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First in a series from Isaiah January 30, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Covenant, Forgiveness, Hope, Isaiah, Mercy, Promises of God, Prophecy, Righteousness.
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HOPE IN DISASTER
Isaiah 54

Introduction: One of the key principles in understanding the Bible is to recognize that it is not written to us but rather for us. Understanding that principle is why we don’t build a tent for animal sacrifices after reading the book of Leviticus. Most people want instant understanding of the Bible and don’t work to understand to whom and for what purpose it was written.

That does not mean that God’s Word was not given with future people in mind. The last half of the book of Isaiah is an excellent example of a book written with a future people in mind. Isaiah predicted that Babylon would take the Jews into captivity. Jerusalem along with the Temple would be destroyed and the people would be taken captive to a land with no hope of ever seeing their homeland again. They would have questions that Isaiah addresses. “Has God failed? Is He really as great as the law and the psalms and the prophets had proclaimed? Were His promises to Abraham and Moses and David in vain? Had their sin been too much even for God?”

Over the past few years we have seen serious economic problems. Although America has been a promised land to many for hundreds of years, many are fearful today, predicting the demise of America. What should we as Christians do as we look down the barrel of the gun of possible economic, moral, and political disaster? How can we prepare ourselves and how should we live when that disaster strikes?

A. When disaster strikes, turn to God’s promises (verses 9-10). David Jeremiah tells of some words written on the wall of a cave where a young Jewish girl in the Warsaw ghetto of Poland was hiding from the Nazis.
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

Job put it this way, “Even if He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” When disaster strikes, we turn to God’s promises.

1. His covenant is as dependable as a rainbow (vs. 9). We think of the rainbow as being a promise that God will not destroy the world with water again. Verse 9 points out that every promise of God is dependable. As a kid there was a song we used to sing that ended like this, “When it looks like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the cloud.” The skeptic looks at the laws of nature and declares there is no God but we look at nature and understand there must be a God who holds this all together, who holds His children in His hand.

2. His kindness is everlasting (vs. 10). In Isaiah 43:2-4 the Lord says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you… I am the LORD your God…and I have loved you.” Jeremiah in Lamentations describes the death and destruction, the hunger and nakedness that these people endured when Jerusalem was taken. They recognized that God had allowed this judgment. In chapter 3:21-23, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Those are not the words of someone for whom it is going well but rather for those who are in deep despair. His kindness is everlasting.

B. When disaster strikes, hope in abundance from God (verses 1-3). “But we are in captivity! Our homes are destroyed! Our children are dead! We have no where to turn!” Isaiah reminds them that God will bless them abundantly. Paul in prison in Philippi put it this way, “My God will supply all my need through His riches in Christ Jesus.” What disaster do you see ahead? It is not forever. There is abundant blessing to be found in Jesus Christ. Hope in Him and in His riches.

Our problem comes when we try to dictate to God how His blessings should appear. We expect financial security, a healthy body, freedom from tragedy. Those are all wonderful things but none of them indicate God’s abundant blessings. His blessings are found in an eternal abundance. “Lay not treasures up for yourself on this earth where moth and rust corrupts but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.”

C. When disaster strikes, depend on a restored relationship (verses 4-8). The picture here is of a woman who is forsaken because of her wickedness and is then received again to a loving husband (Read verses 7-8).

John Oswalt in his commentary on this chapter relates the story of an old man in a hospital, on his deathbed, wondering if the next life will be as bitter as the one he has just lived. In comes his daughter. Her life has also been hard but “out of her eyes shine eagerness, humor, hope, and love.” He says to her, “I know what you want to say to me, and you might as well save your breath. It’s too late.”
“But Dad, it’s never too late! Look what Christ has done for me! I was in the gutter, drinking myself to death…But he saw something in me to love! Everybody else said I was no good, and he told them to ‘shut up.’”
The old man replies, “…you don’t know what I’ve done. I was a preacher! … If your God is so good and loving, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I’m too far gone.”
His daughter demands, “Daddy, you look at me! Nobody is too far gone for Jesus Christ! … He died for Hitler! Do you think you’re worse than Hitler? No, you’re just like Hitler, too proud to get down on your face and ask God to forgive you. He will forgive you, Daddy! He will!”
“The old man turned his head to look at his grown daughter…he saw what was undeniably true-she was being transformed from the inside out…hesitantly, he reached his hand out from under the sheet and took hers. In the next moments … [he] confessed his sins… and disgrace became the welcoming embrace of the world’s Maker…”

D. When disaster strikes, trust in His deliverance from your enemies (verses 11-17). What danger is it that you fear? Turn in trust to the hand of God through Christ.

