I think we have finally solved our audio problems at the church building. Enjoy and learn well. jerry

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Always for His glory!

Friends,

I’m just about finished with Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity. I was prepared a couple of times to put the book away and be done with it and then I would read the next sentence and it would make sense all over again. Here’s how he begins chapter 8:

If we grant that what the New Testament means by Christianity and being a Christian merely conforms to human ideas and pleases and flatters us as though it were all our own invention and teaching springing up from within ourselves, then there is no problem. There is, however, a ‘but,’ a difficulty, for what the New Testament really means by being a Christian is the very opposite of what is natural to us. It is thus a scandal. We have either to revolt against it or at all costs to find cunning ways of avoiding the problem, such as by the trickery of calling Christianity what is in fact its exact antithesis, and then giving thanks to God for the great favor of being Christians. As Kierkegaard says, nothing displeases or revolts us more than New Testament Christianity when it is properly proclaimed. It can neither win millions of Christians nor bring revenues and earthly profits. Confusion results. If people are to agree, what is proclaimed to them them must be to their taste and must seduce them. Here is the difficulty: it is not at all that of showing that official Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament, but that of showing that New Testament Christianity and what it implies to be a Christian are profoundly disagreeable to us (“Instant,” p. 167). Never–no more today than in the year 30–can Christian revelation please us: in the depths of our hearts Christianity has always been a mortal enemy. History bears witness that in generation after generation there has been a highly respected social class (that of priests) whose task it is to make of Christianity the very opposite of what it really is (p. 240).

Wow.

Friends, here is part three of my series from Isaiah’s Gospel. In this sermon I discuss the inevitability of people being drawn up the moutain of God. What I noticed, and what is ironic, is that the ‘people’ of the nations say, ‘Let us go to the house of the God of Jacob…’ but the ‘house of Jacob’ has to be implored by the prophet (in verse 5) to even walk in His light. This is extreme irony. Why do the people of God seem to miss so abundantly what the ‘peoples’ do not? I will post the audio later in a Skycast. Thanks for stopping by. jerry

1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

 2 In the last days
       the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
       as chief among the mountains;
       it will be raised above the hills,
       and all nations will stream to it.

 3 Many peoples will come and say,
       “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
       to the house of the God of Jacob.
       He will teach us his ways,
       so that we may walk in his paths.”
       The law will go out from Zion,
       the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

 4 He will judge between the nations
       and will settle disputes for many peoples.
       They will beat their swords into plowshares
       and their spears into pruning hooks.
       Nation will not take up sword against nation,
       nor will they train for war anymore.

 5 Come, O house of Jacob,
       let us walk in the light of the LORD.

I think the problem here is that people simply did not believe the prophet. I think the problem we have in our day is that people still do not believe the prophet. He begins chapter 2 the same way he began chapter 1 which leads me to believe that chapters 1 & 2 are somehow intimately linked together. Chapter 1 told us about all the syncretism and idolatry and wasted worship of the people of Israel-the children God had reared, tells us of their soon destruction and rebuke at the hand of God. Hear the Word. Hear the Word. Listen to God. But no. Chapter 2 tells us of the same people, the same prophet, the same God but it doesn’t tell us of the people’s victory, or their redemption, or their restoration. It tells us instead of God’s victory and the establishment of God over and above all idols, gods, and rulers. God will destroy all those hindrances and establish Himself as the only rightful Person to be worshipped. Isaiah 1 tells us of the wayward Israel; Isaiah 2 tells us of the Victorious God. Isaiah 1 tells us of the way things are; Isaiah 2 tells us of the way things will be. The question is, when is the ‘will be’?

In his book Above All Earthly Pow’rs David Wells writes, “The conquest of sin, death, and the devil and the establishment of the Rule of God do not await some future, cataclysmic realization. It has, in fact, already been inaugurated although its presence is quite unobtrusive…Thus it is that, in the period between Christ’s two comings, ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’ coexist. As a result, eschatology, or the penetration of God’s future into the current time of sin and death, is light that floods across a number of New Testament doctrines. Certainly in [doctrines of salvation], everywhere there is the ‘already/not yet’ tension that the present of eternity in time creates-or, more accurately, that the presence of Christ’s victory that is already present amidst fallen human life creates.” (208)

Isaiah said, “In the last days…” By this I am fairly certain he is saying that the establishment of the Lord’s Mountain will not conclude the last days, it will not be the dénouement of the last days, but it will happen in the midst of the last days. Could be that a large part of our problem, a significant reason why we have to be called to ‘walk in the light of the Lord,’ is because we are looking to far away, not close enough, for God’s established mountain. Perhaps when we least expected it the Kingdom came upon us. Isaiah here is saying: In the last Days God will break in and establish his rule. In the last days God’s rule will take effect. In the last days-and there will be many or few days after the establishment-in the last days God will make himself fully known when His mountain is raised above all other mountains and thus renders them insignificant.

I think that time is now. I think that we are living in the last days. I think that the Mountain of God has already been raised up. I think all nations are already streaming to that mountain. It may not seem to be so, as Wells says, it may be unobtrusive. We may not see it fully or completely or realize all of its powerful effect, but it is. Jesus said:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

This Mountain will be established by God. It will render all other mountains insignificant, meaningless. They will appear at once for what they already are: small and lackluster. But if God’s Mountain has been established in these last days, then why is it people don’t see it for what it is? You know what I mean? We humans are strange like that. We settle. God’s mountain is grand, massive, magnificent and we settle for hills and mounds. And why don’t God’s people acknowledge this mountain’s grandeur? Mostly it is the people of God who miss the greatness of the mountain God established.

