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Entries in The Curse (3)

Tuesday
Jul262016

They That Wait upon the Lord

Isaiah 25:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 24, 2016.

It is hard to fathom the joy we will experience at the Second Coming of Jesus.  Yes, it is true that he will bring judgment upon the nations of the world.  However, at the same time He is restoring things to rightness.  He will be removing oppression and tyranny and replacing it with healing and deliverance.   This is an important point because the United States of America has become a prime example of how even good government can be corrupted over time.  Thus the decree of God is that no national leadership will be found to be righteous in that day.  Even in the name of liberty, our true, God-given liberties are taken away.  The average person then finds themselves living in an oppressive and tyrannical environment, whether it be the hard form found in nations like North Korea, or the soft form found here in my own country. 

Thus Isaiah describes a people who have waited for God’s deliverance from wicked leaders and powerful men.  They have endured long trials and weariness to the point of giving up.  However, when Jesus comes their joy will be immense.  Waiting for the Lord to act is a theme throughout Isaiah.  The well known passage in Isaiah 40 says, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Regardless of what your situation requires, be it flying, running or walking, the Lord will give strength to those who trust in Him.  Those who trust in Him will not be put to shame in the end.  They will have the final joy because God is for them.  Thus the coming judgment of God begs the question for each of us.  Will that day be a day of rejoicing because I trusted in Jesus, or will that day be a day of grief because I put my trust in my own pride and the pride of mankind?

Joy Will Fill The People

Isaiah depicts a joyous time of jubilation similar to some of the statements made in the book of Revelation.  Though God’s judgment is a sobering thing, it will be for the joy of mankind.  In verse 1 we notice several things about the exclamations that Isaiah makes.  First, is the rejoicing in the fact that God is “my God.”  It will be a day when joy will not just be a general thing, but a very particular and personal thing.  Those who have trusted in God will marvel in the realization that God was not just the God of Adam, Noah, and Abraham et. al.  They will have personally witnessed the amazing fulfillment of God’s Word to His people.  God will have proven Himself in our time and not just  in the ancient past.

It will also be a wonder-filled joy.  The “wonderful things” of verse 1 are a reference to the miraculous, supernatural work of God.  The omnipotence of God has a way of removing the most impossible problems and delivering from the most powerful enemy in only a moment.  Thus the powerful acts of God demonstrated in Egypt before Pharaoh (who by the way was considered the son of the Gods) are a picture of how His great work in the face of Antichrist and the “gods” that back Him up (i.e. Satan and his fallen cohorts).  They will be impotent as God delivers His people from under their oppression.

The last part of verse 1 mentions God’s “counsels of old.”  These are the directives that God has given to His people in the past.  Of course Isaiah would be looking back to Scriptures and mainly the first 5 books of the Bible (Torah).  Yet, we can add to that today the counsels that were given through Jesus and His apostles 2,000 years ago.  It is easy to grow weary of counsels that stretch over thousands of years.  Our humanity wants to have deliverance now.  Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (NKJV).  God’s way doesn’t always make an immediate change, especially if we are waiting for Him to deal with the wicked of the earth.  Yet, these counsels will prove out to be faithful and true.  Those who continue to trust the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in exactly the right place.  But those who have cast off the ancient counsel of God will find themselves in the wrong place, and caught up in the judgment of God.  Thus the warning of Psalm 1 is very appropriate.  We must remain in the way of the Lord while we wait for Him.  Yet, the ungodly, the sinners, and the scornful tempt us to join their way, to walk upon their paths, and to sit with them in a seat of judgment against God and His people.  Thus the object of the trust and faith of the sinner will prove to be a delusion and impotent.  But, those who wait upon the Lord will find that it is true and will prove faithful in the end.

