The Savior’s Triumph

TriumphYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at the mission of the Savior in part 3 of our Christmas series in Isaiah. The Savior’s mission can be summed by saying He came to do the will of the Father and that included saving people from sin by acting as the substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve seen the sign, character, and mission of the Savior. This morning we’ll finish up by examining the triumph of the Savior.

I encourage you to take the time and read Isaiah 11.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, America was introduced to a man many people believed would be the savior of America. He became our 44th president with promises of hope and change for America. We see athletes and Hollywood stars elevated to a position of greatness and their incredible wisdom is sought over such far reaching issues as global warming, national security, America’s place in the world, civil unrest, and world peace. These people have been elevated by us to a position of worship. Like America today, the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s time was looking for a Messiah. They were faced with desperate circumstances the likes of which no one had ever faced. Their king had rejected God’s clear instruction and firm promises by forming political and military alliances with the Assyrians, only to see them backfire in the worst possible way. Now, it was either going to be death or deportation.  It was only a matter of time. In such desperate times, people look for a way to escape; they look for deliverance, they look for a way out. Sometimes those desires cause us to cry out, is there anybody out there who cares? Will somebody deliver me, will somebody rescue us?  That was the thinking of the people in 700 B.C. Judah and that was the feeling last month in the elections as the American people grew tired of unfulfilled promises. Isaiah’s message gives us the final answer to those desperate cries. He emphatically declared that God would send a true Messiah. His name is Immanuel – God with us. Although in appearance He is a child, His true nature is as a wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of peace. His mission is to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted, to release those enslaved by sin, and to restore what has been lost in the years wasting away without Him. All this we now know was fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

In Isaiah 11, the prophet takes us back to the future. Centuries melt away as Isaiah takes us past the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. We are taken beyond his time and ours and come to a day in the future when this same Messiah who came 2000 years ago will reign over the entire earth. Isaiah tells us what it will be like when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. You have to wonder why the Holy Spirit wants us to see this vision of the future. Maybe it’s because we need to understand what kind of king was found in the manger of Bethlehem. During this Christmas week, will you come and worship with the shepherds and Magi, or will you dismiss the significance of this incredible birth? Jesus came from a very humble background.  He did not come from a family of incredible wealth, but from a family that was desperate to find some place just for Him to be born. The opening verse in Isaiah 11 tells us, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” God is always faithful and I don’t want you to miss the significance of this. When a living tree is cut down, a shoot springs forth bringing new life. The shoot Isaiah is talking about is from the stem of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, Israel’s greatest king. Isaiah mentions Jesse, but not David.  I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because God magnifies His grace in ways that we don’t. 1 Cor. 1:27-29 says, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” You see, we tend to elevate the beautiful, the strong, those that are wealthy and powerful. God tends to elevate the meek, the faithful, the willing, those that seek His will. The One that would deliver the world from sin came in a very unpretentious and unpredictable manner. The Messiah would not be born into privilege. Jesse was never king so Jesus is not being born into the royal family and won’t grow up in a palace. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom. But Jesus will be more than an equal to King David. This baby born in Bethlehem will rise to do what no one has ever done.

Jesus will have God’s Spirit on Him in unlimited measure. Verse 2: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” We have never experienced a leader like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This shoot from Jesse’s family will have the power of God on Him. He won’t try to accomplish the goals of His Father by human power – He will be controlled by the Spirit of God. The result is perfect wisdom and understanding. He will be unlike any leader in the history of the world. He doesn’t need a Cabinet of advisors. He will appoint no czars. He doesn’t need legislators or judges to help Him. He knows what needs to be done and He has the counsel and strength of the Spirit upon Him. The reign of Christ will bring every person face to face with the King. Look again at Is. 11:3-5. Christ’s rule can be summed up in three words: righteousness, fairness, and faithfulness. Each of these words is about conforming to a standard. From this passage we see that the benchmark for this final King doesn’t come from the people that are around Him. It doesn’t come from the latest research, seminar, or book. There was no election. He reigns by the authority of God and judges by the standards of God. I think the idea of these verses is not how He is going to judge mankind, but how He is going to judge each of our lives. You will be judged by reality, not by perception. He will not be swayed by emotion.  He will see you for who you really are. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted.  All others, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Nature will be turned upside down. Look at vs. 6-8. Wolf and the lamb – together. Cows and bears grazing; lion’s eating straw. Little kids will play with what used to be deadly snakes. Life becomes as it was in the Garden of Eden. The labor pains that the earth groans and suffers that Paul mentions in Romans 8:22 is over. The rest of the story is found in vs. 9-10.  All that is evil, all that is bad, all that causes pain is gone. All that caused decay and ruin is over. On that day, all crime will cease. Everybody on earth will know God. “The nations will resort to the root of Jesse” (that’s Jesus) Who will stand as a signal for the peoples” (a rallying point). “And His resting place will be glorious.”