Why aren’t people streaming to it the way the prophet says they will? I think it is because people don’t like the rather upside down nature of it. People will stream up to the mountain-well, how do we stream up? I think this is God’s way of saying that this Kingdom of heaven will mark a complete reversal of the way things are and of what people expect. People expect ease. People expect gravity and the least resistance. People expect a grand city-and what do they get instead? They get narrow paths. They get against the grain. They get not a city, but an ugly old tree covered dirt and rock mountain. This is a reversal. This is not what people expect. People expect a Kingdom with pomp and glory and sparkles. Instead we have to climb the mountain. But whether we get there or not, the temple of the Lord is there. And his mountain will be established as the only place where worship can rightfully, joyfully, and significantly take place. All other worship, worship on any of the lesser mountains is idolatry and meaningless and, I believe, justly punished.

And this will be for the people too. This is a vision Isaiah had concerning Judah and Jerusalem but he does not stop there. He says this will be for the nations, the people of the world. In other words, worship at the mountain of God is the past, present, and future of all humanity not just of a particular nation. At his Name every knee will bow and every tongue confess. The invitation is extended to all: Come up the mountain, worship the Lord. And it is the people who will respond: Come, let us go the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.

There will be no other gods to speak of. There will be no other mountains of interest. There will be no other places to go.

But Zion, Jerusalem, will have an appeal that is not based on any national identity. The appeal of Zion will be for other reasons. People will be going up to the house of the Lord not because a particular nation has subdued and subjected all of God’s enemies or because they have been exalted by God. Look what the prophet says will be the magnet that draws people to Zion: The Mountain of the LORD, the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us. We may walk in His ways. The Word of the Lord. He will judge. He will settle disputes. He will bring peace. The attraction of Zion is not political or anything particularly appealing about a national identity.

The appeal of Zion is YHWH himself! The appeal of Jerusalem is not Jerusalem, but God! The appeal of the Mountain of the Lord is the Lord. The appeal of Law and Word is that it is God’s Law and Word. The appeal of the peace is that it is God’s peace. The appeal of the justice is that it is God’s justice. You see we are not looking forward to that day or place or that way because of anything inherently wonderful about all that goes along with it. We look forward to that day, to that place, to that mountain because we look forward to God. The people were not going up to enjoy the view, they were going up to meet God. Something tells me that would be enough.

You understand, the reward here is God. Even eternal life, whatever that means, is not so much about eternal or life. It is about God who gives eternal and life and inhabits them both. It is about God being our God and us being his people. It is about the dwelling place of God being among men. Even now, if we take the last days in the temporal sense of their meaning, even now our reward is not eternal life, or blessings now, or hope, but Christ. He is our reward because honestly, what is eternal life if there is no God? What is life now if there is no Christ? Do you understand?

I noted a couple of things here about this going up to the mountain of the Lord. The first thing I noted is that this will be a place or a time or among a people who will honor his Word. It is the Word of the Lord that will prevail in matters of justice and dispute for people. It is the word of the Lord that will govern and dictate the terms of peace we seek. It is the word of the Lord that will end all wars. I wish that we were that people now. Look again. The people who are going up the mountain are hungry for God’s Word, for God’s law, for God’s teaching, for God’s ways. These are people who are no longer content with the unfaithful words and laws of people. These are people who desire something more, something lasting, something real, something permanent. Would that we had such a hunger now.

I also noticed that Isaiah had something to say about war and peace. We live in a world that is full of war and violence. And we have people working around the clock and on every side saying, Peace, Peace. End the War. End violence. Rebuke politicians who start them and send unfortunate sons to fight them. What we don’t realize is the enmity that exists and that because of this enmity wars will be fought and continue to be fought because people are trying to forge peace upon a world that is simply incapable of having peace. Terry Briley noted, “Rather than disarmament resulting in peace, God’s peace will result in disarmament.” But you see war is simply a symptom of enmity. It reveals the real conflict going on in the world.

If the world really, really, really wanted peace, well, here’s the solution: To the Mountain of the Lord. But I think a case can be made that since the world doesn’t seek God the world probably doesn’t really want peace.

So the prophet ends on a rather strange note: Come, house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. Why end here? Well, I think it is because Israel wasn’t currently doing that very thing. Consider this from Deuteronomy 4:5-8:

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Israel had a special obligation to lead the way. But I also sense here the prophet’s frustration with his people. Come house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. In other words, what are you waiting for? The same goes for us. What we learn in these verses is that even now the Worship of God prevails, even now the Word of God prevails, even now the rule of God prevails. So what are you waiting on? What are you waiting for? Why are we lagging behind? Why are we content to linger in the darkness? Why are we content to disregard the light of the Lord for some other false illumination?

If this is how the kingdom of God works, unobtrusively, and this is the current and the future of things-what are we waiting for? Why do we lag behind while others move on ahead of us? Come let us walk in the light of the Lord. He has already given us the light what are we waiting for? Jesus said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself….Then Jesus said, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This past week I posted the following essay at CRN.info. I have been thinking hard on this subject of how the church ‘fits’ into America, the church’s role in politics, etc. I’m not through thinking about this because there is more to it than this simple post. A great help on this subject has been Jacques Ellul’s chapter ‘Political Perversion’ in The Subversion of Christianity. His insights are simply profound, and, I think, on the mark. A great conversation has taken place at CRN in the comments section of the OP. I won’t copy all the comments (except a couple of my own that clarified positions I am taking in the OP), but this post is at least the catalyst for an interesting question.

__________________________

Friends,

I’m supposed to be on hiatus this week as I begin moving into our new house and all, but something at SOL caught my eye this morning and I don’t want to let it pass without a comment or two.

Before I object to something in the post, I want to state upfront that I agree with this statement, “You cannot be a Christian and support the killing of un-born babies.” I am opposed to abortion on demand and the wholesale slaughter of children (even as I am opposed to the wholesale ‘putting away’ of the elderly in nursing homes or white vans owned by Jack Kevorkian). Murder, what the Bible calls enmity in Genesis 3:15 and elsewhere, is a terribly heinous sin and is perpetuated as the seed of the serpent goes about the business of trying to annihilate the seed of the woman. I am not, please note, not disagreeing with this particular point of the OP.