In verses 2-5 we see the “terrible nations” and the “terrible ones.”  These are those who are following the path of their own wisdom and of Satan.  They use their power to dominate others and to rule over them.  Such cities have always existed and in fact, the history of the world can be seen as a history of the nations which clamor to be “king of the mountain.”  These empires had become proud and arrogant oppressors of the peoples of the earth.  The days before Christ’s coming will be no less.  In fact the greatest empire and thus the greatest tyranny this world has ever seen is still in the future.  We are cruising at an ever increasing speed towards this reality.  Freedom is being stamped out upon the earth and absolute tyranny is taking its place.  This is the judgment of the “City of Confusion” in Isaiah 24 and the Kings of the earth and their armies.  Whatever survivors that may be left from the nations will no longer walk in pride, but they will have a reverent fear and awe of the Lord and His powerful reality.  They will recognize that the ways of God that they had rejected for so long were the true paths.

Another reason why there will be so much joy is because God will have defended the helpless.  Isaiah uses two words, the poor and the needy.  God will be their refuge.  Now, not all the poor and the needy will turn to God for refuge.  In fact, though the poor and needy are often crushed under this world system, for the sake of survival and “getting mine,” many fight for the scraps beneath the table.  They basically trust the way of this world and trust in their own ability to make it.  Like the Olympic trials they fight and clamor to see if they can climb up into that ultra society of “winners.”  Of course most do not make it, however, there are levels of honor and perks all the way up.  This “dog-eat-dog” mentality that uses others as rungs on the ladder of progress belongs to sinful man and fallen angels.  There is coming a day when God will rise up in defense of all those that have been and are being taken advantage of.

Thus Isaiah gives two images.  The first is a storm that blasts and howls against a wall.  The poor and the needy are often torn apart and destroyed by the powerful blasts.  They are unable to survive it.  The second image is that of an oppressive heat wave.  In fact this week the Middle East had several places recording a temperature of 129 degrees F.  The oppressive heat makes even the shade of no relief.  This oppression sucks the life out of people and leaves them with little ability or desire to do anything, but die.  Yet, no matter how loud the terrible ones howl (the storm), nor how powerful their oppression (the heat), when God intervenes there will be immediate relief.  Like a cloud that comes between the sun and the ground, the change will take place that quickly.  It is easy when you live in the land of comforts and ease to hear this and scoff.  However, even in America there are people who hear what I am saying and recognize that it is exactly how they feel.  Friend, don’t let the oppression of this world’s system suck the life out of you.  Turn to Jesus today and put your faith in Him.  That is the only thing that will ever prove faithful and true to you in the end.

The Lord Will Make A Feast

Starting in verse 6 we see that this will be a time of celebration.  The old tyrants have been thrown down.  Peace and freedom lies ahead.  Thus the Lord prepares a feast for the peoples of the earth that have survived without taking the mark, and His people who have returned with Him.  This feast will take place upon Mt. Zion, which is in Jerusalem, because this is the mountain referenced at the end of the last chapter.  All the “mountains” of the earth, that is the kingdoms, will be flattened.  But the “mountain” of the Lord will be raised up.  This pictures a gathering of people in the land of Israel.  Of course this deliverance is not just for Israel, but for all the peoples of the earth.  And, all will join in the celebration.

God supplies for each one choice food and drink.  Under this world system the elite at the top are the ones who get the choice food.  But here God brings forth the best food and drink for all those who had endured oppression to enjoy.  Instead of being the means of provision for the oppressors, God will provide for the “common person” uncommon food.

Verse 7 speaks of a covering that will be destroyed.  I believe that it is connected to the statement in verse 8 that death will be swallowed up forever.  Thus the veil here is most likely a reference to The Curse of Genesis 3.    The Curse has hung over mankind like a veil or shroud for most of its existence.  Yet, God will remove and destroy it.  Another aspect of this covering is that Satan has used the fear of death as a means to manipulate mankind.  He has used the threat of the shroud to create a veil over the minds and hearts of mankind.  This veil of ignorance and manipulation by spiritual powers will have also been destroyed by God.

Those Who Wait For The Lord Will Be Vindicated

In verse 9 Isaiah brings us back to the celebration.  Vindication is that moment in which faith is proven true.  Yet, all people are putting their faith in something.  Thus those who put their trust in something other than the Lord will not find vindication, but rather humiliation.  What they put their trust in will ultimately fail.  But the righteous will recognize that their wait for the Lord was not in vain.  Thus the declaration “He will save us.”  The verb here is a form that means God has done it but isn’t done doing it.  Thus it means that in light of what He has done, we know He will complete our salvation.  God is our savior in every way.  He cannot and will not fail.  He is able to deliver and defend you from every enemy.  It may not be in the way at the time that you desire.  But if you will wait on Him instead of going the way of your own heart and mind, you will find that He will be true to you in the end.

