søndag 27. desember 2015

No more fear

I have noticed more and more that people are afraid. On Facebook. In conversation. And the more we have, the better life is, the more we seem to be afraid. Norway is one of the safest countries in the world to live in. And yet we are afraid. Afraid of everything. Afraid of the smallest little thing that could possible upset our “perfect existence”.

Just have a scroll through Facebook. Fear! This threat or that threat you need to be aware of. Look at the newspapers – fear pours out of them constantly – look at this terrible thing, look at that terrible thing, look at this to be worried about. Newspapers discovered long ago that fear sells. And they’ve been using that tactic ever since.

Why? Why does fear sell? Why do we seem to want to be afraid?

All of us have different presenting fears. If I went around this room and asked each of you what you are afraid of, really afraid of, and if you were honest, I’d get a number of different answers. Especially our unspoken fears. Fear of death, fear of being sick, fear of losing a job, fear of a secret being discovered, fear of Islam, or the oil price falling, fear of the future, fear of losing a loved one, fear or of failure, or of looking like an idiot, and probably one of the biggest fear of rejection – fear that people will see through façade to who I really am – and they won’t like it. And we never seem to get rid of fear entirely. We can’t shake it off. When we deal with one fear – another rises in its place. It’s like the mythical Hydra monster – you cut off one tentacle, and two more grows in its place.

Why do we like scary stories, thrillers, horror movies? Why do we like scaring our kids? Why do we have this need to be afraid? Even when there’s nothing to fear – like here in Norway – we are afraid!

It’s as if a festering boil or a poisoned heart pumping out fear into us. There is a root cause to our fear. And when we turn to God’s Word we find out why. The Bible exposes that root cause.
The root of our fear is this: we are enemies of God, cut off from our Creator, from our Father, alone in the world. And so we are afraid. We are afraid of everything around us. Things that threaten us, because we are alone. But the big fear which we never speak of – the elephant in the room which everybody ignores – is this: what if we are cut off from God forever?
The fundamental underlying cause for our fear of everything is our separation from our Creator. It is a deep scar in our souls. A festering wound of fear. We are separated from God, cut off from our Father. And so, like a young child lost alone in the forest, we are afraid. And what if we can’t find our way back home? That’s why we fill our lives with things to be afraid of – because that covers up the real fear that we want to ignore – what if we can’t get back to God?

But it’s Christmas! Why all this talk about fear and death. Lighten up man!

Well, Merry Christmas! Because this Christmas message brings not fear but comfort and joy. Because CHRISTmas is about the Christ: our Lord Jesus, who came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, and died to take our place in order to bring us back to God. Christmas means that we never have to be afraid. The gospel, the Good News that we celebrate at Christmas, is the antidote, the cure, to fear.

To kill our fear, to be unafraid, we need two things: truth (or revalation), and love. Because our fears land in two groups: we fear the unknown – something unexpected coming in – and we fear the known – something expected actually happening. The gospel deals with both the fear of the unknown and fear of the known. The gospel is revelation – that is telling us the truth so the unknown becomes known.
The gospel is love – that is telling us that the known does not need to be feared because our Father loves us.

So this morning we’re going to deal with our fears! First we’ll see how the gospel we celebrate at Christmas deals with our fear of the unknown by revealing the truth about God and about us. Secondly, Christmas teaches us to be afraid of only ONE thing (instead of everything): God Himself. And thirdly, Christmas teaches us to not be afraid of God, because he loves us.

1. The gospel we celebrate at Christmas reveals True Truth

Lk 1:1–4 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honourable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

The Christmas story, the beginning of the gospel, and beyond, everything Jesus said and did – I just want to remind us that the Christmas story is true truth. It really did happen. Because revelation is worthless if it’s a lie.

If it’s a lie, if it’s not true, then it’s useless to combat fear – it just makes us more afraid! “What if it’s all a lie?” Shudder.

I want to blow fear out of our hearts this morning. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not need to be afraid! We stand on truth. True truth. Luke, the doctor, carefully researched everything, finding out what Jesus really said and really did. And he says “you can be certain of this truth, the truth about”.

But to see this we cannot start on Christmas morning – who would really believe the story of the virgin birth. Nice one Joseph – you had sex with her before marriage and now you’re claiming a miracle from God to avoid being stoned. Yeah likely story!
No, we need to start with Jesus being crucified, dying, and then rising from the dead. Because without the resurrection, well Christmas is just a fairy-tale.

But Jesus’ death by crucifixion, and his resurrection, is the event in history which has more historical evidence than any other. Non-Christians like Suetonius, Roman historian (120AD), Pliny the Younger, Roman governor (110AD), and his friend Tacitus, Roman historian (100AD), Mara bar Serapion, prisoner (70AD), Thallos, Roman historian (55AD), Josephus, Jewish historian (60AD) – they tell us Jesus had an unusual birth, that he did great miracles, that he was killed by the chief priests and sentenced by Pilate, that within 12-20 years of Jesus death and resurrection Christianity had spread across the whole known world. So much so that the Emperor of Rome began persecuting the Christians. Something huge, momentous, happened in Jerusalem in 38AD. People gave their lives for that something. They would rather die than give up their faith. What other than what we read in the gospels could make people do that?

The evidence from non-Christians, biased against Christianity, is so strong. If Christ did not rise from the death, what then happened? It must be something equally momentous. And no-one can explain it away.

Also we have to be very, very careful of standing two THOUSAND years later and saying to Matthew and John, Jesus disciples “you didn’t see what you saw and wrote about – you were mistaken!”. How do we know? This changed their lives. And Mark and Luke carefully investigated the facts soon after they happened. And we’re going to come years later, from thousands of kilometres away, and say, naah, not true. Based on what? No investigation. No travel. No eye-witness reports. All the things the Bible writers did.

The Christmas story is not a fairytale like Father Christmas. Jesus showed by rising from the dead that he was no ordinary child. That he was in fact, as we heard last week, the God-Man, the Messiah, the promised rescuer King. He really was born of the Virgin Mary. Joseph wasn’t just lying! Jesus really was a miracle child.

These are facts, facts that you can build your life on. If your life is built on Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, your life is unshakeable. It is true truth.

As Colossians 3:3 says “our life is hidden with Christ in God” and Eph 2:6 “we are seated in Christ in Heaven”. Our life is secure. We are in Christ, in heaven, right now. There is no safer place. Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid. Our faith is true truth, and our lives are secure.

The gospel we celebrate at Christmas is True Truth.

2. Christmas teaches us to be afraid of only one thing: God

Luke opens his gospel with the miraculous birth of the prophet John the Baptist, followed by Jesus. John, the one promised who would prepare the way for the Lord. This fulfils the last words of the Old Testament found in Malachi 4:5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

As we’ve seen through Isaiah, God getting involved with us doesn’t always end well! In Luke 3:7-9 we read John’s warnings to the people: When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the axe of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

The coming of Jesus brings fear. Because the elephant in the room has made himself known! He’s broken through. When we are confronted by God it can be very scary indeed. We’ve gone along pretending to ourselves that “I’m God” – scary when the real God comes along!
John Chapman, an Australian minister, was being shown around the Houses of Parliament in London by a friend of his. As a joke, he sat down on the Queen’s throne – his friend went absolutely white “Get OFF before someone sees you otherwise we’ll BOTH be in serious trouble”.

As we read through the gospel of Luke, those of you in the Bible studies will know - we see a truly remarkable man. One with awesome power, truly terrifying power. We see the demons, evil spirits, trembling before him, so afraid. We see even his own disciples, dearly loved friends, terrified after he speaks to a storm and it obeys him. Who is this man?

This is the power of God on display. Only God is feared by the evil spirits. They would not fear an angel – they too are angels, fallen angels. But their Creator? Yes. They fall down at his feet screaming in terror “What do you want with us Jesus, Son of God.”
Only God can command creation to obey him. Only God has power over death. All this Jesus does. And he does it just with a word. No magic formulae, no incantations or hubble bubble toil and trouble. He speaks. It happens. He doesn’t even call on God the Father, he does not cry out “O Great Jehovah”, he does not say “in the name of… “. It is his power, his authority. Only God has that power.

It is unsurprising that when people understand who Jesus is, they are afraid. Turn to Lk 5:4–9 When he [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”

Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour (Rescuer).
He is the one who should be feared, the one with great authority, because he is Almighty God, holy and perfect.

Proverbs beings with these words “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. The song Amazing Grace has these words in the second verse “It was grace that taught my heart to fear”.
We must be afraid of the only thing that we need to fear, and that is God. Nothing else matters. He has control over all other things – our future, reputation, health, time of death, finances, everything. The only thing that matters is our relationship with him.

So if you’re not afraid I pray that the Holy Spirit by grace will teach your heart to fear. Not the the little distractions that we fear – but the almighty holy God, a consuming fire. He is what we must fear. Amazing grace. It was grace that taught my heart to fear God.

Christmas means we need to be afraid of only one thing: God.

3. Christmas teaches us to not be afraid of God, because he loves us

Those of you who know the song Amazing Grace will know what comes straight after Twas grace that taught my heart to – and grace that fear relieved. God has come looking for us – but there is good news. He did not come as the warrior King on his white battle horse, sword flashing out of his mouth, robe dipped in blood, crowns upon his head, ready to strike down all who are not with him, wipe out sin and evil once and for all. No, that is how Jesus will return. That’s coming. But he came as a baby, in poverty. Not in power, but weakness. Not in judgement, but in salvation.

And the great, momentous news of Christmas is that the way to know him is open, and open for everyone. Because in announcing Jesus’ birth each time an angel appears he says these words “Don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid. This is good news!

