mandag 30. mai 2016

Isaiah 59:1-60:22 Rambo is a weakling compared to Jesus

Isaiah 59:1-60:22

Who is Rambo? This is Rambo.

He’s a one-man army, a trained killing machine. In the last film, Rambo goes into Myanmar to rescue some Christian missionaries and help the Karen people. He takes down a whole army of baddies with a bow and arrow, a knife, and the enemy’s weapons.

And he’s a wimp compared to Jesus.

In today’s passage we see a description of ourselves and the world we live in. We are in a world that’s at war. At war with itself and at war with God.

And God has a rescue plan. He himself will come to rescue his people. God the warrior.

And if we are rescued by him, he, the warrior God, comes to live in us, to empower us to wage war against sin, against the darkness in us and in the world.

1. A terrible picture of humanity: lost, alone, corrupt – in darkness

9 So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. 10 We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.

Isn’t this how life sometimes feels? Stumbling in the dark? Isn’t that why many of struggle with depression? We know the darkness within. We are crushed by the darkness in the world.

Why are we in darkness? What is the problem?

Well, the fundamental problem, the problem behind everything, is sin. Sin is what makes murderers murder, liars lie, and robbers rob. Sin is behind our drunkenness, adultery, unfaithfulness. Sin is why our relationships fall apart. Sin is why we abort babies. Sin is why we feel so lost and alone – because we are.

2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

We are cut off from God. Oh, why do we suffer, why is the world like it is? God is too weak? God can’t? God’s limited?
Nonsense. He spoke the world into being! With a word. And when Jesus walked the earth, do you ever get the impression that he couldn’t do something? There was such power in him.

59:1 Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.

There is a massive chasm, a hole, between us and God. We are cut off. We are in darkness. We are people filled with darkness who live in a world filled with darkness.
Because we are sinners – cut off from God – we sin, that is do evil things. Sinners sin. Verses 3-9 are pretty harsh, aren’t they? Do you know they apply to us? That amongst us in this little group are murderers, liars, violent and corrupt people. “Misery and destruction follow them” could very well describe us – without Christ. Even with Christ sometimes as we choose to disobey him and follow our own way.

3 Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Well, murderers doesn’t apply to us, does it? Really? We’re messed up people, all of us. I’ve had guys in my Bible study, in my house, who are murderers. And I call them brothers. Would you be shocked if I said in this church there are murderers? Would you start to look around?
Should we be shocked? Do we think the church is only for good people? The church is a place for sinners. Before the cross, none of us are worthy.
Jesus said in Matt 5:21-22 “You have heard … ‘Do not murder, for you will be judged’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged…anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Murder is a heart issue. We all have murderous hearts. Some of us have just had what was already in our hearts exposed. Do not judge, brothers and sisters. We are all here by God’s grace, not our own efforts. V1-15 applies to us all.

After all, look how v3 continues Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. 4 No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin.

You may not have thought you’re a murderer, but now after Jesus’ words you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable – but you are liar. And so am I. We lie so easily, so quickly, we don’t even notice. “Little white lies”. And if we lie in the everyday, we’ll probably lie under pressure in the courts as well.
I remember going to the court as a witness in the Kahindo’s case – and I was utterly shocked at the corruption in the court. Here in Norway! The court wasn’t interested in the truth. They didn’t even call us as witnesses. All they wanted to do was protect themselves. They’d already decided they were guilty. The court was just there to say “yes they are guilty”. It was shocking. V14 Our courts oppose the righteous and justice is nowhere to be found.

We live in darkness. And darkness is within us. We lie. We murder people in our hearts. “You bitch!” we say. We get drunk. We say horrible things to people to wound them because they deserve it. We hurt those we love – often just by being selfish. We just neglect them. Our relationships fall apart. We wake up next to another woman and think oh, not again. We ignore our kids. We use all our money on ourselves before someone else can get to it. We fight with the neighbour. Whatever it is. We are all sinners. And we have all experienced the results of sin.

Paul quotes these verses, particularly v7-8, in Romans 3:10-20, where he describes humanity. There is no-one righteous, no, not one. No-one who seeks God.
We stumble in darkness. And we all try to cope in some way. Some flee to alcohol or drugs. Some run to sex. Some run to money. Some to power. Some just don’t think. Ignorance is bliss. But soon the darkness will overwhelm us.

It is a terrible picture of humanity: we are lost, alone, corrupt – in darkness. BUT!

2. God the warrior comes to rescue us himself

16 He [the LORD] was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his body armour and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.

Armed and ready, he is coming. It’s the preparation scene in Rambo, when he arms himself to the teeth, knife in the sheath, bow over his shoulder, explosive tipped arrows, pistol, maybe a machine gun or two, and a scowl which says “I mean business”. This is what God is doing here.

18 He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. 19 In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord.

It is not a good thing to be the enemy of God, is it? It’s like being an extra in a Rambo movie – urgh – that’s your part of the movie over. Standing against God is standing against an unstoppable force.

Actually, if this was a movie, it would be rather boring. Because there would be no tension – can he do it? When God the warrior is on the move, there is no moment when he is beaten and bloodied and must find the strength in himself and keep on fighting. When God moves, he moves with a terrifying swiftness. His enemies have no chance. If we are his enemies it’s like guys throwing rocks against a tank. A tank with lasers and force fields. A tank that’s 50 meters high and 50 metres wide. It’s a joke to stand against God. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord.