Isaiah ends the chapter with a reminder that just as the humble will be raised up, so the pride of the wicked will be pulled down.  No matter how great and powerful the position and place of the world may be, it will not stand before God’s judgment.  Though the world be as powerful as a mighty ocean, God is the swimmer who will pull the waves down beneath Himself and us.  He will bear us out from the crushing depths and rescue us out of the waters.  No matter how strong the walls of their city God will pull down all their defenses.  The powerful of this world, whether in business or in government, are not leading us down the right path.  Reject the way of the proud and walk in the way of humility that Jesus has shown us.  His counsels will be proven true and faithful.

Wait upon the Lord audio

Saturday
Jul022016

The Coming Day Of The Lord- 1

Isaiah 24:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 26, 2016.

Over the next month we are going to look at the Day of Judgment that God has decreed for all the nations of the earth.  Isaiah and the other prophets were unified in their declarations that not only would God judge Israel and the nations surrounding it, but that God had a day in which all the nations would be judged together.  It would be the culmination of this world and the beginning of a new heavens and a new earth.  This same theme is laid out in the book of Revelation.

In the book of Isaiah this chapter begins a conclusion that sits like a capstone upon the judgments that would come upon each of the nations listed in chapters 13-23.  It serves to sober all who would put their trust in any nation, leader, or false god of this world.  All of these nations that we have to pick from will be helplessly caught up in the judgment of God.  The trap will spring shut and they will be unable to extricate themselves, much less protect others.

Today, believers are tempted, just as Israel was, to give lip service to God’s Word while trusting in the things of this world.  Israel was surrounded by false religions whose sole purpose was to obtain what the people wanted: reliable rain, fruitful crops, fruitful women, and power over their neighbors.  Though the means have changed over the years, people are still clamoring for ways to increase themselves, which generally leads to an abandonment of the way of the Lord.

The Judgment of the Lord is Coming

Isaiah begins with the word “behold.”  He wants us to see something that he has either seen or has been told.  The descriptions that follow employ God as the subject and several verbs of destruction.  Basically Isaiah has seen the future and thus warns all who will listen in a way that sounds like it has already happened.  This is to solidify the reality that these things are going to happen and to give a sense of urgency or immediacy to those hearing it.  Since those days many judgments have come and gone upon individual nations and large empires alike.  It could be easy for us to dismiss this as a prophecy that has already been fulfilled.  But if we take the revelation seriously, there is no way this has happened yet.  Thus all the other judgments of individual nations that Isaiah has mentioned are templates for the ultimate Day of Judgment that awaits the whole world.  Each time a nation rises up and then falls, God is trying to get our attention and warning us of this coming judgment.

So what has the prophet seen?  He sees the Lord emptying the earth and making it a wasteland.  The harsh imagery of these statements is actually a description which is only leading up to the later main verbs.  It could be translated, “Behold, the Lord, emptying the earth and making it a wasteland, distorts its surface...”  What seems to be a big deal for man is merely descriptive of God.  These two verbal adjectives go hand in hand.  Emptying the earth is not just about humans, but about all that is living.  What comes first the wasteland or the lack of that which lives?  They are both the result of the judgment of God.  This verse ties in with the incredible descriptions given in the book of Revelation (scorching of the sun, defiling of the waters, wars, famine, and massive loss of life).

Isaiah also sees the Lord devastate the surface of the earth and scatter those who dwell upon it.  The word for devastate has the sense of twisting or distorting.  This general description is given clarity in Revelation by great earthquakes and impacts from space (whether comets, asteroids, or meteors we cannot know).  Also, the word “inhabitants” is also picked up as a theme in Revelation.  There we see an emphasis placed upon those who dwell (inhabit) on the earth and those who dwell in heaven.  The judgments of God fall upon those whose sole frame of reference is the material world.  They are “earth dwellers” because they have no mind for God or spiritual things.