1. This is the heritage God will protect (verses 13, 17). What do you have that will last? People have been discussing this week what Joe Paterno’s legacy will be. In a hundred years few will remember him. Accumulate wealth. Those to whom you leave it may waste it. A heritage that will last is only to be found in Christ.

2. This is the righteousness we have in Christ (verses 14-17). Hebrews calls this the Sabbath rest we have in Christ. The angels proclaimed it as peace on earth, good will to men. When disaster comes, when the bankbook is empty, when cancer grips your body, when tragedy rains on your family, remember in Jesus Christ there is rest and peace. All is right in Him.

“There is nothing more God needs to do for his ‘covenant of peace’ to be ours forever” (Oswalt). Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us that Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. Will you enter this new covenant that Jesus made for you on the cross? Will you turn to Him? Saved and unsaved alike, believer and unbeliever alike, turn to Him today!

Next week: An Invitation in Disastrous Times – Isaiah 55

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Fourth Advent Sermon on December 18, 2012 preached at Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan December 19, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Advent, Angels, Christmas, Deuteronomy, Incarnation, Jesus, Matthew, Messiah, Prophecy, Virgin Birth.
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Do Not Be Afraid
Matthew 1:18-25

INTRODUCTION: Joseph is the third person involved in the Christmas story who has been told not to be afraid. Earlier Zacharias and Mary were told not to be afraid. Later, the shepherds are also told not to be afraid. In each case the command was connected with the appearance of an angel but in Joseph’s situation the command is connected to a difficult situation that he is facing, what to do about Mary. He has three choices.

I. He could make her a public example (verse 19). This would involve a public accusation and if she was found guilty death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Mary had no rights in the matter. Her pregnancy was proof of her sinfulness. Yet she was his wife. Joseph was a just man who kept the law. She was a criminal.

II. He could put her away privately (verse 19). This would involve divorce papers being given to her in the presence of two witnesses. She could perhaps, in spite of her sullied reputation find a husband. She was young. There was a chance that she would recover. Again, Mary had no choice in the matter. She was at Joseph’s mercy. Mercy is what he intended to show. He could not keep her as wife for then he would have to adopt the child. If the child was a boy, then any further son’s by her would lose any possible inheritance, whether in Nazareth or Bethlehem. As a just man, he took seriously the inheritance law for his oldest son. It was commanded by God. He felt that he had no other choice.

III. He could keep her as his wife (verse 20). This did not occur to him apparently or at least was not considered seriously until the angel told him, “Do not be afraid!”

A. Do not be afraid, she is not a criminal; she is not a sinful woman. She is a virgin. Her son is not from a man but a miracle of God.

B. Do not be afraid. Adopt Him. Give Him the legal inheritance that is His, the throne of David.

C. Do not be afraid. Call Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin! Jesus means “Savior.”

This is the first of two names given to the child in this passage. The second name was actually given over seven hundred years before Christ was born. The name “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” was prophesied to an ungodly royal ancestor of Joseph’s, Ahaz. This name is mentioned by Matthew as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

These two names have meaning for us also. Jesus is the Savior. He came to save His people from their sin. His people were the Jewish people but He did not come just to save His people. When Jesus as a thirty year old man came into the presence of John the Baptist, a prophet of God, John pointed his disciples to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus Himself once said to the Jews in John 10, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” He was talking about us. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes about Jesus in His death tearing down the wall of partition that existed between Jews and Gentiles for the purpose of saving people out of both groups and integrating them together like a building where the blocks or the bricks interlock to become one.

What is it from which we are saved? There are many things one could be saved from? The name “Savior” comes from a medical word. When a patient recovers from a deadly illness because of the wisdom of the doctor, we say, “The doctor saved him.” When a medicine causes a miracle cure, we say, “The medicine saved her.” When a medic or a first responder’s actions rescue a person from death, we say, “That man saved their life.”

Jesus once said that He came to save the sick. He was speaking figuratively. You see, humankind is sick with sin. Most do not recognize their sickness but every person, born into the world is sick with sin and will die of that sickness unless they have a Savior. The name that Jesus was given to bear here on earth is a reminder that He is the one who came to save.

The second name, Emmanuel, tells us how it is that Jesus can save. He is “God with us.” When Jesus was laid by Mary into the manger, he was no ordinary baby. He was and is still the virgin born Son of God. The name Emmanuel is a sign from God that He Himself has entered the human race.

Ray Pritchard tells this story. “A young man sat in my office and listened as I explained the gospel to him. Finally he said, ‘I just can’t believe all that stuff.’