I remember once body boarding in the sea. The waves were quite big and it was great fun catching wave and riding it in to the beach. And then one wave caught me. I tried to get over it but it crested and the wave slammed down on to me. The force broke the board underneath me. I went one way, the two pieces of the board another. And I was in the washing machine as they call it – swirled around and around and around. I didn’t know which way was up. I was running out of breath. I was still spinning. The POWER of the wave was unbelievable. There was nothing I could do. It felt like I was going to die. Obviously, I didn’t. My feet suddenly, gloriously, touched the ground – and I pushed with all my strength, and shot out of the water, taking a great gulp of air.

That is the awesome power of God in judgement. But thousands of times more powerful. And with no hope of escape.

Why stand against him?

Because if you cry out to him – if you repent, that is turn away from yourself, your sinful lifestyle – if you cry out to him for help – that awesome power is on display not to judge you and crush you, but to rescue you. When we cry out to him, our feet suddenly hit the bottom in this tumbled-around crazy life we lead. And a powerful arm reaches down and pulls us out and we are embraced by strong powerful arms. We are safe.

20 “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord.

The redeemer. The word redeem means to buy back. It means to pay the price. So God himself will pay the price to buy back those who have turned from their sins.


Well, if we’ve been paying attention, through the suffering servant we’ve read about in chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53! Here is the great King who will give his life. By his stripes we are healed. By his death we are given life. Isaiah did not know who this servant was. The people of Israel did not know how God would pay the price to buy them back. They knew very well that the price of sin was death. They had the Law of Moses. To break the law meant punishment, exclusion, and in many cases, death. And every day there were animals being sacrificed at the Temple for sins. The constant flow of blood was a real reminder of the price of sin. The price of sin is death.

But how was God going to pay for their sins?

Those animal sacrifices were pointing on to a greater sacrifice: the servant. And we know who that servant is. Because he met the description that Isaiah and many other prophets gave. It was Jesus. Jesus who fulfilled all the prophecies about him. Jesus who was mighty. Jesus who simply walked through crowds that wanted to kill him – they couldn’t touch him. Jesus who commanded the wind and the waves to be still – and they listened. Jesus who called a dead man – dead three days – back to life again.

Serious power. And he used that power… to die. What? Because this was a rescue mission like no other. This was not Rambo flying in grabbing everyone, then flying out shooting at all the baddies. This is Rambo coming in and taking the prisoner’s place. This is Rambo staying behind while the rest of the prisoners go free.

Jesus takes our place. Jesus says you deserve death. That is right. Someone must pay for your sins (and my sins).
If you pay for your sins, says Jesus, you will be cut off forever, forever dead. Instead, I will take your place. Because only I can face death and defeat it. Only I can come through the other side.

Jesus is victorious because he exposed himself to death – come get me! – and then beat it. Because on the third day the tomb filled with light and Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not hold him because he was innocent, one without sin. He rose from the dead and destroyed the power of death over all those who belong to him.

If you belong to Jesus, then know that Jesus went to war for you with everything he had. He was unstoppable. Luke says Jesus headed towards Jerusalem – towards his death – with a face like stone. He was unstoppable. His rescue mission could not be stopped, and was not stopped.

Do you think your sin could stop him? Sin is no problem to God. We are all sinners. Every one of us has fallen short. If sin was a problem, there would be no gospel, no Bible! Read the Bible – every one of the “heroes” of the Bible is a sinner. King David, the greatest King, was a murderer and an adulterer. Yet God’s grace is enough. He is strong enough.

Now I want you to do something.
Picture your sin. Picture that deepest, darkest secret you keep hidden. Picture that sin which you keep beating yourself up about. The one you can’t beat. The one you think is too terrible for God to forgive. Picture it now as a huge castle. A fortress.

And then see God the warrior. See Christ on the cross, all the power of the Universe at his fingertips – and see him go through death – for you. Hear his cry “It is finished” and that cry echoing, echoing, louder and stronger until it hits your castle of sin. And the walls start cracking, and they crumble down. Dear brothers and sister, our sins are dealt with at the cross. There is nothing we still need to pay for. There is nothing left. Like a raging flood he has washed us clean. All evil and sin has been swept out, dealt with.

And we have new heart – we’re under new management. The old stench of sin has gone, and the Spirit of God has come to live in us.

3. The warrior God now lives in us

21 “And this is my covenant (a covenant is a special, unbreakable promise) with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!

If we belong to Christ, then his Spirit is with us. His words guarantee it. Look at the end of v21 “I, the LORD, have spoken.”
And if his Spirit is with us, then we will start to live a different way. For the first time in our lives, it is possible for us not to sin. We don’t have to wander around in darkness anymore.

60:1 “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. 2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. 3 All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

In Christ we are the new Jerusalem, the new Israel. And our light is to shine for all to see. Here in Notodden our light needs to shine in the darkness. We all see darkness around us. We know so many who need the light of Christ. Brothers, let’s obey him so that those around us see the light of Christ in us.

It’s so easy to be lazy, to give up. So often we listen to ourselves instead of talk to ourselves. We listen to ourselves telling us “you can’t do this. It’s too hard to obey. You’re worthless. You don’t deserve forgiveness.

No we don’t deserve it. That’s why it’s by grace. And yes it is too hard to obey. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit.

So talk to yourself. Tell yourself that you are a beloved child of God. Even when you sin. Tell yourself that your sins have been blasted away. Jesus fought and won. Tell yourself that you have his warrior Spirit to fight against sin and win. If you don’t believe me, go and read Ephesians 6 (note it down for later) where WE are called to put on the same armour that God puts on here: the helmet of salvation and the body armour of God’s righteousness. Suit up!
And fight your sin – in his strength.