Lk 2:8–15 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

This is GOOD NEWS says the angel. The Saviour, the Messiah is born. Jesus is the Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) which means the Promised Saviour. He is the one promised in the Old Testament, the first part of the Bible, the one who will rescue us all from sin and death. Christ is not his surname but his job description. Jesus: saviour of the world! If he had a business card, that’s what it would say.

And look at v14: this saviour has come to bring peace. Peace, not first peace between people groups – that’s by product of the gospel – but peace between us and God. Peace. No fear.

As we read through Luke we see this terrifyingly powerful man – meeting the demon-possessed and rescuing them, allowing a prostitute to touch him at a dinner party and forgiving her sins. Calling a tax collector down from a tree and saying to him “Zaccheus, today I will eat at your house”. The crowds hated these sinners, but Jesus shares in their shame, indeed he takes their shame. He stands in front of them, before the crowds, and lets the crowds hate him instead. Remarkable. He takes our place, takes our shame, our blame.

This is the message of Christmas. God loves us, and seeks us out. If we are lost children in the forest having run away from home, God is the Father who seeks us out searching through every bush and rock until he finds us. We do not need to be afraid!

And if you are afraid, look to the cross! 1 Pet 3:18 For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

What love is this! Here is the promise of Christmas fulfilled. Our Saviour has come to rescue us. He has dealt with our sins. The way is open. Come as you are, to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid. You are secure in Christ. God is not angry with us. Peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased says v14 – and he is very pleased with his Son, and all who belong to him.

We allow ourselves to be afraid. Do not give in. Talk to yourself. Remind yourself of the gospel. Fill you mind with Christ. Know that he loves you as you are. Even when you sin. Even when you fail. Even when you fall short. He loves you as you are.

I just want to end with a story that Immanuel told me. He had a terrible time travelling through the Sahara desert, he broke his leg, he was in such pain, and he was almost set alight – murdered – because he was slowing everyone down. I asked him if he was afraid. He said “I was not afraid, God was with me.”

Merry Christmas!

søndag 22. november 2015

Isaiah 13:1-14:25 War and bloodshed and Hell

Isaiah 13:1-14:25

Last week’s passage was great. Last week we saw hope for the future. We saw the destiny, the future, of those who love God and are called according to his purposes: the great heavenly City coming down from heaven to earth: the new Jerusalem, God’s city filled with God’s people. No more suffering, no more death, no more evil, no more judgement. An eternity of happiness. The name of the city is God is there. And this was won for us by our King, King Jesus. Won on the cross, as he took our place and paid for our sins with his blood. We are free from suffering for he suffered for us, once, for all, a perfect sacrifice.

That is our future – if we belong to Christ. A secure future. A good future. A future full of mercy and hope. And even now we see pictures of that, as Jesus is King now, as his banner is raised among the nations and people all over the world come to Christ.

That was last week passage. This week’s passage gives us the flip side. If last week was a picture of Heaven, this week we see a picture of Hell. It is brutal language, disgusting, raw, an unflinching picture of our evil hearts.

Isaiah 13:1-14:25 War and bloodshed and Hell

It is describing the coming war against Babylon. Babylon who will rise up and conquer Assyria, conquer Judah (Southern Israel), strip the Temple, and carry all the Israelites off into captivity – that Babylon which will rule the world will fall. That Babylon which was brutal in warfare, which dashed children to death before their parent’s eyes, which sacked homes and raped wives – that Babylon will experience justice. Exactly what they have done to others will be done to them. The King of Babylon, king of the world, who says to himself “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendour.” (Dan 4:30). That king will be brought low. The arrogance of men will be brought low. The pride of men will be dealt with.

But it is more than that, because the fall of Babylon is seen as a picture of the fall of all wickedness and evil. The judgement on Babylon is a picture of the final judgement day of God.

Just two headings today:

1. Babylon, the symbolic city of wickedness

2. The Day of the Lord.

Ok, let’s get into it.

1. Babylon, the symbolic city of wickedness.

Chapter 13 is way out of chronological order. Isaiah is here predicting the fall of Babylon before it’s even become a superpower! Assyria’s the problem at the moment. Assyria is the one who surrounds Jerusalem in chapters 36-37. Only near King Hezekiah’s death do we hear about Babylon, when envoys from Babylon arrive at the end of chapter 39. So why is it here?

Because it is a symbol of rebellion against God. Babylon is where the tower of Babel was built – indeed, that is where it gets its name “Babel-lon” meaning “gate of God”. Remember the tower of Babel? The tower reaching up to heaven in Gen 11, when God reached down to scatter the languages. Babylon is not just a city, but it is a symbol of man’s rebellion against God.

Isaiah could be called “A tale of two cities” – as particularly in the second half Babylon and the new Jerusalem are contrasted with each other: Babylon the city of sin and rebellion, Jerusalem symbolising the righteous people of God.

For the Jews this was very symbolic as they were all technically Babylonians! You see, Babylon is the great capital city of the Chaldeans – you see it there in 13:19 Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride. Guess where Abraham, the father of the people of God, is from? Gen 11:26–28 After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran…. Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth.

And the question asked is which city do you live in? Are you Jerusalem or are you Babylon? There are only two ways to live: the way of Babel, Babylon: rebellion against God. Or to hear God’s call, and leave that way of life, and move to Jerusalem.
You live in one of these two cities.

The future of Jerusalem we heard last week, and it is glorious, secured not by our own efforts, but by the blood of our King Jesus. If you missed that sermon, get it. It is deeply encouraging, and you need to hear that one alongside this one!

This week we see the future of Babylon – and it is terrifying. Because Babylon has set itself up against God, and God’s patience will one day run out. There will come a day when he says “Enough! Evil has run its course, has served its purpose. Enough!”

2 “Raise a signal flag on a bare hilltop. Call up an army against Babylon. Wave your hand to encourage them as they march into the palaces of the high and mighty. 3 I, the LORD, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted.”

The picture is of a great siege – an army attacking a town. The army is huge and powerful, and it surrounds the town. The flag is raised and the attack begins. Great catapults flinging huge stones into the city walls. Huge ballista’s (arrow machines) firing wave after wave of arrows. And the soldiers, grim-faced, pounding on the gates.

This is what happened in 539BC when the Persian king Cyrus captured Babylon and the Babylonian empire fell. The Persian army surrounded the great city and then took it. King Belshazzar was killed – remember the writing on the wall in Daniel? While they were feasting and drinking and mocking Israel’s God – a hand wrote on the wall words meaning “you have been weighed, measured, and found wanting” – and the next day Cyrus entered Babylon and Belshazzar was killed.

Babylon, though continued to rebel against Persia in 522,521 and 482 – and in 478 the Persian king Xerxes destroyed the city completely, and it was never rebuilt. Babylon’s ruins stand as a warning to all those who imagine the Day of God’s judgement will never come. This once great city reduced to nothing. 13:21 Desert animals will move into the ruined city, and the houses will be haunted by howling creatures. Owls will live among the ruins, and wild goats will go there to dance. 22 Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make dens in its luxurious palaces. Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.

So that was the fate of historical Babylon, but also all who follow in Babylon’s footsteps, which are really the footsteps of Satan. Look at how the king of Babylon is described in 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! Literally “Lucifer” the name of the devil. You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. 13 For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. 14 I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’

It is that arrogance, that wanting to be God, that is Satanic to the core. And when we try to take God’s place, we follow Satan as our master. We choose Babylon.

Babylon is the symbolic city of wickedness. It is set up against God, to reach to Heaven to pull him down. And one day that rebellion, that wickedness will be dealt with. That day is

2. The Day of the Lord

13:6 Scream in terror, for the day of the LORD has arrived— the time for the Almighty to destroy. 7 Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts, 8 and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labour. They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear. 9 For see, the day of the LORD is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it. 10 The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light. 11 “I, the LORD, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.

Well, it’s quite different from chapter 11 and 12 isn’t it? Then it was all 11:6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together and 10 In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. And 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people

In that day, in the Day of the Lord, there will be peace, there will be hope and salvation. And in that same day, the Day of the Lord, chapters 13 and 14 show us there will be terror and horror and Hell unleashed.

For there to be peace, evil must be dealt with. Evil has had its day. SO like the flood in Noah’s God’s judgment covers the earth – and anyone not in the ark will die. Or like the angel of death in the Exodus who sweeps through the land of Egypt and every firstborn son not covered by the blood of the lamb dies.

Evil is dealt with. Justice is done. So far, so good. But I have a problem with this passage, and it’s there in v16. It is brutal, it is horrific, it is awful. It is real warfare. But in this passage God says that He is the one who has sent the army who has done it. In the very next verse, v17 he says “Look, I will stir up the Medes against Babylon”. In v3 I will call the mighty warriors – in fact the whole way through it is God who is calling down judgement.

And I realise that there is something right in my reaction – to have a problem, and there is something wrong in my reaction.

The right thing in my reaction is to be appalled, to be sickened by the wickedness on display.
Simply because God allows this to happen, simply because God uses evil to achieve his good purpose of righteous judgement doesn’t make it not evil. When God used Judas’ betrayal to send his Son to the Cross, it did not make Judas’s betrayal right. Jesus had to die in our place, cursed upon a tree – but that did not excuse the evil of Pilate and the chief priests condemning an innocent man to a horrible death. Just because God uses evil for good does not make evil good. It is still evil. In Deuteronomy 22:22-27 the penalty for rape is your life. That’s how serious it is. The penalty for murder, even murder of children, is your life. It is evil.

So that is the right part of my reaction – to be appalled. But the wrong part of my reaction is that I forget that God is God – even when evil things are happening. I think that because evil things are happening then God’s lost control. He’s fallen off his throne. Oh I might not say that but I certainly feel that way! We struggle to believe what the Bible says: that God reigns and that everything that happens in this world is bent towards his purpose to fulfil his eternal plan.

