AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH ...
Sermon February 8, 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE
THRUST AND BASE
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
ON BIBLICAL LINES …
We are considering Luke 4:16-30, with Isaiah 61:1-3
In the latter prophecy, we find the base from which
Jesus quoted, in identifying Himself as the Messiah of whom this spoke.
Consider then once more Isaiah 61 here, and what it manifests for His task. The first 7 points we have covered in Parts I and II. The red part is of judgment to come, but not pressed when He came on His work of salvation (cf. John 3:17), in accord with His word, will and pity. Numbers 9-11 are for today as is the aftermath in red, noted from Isaiah 61:4.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me
2) Because the Lord has anointed me
3) To preach the Gospel to the poor
4) Sent Me to heal the brokenhearted
5) To proclaim liberty to the captives
6) and the opening of the prison to those who are bound
7) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
8) and the day of vengeance of our God
comfort all who mourn,
give place to those who mourn in
give them: beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning ,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness:
that they may be called trees of righteousness ,the planting of the LORD,
that He may be glorified.
After introducing the Messiah, the prophecy talks of this: “they shall rebuild the old ruins”. There is a raising up of the “former desolations” (cf. Amos 9:11-14, Acts 15:14, Isaiah 8:21-9:7). THAT was a work for the Church, the spiritual body of Christ. Meanwhile let us look at the next features of Christ's commission.
Meanwhile let us look at the next features of Christ's commission.
In Matthew 5, in one of the beatitudes, Christ declares this: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Mourn then for what ? as Jeremiah did (as in Ch. 9), for the ruin of Israel in its fallen immorality, foolish feebleness of heart, gross self-indulgence in every religious jaunt and carnal occupation (cf. Isaiah 1 and Jeremiah 1-9). Mourn for the sour invasions of sin.
For what else ? Secondly, mourn for every failure in any, to meet the test, fulfil the calling of Christ in word or deed, work or courage, for every lapse in behaviour even on the part of a Christian, for every fault in character and every decline in spiritual performance. And more ? Yes, mourn for the very failure of many to find Christ, filtering out the Gospel, or flittering in mere formalism; for this is the lot of many.
Thirdly, however, there comes a work worse than mere sin. Thus you may mourn for the criticism of God: WHY do you not do this and this! they cry, while continuing imperturbably in sin as if it had never been written: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 68:18). Why mourn ? It is because of man's wilful rejection of the redemption of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, his slander of God by suggesting HE is cruel, when MAN is cruel to himself and his world with every single sin he commits, such as this distortion of the mercy and love and sacrifice of God.
What is it like ? It is like reckless adolescents who finding nothing good at home, eat anyway, meanwhile talking of 'the old man' as a skinflint. SUCH love is given SUCH slander! Why however mourn ? It is because the world is coming up for judgment even though Christ has born sin to the extent that ANYONE who comes to Him in faith as the only begotten Son of God, Creator and Prince of peace, has pardon enough, purity restored and conquest of sin and slackness, with the direct presence of the Lord.
Indeed, it is not enough to slander God, they must also slander each other, sully the Gospel, and trusting in themselves prove by experience that this world goes around still, but whirls into more and more obvious oblivion.
You may mourn because even though its fate is predicted since Isaiah (51:6) and by Christ (Matthew 24:35), men love it. What does NOT go is the righteousness and salvation of God, and while we rejoice at this, we mourn for those who WON'T take it! They starve in front of roast beef dinners, they whine at the roaring of lions, while a gun lies in their hand!
There are many therefore who mourn; but THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED. NONE will find hell except over the dead body of Christ, that is, in despite to His sacrifice; and ANY may come at any time, by faith. In this, there is much comfort.
Another aspect of the comfort lies here. The same Hebrew word is used for mourning in 9) as in 8), but now it indicates that the Lord, in dealing with Zion, the symbol for the elect, the place of seeking, the avenue for action, which of course became the Christian Church (Isaiah 65:13-15), has something special in view for the mourners. The verb used means basically to place or put, but has a multitude of uses, including appoint, designate, make: in other words, it means to physically place, or in will, make a provision, a place, a situation for function, an appointment, a site for fulfilment (Galatians 6:14, Ephesians 1:7-14, 2:13). Thus those who LOVE the Lord have special ACCESS to Him, through His blood; for He has appointed such, given a way, secured a basis in Himself, is reachable by their plaints and sorrows, gives attention as at a site for woes to be felt and covered and given their comfort.