Oh, there is so much more that can be said. This passage is full of joy and hope. The security in knowing that God will bring us home. We will be with him. This is not a rescue mission where the rescue helicopter gets shot down halfway. God protects us all the way home until we see him face to face.
And the glory of all the nations - everything amazing and fantastic in this world - will be in the new Creation, the Heavenly Jerusalem. And there we will be face to face with our God.
And our sin that fills our mind here and makes us despondent and depressed – will be gone. Our days of mourning will come to an end. V21 says all of us will be righteous. Because he has done it, and at the right time, he will bring us home. I, the Lord, will make it happen.

Amen, Lord Jesus. Come!

søndag 22. mai 2016

Isaiah 56:9-58:14 Jesus brings peace to chaotic lives

Isaiah 56:9-58:14

9 Come, wild animals of the field! Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people!

Not really the words we want to hear from God, are they? Hey, wild animals, come and attack and eat my people! This is not a verse people make beautiful pictures of is it. You know a sunset in the background and “Come and devour my people”. Ha!

What on earth is going on here?

1. Our leaders lead us astray: our country and our church is full of ignorant and blind leaders

Well v10 gives us the answer: it’s a leadership problem. 10 For the leaders of my people— the LORD’s watchmen, his shepherds— are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes.
The leaders of Israel give no thought to God. They serve themselves and their own desires, and give no warning of the danger the country is in. Judgement is just a hairs breadth away. And they are drunk!

And two thousand seven hundred years later – we’ve got the same problem! Warlords, dictators, corrupt politicians, unwise politicians. Just look at the mud-slinging, the lying, the selfishness that goes on even in our own country as everyone tries to puff themselves up and bring others down. Who’s acting in the people’s best interest? Who’s obeying God? As Churchill said: “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

We here in Norway have been blessed with great wealth – a gift from God. But we have failed the test. We have used that wealth to declare ourselves independent from God. We have applauded ourselves and our genius in stumbling over oil. We are full of self-righteousness instead of thankfulness. And the church? Well the church is falling into ruin. It is driven by popularity contests instead of God’s word. It has fallen into a coma in its rush to be relevant and “lav terskel” – in trying to make it easy for people to accept the gospel, we’ve thrown out sin – and in throwing out sin, we’ve thrown out the gospel! Doh!

10 For the leaders of my people— the LORD’s watchmen, his shepherds— are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes.
Our job is to warn! Warn of the danger of rebelling against God, ignoring God. Instead there’s smiles and a sentimental “Jesus loves you”. Not if you stand against him at the end. Then you will experience his anger, his judgement. Watch dogs that don’t bark when there’s danger are useless.

Our leaders lead us astray: our country and our church is full of ignorant and blind leaders

But it’s not just them is it? It’s us.

2. We follow our leaders into sin: Our lives are chaotic, unstable, full of worry and fighting because we worship idols, and they will kill us

3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! 4 Whom do you mock, making faces and sticking out your tongues? You children of sinners and liars! 5 You worship your idols with great passion beneath the oaks and under every green tree. You sacrifice your children down in the valleys, among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.

Where is our country headed? Where are we headed? We all know that God created the world with physical laws, like gravity. If we jump off the roof, we will hurt ourselves. But we often forget that God has also made the world with moral laws. There is a way life is made to work: God’s way of love. Love, self-sacrifice, truth, honesty, justice – that’s the way we’re designed to live. And when we live our own way, thinking of ourselves, giving up on our marriages because it’s “too hard”, walking away from our children because they’re too much bother, when we seek riches instead of God’s kingdom – whatever it is, doing it in the end hurts us badly – and hurts those around us. Just like jumping off the roof. Ow my leg. Ow my heart. I’ve made a mess of my life.

In September 2008 the successful award-winning novelist and philosopher David Foster Wallace hanged himself. He was not a Christian – but he understood life. This is what he wrote a few years before he died: “in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship [whatever that is] … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough….
Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you….
Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

What are the idols that you worship or that you’re tempted to worship? Think about it. Then take out a piece of paper now, and write it down. Money? Sex? Time? Comfort? A new house? A new car? A new job? A new woman? Even family can be an idol. “Oh I can’t sacrifice this for God because of my children”. What is it that if God said “give this up” you would say no? What is it that keeps you from serving him fully? Maybe it’s reputation - what others think of me? I’ll give us a minute to think and then to write it down.

What do we sacrifice in order to serve that idol? Whether it’s getting rich or living the good life or doing what we want when we want with whoever we want? Who do we ignore, trample underfoot, push aside in order to get what we want?

Are we not like Israel? 10 You grew weary in your search, but you never gave up. Desire gave you renewed strength, and you did not grow weary.

We are so desperate to sin that we drive ourselves to exhaustion in our hunt to disobey God. We want to sin. And if you’re sitting there thinking well, that’s not me – examine your own heart again, and ask the Lord to show you what’s really there. And look at your life – not at all the good things you do – but all the good things you SHOULD be doing, but aren’t. And the standard is not those around you – the standard is the Lord Jesus. What are you not doing that He would be doing? And then weep.

Why do we sin? 11 “Are you afraid of these idols? Do they terrify you? Is that why you have lied to me and forgotten me and my words? Is it because of my long silence that you no longer fear me?