Last week’s passage was easy, wasn’t it? Happy things are happening and God is in control. Yay! I like God being in control. This week’s passage says horrible things are happening – and God is in control. Oh. Yay? How hard was it to say “Thanks be to God” after the Bible reading? I didn’t want to say it!

What must we learn from Isaiah 13? How must we be stretched, to have our little view of God exploded into the reality of God? This chapter challenges us with: Why? Why is this world so horrible? Why does God allow this – even take responsibility for it. I will. I have. I will send. They are my agents of judgement.

And the answer that the previous chapters have made very clear is: because we are sinners. Sin – rebellion against God – is literally Hell. Hell is where God is not, it is the absence of God. That’s why it is pictured as fire and torture and generally not a place you want to be. Our sin – rebellion against God – leads to sins – all the wrong things we do. Lying, cheating, gossiping, harsh words, cruelty, teasing people, bullying – all the stuff that goes on in every playground in every country in every culture – and however much we try to stop it we can’t. Kids can be really nasty to each other. And no one taught them to be nasty. It comes from within. And then murder and rape and abuse and theft and war and the list goes on and on and on. What aren’t we capable of? In our hearts is bound up hell.

It was the American theologian Jonathan Edwards who said in 1741 that “within our hearts are the seeds of hellfire”. Basically, if hell did not exist but one man did exist hell would soon take form from the evil in his heart.

God’s holy goodness makes him opposed to sin and any form of evil. Just look at v9 For see, the day of the LORD is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it.

That Day is coming. But that Day has already come – against Babylon, against Assyria, even against Jerusalem in 587BC. Time and again God has judged evil and brought it to an end. Each day of judgement a picture and reminder of the Final Day. In a sense, we live now in that Final Day of judgement. Just as there are pictures of Heaven around us, reminders of God’s saving work in Christ, there are pictures of Hell around us, reminders of God’s righteous judgement. Romans 1:18 tells us what’s going on now: But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

That’s happening now. We live in the Day of the Lord – the day when God will judge. Signs of it are all around us. Every time we hear of brutality, cruelty. When we turn on the news and hear of all the evil things that are being done… it is like seeing the downfall of Babylon. A reminder that the Day of judgement is coming. Are we ready?

Which city do we live in?

It’s worth remembering the verses before Romans 1:18 is our key verse 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes…this is by faith.

There is hope. I mean we see it there in 14:1 But the LORD will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob. He will choose Israel as his special people once again. He will bring them back to settle once again in their own land. And people from many different nations will come and join them there and unite with the people of Israel.

Because evil is dealt with, the people can be rescued.

The Day of the Lord is either a Day of great rejoicing and freedom – or it is a day of horror and pain. The horrors of the Babylonian war were just a small picture of the horrors of facing God’s judgment. Don’t face it! Run to Christ and shelter in him.

Two comments before we end.

Firstly: The Babylonians were horrible rulers. And everyone rejoiced when they were defeated. 14:5 For the LORD has crushed your wicked power and broken your evil rule. 6 You struck the people with endless blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip with unrelenting tyranny. 7 But finally the earth is at rest and quiet. Now it can sing again!
Some of you have lived under such rulers. Some of you have had to flee, run for your lives, because of such cruelty. But one day it will be over, and every evil deed will be repaid. Every debt settled. Justice will be done. That is a good and comforting thought. We do not have to take revenge. God will deal with everyone rightly and justly.

Secondly, you might be thinking, oh, this is just that Old Testament God nonsense. Jesus isn’t like that. Come with me to Revelation, to the picture of our Lord Jesus’ return – gentle Jesus, meek and mild – no. He will returns as the Warrior King, to destroy evil forever, and any who is not against him will be destroyed. Re 19:11–16 Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. 12 His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. 16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

The Day of the Lord is either a day of terror or a day of joy. And it is coming as surely as the day Babylon fell came. That is a day of terror.

When the White Rider, Christ Jesus himself, appears, will you look to him with hope and joy: rescue! Salvation! Or will you look with fear and anger? Are you Babylon? Or Jerusalem? Two cities. Two futures. Where do you stand?

fredag 20. november 2015

Man to Man: Husbands

I want you to get into pairs and ask each other the question;
1. Were you loved as a child?
What about when you made mistakes?
How were you disciplined?
2. How do you know you were loved?
Write down findings.

Know they have value.
Self confidence...
As adults, someone who was loved as a child will find it easy to believe they are lovable and it will also be easier for them to love.
1 John 4 :18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Read Eph 5.....
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:25-28).

I had a wake up call early on in our marriage...
3. What does it mean for you to married.

“Husbands, love your wives as you love your own body.” (as you love yourself)
It’s all about L-O-V-E, love!
Now Paul, has just addressed the women, said to them : “Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).
Now of course this word submit is a very difficult word for ladies all through the ages to embrace.
Because it means to....Yield, surrender...
But it also means for us to get our act together...in other words be the man that God expects us to be.

What type of men are we supposed to be...take alook at Jesus.
Young men today need role models.... Mine was Gordon Nordstrom...my best friend Ron.
What if her husband is a wimp, not a natural leader?
When a man acts like a child, it forces his wife, to act like his mother.”
Thankfully none of you are wimps...

Jesus was a strong man;, he was compassionate. (kindhearted, feeling,)
He met the needs of people around him. Always he was thinking of others and reaching out to them.
“Strong men make strong families; strong families make strong churches; and strong churches will transform culture, and dare we say the land you are living in.”

Husbands love your wives!!!!
Well lets start with the question Do I love my wife?
How does your wife know that she is loved?
Phil Collins....You know we are two hearts believing in just one mind.

Pretty useless unless joined together. Only then can they be what the creators wanted them to be.
I was so scared before I was married....Triangle.
There are three of you in this marriage You your wife and the Lord.
God knew what he was doing when he said.
Genesis 2:23. 23The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
In some countries the marriage are arranged by the families. So the two who are married don’t know each other.
But did you really know your wife on the day you got married?
But God does!!!
He knows what He is doing when He brings two people together who then spend the rest of their lives learning how to apply and put into practice His principles!

Paul says , “Wives, submit to your husbands; but husbands, love your wives.” Like the scissors... marriage is not going to work properly unless you both work in harmony!

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.”
But what does that mean???
Eph 5:25
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.
Jesus went to the cross for His church for His people.for you and for me.
There, you have it! Christ loved the church. So much He sacrificed himself.
In France last weekend....men were found covering their wives bodies.
In 1996 I was in Australia when a man Martin Bryant killed 35 people..opened fire in a tourist restaurant in Port Auther on the Tasmanian Island
A number of people shot where husbands had covered their wives bodies with their own..sacrificing themselves.
and that’s how you treat your wife – self-sacrificial love.
(Eph. 5:26-27). The sacrifice of Christ was intentional. It was purposeful; He was doing it for a reason. In the same way, “Husbands, love your wives, intentionally and purposefully.”
He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
By the same token, husband might be for my wife an agent whereby she is allowed to come to a point of fullness and completion and be all that God intended her to be. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her; that she might become a radiant church.”
You see a woman who knows she is loved and I will show you someone who is radiant...not based on her looks.
Does your wife know that she is loved?

Marit what can I do to ....Make love to me right now!
One well known Christian leader...
Darling can I ask you a question? Do I make you ‘radiant’?”
She said, “Do you really want me to answer that?” He said, “Yes, I do, I need to know!”
She said, “All right I’ll tell you. Frankly, no you don’t.” He said, “Why not?”
She said, “Well, we’ve been married all these years. We’re married, we’ll stay married, we’re together. But for years our marriage has run on parallel tracks – you do your thing, and I do my thing. The reason I’m doing my thing is I know you’re going to do your thing. What happens is this marriage operates basically on the basis of what you want, and I just fit in. I’m rarely consulted, and if I do express an opinion, it’s usually overridden or ignored. I find, therefore, that the easiest thing to do is say nothing, and just go along with what you want to do.”
She said, “You are incredibly self-centered. The result is that I live a life of frustration, a sense of being unfulfilled, bordering on resentment.”
“I had a wake-up call.”

Men, this is your wake-up call from the Lord!

Two hearts believing in just one mind
But do you both know that?
What does your wife want from you this evening?....You....!
Romantic love and Practical love....
How can we show her that we love her....
# Show her you’re still attracted to her.
After you’ve started your family, chances are that your wife isn’t feeling like the same young fresh person she was when you were dating.
# Find one thing that you find attractive about her each day and compliment her on it. Your compliments don’t always have to be physical. They can also be personality traits, or things that she’s done. A simple daily affirmation of your attraction will help her to remember how much you love her.
# Acknowledge the role that she plays in your family.
Whether your wife works in the home, or out of the home, she needs to feel valued. Make a point of noticing what she does . Wow that was delicious thanks, the house looks great love thank you.
MY wife folds all my underpants...she is being seen...
# By sharing with her how much you appreciate her cooking, cleaning, working, etc. you’re showing her that you see all that she does and really value the partnership that you share.
# Be her knight in shining armour.
This one might sound cliché, but most women, whether they recognize it or not, want a knight in shining armour. That doesn’t mean you need to buy a horse and ride in to save her.
It does mean helping to minimize her hurt and stress. And family pressures, especially when times get tough, find ways to lessen her load and take the pressure off.
You could ask her....What can I do to help?
# Keep the romance in your relationship! .
This is key to showing your wife that you love her.
# Communication is something that comes naturally to some and takes effort for others. Keeping your wife in the loop will help her to know what you’re thinking and how she can take an active role in your relationship. Talk to her she is your helper....
# Fun stuff Do something Romantic...like flowers, notes, making love...and not only at the same time every Friday night at 10....same time same place....have fun!!!!
If you’re like us date night is something that we look forward to. We don’t go crazy we don’t want to break the bank.
It means spending quality time together and enjoying one another’s company.
Picnic, sandwich and coffee, cakes, shopping with her,,,go in the dress shops or wool shops.
There’s something said for being comfortable in your marriage and knowing that you’ll always be there for each other, YOU’RE THERE.....

søndag 15. november 2015

Isaiah 11 & 12: Hope and fulfilment

Isaiah 11:1-12:6

Two weeks ago we tackled some pretty rough chapters, 9&10: judgement on Israel, the terror of Assyria which will wipe them out – then the judgement on Assyria “who do you think you are – you’re just a tool, like an axe. Is the axe greater than the arm that wields it?” – and bam – you who were a great forest will be just a few sticks in an open field.
After seeing the sinfulness of man, whether in Israel or Assyria - After seeing what happens when God’s patience runs out and he moves in terrifying righteous judgement - after all that, we finally get some words of hope.
In the mess and the suffering and the confusion of a broken world, a world filled with war, with refugees fleeing for their lives, sitting in foreign countries longing to go home – into that situation God speaks. Sound familiar?