Do you know who is born of a virgin in Bethlehem? Do you realize who you’re dealing with this Christmas? The world is divided over this child, for at His birth, God drew a line in the sand. You cannot be neutral about this baby who is called Immanuel – God with us because there is coming a day in which He will not be neutral about you. His first coming was marked by humility because He loved us so much that, though completely innocent, He willingly took the guilt of our sin and the wrath of God on the cross for our sakes. He shed His precious blood, died and was buried. But three days later, He rose from the dead by the same power of God that is available to you.  He later ascended to heaven where He patiently waits for the Father to say, “It’s time.” And then, He will come again to this earth, only it will not be in humility because the next time God, “Bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


The Truth about Mockers

MockerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew. It’s good to be reminded of what we know. Specifically Peter was reminding them of the O.T. holy prophets and the apostles of the N.T. – he’s talking about the Bible. This morning, Peter tells his readers why they need to know what the prophets and apostles have said and gives us a modern day warning.

2 Pet. 3:3-4 says, Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

First things first. He fired up his readers by reminding them of what they knew in the Bible. We should remind people of what the Bible says. It is our standard, it is our compass, but if we don’t look at it, or don’t refer to it, it can’t help us. That’s why I continually encourage and challenge you to get in the Word for yourself so you can be confident in who God is and what He has done and continues to do in your life. Peter sets it up by saying, “Know this first of all.” A better translation would be, “You understand or recall.” You go back in your mind and recall something you have known. He’s bringing back their current situation to what was spoken of by the holy prophets and apostles. Here’s the time identifier: “In the last days.” Throughout history people have tried to identify when the last days will arrive and there’s lots of confusion. The phrase “last days” is pretty common in Scripture appearing in the Old and New Testaments. Luke seemed to think the last days began when Christ was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Acts 2:17 reminds us, “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.’”

So what’s going to happen in the last days? Peter says, “Mockers will come with their mocking.” Paul warned of the same thing Acts 20:29-30, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Peter believed the last days had arrived because of the presence of false teachers in the church. Jesus also warned of this in Matt. 24:11, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” So our current events should come as no surprise to us. The troubling thing is that we’re seeing mocking from within the church walls. We’ve shifted from churches that equip people for ministry to churches that entertain. We’ve shifted from sanctified believers in the church to seekers and attenders. We’ve moved from churches with purpose to churches with programs. We’ve diverted from pure biblical doctrine to sentimental feelings. We’ve distorted the character of God. We’ve reduced the transforming power of the Gospel to simple profession. Mockers are here and they’re doing just as Jesus, Peter, and the others promised. They are, “following after their own lusts.” They had no moral restraint, no values, no sense of propriety. They did as they pleased regardless of the roadblocks that God put in front of them. As Children of God, we’re to follow Christ; His standards, His goals, His desires. God replaces our desires with His desires and because we love Him, we keep His commandments. We don’t redefine God’s standards. We don’t throw away His Word in favor of what we believe to be a more modern, relevant, situational or circumstantial type value system. Right is right and wrong is wrong and it’s been that way since the beginning.

It gets worse. Not only do they follow after their own lusts, but they’re saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” You can hear skepticism and mocking in their tone. Each day that goes by without the Lord’s return brings more mocking. It happened back in Ezekiel’s day too: Ez. 12:22, “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days are long and  every vision fails’?” How many people wrongly conclude that since judgment is not immediate that God must be okay with what’s going on in the world today? You probably won’t get many people to admit that it’s okay to live immorally or with a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture, but research indicates that’s exactly what people believe. A Barna study concluded last month discovered that the biblical absolute against same sex relationships have changed over the past 10 years. 70% of practicing Christians define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. 50 % of Catholics hold to the same definition. Why the shift? Even in the church, we’re sometimes unwilling to stand with God and because we don’t know the Word, we get duped. We have church leaders engaged in adulterous affairs, white collar crime, and all sorts of other ungodly behavior. Would it be different if God acted quickly? Eccl. 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” That’s why we stick the unchanging truth of God’s Word to determine our morality. The false teacher’s reasoning is that, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning.” In other words, God created everything then took a hands off approach. Whatever happens, happens because God’s not involved in our lives. The false teachers reasoned that the judgment that was supposed to be coming never arrived, so they wrongly concluded that Jesus isn’t coming back. Jesus spoke of His return in John 14, Matt. 24, and Luke 12 just to name a few places. Paul spoke of Jesus’ return in 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thes. 4. The triumphant conclusion comes in Rev. 1:7-8 that says, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him even those who pierced Him and all the tribes of earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. I am the Alpha and Omega says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus is coming back, but don’t wait until then to start living for Christ because by then, it is too late.

Ignore the people that proclaim a gospel that does not transform you. Ignore the people that say it doesn’t matter how you live. Ignore the people that deviate from biblical truth. Stand with purity, stand with morality, stand with biblical truth; stand with God.