Maybe it is sometimes fear. Perhaps more often than not. We fear missing out on something good. We don’t really trust that God’s way is the best way. And so we sin. And hurt ourselves.
Or we fear being made fun of - looking like fools. We fear the shame of being a Christian. And that can be real! But should we fear to walk the same path Jesus walked? The same path the apostles walked? The same path any great Christian of the past walked? Bear the shame for Christ because we are not alone. He is with us. Instead be afraid of turning aside, choosing the easy path. Because then we are alone.
Or perhaps we fear change? That we’ll lose “ourselves”. I’ll have to become some Christian weirdo! Well, my experience has been the opposite – the more I’ve been willing to lose myself, the more I’ve discovered the real me – the person I was born to be.

Yes, it is frightening to follow God. Yes, it does cost. But as David Foster Wallace pointed out – everybody worships. And if you’re not worshipping God – it will bite you. And eventually it will destroy you. Just as it destroyed the Israelites. Just as it destroyed David Foster Wallace.

Living against God in His world is like fighting a hurricane.
When we were in Wales a year or so ago the winds were so strong that I watched a seagull battling to fly into the wind- it struggled and struggled, flapping like mad, until suddenly it was whisked away – backwards.
That’s us, trusting in our idols.

Take out your piece of paper and look at what you wrote. Now listen to v13 Let’s see if your idols can save you when you cry to them for help. Why, a puff of wind can knock them down! If you just breathe on them, they fall over!

Let us get it into our heads that the way of life that seems wise to us – will kill us. Chasing happiness going from one woman to the next – she’s not making me happy, she’s the problem, I can’t be bothered with her nonsense – that will lead to a broken mess of relationships, children growing up with no father, a cold heart, and loneliness. Chasing money, houses, cars, boats, cabins, things – will lead to dissatisfaction, never having enough, always needing more.
Our desires, our wants, our “needs”, our lusts, “har du lyst, har du lov” is a terrible slave driver. And it will destroy us from the inside out.

Even good deeds – doing good works – won’t help. For some of us, particularly those who’ve grown up in a Christianised country, “being good” is our idol. The earnest do-gooder. You think that will be enough. What does God say in v12? 12 Now I will expose your so-called good deeds. None of them will help you.

Being good is not enough. Why? Because you have ignored God, the very source of goodness. Your goodness is just selfishness. The motive is to make me look good. And it will bite you. You will grow weary. You will grow angry. You will grow bitter because people aren’t responding the way they should – they’re not thanking you or praising you or even giving anything back. They just take and take and take – and then leave. And without Christ’s unending love driving you, it will crush you.

And religion? Well, God closes that door in chapter 58, doesn’t he. 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.

Is that us? Yes, sometimes it is. And v1 tells us what to do Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!

PEOPLE OF ROCK INTERNATIONAL CHURCH, WE HAVE SINNED AGAINST GOD. Sinned in what we have done. Sinned in what we have not done. Forgive us O Lord! For we are not like Jesus. Instead we have turned to idol worship and then pretend to be pious in church. Lord, save us from making our Christianity empty rubbish.

No, true religion is seen in what we do. For those of studying James, this should ring a bell. Do you love God? Show me. Show me.

And that’s what God says to his people. ? 6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Haha – does God know human nature or what! If we are loved by God, if his love has been poured into our hearts, then we will love others. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. 11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.

James has been amazing. For those of you not in Bible study, well you’re missing out. Seriously, repent. It’s an hour. Make it happen. You want to grow as a Christian? You want to know God better? Get to know each other better? Wednesday night, 8-9pm. It’s part of growing up as a Christian, making a decision to set aside time to be with God, and be with your spiritual family. Just saying “I belong to Rock Church” but never going or going once in a while – it’s like taking out membership in a gym, but never going. You’re not getting stronger or fitter, are you?
Listen to these words from James, after telling us that God demands obedience from those who have his Spirit (literally he is jealous for our obedience)
Jas 4:7–10 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour.

Oh, and for those of us who’ve ever asked the question “why did God take so-and-so, they were such a wonderful person” – 57:1 answers that. 57:1 Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. 2 For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.
To live is Christ – to die is even better. To live is Christ – we live for him, every moment to serve him. But to die is even better – for we are with him and will see him face to face.

The alternative is in v21 There is no peace for the wicked,” says my God.

Idols will damage us and eventually kill us. Our lives will be unstable, chaotic, out of control, full of worry and fighting because we worship idols, and they will kill us. Unless we bend ourselves to God’s will, we will never find peace. Only in Him, only his paths lead to peace.

Our hope, our only hope, is in Christ. Let Jesus be our leader. Listen to him.

3. Jesus brings peace, not chaos, to our lives

Now. You are probably feeling battered and bruised by this sermon so far. I know I am. I have been battered by this text, convicted of my sin, ashamed of who I am before the Lord. But there is also great comfort here. And that’s what I want us to see now. Let’s look up and see our hope of salvation. When we’ve made a mess of things, again. When we’ve sinned, again. Listen to this.

15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. 16 For I will not fight against you forever; I will not always be angry. If I were, all people would pass away— all the souls I have made. 17 I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them, but they kept going on their own stubborn way. 18 I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, 19 bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the LORD, who heals them.

The Lord has seen what we do, but he will heal us anyway. Why? Because by his stripes we are healed. By his death we are restored. The arms of Jesus outstretched on the Cross bring us back to God. His death covers my sins. His blood pays for me. That is what it cost. That is the cost of you and me knowing God. How can we treat it so lightly? How can we go back to our idols so quickly? How can we sin so easily? Oh God, convict us! Show us the glory of your Son on the Cross! Let us see the blood flow for us. Let us hear the cry of agony. Let us know the love that kept him there on the cross. We are bought at a great price brothers and sisters. So when we are tempted to sin, when we are tempted to do the wrong thing: Let us remember that we are not our own. Let us praise God with our lips and with our lives. Let our lives be a song of praise to him. No more idols. No more sin. No more chaos. Brothers and sisters, decide today to follow Him.