Having said that, I also came across this sentence (this quote is from Dave Daubenmire’s article that the author of Slice excerpted) that sort of bugged me. I’m not posting this because I agree or disagree (although I am leaning towards disagreement) at this point, but rather to stimulate some wholesome thinking and hopefully learn something. Daubemire wrote (admittedly, there is no other context aside from what the author of Slice excerpted, but I think I am not misunderstanding what he is saying):

No wonder we are losing the battle for this nation.

Now here’s my question: Is the battle we are fighting really for ‘this nation’? Is that really the war we are engaged in right now? I have to say, with all due respect, because in this instance I am perfectly willing to learn–that is, I’m not entirely certain of my position–that this doesn’t seem to be true. (I could ask if anyone thinks RW should have been tougher on the abortion issue, but that’s another post.) You see, I think here I agree again with Ellul who wrote this: “The church lets itself be seduced, invaded, dominated by the ease with which it can now spread the Gospel by force (another force than that of God) and use its influence to make the state, too, Christian. It is great acquiescence to the temptation Jesus himself resisted, for when Satan offered to give him all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus refuses, but the church accepts, not realizing from whom it is receiving the kingdoms.” (The Subversion of Christianity, 124)

My point here is that if we are in a ‘battle for this nation’ are we not settling? I mean, is a merely Christian America the goal here? Is that why I wake up and pray every day? Is that why I preach? Is that why I sing? Is it God’s ambition that every business, every corporation, every entity in America, be Christianized? I know, I know: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done…” Yes. But if our vision doesn’t extend beyond the borders of America, are we not selling short the prayer? God’s vision is universal, cosmic, not merely local or national. When we pray, “your Kingdom Come,” does that mean, ‘Your Kingdom come in America?’ as in ’smite all the heretical enemies of America so the truly elect can get on with the business of Eden in America? Is that what Jesus had in mind?

With all due respect to Mr Daubemire, I am not fighting a battle for this nation any more than I am fighting a battle for the community where I live. Mostly I’m fighting a battle within myself (Romans 7) and often I’m losing–more often than I am winning. So my question to you is this: Are we, Christians (or for you good Reformed folks, the Elect), fighting a battle for America? Is that our particular calling at this particular moment in the history of the universe?  Ever? (On a side note, I might ask if RW is really the reason we are ‘losing the battle for America, but again, that’s another post as I don’t happen to think that what goes on at Saddleback is necessarily indicative of what goes on in most churches in America.) And do we really think that abortion is the issue in this battle? It goes back to Genesis 3:15 and the enmity. America is fond of killing in general; we invent ways of doing it; we glamorize it in films and Law and Order reruns; we are obsessed with killing. We have all sorts of reasons for murdering, but they are all murder. Abortion is a symptom and a consequence of the greater problem we have in the world, not a specifically American franchise.

What do you think? Does Ephesians 6 here play any role in this? Is there a battle for the soul of America that Christians are engaged in? (This sounds very political, and I am tres skeptical of the church being involved in politics at any level.) I’ll be interested in reading your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS-please don’t read this and assume that I am either a) pro-abortion or b) anti-America. I am neither.

PPS-shame on Daubemire for laying all this at the feet of RW! Even if we are ‘losing the battle for America,’ it is hardly just to pile that at the feet of one person, especially RW. Fact is, all of us are guilty at some level. All of us bear the shame and responsibility for the sin of this nation.

_____________________

From the comments section.

Someone wrote that Christianity should affect politics even if only residually. I wrote in response:

Christianity cannot affect politics and the laws of the land because the land is not a Christian place and because eventually the land will want to affect the Christianity (see ‘faith-based initiatives’). Rather, I think we should have nothing to do with the land [I explain this below in another response]. We live here. Besides, whose ‘Christianity’ are we going to allow to affect those laws? Shall it be the Christianity of Rod Parsley or Jim Wallis or Jerry Falwell or Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen or Doug Pagitt or Brian McClaren or Jerry Hillyer or Rick Frueh or Ken Silva or Richard Abanes or Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort? And how shall it (Christianity) affect it?

You see the problem? Even in a merely residual way is problematic. I would argue that Christianity (at least one strand of it) has residually (in fact profoundly!) affected our policies towards the Middle East and Israel. I think those policies are horrifying and have yielded horrifying consequences because they are, in effect, based on very, very, very bad pre-millenial, rapture theology. Our blind allegiance to Israel to the detriment of others living there is beyond absurd. And I’m telling you it is based on bad theology. This is exactly what I am talking about in the OP. We (the Redeemed, the Elect) are not building a kingdom of America nor are we fighting a battle for America. And while I don’t think laws should exist to punish Christians or subjugate them (or minorities or others), neither do I think laws should exist which protect us as a special class of people (nor do I think laws should exist to protect any ’special’ class of people, such as women, Muslims, homosexuals, minorities, whites, etc.) Laws ought to be for basic human dignity and freedom–human, I say, because our (the Redeemed, the Elect) freedom is found only, truly in Christ and exists quite apart from the laws that govern the land.

Another person thinks that Christianity has too much of a role in politics. I agreed and wrote:

Frankly, I think politicians spend entirely too much time, money, and energy courting the Christian vote. We would be outraged, as Christians, if they spent as much money courting the atheist vote, or the Muslim vote, or the homosexual vote. It’s almost as if these politicians are running for the high office of the church and not of the land. I wish they would concentrate on running for president and stop with all this fake ‘we care about our Christian values’ crap. Every last one of them is fake beyond imagination. They don’t care about Christ or the church. They care about getting elected.

Finally, concerning whether or not Christians ought to vote, I wrote:

I was thinking about this very thing after I posted my initial response. I mean, if what I have said is true, then perhaps Christians should not vote. But after reading your reply, I thought about it this way: We do not vote because we are Christians specifically or necessarily. We vote because a) it is a civic duty (and Christians are to obey the law except in cases where it places God in a less godlike position) b) we are Americans and can (because people have secured that right for us) and c) we are humans (and we still have to live here like it or not).