So I asked him, ‘What would it take for you to believe?’

‘I would believe if God came down and stood in front of me and told me himself,’ he said.

‘My friend, he already has come down,’ I replied. ‘He came down 2,000 years ago and lived among us. If you don’t believe that, then I have nothing better to offer you'” (from Ray Pritchard in When Did Christmas Begin?).

Savior and Emmanuel: these two names are brought together in a hymn by William Cowper that we rarely sing today. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

“Some 200+ years ago there was a man in England by the name of William Cowper. He is a man who was of nervous disposition. All the biographers talk about that. He struggled with nervous problems, depression. It looks from reading his story that he suffered from what we would call a form of manic depression, given to some great difficulty in his life. At one point in his life, by his own testimony, he was depressed, upset and fearful that he was under the wrath of God. He said, ‘I flung myself into a chair by the window and there saw the Bible on the table by the chair. I opened it up and my eyes fell on Romans 3:25, which says of Christ, ‘Whom God has made a propitiation through faith in his blood.’ William Cowper said, ‘Then and there, I realized what Christ’s blood had accomplished and I realized the effects of his atonement for me. I realized God was willing to justify me and then and there I trusted Jesus Christ and a great burden was lifted from my soul.’ Looking back on that day, William Cowper wrote a hymn several years later that is in our hymnbook today. ‘There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…’” (from Ray Pritchard in Propitiation: God’s Not Angry With You).

As we pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Virgin Born Son of God would you not trust Emmanuel, “God with us,” as your Savior from the stains of sin? He promises that He will save you through His blood if you trust Him and Him alone.

Paying Attention to Jesus the Revelator March 14, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Christ, Day of the Lord, Eschatology, God the Father, Imminency, Jesus, Judgment, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Prophecy, Religion, Resurrection, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Sermons.
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WHY PAY ATTENTION TO JESUS?
Revelation 1:1-18

The word “keep” in verse 3 carries the connotation of “paying attention with the intention to obey.” It is God’s intention that we keep the word of this prophecy and to the one who gives this prophecy. Sometimes it does not matter who the messenger is. When we listen to the news, it really does not matter who is reading the news. We may like the one we are listening to and they may make us feel better about the news but for the most part it matters little except for entertainment purposes whether I get my news from Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric.

It is different though when what we receive is a prophecy, that is, a direct word from God. There are many today who claim to have received direct words from God. We see them on our TVs, hear them on our radios, and see their books in the CBD catalogue. Should we pay attention to them? I do not; for none of them to my knowledge claim perfect inspiration and many of them preach one form or another of false doctrine. We are commanded to try the spirits whether they be of God.

Next week we will specifically look at why we should pay attention to His revelation. This week I want us to understand what is in it for us. That may seem a little backwards but this is the way it is presented in the book and so that is the order that we will follow.

This book begins by stating that God gave Jesus this revelation for the profit of His servants. Now many of us here this morning claim to be the servants of God, that is, the children of God, so this book is intended for us. Why do we need this book and why should we pay attention to the one who gives it to us?

A. Because God gave Him what we need to know for the future (1:1, 3b). The future is very important. Many of you will go to work because of the future. You will do schoolwork because of the future. Wars are fought so that nations can determine the future. Investments are made in the future. Roads and bridges are built for future use. Even history is often studied so that we can better understand the future.

Now God knows the future. Some of the future we need to know. We do not need to know details for the most part. In fact, God rarely gives us much detail. We do not know who the Antichrist is, we do not know the date of the Lord’s coming, we do not know if the multiple earthquakes that have recently occurred are signs of His immediate coming, and we do not know exactly how the world will look when Christ comes. Any details we have are either sketchy or incomplete. But there are some things we need to know about the future.

1. The coming of the Lord is imminent (verses 1 and 3b). He could come at any time. Two thousand years ago, the Lord could have come at anytime. That is still true today.

Now there are several attitudes that we can take about this.

a. We can be fatalistic about his coming. “If He comes He comes…” Now I do not think that very many people are truly fatalistic. Either they believe He is coming or they do not but this is a possible attitude one could take.

b. Most do not believe He is coming. They may not openly doubt it but they obviously do not believe otherwise they would be ready. Revelation 3:1-3 describes a church that did not believe He was coming. Jesus said that he would surprise them like a thief. Jesus taught quite often about this when He was on the earth. One of the last sermons He preached had as His main point that those who are not ready will be destroyed (Matthew 24:36-13). One of the illustrations He used was of a servant who was made ruler over his master’s house. He said to himself, “The master is delaying his coming.” He begins then to beat his fellow servants and to lead a life of partying. When the master suddenly returns the man will be cut in two.

c. There is though a third attitude. Being ready! How do you know you are ready? Romans 13:8,11-14 tells us how, “Owe no one anything except to love one another… and do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness…Let us walk properly…not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Luke also tells us in chapter 12 of his gospel how that those who live for the things of this world will not be ready. In other words, only the disciple who is willing to live for heaven and not for this world will be ready when Jesus comes.