As a symbol, I’d like you all now to pass your pieces of paper with your idols forward. Now we’ll stand and say the confession together.
This is what repentance means. Let’s burn our idols. No more. No more.

Let’s pray. Father, thank you for your Son paying the price for our sin. Thank you that though we did not deserve it, you decided to rescue us. Let us obey you. And as we obey you, we will be like an ever-flowing spring. We will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. Our lives will say “Jesus lives here”. Oh Lord, be our delight, our great desire. Amen.

søndag 15. mai 2016

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Isaiah 55:&-56:8, Genesis 1:1-3, John 14:15-18, John 16:8-11, Acts 2:1-4

Isaiah 55:6 God says “my word…always…accomplishes all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it”

But why? Why is God’s word so powerful? Why, when we speak the gospel of Jesus Christ to people – words which seem so weak and a story which seems so weird and powerless (a guy rose from the dead, yeah right) – why does that change people’s lives? How can the gospel transform somebody? Change them completely?
Why have so many of us here experienced exactly that – these words which transformed our life?
Why is it true that if you go you grow? That the more consistent you are at church and at Bible group and reading the Bible yourself – you really do grow? Why?

Because when we hear the word, read the word of God, the Bible, we’re not just reading a book or hearing ordinary words – we are hearing the Spirit speak. The Spirit of God is speaking when the Bible is read. When you open your Bible, His voice is what you hear. When you share the gospel, He is there in power.

We meet the Spirit right at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1-3. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach, also meaning wind or breath. Just as when you speak your words are carried on your breath, He, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is literally the breath of God. He is the way God’s words are carried out in to the world.

Note that if there is no breath, there is no words. There is no division between the Spirit and the Word. Without the Spirit the Word is dead. That’s why we pray before we preach, before we read the Bible – we need the Spirit to make the Word alive.

This morning we are celebrating the Holy Spirit. Because today is Pentecost (pinse) – the day the Spirit was poured out on the church and the church was born. He is the reason why the word always accomplishes all God wants it to (Is 55:6)

So we’re going to look at what happened in Acts 2 when the Spirit was poured out on the church.
Then we’re going to listen to Jesus tell us what the Spirit’s role is – what does He do?
And then we’ll bring it back to Isaiah and see how the Spirit’s work at Pentecost and his work today fulfil His words given to Isaiah so many years ago.

1. What happened today?

Acts 2:1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Jesus had left them. 40 days he had been with them after his resurrection – but then he rose up into heaven and was gone. They were a small group of about 120 men and women (Acts 1:15). They were hardly the stuff of legends. A small, powerless group, waiting obediently in Jerusalem just as Jesus had commanded.

And then the Spirit moved. The room shook, the wind roared, heavenly fire came down upon their heads and a new power filled them – the very power of God.

So what did they do? Healing? Miracles? Foretelling the future? Have a music show with fog machines and a preacher-man up front slaying people in the Spirit. All that nonsense we associate with the “Spirit” now.

No. They began speaking in other languages – the reversal of Babel where humanity was judged for rebelling against God. Here is hope that one day humanity can be united again – but now under God, instead of against him.
And what were they speaking? About the wonderful things God has done (v11). About the gospel. About Jesus. About the God who keeps his promises to rescue his people. Different tongues, but one message. The mark of the Spirit is not miracles – but people witnessing about Jesus.

And so Peter stands up and proclaims in a loud voice that God is fulfilling his promises in scripture, the promise in Joel that God’s Spirit would be poured out on his people in the last days, the days we now live in, the days of the church. And His Spirit is with us, each one of us, young and old, women and men, without exception.
And he ends with these words – Peter, Peter who was always saying the wrong things at the wrong time, now empowered by the Spirit:
Ac 2:32–36 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. … 36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Before Pentecost there were about 120 believers. The Spirit came down, empowered his people, and THREE THOUSAND responded to Peter’s message. (Acts 2:41). Three thousand saved in one day.

That is the power of the Spirit. And He is here today, this morning at work in this church. As we share the gospel at work, at home, wherever, whoever - He is with us. So let us not be afraid, but be bold to speak about Jesus. For we are not alone.

2. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is with us

John 14:15–18 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (representative), who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

This is Jesus’ last night with his disciples before his betrayal, trial, and death by crucifixion. He is speaking plainly to them, preparing them for what will happen to them, and to the church after them. So what does Jesus say will happen?

Firstly, v16, Jesus, having become human, must return to heaven in order to be with his people. He cannot be everywhere at once, but his Spirit can. So Jesus returns to heaven and the Father sends the Spirit. And the Spirit will never leave us. Hurray for Ascension Day!

Secondly, the Spirit lives in us. V17 But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. That “later” was at Pentecost, when the Spirit entered in to the disciples in a visible way. And that is the experience of every Christian – the Spirit moves in, makes His home in our hearts. That’s why we start to change from the inside out. We can’t sin properly anymore! Because we’re under new management. The Spirit is at work.

Thirdly, to have the Spirit is to have Jesus. Note v18 “I will not abandon you… I will come to you” Jesus and the Spirit are one. One God in three Persons. The Father is fully God, Jesus is fully God, the Spirit is fully God. To have one is to have all. And we have the Spirit. We have the very power of God in us.

