Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Christmas Miracle: Changed Lives

Intro: I would have a difficult time providing leadership to a church with a great deal of liturgy.
  1. But as I approached this advent season, I decided to try something a bit different.
  2. I took time to find out what the liturgical readings were for the advent season.
  3. I was surprised to find that this years selection included a series of readings from the book of Isaiah.
  4. The Old Testament has always fascinated me - it is part of the reason that I am where I am today. The oldest book of the Old Testament was written 400 years before Christ was born, but yet it makes some very clear references to the coming of Christ including the place and manner of His birth.
  5. And it was partly my memory of that truth that got me through some very dark times in my faith. If God was able to reveal facts about Christ's birth 400 years before Christ was born, then there must be some truth to it. I was able to cling to my faith during some very dark days as I clung to that truth.
  6. And so, as I saw the possibility of focusing my preaching on the book of Isaiah for a few weeks, I took the opportunity.
Read Isaiah 2:1-5
Tran. Isaiah lived in Jerusalem about 700 years before Christ.
  1. His name means “The Lord is Salvation”.
  2. He is quoted more than any other OT prophet in the NT – 65 times. He is mentioned by name over 20 times.
  3. John MacArthur says that he “has no rival in his versatility of expression, brilliance of imagery, and richness of vocabulary.
  4. Isaiah uses 2,186 different words – which means little unless you realize that the Psalms have only 2,170 different words.
T.S. Like a journalist, Isaiah begins to lay out the basic truth of Christ's coming in Isaiah 2:1-5
  1. When – The Latter Days (Isaiah 2:2)
      1. The word prophet has changed over the years. To us it is someone who is able to tell the future – sometimes in accurately, but close enough that we can recognize some kind of fit.
      2. But to the people of the OT, the prophet had a different job. That job was to be a “forthteller” - giving forth the word of God accurately and without error. These messages did sometimes look to the future – but not always. But when they did look to the future, they had to get it right 100% of the time. Deuteronomy 18:22 says “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” Isaiah proved himself a prophet.
      3. But there is a bigger issue – and that is when are the “latter days”. Three answers present themselves.
        1. Some scholars suggest that it refers to the end of time – when Christ returns for his church.
        2. But there are fair a number of scholars who suggest it refers to today – we are living in the time in those latter times.
(Ill.) Biblical prophesy is much like looking at a mountain range. As you look at those mountains, at one point they all look the same distance. And in some ways they are – I am as overwhelmed by the distance whether the mountain is ten miles or fifteen miles away.
        1. So as the prophets wrote, they were sometimes referring to our time and at times to a time when he will return for His church and at times to both. It it is not so much “Either-Or” but “Both-And”.
      1. So as we look at Isaiah in the next few weeks – we are looking at a man who has proved himself as God's spokesman and who is speaking to the people of his time and to us. We need to be willing to listen.
  1. What – Changed Lives (Isaiah 2:2-4)
    1. There going to be changes – God caused changes. Changes that only God could do.
    2. First, there would be a new focal point for worship – we have the advantage of knowing the focal point, the person of Jesus Christ.
    3. AndHe will teach us His ways, And we will walk in His paths.
        1. I wonder if sometimes we fall into the trap of expecting the church to teach us all we know about God
        2. Yet as God's people the Holy Spirit it part of our lives. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth
(Ill.) Some has said, “The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.” It is just as true in our desire for spiritual truth as for any other kind of truth.
    1. Then God will serve as judge. It starts when God begins to reshape our conscience. We begin to experience that little twinge that tells us we are off track. Then we listen and respond. And God continues the process of shaping every part of us.
    2. And he takes our anger and reshapes it – look at the end of Isaiah 2:4: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
(Appl.) But it occurs not only for nations, but for individuals as well. God take the anger we bring, the hurt we feel, the frustrations that are part of life and reshapes them. Taking our anger and changing it into forgiveness is no different than having people take swords and beating them into pruning hooks. God wants to change us, he wants to take the old man or woman and remake us into a new person that can serve Him.
  1. How (Isaiah 2:5)
    1. These five verses contain only one command.
    2. Isaiah has laid out the promise – it is a future promise, but it is a promise none the less. And then he gives a command: “Come! Let us walk in the light of the Lord.
(Appl.) That word “come” is a translation of an interesting Hebrew word. It can be translated in any number of different ways – for example: to go, to depart, to come, or to follow – that is just the start. But it does mean “to follow”. Perhaps you remember what Jesus' first command was to his disciples - “follow me”. Isaiah did not have the whole picture, Isaiah did not understand everything he taught. I don't either. But He did know that faith began with following the Lord,Come ... let us walk in the light of the Lord.
    1. Following the Lord, following Jesus, will never be easy – whether it is Isaiah calling those living in the 5th century BC or Christ calling his disciples in the first century or our making a commitment today.
    2. And the command does not change. As I have reminded you before, the first command that Jesus gave to his disciples was also the last command he gave to Peter - “Follow me."
Conclusion: As we enter the advent season, take time to consider what it means to follow Jesus. Whether the idea of following Jesus is new to you, as I know it is, or whether you have been following Him for sometime, it seems an appropriate question – what does it mean for you, what does it mean for me, to follow Him?

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