Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesus: Our Suffering Servant

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  ~Isaiah 53:4,5
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. ~Isaiah 52:13

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, tells us of His Servant whom He will send to redeem His people. This Servant will be high and lifted up, He shall be exalted! However, He will not be high and lifted up in the usual sense, what God means is that this Servant will be above others because He has been crucified and lifted up high on a cross. He will be a Suffering Servant.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. ~Matthew 16:21

This past Sunday Pastor shared another “Name Above All Names.” Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is also known as the “Suffering Servant.” In the book of Isaiah there are a number of passages that speak of the coming Messiah, but none so clearly and revealing as the passage Pastor shared with us before Communion. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is so clearly a description of the Lord Jesus and what He came to do that the enemies of Christianity have attacked the plain meaning of these beautiful words and have chosen to ignore what and Who God is revealing here. Pastor gave us five characteristics of the “Suffering Servant” from this passage. The “Suffering Servant” was:
  1. Shocking (Isaiah 52:14) – What the Jews were looking for didn't match up with what they got.
  2. Scorned (Isaiah 53:1-3) – Jesus was rejected by His people, but valued by God.
  3. Substitute (Isaiah 53:4-6) – He who know no sin would become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  4. Silent (Isaiah 53:7-9) – Jesus did not defend Himself or lash out in anger.
  5. Selfless Sovereign (Isaiah 53:10-12) – It was God’s will to crush a willing Servant.
Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? ~Isaiah 53:1

In one of the most beloved Messianic chapters of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah begins by asking two questions. If the remaining eleven verses of chapter fifty-three are to make any sense, you must be able to answer them both in the affirmative. His first question asks if anyone believes or understands the message that he has been bringing from God. It was a message of judgment and redemption, a message of justice and deliverance, and a message of wrath and hope. Isaiah had been telling the people that God will judge sinful, evil, and immoral living. His second question asks if we know Jesus.

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. ~Isaiah 59:16

The basic theme of Isaiah's message can actually be found in the meaning of his own name, which means “Salvation is of the Lord.” God knew no human being would be able to deliver His creation from the bondage of sin and death, so He would have to do it Himself. God Almighty would come into this world as a man and redeem what He had created. Only the holy righteousness of God would be able to sustain the battle against sin and corruption. For some the second question remains unanswered. To whom is the Arm, or Messiah of God revealed? Not even the Jews themselves recognize this passage as messianic. Why?

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” ~Romans 3:10,11

Paul, quoting from the psalms to the Church at Rome, explains why man does not understand who the “Suffering Servant” is. Because of our unrighteousness, we do not seek the truth and none of us can understand who the Servant is on our own; if left to our own desires none of us would even seek after God. Yes, we have a will, but it is chained by our sin nature and on our own we always choose to disobey God and rebel against Him. So then, God must come into this world to save us and He must reveal His Arm to us as well. Has the Arm of the Lord been revealed to your heart? If you can understand the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, then God Himself has been speaking to you. It is the Spirit of God who brings revelation of the Servant and it is His Spirit who draws us to Jesus.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. ~John 6:44

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jesus: The Great High Priest

This man had to first atone for his own sin before he could offer a sacrifice for others... Jesus who had no sin became our sacrifice.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. ~Hebrews 4:14

This past Sunday Pastor Dave shared with us another name of Jesus; one which describes a specific role He came to fulfill on our behalf. That name and role was “The Great High Priest.”

By the time you reach chapter 4, the writer of the book of Hebrews has already argued and proven that Jesus is greater and has preeminence over angels and over Moses. Now, he sets out to prove Jesus is greater than Aaron and the entire line of high priests who followed him. Pastor gave us three ways Jesus is superior to Aaron and all the other high priests. Jesus is superior because of His:

  •  Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14) 
  • Sinlessness (Hebrews 4:15) 
  • Sympathy (Hebrews 5:2) 
 I really appreciated the point Pastor Dave made about how Jesus being sinless made the Good News all the better! He said:
“Jesus’ sinlessness allows Him an unequaled capacity for sympathy because He has an unequaled capacity to be selfless.”
There are a number of people who call themselves Christian and do not believe Jesus was sinless. A Barna Poll summed up their findings:
“Although a core teaching of the Christian faith is the divinity and perfection of Jesus Christ, tens of millions of Christians do not accept that teaching. More than one-fifth (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat. Holding the opposing view were 9% who disagreed somewhat and 46% who disagreed strongly. Six percent did not have an opinion on this matter.”
When I read statements like that… I just don’t know what to think other than that 39% who believe Jesus sinned cannot be Born Again. If Jesus sinned even once, His sacrifice would not have been acceptable and He would not have been God! The Bible states clearly, and more than once, Jesus never sinned.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~2 Corinthians 5:21

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. ~1 Peter 2:22

You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. ~1 John 3:5

Our High Priest Jesus is someone to whom we can come to in our time of need! He can sympathize and empathize with our every situation because He came to this world fully human and subject to the same pains, hurts, and needs all of us have. He even suffered with the same temptations, but with one all important difference… without sin.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ~Hebrews 4:15

Jesus Christ knows us, knows our struggles, and knows our temptations. The promise is He will lead us out of them.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