Jesus was leaving – but we are not left alone. His Spirit is with us. Not just alongside us, but in us. He gives us a new heart, new motivations – we are made new from the inside out.

So brothers, let us remember that next time we feel tempted to sin, or say “I can’t do it”. The Spirit of God is in you and in me.
The same Spirit who empowered the words “let there be light”. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. You can obey God because He is with you and in you.

His word empowers us because the Spirit is with us.
We are not alone.

3. But what will the Spirit do?

When we start talking about the Holy Spirit and his work we often jump to things like healing or prophecy or singing. And we believe in those things in this church. We prophesy in Bible study, we sing here & in Bible study, and we pray regularly for healing. But that’s not what the Holy Spirit’s job is.

No-one can understand the Spirit’s work without carefully considering what JESUS said about the Spirit. His words are in John 16:8-11

8 And when he (the Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.

What is the Spirit’s job? His primary job? To convict the world! He is the power which convicts which means to convince of error or sinfulness – to find a defendant guilty.

And how does he convict? Well notice that His work is focussed on Jesus.
He convicts us of sin. How? In our attitude to Jesus. V9 We refuse to believe in Jesus.
He convicts of God’s righteousness. How? Through Jesus, v10 – because he dies – he goes to the Father.
He convicts of judgement – because v11 the ruler of this world, Satan, is judged, and defeated on the Cross.

The Spirit’s primary role, the main event, is the gospel of Jesus. The Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus, the Son. Jesus glorifies his Father. And the Father glorifies the Son.

If you want to be filled with the Spirit – tell people about Jesus. When we’re talking about Jesus, the Spirit is there.

So back to Isaiah.

4. Seek the Lord!

What better way to celebrate this Pentecost Day, this pinsedag than to Is:55:8 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. 7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously

Do you hear the Spirit’s words this morning? Do you hear him calling to you? Seek the Lord while he can be found. He will forgive generously. We know. We’ve seen the end. We’ve seen the promises fulfilled. Jesus, on the cross, his death paying for my sin – and yours. His resurrection life defeating death and bringing me eternal life. And offering you eternal life too.

Listen to the words of the Spirit.

Isn’t it an incredible message! Yes it is. This is what God has been saying to his people – I’m, going to do something amazing, something unbelievable. That God himself will come down to earth, become one of us, walk among us, eat with us, laugh with us, cry with us, be one of us – and then suffer for us, die in our place, that we might have life. But that’s not all – for when we accept Christ – when he swaps places with us and takes the punishment of death that our sins deserved – we swap places with him. In perfect relationship with God. So perfect, we are so righteous in God’s sight because of the work of Jesus, that His Spirit can come to live in us. New life flows through us because of what he has done.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Who could have imagined such mercy? Thank God his thoughts are not like ours! Higher thoughts.

And so His powerful word goes out, changing lives. My life. Your life. Your neighbour’s life. The people you work with. Your children. Your parents. There is no-one beyond the power of God.

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

And so, if we are in Christ, our hope is secure. The Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. He is the first taste of the joy to come. 12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

The way is open. Foreigners (v3) and eunuchs (v4) (castrated servants) now have hope. They were excluded from worshipping at the Temple. On the outside looking in. But now the way is open. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8 For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”

That promise happened today, 1977 or so years ago. When the floodgates of heaven were opened at the Spirit poured out on His church, and Jews from every nation heard the gospel in their own language. From Jerusalem to Jews, to Judea, to the Samaritans, and then to us Gentiles, foreigners, the Spirit spread His church, and is still doing so today – in China, in Iran, even in North Korea – and yes, even here in Notodden, Norway. He is at work, brothers and sisters. At work in us helping us obey Christ. At work in those around us, drawing them to Christ.

So what does this mean for us today? A few points of application to end.

Firstly: Seek the Lord while he may be found. If you don’t yet know him, seek him. Look for him. Listen to the Spirit calling to you. Investigate the evidence for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Keep coming to church and to Bible study. Search for the truth. And then ask the Spirit to show you Jesus.

Secondly: Christian brothers and sisters, let us obey Christ, knowing we have the Spirit of Jesus within us. The same power that raised Christ from the dead. As Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey my commands”.
What commands? Well, let’s consider the three big areas we struggle with because of the society we live in: time, money, and sex (or wallet, willy and watch as my friend Doug calls it).

Money: When we give, it is a sign that we trust the Lord, instead of ourselves, to provide. I am happy that about half the church gives. But concerned that half the church gives. This means that half of us are trusting in ourselves, rather than God, to provide for our needs. How much you give – that is a wisdom issue. But that you give, that we all give, I am very concerned about. We live in a greedy society, and we are greedy people. Giving breaks that hold over us. Ask the Spirit to break that hold in your lives, and make a decision to give regularly and give first – the first thing that goes out when you salary comes in – and you may be very surprised at what happens. The Lord looks after his people.

Sex: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every one of us in this room is a sexual sinner, whether in thought or in what we’ve done. God’s view on sex is easy: are you married to the person? Have sex with them. Lots of sex. Are you not married to the person? Do not have sex with them.
So if you’re married but not having sex often, repent. If there’s a medical reason – sort it out as quickly as possible. If there’s relationship issues, sort it out. You have the Spirit. Decide to obey.
And if you’re having sex with someone you’re not married to, repent. That includes looking at pornography. You’re not married to her, so you shouldn’t be watching her having sex. And if you’re living together, get married – it’s a statement that you trust God. And if you’re sleeping around (having sex with lots of people), just stop.
Why? Because if we love Jesus, we will obey his commands. Because we are new people and the Spirit lives within us, and the power of heaven is at our disposal, if we ask.
You do know how you fight sexual temptation? With your hat. Grab your hat and RUN! But seriously we mustn’t get ourselves into situations where we could be tempted. Don’t even go there.