We should vote, and I suspect that some people are vocationally called to political positions (i.e. Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah; Nehemiah; and Esther and Joseph among others). But my point is this: Even the positions they take and policies they affirm must be beneficial to humanity generally and not to Christians specifically. Does that make sense my position? (We might argue that Nehemiah used his position to move Artaxerxes, but methinks a strong argument can be made that his was a unique position and his petition a unique petition.)

My point in this last quote is rather simple. I do believe that God protects, what some call, ‘the seed of the woman’. But what I mean by that is this: He will not leave himself without a witness, and, furthermore, the enemy will never successfully destroy God’s people. However, on the other hand, the Scripture also says that God sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means, I think, that God has arranged this earth and its ways so that rain benefits all humans and not a select group of humans specifically.

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to comment on any point.

jerry

Republished courtesy of CRN.info and Analysis

Friends,

This is sermon #2 from a short four part series I did a while back. The sermon series was called ‘A Theology of the Body for the 21st Century.” I wasn’t terribly pleased with the series as a whole, but I did enjoy writing and preaching this sermon on worship. jerry

A Theology of the Body for the 21st Century

Sermon #2: In Praise of the King or

Worship Starts with Seeing God

John 4, 1 Corinthians, Revelation 4-5, Psalm 103, Isaiah 6, Exodus 15

Introduction

David was a man after God’s own heart. David was king over Israel.

David was a man who understood what worship involved.

As we read through the Psalms, the majority of which he wrote, we can sense his understanding of what it means to worship the Lord.

But it was an event that took place near the end of his life that, in my judgment, opens the eyes of all would be worshipers of the Lord.

David had sinned by taking a census of his fighting men. When David had repented he was told by a prophet what to do. From 2 Samuel 24:18-25:

On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.

Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”

Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

David teaches us that worship involves sacrifice-that is, it must cost us something. Worship is freely offered, but it is not free.

In his beautifully written book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places Eugene Peterson says as much, “For a people like us, trained in a culture of getting things done…and taking care of ourselves, sacrifice doesn’t seem at all obvious; neither does it seem attractive.” He quotes from Annie Dillard who wrote in Holy the Firm “A life without sacrifice is an abomination.” Again Peterson writes, “There is only one Gospel way to participate in Jesus’ work-live a sacrificial life in Jesus’ name.”

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We can sing the songs we like, have the best worship leaders the planet has to offer, have the best trained musicians or sing a cappella if we like, but these things will make little difference. Ultimately, worship is how we see God. And the way in which we see God ultimately dictates the manner in which we will come before him. David wrote, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, o God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?” asked the Psalmist David again. “Who may stand in the holy place?” he asked. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (Psalm 24) This is the type of person who may worship the Lord God. What Scripture declares, explicitly and implicitly, by example and by metaphor, is that when it comes to worship the thing that matters the most is the heart of the person worship not the style of the worship being offered.

Not every style appeals to every heart. It does not have to.

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But you see that’s not where we live. Worship is not fashionable. Says Charles Colson, “True worship…is radically countercultural, being directed not towards self but God.” That’s not where we live.

Writes Richard Neuhaus, “The celebration we call worship has less to do with the satisfaction or the pursuit of happiness than with the abandonment of the pursuit of happiness.” But that’s not where we live.

It is not such an attitude that makes up the majority of American culture today. We live in a land where hero worship is in the flavor of the day. We live in a land where we worship the self.

Quoth Jesus, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

Many worship. John wrote in Revelation that all inhabitants of the earth will worship the Beast-all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Paul wrote that someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

From here on, I would like to share with you seven thoughts from the Scripture concerning worship. To be sure, I am leaving out a bunch of thoughts. And I don’t think these seven thoughts are in any way comprehensive. I do think they are representative of that attitude the Bible says a true worshiper of God will have.

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First, Worship is our response to God’s salvation acts. What response should we make when we consider what God has done for us?

Israel had just been brought out of captivity. They had just been brought out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt. “That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.”

What was the first thing Moses did? Throw a party for himself? Throw a party for Israel? Get a plaque declaring himself a hero or starting up a charitable, tax-deductible fund in his and Aaron’s and Miriam’s names? No. The first thing Moses did, in response to God’s salvation was worship. “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord.”

Eugene Peterson writes, “What is true for Israel is true for us: a people immersed in salvation-determined history in which we maintain a believing, participating, involvement by worship the God of history.” Worship is our response. When Thomas saw the resurrected Jesus for the first time, his response was worship: “My Lord, and my God.”

_________________________________ Continue Reading »

Friends,

Today’s quote builds on the Crucifixion Driven Life theme I began a couple of days ago. Today’s quote is from James Montegomery Boice:

The Centrality of the Cross by James Montgomery Boice

…if the death of Christ on the cross is the true meaning of the Incarnation, then there is no gospel without the cross. Christmas by itself is no gospel. The life of Christ is no gospel. Even the resurrection, important as it is in the total scheme of things, is no gospel by itself. For the good news is not just that God became man, nor that God has spoken to reveal a proper way of life for us, or even that death, the great enemy, is conquered. Rather, the good news is that sin has been dealt with (of which the resurrection is a proof); that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in him can look forward to heaven. …Emulation of Christ’s life and teaching is possible only to those who enter into a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus as their substitute. The resurrection is not merely a victory over death (though it is that) but a proof that the atonement was a satisfactory atonement in the sight of the Father (Rom 4:25); and that death, the result of sin, is abolished on that basis.

What a beautiful thought. Praise God for his victory in Christ!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I’ve been doing these little posts for a while–I think this would be the third (haha)–alerting you to blogs on the web that are worth the time and effort. Well today is another such day.

You know that I write for a blog called CRN.info, a blog dedicated to the proposition that God’s grace is a lot bigger than our theological differences. I have made some great friends over there, but sadly I have not taken a lot of time to promote the individual blogs of the other writers. Today I will begin to rectify that by pointing the blog of a friend of mine named Tim Reed. Tim has taken a few hits on the blogging chin lately and I thought perhaps it would be a good time to encourage him by writing some positive thoughts about his blog and his work.

