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?