Is there hope for today? Is there hope when we see millions of people fleeing from their homes because of the sinfulness of man expressed in war? It is not just. It is not right. It is evil. It is sin.
I love this church – all of you that make up this church – I love each and every one of you. You are my family, my brothers and sisters. But it saddens me that the reason that many of you are here is because you are refugees, fleeing for your life. Because war has overtaken your homeland and ruined it.

That was the situation in Israel: the Assyrians would stomp on everyone, removing the Northern Kingdom of Israel entirely. Everyone moved. The land emptied. And most of the Southern Kingdom would be equally destroyed. Towns, villages, empty. Fields and farms deserted, abandoned. People taken into captivity or fleeing into neighbouring lands.

Israel will be nothing more than a stump. The kingdom has had bad kings who have lead them to ruin. The great promise of the King like David, David’s son who would rule well and would bring peace and prosperity – that, like a great tree, had fallen. What was left was just a stump. But God speaks. And there is hope.

1. V1-5 Our hope: Jesus, the divine Davidic King

11:1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. (Some translations say out of the stump of Jesse – Jesse was David’s father).

A new King will arise! The promise God made to David will be fulfilled. Even in the mess, even in the chaos of war and refugees and fear – God’s promises remain. They are a never-changing fixed point that will never fail. And what a King! This King will be filled with God’s own Spirit. He will be a godly king. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Isn’t this the type of leader we want? Wise. Understanding. With counsel and knowledge. But not a push-over, a weakling – someone with might (power) – able to do what is right. And he does what is right because he fears the Lord – that is, the Lord is his boss. V3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. He not only obeys the Lord, but he delights in obeying Him. It is His joy to love the Lord, to obey Him, to do His will. What a king!

And because of this His rule brings justice and peace. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. 4 He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited.

How much injustice is there in this world! How evil when the State abuses its power! When there is corruption or just laziness and justice is not done. When children are taken from their parents. When you’re forced to fight in the army. When the police arrest you and throw you in prison for being a Christian. When your village is bombed because you are suddenly in “rebel” territory. When you are wrongly accused and are put in prison for something you didn’t do.

But this king is not like that. He sees the truth. He looks beyond appearances. He sees into the hearts of men.

Who can this be? Who sees through the lies and into mens hearts but God alone? v4 continues The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.

A little bell should be ringing in our minds. We just read about a child that would be called God. Is this King the miracle child, the sign promised to Israel? Come back with me to chapter 9.
6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

There is a King, a King who will be born, the Prince of Peace who will rule forever, and he will be called Everlasting FATHER, MIGHTY GOD. God Himself will be born a child and will rule forever. That is the sign of the woman back in chapter 7:11 Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

This is the son, the boy Immanuel “God with us”. The Spirit will rest on Him and He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will bring justice and righteousness.


Matthew 1:18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit….v20 “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Here is Isaiah 7:11 the virgin with child. Here is Isaiah 11:2 the Spirit-filled King.

John the Baptist announced his coming in Mt 3:3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ ” Who is coming? The Lord – Yahweh – Israel’s God is coming! Mt 3:13–17 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. ..16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Jesus was in the line of David, a son of Abraham. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, to the people shouting Lk 19:38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD (Yahweh)! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

Jesus said to Pilate Jn 18:36–37 “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

Have even just a quick read of the gospels and it’s clear that Jesus is the promised King. And because he is our king we have hope. Our future is secure. Because he is the King of the far future of the prophecy, the future yet to come for us. And he is the King of the near future of the prophecy, that for us has already happened and is happening.

Remember that prophecy works on multiple times: now, future, far future. Isaiah could not see which was which. We, because we live in between these two times: the coming of Jesus, and the Return of Jesus – we can see what belongs to what time.

2. V6-9 Jesus: King of the far future

Our future is secure. This King, this promised King, secures a perfect future. This has not happened yet – although we get some foretastes of it. But it lies in the future.

Re 21:1–4 (NLT) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Re 22:3–5 (NLT) No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

A Day is coming, the Day of Christ’s return, when there will be no accursed thing! Everything that is evil will be dealt with, destroyed, never to rise again. Jesus says Rev 21:5 “Look, I am making everything new!”. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. A new creation. A return to Eden – but better. Instead of two people, Adam and Eve, there will be millions upon millions. Instead of a Garden, a whole City. Instead of God walking in the cool of the day, he will live among us. There will be no tree of the knowledge of good and evil – only the tree of life!

Brothers and sisters, that is what we long for! That is what we were made for! When we see natural beauty – when we look around at this country, this amazing country – it is only an echo, a faint shadow of the glory of the Real Norway, the Norway in the new creation. And when we get just a glimpse of that beauty, our heart aches.
When we see human kindness, when we see people rescuing people, when we see the joy of someone accepting Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour for the first time. These are echoes of the new Creation.

Brothers, we are made for eternity. We are not made for this fallen world. We are not made for evil. That is why we react to it, fear it. There is something wrong with the world. This is not the way things are supposed to be! And we are right. And Christ will set the world right. The lion will lie down with the lamb. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. And the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. Our future is secure.

But is this all just pie in the sky when you die? Do we just struggle through life waiting for the day Christ finally returns. No, because he is active now. He rules now, and all around us we see evidence of the work of Christ.

3. V10-16 Jesus: King of the near future (or as we would call it: Jesus: King of the now, for we live in Isaiah’s “near future”)

10 In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.

In that day? Which day. The First day or the Final day. Well, this is both isn’t it. For on that Final Day the nations will stand before him at the final judgement. Those who know him will go in. Those who do not will be shut out forever.

But we see this in action now. From that First Day, we see his banner raised all over the world. We see the nations gathered to him each Sunday in churches all over the world. Right now, millions of brothers and sisters are gathered in Jesus’ name: in Beirut, in Paris, in Darfur, Iran, Pakistan, India, Eritrea, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, US, and on and on across the world: some in secret, some openly, but all in His Name. Our King! And this church family we have is a glorious place. It is not a perfect place, not yet! But it is glorious.
Here we are, from all across the world. We have nothing in common. Except Jesus. He is our Lord and Saviour. God is our Father, and we are brothers. Praise God!

11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people— those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. 12 He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth.

In that day, the First Day, the day of the cross, was when Jesus completed the true Exodus. Remember the Exodus, when Moses lead the people of Israel out of slavery to Egypt, and into the Promised Land. Throughout the Old Testament there have been signs and prophecies looking forward to a second Exodus, a greater Exodus: and that is what Jesus achieved on the Cross. On the Cross he rescued us from slavery to sin, and will take us safely to the Promised Land, the New Creation. This is the second Exodus, the greater Exodus. And all who put their trust in Jesus are part of it.

And this is where we find ourselves today. Christ’s banner is raised. Our Spirit-filled King calls all men to himself. He has achieved the great Exodus: the rescue of people from slavery to sin. This is the hope of the nations. This is the power that can break war, and hatred, and racism, and fear, and lies and gossip and sexual sin and cruelty and murder and bullying and neglect and laziness and cheating and stealing and… all taken by him on the Cross. Borne by him, our righteous King. And we stand united in Him, the church his glorious family, full of love and hope and righteousness and truth.

Jesus is our King now.

4. 12:1-6 Our response: Joyful obedience!

And as his people we should be like him. What does that look like? Well, not like Israel in Isaiah’s time! Actually, we should be like our Spirit-filled King. Turn with me to Gal 5 to see what that looks like.

Ga 5:22–26 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

What should our lives look like under King Jesus’ banner?
Well, these are some of the things a Christian will be, just taking a few of the fruits of the Spirit:

Love: putting Christ first, and serving others. I love Jesus so I serve my wife, even if I feel like she “owes” me. I love Jesus so I serve my kids even when they annoy me. That service can mean getting up off the sofa to deal with their disobedience. Love is seen in action! I love Jesus so I share the gospel. I love Jesus so I invite people to my home. I love Jesus so I…

Peace: Not causing fights. Looking to reconcile but in truth. Do you have hatred for someone? How can you be like Jesus and take the step to make right?

Faithful: Committed to the right things. Committed in church. Committed to your wife! And that includes sexually purity. Things like not watching pornography. Not having sex with anyone other than their wife. Having sex often with their wife! (If you are having sex with a not-wife – then repentance means stopping. If you’re not married, get married. If you’re married to someone else, you need to confess your sin.)

Gentle: Not given to outbursts of anger. Not being cruel or harsh with your kids or co-workers or wife or anyone else. Not being cutting with your words, belittling people, hurting them with your words. Even on Facebook. Even with your enemies. Even with groups of people like “the Muslims” or “the refugees” or “the Norwegians” or “NAV” or whatever. Let us speak like Christ.