2. We not only need to know that the Lord could come at any moment but we need to understand that He is coming as the Almighty (verses 7-8). When He comes every eye will see Him and recognize who He is. Those who crucified Him as prophesied in Zechariah 12 will see Him. Now you might think that those who crucified Jesus are already dead. Zechariah 12:10 makes it clear that John is talking about the Jew here in this passage. They will not be the only ones to see Him. All the tribes of the earth will see Him and mourn. Why? Because the Almighty has come to judge His enemies. It is possible to mourn in repentance (which is the caase in Zechariah) but the context of Revelation indicates that the peoples of the earth will mourn when they realize that the Lord is coming to judge them (Revelation 6:12-17). On that day, every news station will show the Almighty. Facebook and Twitter updates will mourn the coming of the Almighty. The nations will rise against Him but will not be able to stand because He is the Almighty.

Now why do we need to know that He is coming as the Almighty? Because right now it looks like Christ is losing. The world is becoming more anti-Christ every day. He seems to be losing ground but when He comes we will be able to give thanks (Revelation 11:15-18) because He has returned and restored His rule over this earth. That is the day that we long for according to Romans 8. This world of sin and sinners is oppressive to the believer in Christ but when Christ returns, the sinner will be destroyed and sin will be put in check. Only the Almighty God can accomplish such a feat.

B. The reason we need to know about the future is that there is blessing in paying attention to Jesus and His revelation about the future (1:3). This blessing is not in stock tips or oil futures. This blessing is a spiritual blessing.

1. To be blessed means to be saved (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Seven times in the book of Revelation, a blessing is pronounced on those who are believers in Christ. The word we read in our Bibles as “saved” Martin Luther often translated as “blessed” because He understood that to be truly blessed of God meant much more than houses and lands and nice families. God blesses the unsaved also with such things. To be blessed of God, however, means to be saved, to be redeemed by the Lamb. Sometimes this word is translated “happy.” That is not a bad translation, for one who lives eternally in the presence of God will be happy and the one in hell will not. To be blessed though is more than an emotional reality, it is a spiritual reality. Look at Revelation 20:4-6. What a contrast? Those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus are blessed because they are free from the second death. It is certainly not a happy occasion to be beheaded. Those who might sympathetically be looking on might say, “What a waste!” But they are blessed. They are saved from the second death, from the wrath to come.

2. To keep the word means to have an active faith (1:3; 22:14; compare with 1 John 3:23). You see, to keep a prophecy means that there is something that should be done in response to that prophecy. Revelation 22:14 makes it clear that those who do His commandments will have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. Now does this mean that we can work our way into heaven? Absolutely not. James put it this way, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, true faith will live a certain way. First John 3:23 tells us exactly what the commandments of Christ are, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” So this blessing means more than to believe that Jesus is God. It demands becoming a disciple of Christ, an active faith that determines not only to trust Christ but to obey Him.

It is clear that Jesus can demand an active faith from me and I need to hear His word with active faith. The blessing of God is promised to me if I keep His word, if I have an active faith. An active faith will be ready for His coming. That is the point of the last phrase in verse 3. He is coming. Are you ready?

“A lady, who heard Whitefield, in Scotland, preach upon the words, “And the door was shut,” being placed near two dashing young men, but at a considerable distance from the pulpit, witnessed their mirth; and overheard one say, in a low tone, to the other, “Well, what if the door be shut? Another will open.” Thus they turned off the solemnity of the text. ‘Mr. Whitefield had not proceeded far when he said, “It is possible there may be some careless, trifling person here today, who may ward off the force of this impressive subject by lightly thinking, ‘What matter if the door be shut? Another will open.’” The two young men were paralyzed, and looked at each other. Mr. Whitefield proceeded: “Yes; another will open. And I will tell you what door it will be: it will be the door of the bottomless pit!-the door of hell!-the door which conceals from the eyes of angels the horrors of damnation!”

Jesus could come today. Are you ready? Is your faith active? Do you have faith in Christ at all? Trust Him today and live for Him, forsaking this world and all others for the one who loves you and died to wash you from your sin.

Next Week: The Son of Man