Time. If you go you grow. Simple but true. And I’d simply like to challenge us all to put “church” and “bible study” in the same category we put work. If a friend phones and says “can I come over on Monday morning” you say “no, dude, I’m at work”. But if he says Sunday morning we’re often like sure, I can miss church once. Remember that we are in a battle. We need all the help we can get. We need each other. We need Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. So many of us struggle – even just with money and sex, but also lying, gossip, anger, worry, disobedience, harsh words, bitterness, and so on – and part of the reason we struggle is because we’re not using the weapons God has already given us. This church! Satan shudders every time you walk into church. Because here you hear the Word of God. That powerful word, carried by the Spirit.

So let us obey the Lord, knowing we have his power within us. And let us share the joy that we have, the joy of Jesus, knowing that when we talk about Him, the Spirit is with us and is at work convicting about sin, about judgement, and about salvation.

søndag 1. mai 2016

15 mind-blowing verses about the Servant of God that you won’t believe!

When I got to verse 6 I was stunned!

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

Read from Isaiah 52:7-53:12


66 chapters. 1292 verses. 22 sermons – this is number 23. And so far 8 months. That is this magnificent book of prophecy: Isaiah. And today, today we come to the most significant, the most important, the central prophecy of the whole book. It is today that out of the backdrop of sin and judgement and misery the mysterious “Servant of God” emerges. The one who is like a king but isn’t, the one who is loved by God but will suffer, the one who is powerful beyond belief but so weak, the one who will rescue his people but will die – today is the day when he steps out of the shadows and we see him for who he really is.


Jesus, promised so many times in so many places, but here in Isaiah promised so clearly that many Jews today refuse to read this chapter because it shouts so loudly “Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Rescuer)”.

This is what I’ve been looking forward to preaching for 8 months! Because here we see the heart of God. Here we see hope. Here we see our sin dealt with. He took our punishment upon himself.

You see we have a problem. We all know there is something wrong with the world. Look around us and what do we see? Turn on the news. Injustice, war, famine, lying, cheating, hurting, ignoring people, abandoning people. Look around in our own lives – how much we have been hurt by others – and to our eternal shame how much we have hurt other people.

There is something wrong. And the Bible says it is because we were made to know God – but we have turned our back on him and rejected.
That is what the Bible calls sin. Our relationship is broken. And when that central relationship is gone, like the foundation of a building, the rest comes tumbling after. Because of sin, we sin. Because we are broken within, we act like broken people.

Oh, we’re not all bad! Much of the divine image is still in us. People do great things! Wonderful things. But we also do terrible things. And that’s why Jesus came. To restore us. To make us whole. To deal with our sin and make us right with God so that we can know him and love him like we were made to.
Joy and happiness! That is why he came.

So we echo v7 7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!

There is news of restoration and it’s for us too: as we read we see it is more than just for Israel, more than just for Jerusalem in 538BC – it is for you, it is for me, for all people everywhere. As we read a few weeks ago, It is too small a thing for God’s servant to just rescue Israel. He will be a light to all nations.
How beautiful this message. Peace and salvation, the news that God, the only God, reigns.

In Christ Jesus our status is changed. We are moved from sinners under God’s anger – God’s enemies - to beloved children of God. Yes we may sin, but it is something that doesn’t belong to us anymore. As someone put it “I can’t sin properly anymore.”

WE are loved perfectly. Relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, satisfies at the very deepest level. Our longings for eternity are met in him. Our longing to be known intimately, perfectly and loved are met in Him.

We are beloved children of God.

But how? Why?
Because of the work of the Servant of God. Because of the work of the King of Kings. Because of the work of Jesus.

So far in Isaiah we’ve read three of these “servant songs” as they are called: prophecies about this coming servant, made 700 years before Jesus was born. Today we look at the fourth, final, and greatest Servant Song. 15 mind-blowing verses. Shall we begin.

13 See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. 14 But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.

Nothing we read about this servant makes any sense. He will prosper – but he will suffer. He will be highly exalted – but he is disfigured, scarcely looks human, because of the piercings and beatings and whippings he endures in v5. That doesn’t sound to me like being exalted!

Hey, come here, let me exalt you, lift you up (great!) by beating you until you’re unrecognisable. Ha-ha, no thanks.

It goes on: 15 And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about. Is 53 Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm?

In other words, there is something so strange, so remarkable, so amazing that no-one will believe it.

If Isaiah were writing this today he’d probably call it “15 mind-blowing things you wouldn’t believe about the Servant”. With the little tag-line “I was stunned when I got to v6”.

But unlike the mildly amusing distractions that people call “mind-blowing” these days (oh, a baby pulling a face, oh, a cat falling off a curtain, wow) – this really is mind-blowing. Kings will shut their mouths, utterly speechless.
Whole nations will be startled. What? Can this be true?

The message is simply unbelievable. Remember that God has promised in earlier chapters that he is going to show the world who he is by doing something new, something different, something only he knows about. A unique thing that no-one could ever guess. “Ask your idols, your false gods, your fortune tellers, to tell you what I will do” God has challenged again and again. And here is the revelation of God’s powerful arm of rescue, his amazing message of rescue. And it’s just unbelievable.

