This morning I was studying Isaiah chapter 49. Notice with me verses 8-9.
This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.”
This chapter is speaking about the restoration of the nation of Israel. While there is a direct prophetic word for Israel here I believe that there is also a word for you and I and all Christians in these verses as well.
Israel was called by God to bring forth his plan of salvation to the world.
Through their lineage, Jesus was born and became God’s perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. Through several different periods of history Israel fell away and later came back to God. Why was God so patient with this very obstinate people? Because it was through his covenant with them that he intended to redeem the entire world. His love for all people through all time is reflected in his great patience and perseverance with Israel.
This is wonderful but what I really want you to see is the result of all of this. It’s seen in these verses from Isaiah. Notice the things that God’s people will do after God has kept them.
“You will be a covenant for the people…”– it is through God’s people that he will relate to this world. That’s you and me.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says… “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
It’s through you and me that God is working out his plan of salvation in the world:
- To restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances. Sons and daughters of God have been kidnapped by sin and their lives are being ravaged by its affects upon them. They were created to be in fellowship with God and receive an inheritance as one of God’s children. Through you and me, they regain their “desolate inheritance!” We are taking back what Satan has stolen!
- To say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ What an awesome privilege you and I have. We are in the business of bringing people into freedom and out of the darkness.
Today let’s pray diligently for those whose lives we will intersect today. We have too big an assignment to fail!
Over the past few weeks I have been really looking at the sixteenth chapter of John. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this teaching there are a couple of verses of scripture that establish a theological and practical truth in my life. In verses eight and nine we read…
John 16:8–9 (ESV) “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me… “
Here’s the truth… All sin rests in unbelief.
So often in our world we think of faith and Christianity in terms of things that you have to do. You have to go to church, give in the offering, tell the truth, etc… However, have you ever thought about Christianity in terms of things that you don’t do? I don’t mean things that you shouldn’t do; we get wrapped up in that at times as well. I mean, have you ever considered that there are things that if left out of your journey towards God, greatly affect your potential destination.
Maybe, simply put it’s like making a cake. There are certain things that you MUST put in. Flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and of course chocolate! Leave any of these out and the chances of having a good cake diminish greatly. The chocolate is just my personal favorite. Anyway, I’m sure you see where I’m headed. There are certain indispensible ingredients. Leave any one of them out and well…you don’t have a cake.
In my walk with Christ it’s like this as well. Without an ever-increasing belief, sin creeps into my life. Or said differently, there is a direct correlation between the degree of sin in my life and the degree to which I believe in Jesus. You might say in response, “But I believe completely in Jesus!” Really? Let’s see.
Jesus said he would never leave nor forsake us. For me that means that He is literally with me every moment of every day. When I turn on the television or sit down and watch a movie, do I allow something to enter into my mind and spirit that is clearly in opposition to Jesus’ teachings? When jealousy or pride shows itself in my heart because of some success that some other minister is having or when I secretly celebrate another person’s downfall or mistake, don’t I have to ignore or not believe that Jesus is still with me in order to maintain those thoughts? You see, there really is a direct connection between how much I believe in Jesus and how much I sin.
Am I still saved during those moments? Absolutely, God’s grace is always bigger than my sin as long as there is any belief in me at all, but I don’t only want enough belief to make it to heaven, I want enough to live an overcoming, Spirit-directed, Christ honoring life before the lost of this world. For that I need more belief. How much more? I don’t know. More every day!
This morning I was thinking about how we have redefined yet another great word and in the redefinition have completely lost it’s meaning.
That word is repentance.
The word repentance is found in hundreds of biblical references. The Greek word used most often in the New Testament is the word μετανοέω pronounced metanoeō and it has a meaning different from the way we most often think about what repentance is. For most people, when you mention that a person should repent from their sins what comes to mind is the sorrow or remorse that a person feels and expresses at the moment of salvation.
While this is awesome and is a part of the definition of the word, it is an incomplete definition. When this word is used in the context of salvation it is the response to that remorse and sorrow that is crucial to the definition. This word does indeed denote a change of mind, but wherever it is used in connection with salvation it is the development of a desire to flee from the wrath that accompanies sin that is very important.
This sense causes a person to seek the relief that only comes from a change in lifestyle or the turning away from the old sin-filled life.
Stated more simply, it is not primarily about how you feel, it is about what you do in response to how you feel. In our effort to understand grace and a salvation not based on works we have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Being a follower of Jesus begins and is lived in a state of being constrained. Just because a thing does not have the power to make you unsaved does not mean you should do it. In fact I have serious concerns about the state of a person’s salvation who consistently behaves in a manner contrary to the person of Christ. We have turned from the old life to the new. We have turned from the dark to the light.
Let’s not turn back!
Here’s another thought from a few years back.
Have you ever thought about what we really mean when we use the word “saved” in the church context? It seems to me that we have completely forgotten what it is that the word actually means. When we use it we use it in a sentence that usually sounds something like, “Have you been saved?” or “I wonder if they are saved.”
What do you think of when you hear that?
I think most people will think of a person praying the sinner’s prayer or coming to an altar and accepting Jesus as their Savior. Let me show you something that hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago.
In Acts 11 Peter is giving a report to church leaders in Jerusalem about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles that occurred at Cornelius’ house and is recorded in Acts chapter 10. When Peter relates the story to the leaders in Jerusalem he tells them about the message that an angel gave to Cornelius that prompted Cornelius to send for Peter. The message that the angel gave to Cornelius was…
Acts 11:13-14 … “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”
My question is this… What was the angel referring to when he said that Peter had a message that would “save” Cornelius and all those in his household?
Do you suppose that he meant that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer or come down to an altar call or take part in some sort of religious tradition? Was the angel saying that they needed to do the things that we think of when we say that a person needs to be “saved”?
Rather than any of these, let me paint a picture that came to my mind the first time I saw this. In this picture there is a sharp, extremely high, dangerous cliff edge. Leading up to that edge is a conveyor belt of sorts that is slowly creeping towards the edge of that cliff. On the conveyor are men, women, boys, and girls who are engaged in life. By the thousands they come to the edge and fall over to their absolute destruction. The problem is that from their vantage point they cannot see or perceive the danger until it is too late and they are falling. High above them there is a lookout. From his high position above them he not only sees them he can see the edge of the cliff and below. He is keenly aware of what is transpiring and feels acutely the loss that is constantly occurring.
This is the reality of the angel and those in Cornelius’ household.
The angel knows the reality that the members of Cornelius’ household cannot see. When he proclaims that they need to be “saved” it is “saved” in the sense that we use the word everywhere except church. You know “saved” as in a burning building, rushing floodwaters or a tyrants evil.
In fact that is what “saved” has always and will always mean in any context especially the church one. So great is their need and the need of the Gentile World of salvation that God performs this miracle to accomplish it. It is greatly necessary, passionately provided, and unmistakably urgent!
What happens when we redefine the word into a religious tradition? We lose all sense of urgency. If it takes a while for a person to pray a prayer or come down to an altar or have some sort of religious experience then what’s the hurry?
But if people are about to fall over a cliff someone needs to do something quickly.
We are supposed to be the ones who have the greater vantage point. Where is our sense of urgency?
The angel knew it, and we need to quickly remember it.