There is nothing haphazard about it: such mourning is met with such comfort that consoles the heart: it is by divine appointment that this is done (Heb. 7:25, 9:12). The root of the Hebrew term for mourning seems to mean breathing deeply, and the concept is a sense of compassion, of heartfelt involvement, consolation and comfort, of a movement of spirit that embraces and feels and relieves.
BEAUTY FOR ASHES ...
Ashes! How readily a project, a desire, an aspiration for good can turn to apparent ashes. The young life one sought to deliver to the Lord, before sin smirked and iniquity wrought havoc, it goes astray for all that, and is never to find the Lord, pitching its tent in outer darkness, as if folly were its master and undesired destiny were its peak of desire. Again, one had sought to deliver people, but evil powers intervened, and none would help, so that judgment replaces the hope for mercy.
Many medical people have deaths untimely on their hands; and we who serve the Lord, we have many who join with Judas, Peters who never repented when the Lord looked on them.
This results from liberty, which is the necessary pre-condition of love; for programs cannot love; for that you need heart and will and sensitive perception and principles, yes, for if you DESIRE someone, how is this love ? It aims at possession. If again, you ENJOY someone, how is this love, it provides pleasure. The things differ. To love you must be able not to love; and WHEN you love, it is an embrace of spirit which seeks good for the object of your affection, gains understanding and provides what it may for the best fulfilment of that one. If you delight in the presence of this one, it is not a subjective massage of the spirit, but an express joy, for in such things you rejoice in heart, and love to see them live.
Thus the evils mount like smog; but the purification plant surges out with its spiritual oxygen, and where love is not reciprocated, the love of God is spurned, scorned, disregarded, yet for all that IT WENT THERE. It visited. This helps to fill up what remains of the sufferings of Christ, that is, a contemporary impact of life and help in His name. Ashes are a sorry thing; but beauty is still available so long as life continues. And when it comes ? THEN, beauty for ashes, the spirit healed at once of its deep burns, the heart given peace at once from its grieving gratings, moreover, a sense of vitality in the presence of God instead of meaninglessness in the mire: this is transformation. But it is not all.
Instead of mourning, there is a radical movement: there is the OIL OF GLADNESS. It is as if perfume replaced stench and a gladsome rally with friends suddenly overtook a talk with executioners. In fact it is as if one desolate, has just been dressed up in party attire, equipped for rejoicing; and what more for this there is provided a garment of praise, the very thing found lacking in the presumptuous guest noted in the parable of Matthew 22:1-14. That, it is the cover that Christ gives by paying for sin. It is free but must be worn; and it is He who puts it on the saved sinner (Isaiah 61:10). It is a garment of praise, a cover in exhilaration in Him, as for His bearing sin, breaking its force, overcoming its dynamic, as if smashing in His own Person, the very thrust of some vast wave, about to ruin a village.
This you see in Isaiah 61:10, which fills out the image. It is as if you were going to a wedding, and you are given this marvellous apparel, and its name ? It is "salvation"! and as to that, as you read in Isaiah 51:6, it will NEVER be abolished, any more than will the righteousness of God, who being stable and immutable, in giving salvation gives forever (Ephesians 1:11). Fatuous substitutes get nowhere. Faith gets everywhere because of the covenant of grace (Romans 8:32): for to this is given "ALL THINGS" we read. There is the place of grace, for the race of grace, those who are His, there is the future of grace, eternity, the joy of grace, a joy no man takes from you (John 16:20-22).
Better yet - if possible - it is no passing psychic ecstasy, but incorporates the realisation that by grace you are saved through grace, and that whole thing, it is not of yourselves, but of the Lord: you are indeed in Ephesians 2 said to be a "having been saved through grace" person, as similarly in Titus 3:5ff.. As there seen, the waters of regeneration move you to the eternal shores of a truth which never fails, and of a presentation to and in a life which has no end (cf. Hebrews 10:10,14, John 5:24). SINCE it is NOT OF YOURSELVES BECAUSE IT IS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH, therefore the saved regenerated sinner can no more die than can matter make man, than can madness make sanity or can nothing make anything.