Now remember this is not something that we have to ACHIEVE and then God will like me. You know, you need 20 “love points” and 15 “faithfulness” points to enter the church. This is a by-product of being a Christian. We are with our King and his Spirit starts to change us.

Because this is what we will have if we are with Jesus, and this is hard to fake: Joy! Yes, we should be bursting with joy. We are saved! Jesus is King! There is hope for the nations! Hallelujah

Praise Jesus that there is hope in this world! That his promises still stand. That he is a safe port when the storms rage about us. I think there is no better way to respond than to say the words of chapter 12 together. I have written them on the screen as well.

Let’s stand and say together: “I will praise you, O LORD! You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me.
2 See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”
3 With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
4 “Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!
5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world.
6 Let all [his] people…shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”

Let’s raise our voices with the faithful people of God across the world and throughout history from before Isaiah’s time, with Isaiah in his time, and all the way until today – millions praising God! Let’s sing “see what a morning”. What a mighty, amazing, God we serve. The God who saves us. The God who gives us hope and a secure future. Praise God.

søndag 8. november 2015

Real Jesus?

Real Jesus?
How do we know what we know about Jesus?

As many of you know, I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were missionaries. I grew up attending church. So obviously I was a Christian and would be a Christian.

You would think. Come with me to me: age 19. Living in Drammen with my uncle and aunt after a year at Sagavoll folkehøgskole.

Oh, if people asked me I said that I was a Christian. I knew all the right things to say. I was a fairly good boy. Didn’t smoke or drink or have sex. I even read my Bible. Mostly every day. So far, so good. See, that’s conditioning. That’s growing up as a Christian. I knew how to behave. I was, to quote my Dad, “evangelically house-trained”.

But I wasn’t a Christian. A Christian is a Christ-one, one who belongs to Christ. A Jesus person. Because my Christian life was in a box. God in a box. I took him out in the morning, listened to His Word as I read the Bible, prayed to Him – then carefully put Him back in the box for the rest of the day, and ignored Him. I struggled along in the rest of the day with my own problems and issues and sins. To be honest, I was fairly selfish, especially towards my uncle and aunt, and my cousins who were 3 and 1 at the time. God made no impact on my life whatsoever. My life. God. In His box.

Until one day he broke out of the box, much to my surprise! The beginning of autumn 1995 I had an experience that changed my life. Forever. Eternally.

But an experience is just that – an experience. It is something internal to me. There is no evidence of the reality of that experience. I claim to have met with God – how do you know that is true. There are many, many people who claim to have met with God. How do you know what they say is true? Jospeh Smith, founder of the Mormons, and Muhammed, founder of Islam, were just two such men who claim to have met with God. But how do we know?

Experience is not enough. We need evidence. Is there any evidence to back up my experience, or should it be dismissed as a psychological crisis?

Did Jesus really exist? Or is Jesus like Winnie-the-Pooh (Ole Brumm) – a great character that we all love, and has some wise things to say, but isn’t real. Come on.

Let’s investigate. Engage the little grey cells!

Let’s start our journey back through time in AD 325 at the First Church council in Nicea under Roman Emperor Constantine. This was a gathering of bishops and minsters from all across the Roman Empire. Many say it was here they made up Jesus.

1. Theory 1: The Bishops and Constantine made Jesus up in 325AD

From the records we know there were around 300 bishops at the council from all across the Empire, representing about 1800 bishops. These bishops all had lots of congregations under them. This is a HUGE amount of Christians. So the first problem to trouble our little grey cells is: where did all these Christians come from in the first place? If this is where Jesus was made up, where did all the Jesus followers come from?
And if they believed in an ordinary Jesus – and then the council came out and said “no, THIS is the Jesus you must believe in” – how do you think people would react?

In fact, we know how. Because we know that what the council was about. They kept minutes of their decisions. The big argument was “Is Jesus fully God or is he God’s first creation”. The Council said that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God, and that to say otherwise is heresy. And that argument created massive problems in the church for about 300 years afterwards. Can you imagine what completely changing Jesus would have done? Or making up a new religion and then saying “this is your religion”.
But history gives us no evidence for that. No evidence of a church in upheaval.

There is also no evidence that they discussed creating a Bible. The decisions they made included things like “you are not allowed to castrate yourself” – apparently a problem in those days – “young women are not allowed in the house of minister if it looks suspicious” – good rule even today, flee from temptation, and a whole load of other things. None of them were “write a new Bible”

So, if they didn’t do this, what did they do? Oh, maybe they put together the Bible – well, the New Testament – by carefully selecting the stories about Jesus as superman, as God, and leaving out the stories where he was just an ordinary guy. That’s how they twisted thing.

2. Theory 2: The Bishops and Constantine carefully selected the books of the Bible to make the Jesus they wanted in 325AD

Let’s look at the evidence. Hmm. There isn’t any. In fact, the canon of the Bible – that is which books make up the Bible – canon – not cannon BOOM – c a n o n. was not even discussed at the council.

Maybe it was done in secret. And the new Bible came out. We know that Constantine ordered 50 Bibles made in 331AD.

But we still have that problem that no-one made a fuss. Do you think it would work today if we had a big council and said actually, Jesus wasn’t the saviour, but it was Peter who did all the miracles. He was the real power behind the Messiah. How well do you think that would go down? I mean people have been put to death over whether you can baptise babies or not and whether you need to go all the way into the water or just have it sprinkled. Put to death! And this was changing the basis, the foundation of the Christian faith.

The second problem is that we have copies of the New Testament before and after 325AD. And they match. Finding Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV (P75) wrecked this theory. P75 is from 175AD – 150 years before the Council. And it matches Codex Vaticanus which is dated to 325AD (the year of the Council). And Codex Vaticanus matches what we have in our Bibles today. The same words. The same Jesus. The Jesus of history. Powerful. Able to heal at a word. Full of grace for sinners. Full of judgement for the self-righteous. One who went to the cross to save sinners – and said that he would rise again on the third day. And then did so. That’s the Jesus of the Bible and has always been the Jesus of the Bible.

There is no evidence that the Bishops and Constantine selected the stories to go into the Bible. The core of the Bible (the four gospels and most of Paul’s letters, as well as Revelation) was fixed very early on (around 150AD). A few other letters went in and out over the years as church leaders debated whether they really were historical writings or later additions – until the books we have today were finalised around 380-400AD.

So, the books we have in the Bible were not changed by the bishops and Constantine. But maybe someone changed them between then and now. I mean, that’s 2000 years of copy after copy. Should be pretty easy to change something?

3. Theory 3: The writings were changed between then and now

Well, it would be pretty easy to change something if we didn’t have a ridiculous number of New Testament manuscripts. More than 5600 copies at last count – and we keep discovering more!

If we follow the evidence we find copies of manuscripts going in different directions to different parts of the Roman Empire. Comparing those copies from different branches reveals what the original manuscript contained. If copies from two or three different branches match, then we know what the original said. Likewise, the more copies we have, the more we can isolate any errors and be rid of them.

The evidence that we have for the New Testament writings are ridiculously strong. They are hilariously overbalanced when it comes to historical reliability. Put them in the ring with any other historical source the New Testament stomps it into the ground like a 500lb gorilla versus an ant. Let me give you an example: Julius Caesar we all know of: Rome’s first Emperor and great military leader. We know of him through the writings of Tacitus. In fact, most of what we know about Roman history comes from Tactius. He is the great Roman historian. He wrote around 100AD – 150 years after Julius Caser. Know when the earliest copy of his writings we have comes from? 1100AD. 1000 YEARS after it was written. How many historians think therefore that it is unreliable? None.

The earliest of the New Testament letters were written in 51-55AD – only about 15 years after Jesus death and resurrection. As in most people were still alive who witnessed what happened with Jesus. So very, very close to the actual happenings. Know when the earliest copy we have if New Testament books? If you were listening closely and said Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV or P75 you’d be wrong by nearly 75 years. Yes! We actually have a piece of physical parchment from 100AD – still within living memory of the Cross. It’s called Papyrus 52 or the John Rylands fragment. It’s a tiny piece of John’s gospel, 9cm x 6cm, which matches what we have today. Historically this is incredible. It’s the historical equivalent of having a high-speed camera clicking away, recording what happened.

Okay, so we’ve followed the evidence all the way to the events of Jesus life. We know that the bishops and Constantine didn’t make things up, they didn’t change the Bible in any way, and they didn’t select the Bible. What we have in the New Testament today is what was written down between AD51 (1 Thessalonians) and AD95 (Revelation).

4. Theory 4: The disciples made it up

Now this is a much cleverer theory. Now you don’t have to explain why there were so many Christians, or why the church existed, or if the New Testament documents were changed. Sounds like a winner.

Let’s investigate. Use the little grey cells. Now for this to happen – for it to be true that the disciples made it up – we need means, motive, and opportunity.
Means: did the disciples have the skill to pull off the greatest con in history?
Motive: what did they personally gain from this?
Opportunity: could they actually pull it off?

It’s like a being investigated for a murder – if any of those are missing, I didn’t do it. I might have the means (a gun), the motive (I hated the person) – but not the opportunity because I was 1000 miles away when it happened. Or I might have been right next to him, and hated him – but I had no gun, no means. Or I had a gun (means), and I stood right next to him (opportunity), but he was my brother whom I loved – no motive.

So let’s engage the little grey cells in this scenario. Did they make it up?

First: means.