In verse 2 we see that this judgment will come upon everyone alike.  It does so by listing relationship terms that go together in the sense that one is lowly and the other mighty, one is abhorred and the other desired.  The point is that those distinctions that make such an importance in this age will have no distinction then.  The rich creditors were used to avoiding tragedy while the slaves and lowly bear the brunt of it.  But in that day all will suffer alike.  No one will be able to escape.

Verse 3 restates the matter in definite form.  Thus this judgment is unavoidable by God’s decree.  God does not merely speak things like a man might.  Isaiah has stood in the High Council of Heaven and there he has heard the decrees of God from Himself.  It has become popular lately to put forward the idea that somehow these Words of the Lord are just a test.  If we will heed the warning, make peace on earth, and clean up the planet then the Apocalypse will be avoided.  Jesus will merely come back saying, “Thanks,” as he takes over.  This is not some cosmic threat to get us to conform.  This is the decree of God that all people would do well to heed.  Yes, change your life so that you can avoid this.  But do not twist the Word of God to mean that the Judgment can be avoided.  Just as the cross could not be avoided, so judgment day cannot be avoided by the nations.  However, individuals can avoid it by putting their trust in Jesus.

The Judgment is Described Further

In verse 4 we see the earth withering (“fade away” is not the best translation).  Droughts were a big issue in Israel and the surrounding Near East.  The main thrust of the Canaanite religions was to avoid droughts and to be fruitful.  We will not look at verse 7 today, but I mention it because it further supports that massive droughts are in mind.  The ability of the earth to bring forth life and sustain it will shrivel up from the judgments that occur.  Revelation refers to great heat, and corruption of the waters.  Both would create devastating droughts.

The last part of verse 4 mentions the “haughty people of the earth.”  Though they are indeed haughty or proud, it is better to understand this as referring to the people who are high and mighty upon the earth.  They are high in station or position, not just in heart.  These will find themselves becoming weak and feeble in the face of these judgments.  They are not used to being in a helpless position.  Just as they have avoided the normal difficulties of life, so they will assume they can escape these.  But all their power and preparation will be impotent in the face of the wrath of God.

Next Isaiah describes the earth as being defiled by its inhabitants.  The word could also be translated as “polluted.”  This would have a rather modern ring to it.  In the modern world we are concerned with the pollution of nature through material means.  However the pollution in this verse is not natural, but spiritual.  I am not saying that the natural pollution is good.  However, natural pollution is only a warning to us of the greater pollution of spiritual things.  In fact, spiritual pollution leads to natural pollution.  Before we explain what spiritual pollution is, let me say this to this generation.  There are many who pride themselves in their great efforts to fight polluting the earth.  Yet, they do not see that they are spiritually polluting the earth worse than any factory that spews black smoke into the air, or any industrial site that dumps toxic waste into the water.  This is not a either or situation.  It really should be a “both and” situation.  Yet, many gain their sense of righteousness from what they do or don’t do to the earth, all the while ignoring spiritual matters.

So what is this spiritual pollution?  Isaiah lists three things: transgressed the Law, changed the ordinances, and broken the covenant.  I do not believe Isaiah is thinking of the Law of Moses, although this would be true in Israel’s case.  Much like Paul does in Romans 1-3, he refers to the Law as a far more general thing.  It is the Law of God that is generally recognized by mankind, and that which is specially revealed by God.  Thus all mankind has had the revelation of God’s existence, commands, and ability to judge.  Yet, on top of this the Church of Christ has spent 2,000 years filling the earth with the law of God (His decrees and judgments).  All of these are connected.  The nations of the earth have received much revelation, both general and special, from God.  Yet, many transgress these laws.  This is a blatant and willful disregard for the boundaries placed by God.  Such hearts pump pollution into the atmosphere around them.  The second group change or exchange the ordinances of God.  This group is religious enough to not disregard God’s Word.  However, they distort God’s Word and use rationalizations to avoid parts they do not like.  This corruption of God’s ordinances is also a polluting influence on the earth.  Lastly is those who have broken the covenant.  Whether it is Adam or Noah, Abraham or Moses, David or Jesus, God has often called man into covenant with Him.  Ultimately we make a decision in this life whether or not we will enter into that covenant or break covenant with God.  We see this spiritual pollution everywhere in the world, but especially here in our own country.