Reflect: it is NOT of yourselves BUT of God. The denial of your part in it, happily denies you the luxury of depression, of imagining you might not live for ever (contrary indeed to I John 5:11ff.). This does not permit fooling about with illicit emotions and considerations, BECAUSE that is NOT what has been done to you, is being done to you and will be done to you. If a Christian at all, you are a having-been-saved-by-grace-through-faith-all-this-not-of-yourselves person. Expect the mighty to fall, but the humble will increase their joy in the Lord. It is here, in Isaiah 29 that the marvellous work of God and the miracles of the Messiah are predicted. No wonder then there is this blessed place of consolation for mourners, this oil of joy, this beauty for ashes. Who would not leap with joy at the assurance of the prospect, as at the disappearance of the retrospect (as in Psalm 103:3-13, Micah 7:19ff., Hebrews 8:8-12, Jeremiah 31:33-34).
REBUILDING THE OLD RUINS
It is these so saved, these who are then, like the disciples from whom were chosen the 12 apostles, moved to fruitfulness who build in the temple of the Lord, bringing to it this and that stone, spiritual member new found from the grace of the Lord. It is however HIS temple with HIS specifications and it is on HIS word that it is build; for in HIM are all His words, and those who love Him, keep them. This is so, for all their failure to be perfect; for they are precious and so is He.
Consider next Isaiah 61:4 which follows. So are they rebuilding the old ruins and raising up the former desolations (cf. Isaiah 8:21-9:7, cf. Acts 15:14-1). Of the "tabernacle of David", they will raise the ruins. Not 'raze' does it say: but 'raise'; and the word is rebuild. But how ? It is by continuing into the New Covenant the symbolic work of the Old, so that the substance in Christ, the sacrificial lamb who ONCE in the end of the Age put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, is now found (Hebrews 9:28). Instead of crucifixion, now there is for the risen Christ, a body, a temple of living stones as Peter is moved to write; you and I, all my fellow Christians, we are those stones. God does not mutate; it is the Covenant which He consummates, and He builds.
Like the reference to JUDGMENT in Isaiah 61, that part which was not recorded as having been read aloud to the synagogue in Nazareth, so this part of Amos 9 had to wait for its time of fulfilment.
Yet just as the judgment would come, though it was far from the motivational thrust of the Lord in so coming to deliver man from perishing, so would the restoration of Israel, but in Gospel terms: first to its land and then to its Lord (Ezekiel 36-37). Such is the progress perceptible in Amos as in Romans; and such is the thrust of Deuteronomy 32 where, Israel now back to the Lord after its long evasion, the Gentiles rejoice with His people, together as one in heart and deliverance. Thus, just as the Gospel in the day of Amos, was yet to come in its New Covenant beauty, so the remnant's restoration was also to come; but later, later, when as in Romans 11, blindness would no more afflict His fallen nation, would the consummation of restoration occur.
As JUDGMENT, that omitted part of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue reading in Nazareth, would and will come when the first wonder of sacrificial love has been placarded throughout the world (Matthew 24:12), so ISRAEL, or a significant and substantial remnant, will come, when at last, the river of that same life in that same Gospel at last reaches their hearts. As to those of Israel, they were near at the outset in land, but far in heart. In the end, they come near in heart, and the Lord's disposition of land becomes an item in His demonstration of His sovereign will and merciful heart, both, to this world (Ezekiel 37:28). Jew or Gentile. It is one in this: One Gospel with ONE life to be eternal, or lost.
Salvation is simplicity itself – except in two respects: first HIS payment to make it free, and second, the sculpturing work of sanctification (a spiritual mobilization - II Cor. 3:18ff.). But when HE does it, it comes not with rigor, but with the vigorous rigour of reality. Praise God for His longsuffering, faithful love and truth! To be with Him, it is to make all comparison ludicrous, like comparing for beauty cabbage and rose… for strength, grass and a mighty mountain.