We need to understand that we are not in the year 2015, or even the year 1800, or 1000 – we are way back around 40-50 AD. The literary world was very different then. Most people couldn’t read or write. Popular fiction didn’t exist. In fact there were basically two types of literature: factual, and mythical. Mythical was about the gods and their dealings with us in ancient times. But on-one ever wrote myths like facts. The idea was just stupid. Why would you do that? “To entertain” we say. To which the Romans would respond “That’s idiotic! Myths are myths and facts are facts. Only a fool would mix the two.”

And the disciples certainly aren’t writing myths. They are very clear that what they are writing is historical, eye-witness facts. In 1 John 1:1 John writes We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He [Jesus] is the Word of life.

In the gospel of Luke, Luke writes “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honourable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”

CS Lewis was a professor of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, says this: “I have been reading …myths and legends all my life. I know what they are like. And I know none of them are like…these gospel texts…The reader who doesn't see this simply hasn't learned how to read."

This modern way of writing – Harry Potter, da Vinci code, Tom Clancy’s novels - believable stories, with real historical detail mixed in with fiction, made-up stuff, that way of writing hadn’t been invented yet. It was totally unknown. Myths were myths and written like myths. History was history and written like history. No-one would ever, or had even thought of, writing myth like history.

Now it could have happened. Maybe one of the disciples stumbled upon this way of writing and kept it secret. Could have happened. But that’s a massive leap forward. Literature develops like anything else progressively, on the backs of what has come before, like technology. To say the disciples knew this way of writing is like saying the disciples shot Judas with a gun. It’s possible that they developed some kind of basic gun – out of nothing, then never used it again, and it was never heard of again until over a thousand years later. Possible. Not very likely. So “the disciples made it up” fails the means test. They couldn’t do it.

Second: motivation.

Haha, you might think, look how powerful the church is. It’s all about money. Like the Catholic Bishop who spent 14 million euros on his house, or the TV evangelists who preach about God wanting you to be rich – and they get rich, while their listeners get poor.

But you’re reading today’s reality back into history. For the disciples, the gospel of Jesus was a death sentence, not a pathway to riches. All the disciples were either martyred or imprisoned. They were arrested, tried, beaten, left for dead, stoned, mocked, ridiculed, spat at, caused riots, wherever they went. And in many parts of the world, still goes on today. The disciples died for Jesus – would they do that if it were a story they’d made up? Wouldn’t you just say “wait, I made it all up”. They gave their lives because they were convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour – and that to know him is to know Almighty God himself.

So, they didn’t have the skills to write modern fiction, so fail the means test. All they gained was suffering and hardship, so fail the motive test. But what about opportunity? Surely they had the opportunity. I mean they were the ones closest to Jesus, they could have said whatever they wanted.

True. If they were off in the desert somewhere and no-one else is around. If you’re Muhammed off in a cave, or Joseph Smith in a room by yourself. Oh, then you can claim great miracles occur. I can tell you I went up into the mountains and saw a great light and that the angel Gabriel himself stood before me… but you’ve just got to believe me.

That’s what these genius fraudsters, con-artists should have done. Put Jesus doing all these things far away and long ago. But we know the New Testament was written within living memory of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was written when people were still alive – you could ask them did this happen. And if you’ve read any of the gospels you know that all of Jesus’ ministry happened very publically. His death on the cross was an extremely public event – everyone saw him die. He was dead.
And his resurrection was equally public. The women saw him. His disciples saw him. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus saw him. Then Thomas saw him and touched him. Then he ate breakfast with Peter. Then over 500 people saw him at one time – most who were still alive when those words were written. Go and speak to them.

Our 4th theory: “the disciples made it up” fails every test. The disciples did not have the means, the motive or the opportunity to fake this.

5. Theory 5: Jesus rose from the dead, and everything he said and did is historical truth.

You know, we don’t even need the gospels to know that Jesus existed. Non-Christian historians and non-Christian writings give evidence that Jesus did exist, that he did die, and that Christians were running around convinced that he rose again from the dead.

Suetonius, Roman historian, in 120AD reports on Jews being expelled from Rome in 49 AD because of rioting about “Chrestus”.

Pliny the Younger in 110AD writes to Emperor Trajan asking if he must continue executing Christians because all they do is worship Christ Jesus "as a god" and promise to do good.

Mara bar Serapion in 70AD warned his son not to persecute wise or good men, like Socrates, Pythagoras, and 'the Jews who killed their wise king.'

In 55AD – very, very early! – Thallos, Roman historian, writes about the darkness during Jesus’ crucifixion.

Josephus, Jewish historian, writing between 60-100AD, writes about Jesus doing miracles, the chief priests taking him to Pilate who condemned him to death – and how instead of stopping Christianity, this seemed to make it grow stronger.

My favourite quote, however comes from Tacitus, the Roman historian, who wasn’t really a fan of Christianity. “Christians derive their name from a man called Christ, who, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius had been executed by sentence of the governor Pontius Pilate. The deadly superstition, thus checked for the moment, broke out afresh not only in Judea (Jerusalem) the first source of the evil, but also in the City of Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world meet and become popular”.

The growth of Christianity was extremely rapid. Like ripples in a pond when you throw a stone, we see that something momentous happened in Jerusalem in around 33-38AD.

History tells us that in Judea, in Palestine, 2000 years ago, there was a man who claimed to be God, and proved it publically with mighty works, a predicted death, and a dramatic resurrection from the dead. Many, many people believed this message very early on – and they could have gone and spoken to eye-witnesses, talked to people who heard Jesus. If it was false, it would have died out. Instead, the church grew massively, not by the sword, like some other religions, but in the face of the sword. Because it’s truth.

These events did not happen off in corner, like in a magic show where you can’t see behind the curtain. But in full view of everybody. This happened. Jesus lived, ministered, died, rose again.

No other theory fits the facts.

So what are you going to do with Jesus?

What are you going to do with Jesus?

søndag 25. oktober 2015

Isaiah 7:1-9:7 The Messiah: the promised child who brings judgement – and salvation

Isaiah 7:1-9:7

God! Vast, powerful, enthroned in glory. We saw Him in chapter 6 on the throne, surrounding by massive powerful burning angels. He was in the Temple and his glory filled it. Here is the true King of Israel.

And in this chapter this great King, this being of Ultimate Power in the Universe promises a sign. A sign that he is in control. A sign of his power and his sovereign rule. A sign that will show the world God is in charge.

What kind of sign would you expect? 10 plagues? Sea opening up? Worldwide flood?

The sign God promises? A baby.
A baby?!
Yes, a baby.

That’s probably what King Ahaz thought as well! Seriously? That’s the big sign? A young woman will have a baby? A virgin will get married and have a baby. Wow.

And in Isaiah and Ahaz’s time, yes, the sign of the baby wasn’t that impressive – although it did come true. By the time the baby was a child, the two nations threatening Judah had been wiped out just as God had said. But the baby, well, the baby didn’t seem that important – at least not then. Not until a young unmarried woman – a virgin – called Mary - became pregnant without having sexual intercourse. And suddenly Isaiah’s prophecy became a lot more interesting.

Let’s have a look. Remember what I said about prophecy often working on two or more levels, in two or more time periods. This week’s chapters find their partial fulfilment in Isaiah’s time, and their full fulfilment in Jesus’ time.

We’ll follow Isaiah and Ahaz’s story first, then look at Jesus, and then apply it to us.

1. The child: a sign of judgement for Ahaz

The scene is set in v1-2: Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel, is being threatened by Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in some translations called “Ephraim”). This is bad! V2 the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.

So, Isaiah is told in 7:3 to go and meet Ahaz and tell Ahaz not to fear, but to trust God. Stop looking at the problem. Look up! But just as God had said in chapter 6, Ahaz will not listen. God says don’t worry? Are you blind God? Look at Syria’s armies! Look at Israel’s armies! How can you say this invasion will never happen? V7

Ahaz does not believe because what God is saying through Isaiah was just unbelievable. God says their enemies are nothing – that in fact, Israel (the North) will be no more in just sixty-five years (v8). Pff. No. They’re Jews like us. We are Israel, God’s people! God would never abandon his people like that. Shut up Isaiah, you speak lies.
Isaiah’s message ends at the end of v9 with a warning, translated a bit weirdly in the NLT. Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. This almighty God “cannot”? The ESV has a better translation, as does the Norwegian bible: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all”.
Literally: If not believe / established then not believe / established. It is the idea of a secure foundation. Ahaz – be warned: the only secure foundation, the only safe path through this terrible time is the Lord. If you will not stand on Him, then you will not stand. A few weeks ago back in chapter 2 we saw how all the world will be shaken, our lives will be shaken – and only Christ is unshakeable. And I asked us this question “When my life is shaken, what will stand?”

That is the question for Ahaz. Stand or fall on me. Says the Lord. But Ahaz, we know, will not listen, so in v11 God tells him to ask God for a sign! Very interesting.
But Ahaz refuses! Why? He uses religion “I will not put God to the test” but actually he doesn’t want to be convinced. He does not want a sign from God because he does not want to obey God.
We’re good at that – coming up with reasons for why we shouldn’t obey God. Sometimes, and these are really good, we come up with spiritual, religious reasons for disobeying.
We only fool ourselves. Not God. Not ever.

Look at God’s response: 13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. What is the sign? Look! The virgin (or young woman) will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)...16 For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.
The sign will be a young unmarried woman, a virgin, giving birth to a son. The boy will barely be grown up when the threat of Syria and Northern Israel (in some translations called Ephraim) will be no more.

And in chapter 8 what do we find? Isaiah has sexual intercourse with a young woman - his wife - and she becomes pregnant with their son. And by the time he is ready to eat solid food (yoghurt and honey) – Assyria captured Syria and North Israel. My personal view is that chapter 8 is supposed to be seen as the fulfilment of 7:14. For Isaiah’s time. There are many who would disagree – there are 10 theories on how this is fulfilled! But I think that like in previous chapters we are supposed to be looking beyond the partial fulfilment and waiting on the Lord to do what he promised. Because waiting on the Lord is a major theme of these chapters!