Verse 6 ends with a curse devouring the earth.  Those who reject God’s Word come under a curse of judgment.  I do not believe this is talking about the curse of the Fall in Genesis 3.  Rather, it is a curse much like Cain received after he willfully transgressed the Law of God and killed his brother.  This curse went on to affect his offspring and the whole world.  Man’s guilt is the source of this curse.  Guilt here is not just the internal response that a person can have (i.e. they feel guilty).  It is ultimately the external reality that we are lawbreakers and therefore must be judged (i.e. I am guilty whether I feel so or not).  Christianity is not about how to fix your life.  It is about admitting your own guilt and surrendering to the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ.  This “switching of loyalties” puts us in a place where we become a recipient of the mercy of God.  God’s judgment is always for those who refuse His mercy and persist in wickedness.

Next week we will pick up this theme further.  Let us end with the very real warning that this world will not continue rejecting God for forever.  There is a judgment day that is coming upon the whole world and only the proud and arrogant refuse to hear the warning of the Isaiah and the Spirit of God, “Why will you die?  Choose life!”

Day of the Lord audio

Tuesday
Mar292016

There is Hope

Romans 8:16-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday.

Hope is a word that we use to refer to the anticipation of something good in the future.  This seems to be the default position of the human heart.  When we are young and innocent we have a basic sense of good things ahead.  However, through difficult experiences in a fallen world and our own moral failures, we can lose hope.  In Jesus God has restored hope by demonstrating the depths to which His love is willing to go for fallen humans.  Yes, we may give up on hope, but God will never.  He is the creator of hope.

It is also important to recognize that we are not talking about hope in the sense of wishing for something.  “I hope I win the lottery,” is a statement that is more about wishing for something.  In the Bible the hope in our heart is instigated by the object of hope that God has promised in our future.  It would be more like the hope a young person has of graduating from college because their parents have promised to pay for it.  Today we are going to remind ourselves of the hope that God has anchored in the future for all who put their faith in Jesus and follow him.

We Are Children Of God

In verses 16-22, Paul reminds us that we are children of God.  Now we all belong to God by the fact of creation.  Thus all humans are children of God in that sense.  However, in the Bible it has a more narrow sense.  It is referring to those who have been born spiritually.  When you were physically birthed you were the child of two human parents, i.e. a child of man.  In order to be a child of God you must also be born spiritually by putting your faith in Jesus as your teacher and the one who covers your sins.

As a child of God we are also heirs, and joint heirs with Jesus.  Technically it is Jesus who stands to inherit all/ things because of what he did while he was on this earth.  He lived the perfect, sinless life and yet was unjustly attacked.  Instead of fighting, Jesus puts his full trust in the God of heaven.  Though the cross may seem to show his trust was ill-placed, the resurrection proves that Jesus knew what he was doing.  God has declared that those who put their trust in the work of Jesus and his commands will be brought into the Family of God and allowed to inherit with Jesus.

Notice that Paul states at the end of verse 17 a conditional phrase.  We stand to inherit with Christ, “if” we are willing to suffer with Jesus.  Just as Jesus suffered in the hope that the Father would answer him so too, we must pick up our cross and follow him.  Now we will not all suffer the same things or in the same way.  But we will experience many hardships in this life that will challenge our decision to follow Jesus.  His commands are very clear and cause us to have to choose between trusting him or making our own way.  Some people walk away from the faith when they encounter suffering.  But, this seems strange because we are going to have pain and suffering whether we follow Jesus or not.  This world is filled with them everywhere you go.  Thus Paul states that those who will follow the way of Jesus will suffer on this earth, but they will one day be glorified with Jesus.  Just as Jesus was glorified with an immortal, indestructible body and was glorified in his position over all creation, so we too will receive glorified bodies and a glorified position beside Jesus.  To illustrate this, I would point us to the Basketball tournament that the NCAA is putting on right now.  These teams are in the middle of a great struggle to be the champions.  As each game is played one team walks away saddened because they lost, but the other team is rejoicing because they have won.  As the final championship game ends with the blare of the buzzer, the time of blood, sweat, and tears will be over and one of the teams will enter into a time of glory, the time of enjoying the fruit of your labor.  This is what it will be for all believers at the Resurrection.