What is it? What is God going to do?!

By this stage those crowded around Isaiah would be shouting that. “What’s going to happen? How will God rescue us?”
They had been listening to the terrible news that Babylon, a nation they’d only just met, would very soon come sweeping in and carry them all off into captivity, and leave Jerusalem, the beloved city, in ruins. And all this because of their sin!
And you can imagine those living in Babylon, about 150 years later, listening as Isaiah’s prophecy was being read. Oh, they knew that the first parts had come true. Look around, we’re in the enemy city. Jerusalem is in ruins. And, yes, it was because of our sin. So imagine the excitement in hearing these words read out. God’s unbelievable rescue plan!

Is 53 Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm?

What’s going to happen? Massive heavenly armies. The earth opens up and fire rains down from the sky as the thunder rolls and GOD RESCUES HIS PEOPLE?

No. v2 My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground.

What? A man? Just one man? Well, maybe there’s something amazing about him. Like Samson – the strength of hundreds, or the Hulk or something.

No, v2 continues There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. 3 He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

What? God’s great plan is… this? Some rejected dude?

Yes. This is the unbelievable plan. God will send a man, a man born in poverty. A man born to an ordinary nothing family. Born to be rejected. To be hated by his own people.


4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

God is sending someone to be a substitute for us. You know in football, when someone’s tired or playing badly they substitute him. They swap him out with someone else. Someone else takes his place.

That’s what this servant will do for us. He will take our place.
He, Jesus, swaps places with us. He takes our place, we get his place. It’s like we’re crossing the road and we don’t see the truck hurtling towards us. Jesus is the guy who rushes over and pushes us out of the way into safety, while the truck slams into him. He was in safety, but he took our place in danger, to get us to safety.

6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

This my friends is the very heart of the gospel: Jesus, our substitute. The one who took our place. The one who took our punishment. The one who gave his live so that we could live. And Jesus was his name.

Jesus of Nazareth. Born to a nothing family in a nothing place. When people heard Jesus was from Nazareth they said “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46).

Who was this carpenter’s bastard son? This nobody who claims to be a King? It seemed like a joke. Oh, he had powers, amazing powers. And he could teach! But it was just too unbelievable. This… nothing – the Messiah, the Christ, the promised Rescuer?

And so his own people rejected him, just as v 3 predicted.

Jn 1:10–13 [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn.

How? Because he was a man of sorrows as v4 says.
Not because he was filled with sorrow, but because he took our sorrows upon himself. As we saw last week, remember Jesus drinking the cup of judgement himself instead of us. Remember his words in the garden: Matt 26:37b [Jesus] became anguished and distressed. 38 He told [his closest disciples], “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Willingly he went to die. Father, your will be done. And after praying Jesus stands up and says to his disciples “Get up, the time has come. My betrayer is here.”

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.

After Jesus’ arrest he was brought before the leading priests and the high council. Mt 26:62–63 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

A few hours later the council brings Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor Mt 27:11–14 “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate, the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” 12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.

Unjustly condemned. Pilate’s wife says about him “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” (Matt27:19)

Judas, his betrayer, realises he’s made a terrible mistake: Matt 27:3 When Judas…realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

Pilate declares him innocent. Even the King of Israel at that time, Herod, examined Jesus and said he is innocent.
He was an innocent man, found guilty simply for claiming to be who he was and is: the Messiah, the King of God’s people.

So they lead Jesus away, and whipped him with a lead-tipped whip. Beat an innocent man until he was almost dead. Then they dragged him outside the city of Jerusalem and there his hands and feet were pierced as they hammered nails into him in one of the cruellest deaths ever imagined by humans – and we’re very good at imagining cruel deaths.

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

Jesus, on the Cross, for you and me. His life was cut short because of our rebellion. Because of your rebellion. Because of my rebellion.

It was my hand that hammered the nails in. It was my voice that called out in the crowd “Crucify Him”.
And it was yours.

Imagine this Bible contains a list of all my sins – things I’ve done, said, thought, left undone, and the sins I will do in the future. If it really did it would be bigger, much bigger. Now this is me. My sin blocks my access to God. I cannot reach him. I cannot know him. I cannot break through. What Christ did on the Cross is this. He took my sin upon himself, and gave me His perfect access to the Father.

All that I have done and ever will do that would cut me off from God is dealt with once and for all by Jesus on the Cross. He takes my place. And I get His.

10 …it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. (that’s you and me. Everyone who trusts in Him.)
He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. 12 I will give him the honours of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Brothers, this is what Jesus accomplished, just as predicted 700 YEARS before it happened. Christ Jesus was counted as a rebel, a criminal. Though he was innocent he went to the Cross for you. And he went to the Cross for me.

He, the righteous servant, has made it possible for me, the unrighteous, to be counted righteous, for he has borne my sin.

Father, thank you for this incredible vision you gave Isaiah of the work of your son, our Lord Jesus, 700 years before it happened. Thank you for this unbelievable message, so startling, so amazing that we stand speechless. No-one could make this up. That God himself would come down and suffer. That the great king of heaven would give his own life – for me. It’s ridiculous. It is unbelievable. Thank you Father, that it is true. Thank you that you are so full of mercy that anyone who turns to you, no matter what we’ve done, can receive it forgiveness. Thank you Jesus that through your suffering, death and resurrection, that we can be declared righteous, and be called children of God.
You might be here this morning and wanting to experience this forgiveness. If that is you now, while every eye is closed, raise your hands to say yes I want to be made right with God.