Because a young woman does give birth to a son. But the word Isaiah chooses is not the usual “na’arah” meaning young woman, but “almah” – which means virgin woman, or young unmarried woman. And Isaiah’s wife isn’t exactly a virgin! Also, the boy was to be called Immanuel “God with us”. This boy is called Maher-shalal-hash-baz (called Baz by his mates) – which means “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens”!! Which kind of sounds more like “God has left us” than God with us!

However the sign, was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day, we’re looking beyond to a future day, waiting for God to bring a sign: a virgin who will bear the son Immanuel. The reality of that prophecy was mind-blowing, and we miss it because it’s so familiar. But let’s finish off Isaiah and his son ‘Baz and Ahaz before we get to Jesus…

The Lord promises in 8:5-10 that Assyria will come like a flood. All the human powers that Israel trusted in have come to nothing. Only the Lord can save. And he will. Because Israel is called “Immanuel” (v8), God with us. He is with his people. And for those of us who are slow v10 ends with “God is with us”. And remember Isaiah’s first son’s name? Shear-jashub “a remnant will remain”. That remnant will be like Jerusalem just keeping her head above water in a flood.

Everything else they’ve trusted in will come to nothing – but God will save them. The message is summed up in v11-22 Fear GOD, and nothing else. If not, he will be a stumbling block and a snare. V14 But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.

Either God is your saviour, or he will be your destruction. You either stand firm on God, or you do not stand at all.

For Israel in Isaiah’s time, for Ahaz, the child was a sign of judgment. They should have listened to God: Isaiah’s plea is clear 18 I and the children the Lord has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies who dwells in his Temple on Mount Zion 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings!
Because looking to anything else, listening to anyone else, will lead to v22 will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.

The people are blind – looking to the wrong thing to save them. They are deaf, listening to the wrong voices – the voices of the dead instead of God. What hope is there in this darkness?

2. 9:1 – 7 The child. A sign of hope for the world.

9 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen

There is one coming, oh yes, who will usher in a new age, a golden age. Isaiah and his sons do not offer much hope. A small hope: a remnant will remain. Jerusalem will not be completely destroyed. But this, this is something else. No more slavery, no more war. A child who is called Mighty God. Is this the Immanuel? The God with us.

Yes! And how!

This child is the sign God will give to Ahaz and all like him who walk in darkness (That’s all of us by the way!)
The virgin will give birth, and that child will be Immanuel himself. God, the great God on his throne will come down, shrink himself down and become one of us. A baby, born of a virgin, Mary from Galilee. And from there a great light will shine out across the whole world v2. He will be the King, the King who will rule forever in righteousness and truth for he is the King, the Lord Almighty, our Everlasting Father and Mighty God himself.

Now that’s a sign!

Turn to Matthew 1:18–25 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Now we see why Isaiah used such a strange word for “young woman”. Because it pointed to Mary. A young woman becoming pregnant is not much of a sign is it. This will be the sign, someone will fall pregnant – and that someone will be a YOUNG WOMAN.

But a virgin falling pregnant – now that’s something else.

The disciples of Isaiah’s day were longing for the day when God would rescue his people - a day when the people now in darkness, now unable to see and hear because the Lord has hidden himself from them – one day they will 9:2 see a great light! Joy as the rescuer will come. This rescuer, this child – yes, the child promised in 7:14, not the child of Isaiah, but the child born to a virgin, the miracle child - he v6 will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And we know this will happen because God guarantees it. Look at the end of v7 there The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

God says: Oh Isaiah, your people are a mess, I know. But I have set in motion my plan to rescue them. And not just them, but all who are in darkness. I will bring them out of the darkness and into the light. I will do this myself. So have patience. Wait upon the Lord.

Mt 4:13–17 [Jesus] went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” 17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

The Kingdom is near, yes, because the King is standing there in front of you. And friends the kingdom is near now because Jesus is still ruling, and he is here now, calling on you to respond. For his kingdom is eternal and he rules forever. He came to earth to shine a light, the only light, into this world. He died in our place to take away our sins so that we who are blind and deaf can be restored to see and hear. Jesus deals with the problem of our spiritual blindness. Is 32:1–3 (NLT) Look, a righteous king is coming! And honest princes will rule under him. … 3 Then everyone who has eyes will be able to see the truth, and everyone who has ears will be able to hear it.

Jesus is the sign of hope for the world. We walk in darkness, we are blind and deaf – but Jesus, Jesus shines a light into our darkness, and calls us out with power and mercy. So, how should we respond?

3. Our response: to actively wait on the Lord in obedience

King Ahaz is the example of what not to do. When put to the test Ahaz shows his faith is elsewhere: Ahaz has put his faith in Assyria, not God! Chapter 8 shows us why. Because Ahaz is listening to the wrong voices. Not the voice of God, through Isaiah, but to the voices of the dead, the voice of Satan.
What is my trust in? When I am challenged, what do I really put my faith in? In the Lord? Does my life show this?

Let me give two examples:

I know two ladies, both single, both attractive. Both started going out with non-Christian men. Why? Because that is how we are designed. To be in relationship. But we are first designed to be in relationship with God. Both were challenged with whether they trusted God or men. One repented, the other, well, she’s still working it out.

I know two men. Both put under pressure at work to lie. Both were worried about their jobs, having no security net – if they lost their job life would be difficult. One was afraid, and so compromised, and went through a difficult time. The other realised that his salary is provided by God, not by men. He sized up the moment, marched into his bosses office, and told him that he served God, not men, and therefore would not lie and also had to expose the corruption. Oh, things exploded around him – but the Lord was with him and he was at peace.

Who do we serve, God or men? Do we really believe that God is sovereign? That he is in control.


That waiting is not passive, slouched on the couch. We wait like King Hezekiah, we wait like Daniel. Hezekiah went to the Temple and prayed to the Lord, listened to the prophet Isaiah, and obeyed everything he told him. Daniel read again and again the words of God in Scripture and so he knew that the exile would soon be over. He prayed every day to God, even when his life was threatened. That’s waiting on the Lord. That is true faith.
Friends, it is simple to be a Christian: let us read the Bible every day, let’s meet together as a church, let’s love and care for each other, pray together, eat together, encourage each other as the Day of Christ’s return approaches. We keep sharing the gospel, keep holding out the word of life, keep praying for our non-Christian friends and family, and wait patiently for the Lord to work in His time and in His way. We obey the Lord, no matter what the cost. We love instead of take revenge. We tell the truth even when it costs. We are faithful even when it hurts. We forgive, because Christ forgave us.
Do not lose heart. Stay the course. Be obedient and trust God.

The people of Israel had to wait 735 YEARS before they saw the true meaning of the sign “the young woman/virgin will be with child”. But oh my was it worth the wait! Never in our wildest dreams could we have known that God himself would be our saviour, that he really would be Immanuel, God with us. That’s the God we serve.

Take comfort and strength. The Lord is with us.

søndag 11. oktober 2015

Isaiah 6:1-8 Who is God

Isaiah 6:1-8

Who is God? If you could stand before Him now, what would you see?

And who are you? How would God react to you?

These are not questions that people often ask. But they are probably the only questions worth asking. They are the only ones that matter. Who is God, and what does he think about me?

The answer to that question will change your life.

Isaiah got the answer to that question in today's passage. He got a vision of God. He saw God – and he saw himself. And it changed his life.

I mean, it takes some serious courage to say what Isaiah has said over these last few chapters – pointing out the sin of Israel. Especially the last chapter. Hey what should I do with this vineyard of bitter grapes. “tear it up!” say the people. “That's right, I'll tear it up” says God. You can imagine the shock when they hear God’s next words (in 5:7) when he says my vineyard... is YOU.

God is going to judge his people. His people, his vineyard, have failed to produce sweet fruit of righteousness, goodness – but instead the disappointing bitter fruit of sinful, selfish lives, greedy, false religion.

Why? Because they had a wrong view of God. Their god was small and dumb. A god who could be fooled by the outward show of religious duty while you ignore him the rest of life.

And because they had a wrong view of God, they had a wrong view of themselves. They thought God was pleased with them. They thought they were good. See, their God was like them. Maybe slightly better. He was not the God of the Bible, the holy and exalted God, perfectly good, full of power and might.

1. This is the God we worship! Holy, holy, holy God!

Is 6 (NLT) It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” 4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

What did you see in your mind’s eye when you heard that read? An old man in a beard with a bright light behind him? Perhaps with a couple of pasty-looking effeminate angels in a white dress, strumming a harp saying “glooory, glooory”. That's our culture's view of “God” isn't it? Maybe a bit of gold thrown in there.

But that's not what Isaiah sees. Look at Isaiah’s reaction – deathly fear! v5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed! It’s the reaction you have when a lion turns towards you and suddenly lets out a powerful roar. Even though he was over a 1000 metres away and behind two fences – I thought for a moment I was going to die. The power of the roar was overwhelming. The power of the roar said he could do anything – and I was powerless to stop him. And that’s just a lion. Isaiah saw the Lord almighty: Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

What is the most frightening experience in your life?
My Dad once had a elephant charge at him. It came rushing forward knocking down trees in its path. That’s power. That’s fear.

That’s the kind of fear Isaiah experienced – but much much more. This is not some lion that’s miles away. This is not an elephant that you can get away from by being calm under pressure and reversing very fast.