Tim’s blog is called Church Voices and he shares this blog with a couple of other writers. Tim is the preaching minister of the Owosso Church of Christ in Owosso, Michigan (a fine Michigan community up the road from where I went to school in Lansing, Michigan.) If you are up that way, you should give Tim a visit and worship with the congregation he serves. Tim has a mirror site called Sermons from Tim Reed where you can, surprise, surprise, listen to audio of Tim’s sermons.

To get you started with Tim, here’s a sample from a post he titled, “Pray Like a Tax Collector.” Commenting on Luke 18:13-14, Tim writes,

This has always been one of my favorite pieces of scriptures. What makes it so incredible is the gospel colliding with real life (or at least as real as a parable is). Its one thing to dispassionately state that even the most wretched sinner on earth goes away justified solely on the mercy of God. Whenever I meditate on this passage I always ask myself this question: When I pray do I approach the throne of grace with the humility of someone who does so only because of the mercy of God?

I don’t suspect that you will always agree with everything Tim writes or with the manner in which he writes it. But neither do I think that matters. What matters is that Tim belongs to Jesus and loves to write about Him, live for Him, and share Him with others. I think you will enjoy Tim’s blog.

jerry

Friends,

Back in 2006 I preached a series of sermons I called ‘The Crucifixion Driven Life.’ This was my take on the popular 40 Days of Purpose that everyone was raving about at the time. We did the 40 Days of Purpose in my congregation and it was not quite as fun as I had hoped. Anyhow, shortly after we did the program I became very disillusioned with the nature of the program and shortly thereafter abandoned any hint that I had participated in the program. The main problem I had was that while there are a lot of good ideas in the program itself, the manner in which Scripture was used to arrive at those points was rather frustrating and disconcerting. Not only that, but it was the first time in my life I ever used sermon outlines that I had not prepared myself. I wrote my own sermons, but I built them around the 40 Days outlines. I am offering this as a public confession.

Anyhow, I’d like to use this blog for a couple of weeks to start publishing the majority of what I learned during the course of the 10 weeks that I preached on this subject. What I learned was simply amazing and thoroughly revolutionized my faith. What the Scripture says about the nature of what I have called the Crucifixion Driven Life is, beyond doubt, stunning. And what is more is that it stands in stark contrast with the American Driven Life of much of Western Christendom.

So I will be posting here, over the next couple of weeks or so, much of the material that I wrote, collected, and preached during this sermon series. I have quotes and sermons and I will also be including a few Skycasts–mp3’s of the sermons I preached. (Also, as with the sermons on Daniel posted last week, I will upload these sermons and Powerpoint presentations to my box.net account. This can be accessed from the widget on the left sidebar or via the links I provide.

This first quote is from one of my favorite writers and preachers, DA Carson. This particular quote is culled from his book The Cross and Christian Ministry:

What it means to be ‘spiritual’ is profoundly tied to the cross, and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, this passage, is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit—and this means understanding and appropriating the message of the cross, ‘God’s secret wisdom.’…The Spiritual person is simply a believer, one who has closed with the message of the cross. In deed, those who are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme standard of personal self-denial….[U]ltimately wisdom is from the world and is opposed by God, or it is God-given and tied to the cross. There is no middle ground. Those who try to create some middle ground by imitating the Corinthians—who confessed the Jesus of the cross but whose hearts were constantly drawn to one or another of the public philosophy and values of the day—will gain nothing but the rebuke of Scripture.—ibid., 62

Here is another quote from Carson from the same book:

Paul is not so naïve as to think that every Christian should, ideally, suffer the same amount. In fact, in one passage he testifies to his willingness to take on a disproportionate share of suffering, so that others might be relieved. But what is at stake, for Paul, is a fundamental stance, a way of looking at things…We follow a Crucified Messiah.All the eschatological promises regarding the new heaven and the new earth, all the blessings of sins forgiven and of the blessed Spirit of God, do not negate the fact that the good news we present focuses on the foolishness of Christ crucified. And that message simply cannot be effectively communicated from the haughty position of the trumphalist’s condescension. Until the end of the age, we will take up our cross—that is, we will die to self-interest daily—and follow Jesus. The less any society knows of that way, the more foolish we will seem and the more suffering we will endure. So be it; there is no other way of following Jesus.—ibid., 107-108

I’ll post a little more later as time allows. Enjoy these quotes, there’s much more to come.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Here is the latest Skycast. This audio is about 25 minutes long and is the second sermon in a series I am preaching from Isaiah. I published the print version on this blog last week and it is below. (The print version of the current will be available at my box.net widget on the side bar.) This sermon looks at four ‘words’ that the Lord had for his people Israel (Judah) before they were to be taken into captivity. I believe the hope was that perhaps they would get the hint and take action. Obviously, they didn’t. Well, what would he say to the church today? Better, what has he already said to the church in the person of Jesus of Nazareth? That is what I am exploring in this Skycast.

Listen here: Isaiah’s Call for Spiritual Reformation: Hearing God.