The point of this sermon series is that we, as a local body of believers, would better know our Lord and Savior. It is by knowing Him more fully and walking with Him in understanding that we find and have those things we need to live lives worthy of the Gospel.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~2 Peter 1:3,4

So, commit yourself to getting to know Jesus better these next few weeks. Spend time in the Word searching these things out Pastor Dave shares with us, then go to God with confidence.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~Hebrews 4:16

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Name Above All Names

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  ~Romans 10:9
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name ~Philippians 2:9

Starting a new sermon series is always exciting and this one is in particular because of the opportunity to learn more of Jesus. Pastor began the series by preaching from Philippians chapter two and focusing on verses nine through eleven. I love this passage because it is the text God used in my own conversion when He saved me. When I heard these Words (Philippians 2:9-11) nearly 20 years ago coming from the car radio I came face-to-face with the truth that Jesus Christ is LORD!

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:10,11

The day I heard those Words, I came to know Jesus as Savior and LORD, but there are many who do not know Jesus in that way. To most He is just another figure who has come and gone through history. Even today, with the Gospel being spread in print, on the airwaves, and over the internet, many still do not know the Christ. People are hearing about Jesus, but people aren't listening about Who He is. For many, there is no time in their lives for the truth; it is far easier to go with the flow than to struggle against the lies that have been laid down over the centuries. After all, if one is to recognize Jesus is LORD and God come in the flesh, then one is responsible to do something with that knowledge.

And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” ~Luke 4:33,34

Even though some confusion may exist in the world about who Jesus is, there are some that know Him. The Bible reveals even the demons know Christ. It would have been in Satan's best interest to deny or even ignore Jesus whenever He came onto the scene. He (Satan) also could have pretended Jesus was a compatriot so that he might discredit the Son of God. However, the simple fact remains that once in the presence of the LORD, the demons could do nothing else except acknowledge Jesus for Who He is... The Holy One of God!

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. ~Isaiah 53:4,5

The Born Again Believer knows their Savior came over two thousand years ago to fulfill the will of God. Jesus, born to a virgin, entered this world with the mission to redeem fallen man. He came to bear the burden of our sin and forever nail it to the cross, sealing the promise of eternal life with His own resurrection. The prophet Isaiah paints for us the picture of the “Suffering Servant”, this is how Jesus came to us so long ago, and this is the story so many people have not yet heard. So many people are still confused about who Jesus is. However, there is coming a day when there will be no more confusion. When our Lord returns, He will come not to be judged and condemned by man again, but to be the Judge and when that happens, every knee shall bow.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:9,11

This statement by Paul of God exalting Jesus, every knee bowing, and every tongue confessing Him as Lord should not be misunderstood. When Paul says we all one day will bow the knee and proclaim Jesus as Lord, he means we will recognize Jesus as God Himself. Consider this parallel passage from Isaiah when God Almighty said it first…

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ ~Isaiah 45:22,23

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Am I A Restorer?

God knows... Jeremiah 17:9,10
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ~Galatians 6:1

Last Sunday Lucas Bair was our guest preacher for the morning service and he asked an important question. Why is it so hard to respond to sin in other’s lives with the goal of restoration in view? Here in Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he exhorts believers to respond to sin in other Christians lives by making decisions and taking actions that lead to the eventual restoration of the offender’s relationship to God and God’s people. This is not the natural and default response, so the title of his sermon, “Am I A Restorer?”, is a good one to consider.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” ~Matthew 18:15

Paul’s teaching of dealing with sinning Christians with a restorative approach was not his own idea. Jesus had already given the disciples instructions on how to handle the difficult circumstances of Church members sinning against other members. This passage in Matthew (verses 15-20) are familiar instructions on what we do when another Christian sins against us. Again, each step of it has restoration of the relationship in view and removes the role of judge and punishment from the Christian and places it with God alone. Lucas pointed out the difficulty of forgiveness and restoration we may have is due to the condition of our hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~Jeremiah 17:9

God, speaking by the prophet Jeremiah, made it quite clear that man’s heart is desperately wicked. No amount of cleaning up, self-help, or behavior modification will work. The human heart (the center of understanding and feelings) is incurably sick and therefore unable to understand or diagnose its own condition. The important thing to note here is if you are a believer and Born Again, you have an understanding and a perspective that the person in Jeremiah 17:9 does not have. Remember Pastor’s message from two weeks ago? He spoke about “regeneration.”

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. ~James 1:18

Regeneration is the act of God alone, whereby He gives life to spiritually dead sinners so that they may respond to His call to be saved. While it is true those who have been regenerated (Born Again) still have a sin nature to struggle with, it is also true they have been given new life and new Spirit! Christians are no longer incurably sick and no longer entirely deceived by their hearts. Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have been given new hearts.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ~Ezekiel 36:26

So to answer the question “Why is it so hard to respond to sin in other’s lives with the goal of restoration in view?” it is because believers are still struggling with a sin nature, but we must look to the truth and wisdom found in God’s Word and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. When someone sins against us, we are to work towards restoration with them rather than judgment because that is what we have received from God.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” ~Matthew 18:21,22