This is the LORD! The creator of the world. Holy God. Mighty. Power unbelievable! This is the glorious God. And the angels that serve him, the seraphim there in v2: oh, they are not thin, weedy, droopy men in white shirts strumming a harp looking about as frightening as the local vicar in a nightie. No! These are seraphim, angelic beings whose name means literally “holy fire”. These are massive creatures, burning with a holy fire. They're like the Hulk, or a wrestler or gigantic body-builder. Massive, powerful. Their voice is so powerful it shakes the room like an earthquake. The Temple was a huge stone building – great blocks of stone – and they shake so the dust rises when the seraphim speak. Holy, holy, holy Lord.
They have six wings – faces and feet covered as a mark of respect to God on the throne. They may be creatures of holy fire – but for them to look upon the Lord Almighty… – even they cover their face, cover their feet. The seraphim would not even look upon the Lord because of his glory and holiness.
You can understand Isaiah's fear when he says I am doomed...I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

I mean, can you picture it? The LORD, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the one who spoke all things into existence; the one who judged the world in the great Flood - but rescued Noah; the one who called his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand, punishing Pharaoh and the Egyptians but rescuing his people. This God! There he sits on his throne. The train of his robe – that’s not a choo-choo train, but it is the long piece of material on the royal robe that trails along the ground. The longer the train, the more important you were. It showed your wealth – you could pay for expensive material just to drag on the ground. And the Lord’s train – well, that FILLED THE TEMPLE. It’s just like all over the place. He has unimaginable wealth. There is nothing anyone can offer him that he does not already have.

So his throne is high and lifted up, his train is everywhere, and his servants, his attendant, are angels of fire – and they are singing his praises: v3 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

You know, we will not stand before the Lord and argue with him. We will not negotiate with God. “Hey my friend I got a deal for you”. “I’ll give you a million krone”. “I’ve got this sweet cabin in Kragerø”.
We will not say “But God is a God of love, he’ll like me” “it’s because I’m worth it”
We will not walk in there saying “I’m a pretty good person”. Every one of us will fall horrified to our knees in fear as we see who God really is.

This God will not be impressed with our foolish attempts to please him with our religious activities. Are you really going to stand before God with your church attendance card or baptismal certificate - din 4-åringsbok, dåpsbevis eller konfirmasjonsbevis – are we going to stand before this God with that. The seraphim would laugh and all our pathetic religion would just burst into flame the moment they came close – and they’re not even God himself, just his servants.

When we catch a vision of God we understand, like Isaiah, Our religion is worth nothing. Our money is worth nothing. Our goodness is worth nothing. Our family connections are worth nothing. There is nothing we have that is of any value when we come before the Lord God Almighty. Nothing. What was it the apostle Paul said “I count all things as rubbish (garbage) compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ our Lord” (Phil 3:8)
We are wretched, naked, ridiculous in front of this awesome God.

Brothers, let us see the Lord in all his glory. Holy is he.
Holy means: other, set apart, different. He is not like us. He is something magnitudes greater. He is holy, holy, holy Lord. Holy Father. Holy Son. Holy Spirit.

You know, if we could just see, really see, understand, who God is. Then we see ourselves as we really are, we see others as they really are. We understand the world – everything comes in to focus. As it did for Isaiah. This moment changed his entire life. From this moment on, he was a different man. He was the prophet of God. And no-one could make him stop telling everyone about this God. The Word of God was on his lips throughout his life.

It was the same with the disciples. What does John say? We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life

They had a visions of God. They met Him. Saw him with their own eyes. Touched him. But Jesus was not on throne surrounded by flaming angels. So how did they know he was God? Well, he was powerful, yes. But they recognised him as God because he was full of mercy.

You see, the most amazing thing in this passage is not the greatness of God. It is the mercy of God. Mercy which allows a sinner like Isaiah, like you and me, to know this God, to stand in his presence, to serve him, to partner with him in his work on this earth. How incredible is that.

2. The mercy of the holy God

Isaiah is struck down with fear by meeting the holy God. Seeing God’s holiness, his perfection, his glory, Isaiah is suddenly aware of his own unholiness, imperfection, sin.

It’s like going through a dark, muddy cave – and when you come out into the light – whoa! You’re filthy! Covered in dirt. But when you’re in the cave, in the darkness, you can’t see the dirt.

That’s what it was like of Isaiah. Merrily going along thinking he’s a pretty good guy – check my holiness, it’s up to here. I go to church, I pay my taxes, I help my landlady take out her garbage.
And then Isaiah wakes up in the real world – confronted by God – God as he truly is.

5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

I had a similar experience to Isaiah. I was going along my merry little life. I gave God a bit of worship every day, just enough to you know keep him satisfied. And then got on with MY LIFE.
I’d confused God with a pet. Pat him, give him a bit of food. Then one day, he took hold of me. He grabbed by the scruff of my neck and marched me down to church, where he and I had a little chat. Yes Lord. Sorry Lord. Yes Lord, I will obey you. Yes Lord, I am yours.

And from that day, my life has never been the same again. It was like the sun came up and flooded my life with light. I had deep joy. I had seen the Lord – and I was not destroyed, but lifted up.

What mercy God has to sinners like us. Look at what happens to Isaiah.

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t that mind-blowing? Isaiah has no place there. He is not glorious. He is not an angelic being of fire. He is not holy. He should be thrown out. Or simply blasted into nothingness – burnt up like the unholy rubbish he is.

As the seraphim approached him – burning coal at the end of a pair of tongs held by a mighty burning creature whose voice shakes the huge stone Temple – I wonder if Isaiah thought “this is it! One touch and I’m dead”. You can imagine the great burning hand reaching out and crushing Isaiah like paper, consuming him in holy fire until nothing remains except ash to be blown on the wind.

But instead the mighty voice which shakes the room says Isaiah your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.

It's like the paralysed man on the mat in front of Jesus: son your sins are forgiven. What? Could it be true? Or the sinful woman washing his feet with her tears. Or Zacchaeus the short tax collector. Or Legion, filled with demons. Your sins are forgiven.
One touch of the coal from the altar and Isaiah is made holy. He can stand in the presence of God!
The altar was the place where sacrifices for sin were made. It was on the altar that blood was shed to pay the price for sin. It was on the altar where the guilt of the person’s sin was placed on the sacrifice - there was a swap. The sacrifice was treated as if it had sinned, the person was treated as if they were innocent. Isaiah’s guilt was transferred from him to the sacrifice. And he was declared innocent. His guilt was removed. His sins were forgiven.

Isaiah did not know how that could happen. How could one coal take away his sin? But we do. In John 12:41 we read Isaiah.. saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him.
Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory when he saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus’ glory and later spoke of it: the suffering servant whose sacrifice took away the sins of the world. He saw and experienced Jesus’ glory when the coal touched his lips and he knew that he was no longer a sinner, under judgement, but now a holy one, like the seraphim, able to stand in the throne-room of God.

For each of us who belong to Christ, the same has happened. One touch from his sacrifice on the cross, his altar, and our sins are dealt with. Our guilt was placed on his shoulders – we are guilty no more. Through his death our sins are forgiven.

And so we have moved – from unholiness to holiness. From those who will be thrown out of the presence of God – to those who stand before the Almighty. By His grace, we belong now to him. There is now no fear, no fear even of the seraphim, no fear of his awesome power and might. We are his. In fact, even further than that, because we can call this almighty God, Father. Daddy.
Because that is how Jesus knows him. Jesus, the son of God, swaps places with us and gives us his life, so that we too can be called children of God. Isn’t that incredible?

3. The result of grace: service

What happens as soon as Isaiah is purified, made clean?

The Lord has a task for him. 8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

There’s only one man there. Lots of angels, only one man – one man whose lips have just been made clean.
Who will speak for God? Who will be the Word of God among the people. It’s kind of clear who's supposed to respond… and he does.

V8 “Here I am. Send me.”

See the confidence he has in the grace of God. He is now ready to serve God. No more “I am doomed”. How much we can learn from Isaiah!

I love the interplay here between God’s sovereignty and human choice. It is quite clear that God has called Isaiah to be his prophet. It is quite clear that that is going to happen. God is sovereign, in control.
But it is equally clear that when Isaiah says “Here I am. Send me” that it was his choice. He was not a robot. God was not forcing the words out of his mouth. The angels were not threatening him. Isaiah looks at himself, his new self, his forgiven, guiltless self and says “yes, I can do that”. I can carry the word of God to the people.

That's what Ephesians 2:10 means when it says For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What we are to do, the good we are to do has been prepared by God. But we are not unwillingly forced along this path – we want to do it! We are created in Chrsit Jesus, a new creation, a new man that wants to walk the path God has prepared – and chooses to walk that path.

This world uses a show of power to force a response – you will obey.
But God here forgives, declares right, stands Isaiah up on his feet. Then he asks “Who will go?”. Not “YOU WILL GO!” but “Who will go?”. And Isaiah answers not from compulsion, not from fear – but from love. God's perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Oooh, me! Send me! He wants to do this for God because he loves God.

So too with us. We don’t want to sin anymore. We want to please our Lord. Not out of fear for the consequences - because we have already been declared righteous. Our guilt is gone. There is no fear. But respond out of love. Our hearts have been swapped out – from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh – from hearts that hate God and always choose to disobey him, to ignore him, to avoid him – to hearts that love him, and want to obey, want to be with him.

As Christians we are fundamentally changed. We have new nature, a new DNA. The DNA of Christ. The heart… of Christ.

Who is God, and what does he think about me?
He is powerful, He is awesome beyond belief. He is terrifyingly holy. To see him is to be doomed – and we all will see him one day. And all of our goodness and religion will be laughable before him – exposed as dirty faces and unclean hands. Unholy!
But one touch from the altar, one drop of the blood of Christ, and we are made holy. Each of us who belong to Christ are holy, able to be with God. To call him our Dad. Without being afraid. Without being burned up.

Brothers, when we're battling sin, let us remember who we are. Remember who He is. And remember that we are loved.