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Other download options are available at archive.org.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

For those of you who happen to preach or teach and need some extra help in preparation you might find this post helpful. All of the files below are found at box.net and are available for access either by going to the box.net widget below or by clicking the links in this post. The sermons are from the book of Daniel and each one is a full manuscript. I preach expository sermons. I have also including the corresponding Powerpoint presentations when one is available. They can also be downloaded from box.net. If you are some who enjoys reading, these sermons are highly readable. Each sermon reads the entire chapter the sermon is based on and also includes many other Scripture references too. I think you will find these sermons very encouraging and helpful. Later when time proves less of an issue, I will also post them at SermonCentral.com. jerry

Part 1: The Church in Exile, various Scriptures

Part 2: The Providence of God Towards His own Ends, Daniel 1:1-21 PPT

Part 3: The Unshakable Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:1-49 PPT

Part 4: The Unshakable Disciples, Daniel 3:1-30, PPT

Part 5: Shaking the Shakable, Daniel 4:1-37, PPT

Part 6: The Once and Future History of Babylon the Great, Daniel 5:1-30

Part 7: When We Have No One Else to Cling To, Daniel 6:1-28, PPT

Part 8: The Kingdoms of Man and the Kingdom of God, pt 1, Daniel 7:1-28, PPT

Part 9: The Kingdoms of Man and the Kingdom of God, pt 2, Daniel 7:1-28, PPT

Part 10: That Hideous Strength, Daniel 8:1-27, PPT

Part 11: The Prayers We Pray & The Answers to the Prayers We Pray, Daniel 9:1-27

Part 12: Concerning the Great War and The End, Daniel 10:1-11:45

Part 13: The End of Daniel’s Gospel: The Resurrection of the Saints, Daniel 12:1-13

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is the text of a sermon I preached on Resurrection Sunday in 2007. It’s a very personal reflection on suffering. 2007 was a difficult year for me physically as I have never been to as many doctors, taken so many prescriptions, and told my health history so many times as I did last year. When it was all said and done, I still have no answers to what was going on inside of my body or why I felt the way I did. I will say that it totally wrecked whatever confidence I may have had in doctors. Chiropractic, cardiology, ENT, General Practice, Urologist–not one of them could figure out what was ailing me. Waste of time and money is what it was. Anyhow, this is the manuscript from Resurrection Sunday 2007.

Resurrection Sunday, April 8, 2007

Thoughts on the Resurrection Life

Various Scriptures

 Introduction

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”—Romans 6:5, NIV

__________________

I spent the better part of Holy Week lying prostrate on a green, old, cushion-worn couch that sits on the hard, cold wooden floors of my 100 some year old house. For a few hours of the holy week I laid on a cold, plastic hospital gurney in an Emergency Room. For a few minutes I laid on the floor of my study at the Church building. I also spent several hours lying on the not too uninviting bathroom floor in front of the toilet in my house. For some reason, and I don’t know why, but when I am sick, lying on the bathroom floor brings me considerable comfort. I also spent some time in the back of an ambulance, in my bed, in a doctor’s office, hunched over behind a small pulpit, in an emergency room lobby, and in my pajamas.

I did not get a lot of work done this week. I felt rather worthless and guilty. Here it is the most important week on the church calendar, by far, and there I lay: on a couch, on the linoleum, on the carpet, on the bed, on the plastic. I felt ridiculous, absurd, and more than once, like a complete waste of time, a non-benefit to humanity. How can I just lay here? I have to get something done, there are people who are depending on me and the work I do every day.

When I was not writhing in godly pain, I was too tired to read or stay awake. Television lost its distracting benefit after about 5 minutes—and besides, who can sit through more than 2 minutes of Maury? When I did manage to fall asleep the dogs or the phone managed to cut it more than short. When none of this worked, I was twisted and wrenched in a pain that has been described to me in words that range somewhere between equal to and worse than giving birth to a fully gestated human being. I care not to experience either one either again or at all. They say a woman soon forgets childbirth; I wish I could forget what I experienced but for some reason the memories linger on even today. Residual pain from all the work the muscles did over a period of 5 days trying to expel a small stone only slightly larger than a mustard seed.

When the pain came upon me I had a few options at my disposal. First, I could take pain medication. Vicadin is what the ER Doctor prescribed. He may as well have given me M & M’s. Alternately, I could lay there, or stand, or walk, or roll around on the floor like a dog with fleas, or jerk, or shake my limbs as if I had been slain in the spirit. There was also the possibility that I could assuage my pain with a hot water bottle or with the nicely microwave heated bag of field corn that Mrs. S. loaned to me. I could drink water or cranberry juice. There was, surprisingly, the option of going upstairs to the bathroom and taking a long scalding hot shower. The doctor I saw Friday told me this relaxed the muscles and reduced their contractions. This worked well until I drained the hot water tank. It worked 3 or 4 times over the course of a couple of days. I could also spend as much time as I liked saying, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Water, water everywhere…

Well, mine was no crucifixion, but it may as well have been because insofar as pain is concerned, I was being crucified. And I make no apologies for thinking such. Pain is pain and hurt is hurt. In my heart I believed, because the pain was so great, the stress so un-mitigating, and the fear so unnerving, that I was dying.

________________

What a way to spend this most Holy week on the Christian calendar. Surely, I guess, I should have been ‘out there’ among the masses. I should have been conducting Holy Wednesday services, Maundy Thursday Services, Good Friday Services, Sabbath Services and finally Sunrise & Resurrection Services. And each of those services should have been something original, inventive, unique and entertaining—something causing us deep emotional stirrings. But there I lay, on my couch, barely able to lift my eyes let alone my bible or my pen.

I couldn’t even go to school where I believe I have a very serious, real-life, real-time ministry to the masses. But the one day I tried to go, Wednesday, I walked in, grimacing in pain, and walked out, hunched over like Quasimodo barely able to control the nausea rising up inside my esophagus, shamed because I was hurting so badly, embarrassed because I could not stay and discharge my responsibilities in the lunch room, humiliated because I had to make such a confession to a room full of older ladies. There I was: young, vigorous, strong, healthy young man, as weak as a baby, helpless as a cripple, weaker than an old woman.

What a way to spend the Holiest Week on the Christian calendar. Unable to do anything but lay on the couch, in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, succored by a hot water bottle, crippled with an unquenchable pain that incapacitated me. I could do nothing. The medication didn’t work. I could barely smile. If I received five minutes of relief I suffered for 5 hours for it.