This is what is being referred to in vs. 19.  All creation awaits the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is the moment when believers are glorified and revealed to the world in glorified form and position.  Most people don’t recognize how critical mankind is to the universe.  Through our moral fall, all of creation was put under the curse of sin.  In the Old Testament the term Sons of God is a reference to the angelic beings.  They were direct creations of God and they were immortal.  However, through Jesus, God is raising up lowly humans to join the heavenly Sons of God.  This is referenced in Hebrews 2: 9-10, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”  Yes, we are in a time of difficulty, blood, sweat, and tears at this time.  Yet, a day has been appointed in which all who have believed upon Jesus Christ will be raised up immortal.  We will be revealed as the Sons of God, along with Jesus the One and Only Unique Son of God.

In verses 20-22, we are reminded that the curse was given for the hope of what was to come.  We might be tempted to look at the effects of the curse and sin on the Earth and accuse God of doing a terrible job, perhaps even being evil.  The truth is that we were not cursed for the sake of vengeance, but for the hope of what would one day come.  The triumph of mankind over the devil would be a long time in coming, but come it would.  At the cross, the devil was disarmed.  The truth was given to the world and the law was satisfied.  For the last 2 thousand years people have been plundered from his control, people from every language and nation.  One day all of those people will stand immortal beside the Lord, while the devil is captured and removed from the scene.  This is the victory that the Lord has assured us.

Jesus Is The Hope Of Mankind

Starting in verse 24 we see the hope that Jesus makes possible for mankind.  First it states that this is what we have been saved for.  Putting your faith in Jesus is not about simply trying to get something better in this life.  It is about so much more.  Sure, following Jesus will change the way you live and bring many good things into your life.  But it can also bring some bad things into your life as well: suffering, pain, rejection, and even death.  But the apostles knew that they were not dying for a lie.  They had seen the resurrected Lord and had been told by him that they too would experience resurrection if they followed him.  It would be good for American Christians to recognize that our greatest hope is not in fixing America, as great as that would be.  Our greatest hope is to reign with Jesus over a new earth and a new heavens that is not tainted by sin, pain, and suffering.

In verse 28 we are told that all things are working together for the good of those who are called by God.  It may seem impossible to understand that such a thing could be true.  Yet, even for a person who is not an unbeliever, this can be true the second they believe in Jesus.  Until that moment, everything that happens in their life is a sad story.  But once they believe in Jesus, it all becomes part of a glorious story of overcoming an enemy that was far too strong for us.  Don’t push faith aside.  By doing so you will only allow your pain and suffering to remain meaningless and evil.  But when you embrace it, all that difficulty becomes full of meaning and goodness.

Verses 29-30 show us that God’s plan is far greater than ours.  It is greater in effect and greater in scope.  From the beginning of time before he created, He foresaw all that would be.  In the moment that he chooses to create, He also chooses a destiny for all who would trust Him.  This is what is meant by Predestined.  He destined those who would trust him to be transformed and made like Jesus (morally and physically).  Then, in the course of time, He Called us to join His family.  All of us who are followers of Jesus had to hear the call of God by the Spirit and through a human being.  When we responded in faith that destiny became our own.  Then, those that responded to the call were Justified.  They were made to be righteous by the work of God.  No one will be able to stand before God and make a case against them receiving such a destiny.  They have been justified by the judge himself.  Lastly, those who have been justified will one day be Glorified.  The justified will be clothed with immortal glory and enter into the inheritance of a new creation.  This is the hope of mankind that Jesus has made available to whosoever will believe upon Him.  If you haven’t already, please do so today.  If you hear the call of the Spirit to join the ranks of the redeemed then respond today and let God justify your claim to the glory He has for you.

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