Continue Reading »

Friends,

This is a rather lengthy text from a sermon I preached in January 2007. It was the introductory sermon I preached in a series of sermons from the book of Daniel. I have also uploaded it to box.net if you would prefer the .doc version. jerry

The Church in Exile, pt 1

The People of God will Go Into Exile

Grounding Text: Jeremiah 25:1-14

1 The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 2 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years-from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day-the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

4 And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. 5 They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” 7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the LORD, “and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

8 Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

*  *  *

We are beginning a new series of sermons today. It is a series from the book of Daniel, but before we get to Daniel’s book next week or even this week, we need to do some preliminary investigation and background work. Daniel’s book is a book about Israel in captivity, in exile. It is a not a pleasant story to read. It is not a mere children’s story. People being thrown into fires, people being thrown into lions’ dens, wars without end, ghost-hands writing on walls, and people getting sick are not normally the things that make up children’s stories.

Daniel is a difficult story to read, but I don’t mean difficult to understand, or comprehend. What I mean is this: If Daniel is reckoned as a canonical book that is inspired of the Holy Spirit and is thus binding upon the church for it’s theological content and practice of faith, then the message of Daniel is not only relevant and timely but it is also a terrible reminder of just how powerful is the Lord God whose Spirit inspired the book.
 
But, on the other hand, it is a magnificent book of just how powerful and mighty is the Lord God whose Son is attested to in the book. We encounter a majestic Lord in this book. One who is not given to really care too much what man thinks unless man thinks in the wrong way as in the case of Nebudchadnezzer or Belshazzar or any of the other kings we will encounter who think they are unshakeable, unbreakable and invincible. God proves over and over again to these malcontents that this universe is His and that He will not be wished away or disregarded. The Book of Daniel is the story of a God who will not be pushed away from the center to the periphery. It is the story of a God who is control and who, in spite of appearances, protects his people. 

We shall learn about this God over the course of the next several weeks. We will travel all through the 12 chapters that make up Daniel’s book. And, in that course, we will read every word from the book. Some might think that is uneccesary, but Daniel is a book of the canonical Bible and as such it is a part of a larger narrative of God’s purposes and plans for this world. In it we learn far more about the nature and actions of God than we do of man-even though man plays a prominent role in the story. We learn about God’s plans for this world and for the people who inhabit it. We get a peak into why God does what he does and the means he uses to bring about his purposes. Scary as it sounds, God used Babylon to bring judgment on Israel, but he also used Israel to redeem Babylon. It is an amazing story that I believe needs to be read in complete context-not only within itself, but also within the greater biblical narrative.

So to begin our series on Daniel’s Gospel, I would like us to travel to the book of 2 Kings and read a few selections from that book to set the context of Daniel’s book. I will read these selections without commentary or any detail analysis. Furthermore, there will only be the barest minimum of application. Here they are, unfiltered, uncut, in the raw.

Continue Reading »

Friends,

Happier news could not have come our way today from the world of NASCAR (which basically sucks at this point in history for any number of reasons including, but not limited to, 1) Kyle Busch winning 2) Toyota 3) Kyle Busch winning in a Toyota 4) hardly any non-cable coverage). But, in an unprecedented move, NASCAR is bringing back the Southern 500. Said Chris Browning, president of Darlington Raceway:

“I wanted to get back to that name, because our whole image and our whole brand and who we are is built on history and tradition,” he said. “That name is synonymous with Darlington Raceway. Four years ago, it didn’t seem right to make that change. We were on a new date, there was a lot of stuff going on. Now I feel very good about the position Darlington’s in. With our four straight sellouts, the way the capital improvements have gone, everything has gone really well. Next year is a milestone year for us, being our 60th anniversary of racing. It was just perfect timing.”

Now If Jeff Gordon can just win a race all will be well.

jerry

Friends,

This is the text of last Sunday’s sermon. I have been reading and re-reading Isaiah’s sermons since June 23 of this year. The depth is overwhelming. What struck me though is where he chose to begin his sermons (or, at least what his editors chose as the first sermon in this collection). The first complaint is that Israel (Judah) does not know her God. Everything else, chapters 1:4-66:24 follows this announcement that the people to whom God has revealed himself do not know Him–at all. If the church accepts Isaiah as canonical and thus must make application of his words to the church, then he is also saying the church does not know God either. This has to change.–jerry

Isaiah 1:1-31: Knowing God: Isaiah’s Call For Reformation

 Introduction

 2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.

3 The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”

Several years ago, DA Carson wrote a book on prayer he titled A Call to Spiritual Reformation. It is 230 pages of very heavy theology and exegesis concerning they why and what of prayer. In order to introduce his subject matter, he spends several pages surveying the landscape and investigating several things that the church, Christians in general, are missing or needing.

In fact, his first chapter is titled “The Urgent Need of the Church.”

Well, there are a lot of things he surmises the church needs.

  • Personal morality-holiness. “Our culture,” he writes, “is heating up and destroying us.” But this is not our greatest need.
  • Perhaps it is a need for a ‘combination of integrity and generosity in the financial arena.’ Nope, that’s not it either.
  • Could it be that we need more evangelism and church planting? But Carson writes, “evangelism-at least the evangelism that has dominated much of the Western world-does not seem powerful enough to address our declension.”
  • Perhaps, he suggests, we need more disciplined, biblical thinking.
  • Then again we could need vital corporate worship. The need to be involved in politics and policy making also ring bells.

But none of these things ranks high on Carson’s list of things that the church needs in order for spiritual reformation to take place. Instead, Carson writes this:

There is a sense in which these urgent needs are merely symptomatic of a far more serious lack. The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs-and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what he is like, what he expects of us, what he seeks in us. We are not captured by his holiness and his love; his thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.

In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him. (15-16)

I sense this is a great problem we are facing in the Church still. The pressure is felt more acutely in some ways and places. There’s always the pressure of keeping up with the church down the road and sometimes, in some churches, that pressure causes great compromise in the way things are done and the things that are said.

I sense that this lack of knowledge of God is still the main problem we face. Oh, I don’t mean the simple lack of knowledge as in facts and figures-although that is a problem too. But the fact is that Carson is right! We spend so much time on the extra-curricular nonsense that really fail to get at the heart of God. His solution is, of course, that we should be praying.

As I read through Isaiah 1, several times since June 23, I noticed that these words preface the entire book of Isaiah: I reared up children, but they rebelled; my people do not know me. What a sad, sad state of affairs this is. To bring this into our own context, I would ask: Do we know our God?

I don’t mean: Do you know God in the sense of, ‘have you heard of God?’ I mean, do you really, deeply, truly know him? Do you have inside of you a unquenchable hunger and thirst for God? Do you seek first His Kingdom and righteousness? Is he your first and last thought each day? Can you say with the apostle, “I want to know Christ-yes the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”?

Paul wrote to the Colossian Church:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

But he also said something like this:

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34″Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35″Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Or according to the Westminister Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. In other words: to know him!

But the Israelites didn’t know God. They didn’t make time to know him. What then of all that follows in chapter 1:4-23? It is my contention that these things Isaiah talks about in those verses are not the reasons why Israel did not know God but rather these are the consequences of Israel not knowing God. And you can see that it was a rather dreary list of consequences.

Let’s look at them ever so briefly.

  • Verses 5-6: There was a great deal of physical suffering among the people. Beating. Wounds. Welts. From top to bottom, there was no soothing their wounds. How much of our suffering is because we really do not know God?
  • Verses 7-9: They were economically and socially falling apart. They were desolate and their cities laid waste.
  • Verses 10-17: This is probably the most damning of all the consequences: Their worship of God was meaningless. But listen, how can we worship the true God in any meaningful way if we don’t know the God we are worshiping? How can we understand and know what he prescribes if we have spent no time in his presence? If we have not gone out of our way to be involved with him, to walk with him, to know him…how can we properly worship? Oh, don’t make this mistake: They had all the forms right. They knew the right moves, the right steps. They had all the motions down pat, but there was no meaning to any of it. Any of us can go through the motions. Here’s the trick: Do you go away from worship sometimes feeling like you have just gone through the motions? Do you ever have a sense that things are just not right? I suspect that the days when we feel that way it is because we have settled for mere ceremony and motions instead of moving from a hunger for God. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, they will be filled.
  • Verses 18-20: They were a people who paraded their sins around. Scarlet, or deep red, is not a color easily missed. They were stained greatly with sin because they didn’t walk with the Lord.
  • Verses 21-23: Look at all the rest. There was no justice and they tolerated murderers-those who defile the image of God by destroying those made in His image. Their offerings were worthless. They were cheats-watering down water. Their silver was impure. And they tolerated rulers among them who would do nothing about any of this. Do you think we have leaders among us, do you think we tolerate leaders-and I remind you that the prophet here is talking about God’s people and that if this is so then he is also talking to the church!-do you think we tolerate leaders among us who look like these ones Isaiah is saying they tolerated? I think we do and I think the reason so many in the church tolerate these shameless, greedy rebels among them is because, again sadly, they do not know God.

This was quite a fix these Israelites had gotten themselves into through the years. It is a rather embarrassing fix, to be sure. But God did not turn his eye blind or his ear deaf to it. I think it would be easy to assume that the God of the Old Testament is angry and filled with rage, but that is simply not the picture I see: Scattered throughout Isaiah, over and over again, are these little advance signs-little pictures of grace and hope. We see the same in chapter 1. God does not turn an eye blind to the unscrupulous, recalcitrant, rebellious human: Instead, he enters into it and sets about fixing the disaster we create.

We are good at rebelling and creating messes. God is better at repairing completely what we wreck.

He will purify his people. He will restore justice. He will avenge himself against his enemies. He will deliver Zion. He will take away their faithlessness and shame. The prostituted, Sodom and Gomorrah will once again become the City of Righteousness and the Faithful City! God is going to set straight all the crookedness. God will return the City to its state of purity and righteousness and glory; a place where He can put His Name.

You see this was about God’s glory too. The people suffered mightily, yes, but also I think God suffered. The city on the hill, the people of God, the light of the world had become little better than Sodom and Gomorrah, little better than a prostitute, less than barnyard animals, the scorn of the nations, a habit for murderers and disgrace and idolatry. The people to whom God had revealed himself did not know God and, as a result, no one else did either. There are mighty consequences that ripple throughout the land when those who should know God fail to do that very first, primary thing.

I’m glad Isaiah began where he did, that is, by pointing out that what he said had an historical context during the reigns of four different kings. What this tells me is very simple: These kings who were supposed to be the guardians of God’s Name among the people had failed. They had allowed the nation to slide, run headlong, into this decrepit state. What this tells me is that we cannot count on kings and leaders to do what must be done; it also tells me that these men could do very little to revive Israel and get them out of the funk they were in. This is exactly why the end of the chapter says, over and over again, “I will…I will…I will…I will…I will…” and all of the ‘I’s’ refer to God.

You see we have this problem: We don’t know the God who has made himself known. And it is going to take nothing short of his intervention, again, to get us fixed. And he did just that: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son. How did God do all these things spoken of by Isaiah? He sent Jesus of Nazareth who announced the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, with power. He began to turn people’s hearts back to God. It was through Jesus that God began to undo all the stupidity of man.

On the other hand, we learn what the church is to be like also. We are people who are to know God. When we know God-when we truly, deeply, know God-when He is our daily pursuit-then everything else will fall into place. Suffering minimized. Faithfulness accentuated. Worship made meaningful because we know whom we are worshiping. Sin cleansed because there is no sin among us. Not tolerating corrupted leadership. A place of righteousness. You see, when we learn about who God is, and what God expects, then we begin to understand who and what God expects us to be.

So the question I leave you with today is this: What is your daily pursuit? What is your daily ambition? Are you seeking first God? If God called court right now: Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! What would God say about us? Would he say we are people who know Him? Or would he say we are people who do not understand? I guess a lot of that has to do with what we want Him to say, doesn’t it?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I heard this song again this morning and the lyrics really spoke to me. Enjoy.

Soli Deo Gloria!