Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

Also in this Series

He Keeps His Promises (Isaiah 13-16)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, God turns His sight upon Babylon. At this time they were not a powerful nation. They were still a part of the Assyrian Empire. But He knows they will be a people who are against Him. They, like Assyria, will even think that they are better/higher than God. However God promises destruction upon them as well. “Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them.” (13:19, NLT). Because of its pride, Babylon will be overrun by God’s wrath. God goes on to describe how He will display His might to the people of Assyria and Philistia. Then the Lord turns His sights upon Moab, a long time enemy of the Israelites. He tells them, “Even the waters of Nimrim are dried up! The grassy banks are scorched. The tender plants are gone; nothing green remains.” (15:6, NLT). God had threatened Moab before, but the important point is “Within three years, counting each day, the glory of Moab will be ended. From its great population, only a few of its people will be left alive.” (16:14, NLT). The people of Judah saw all of these prophecies made against other nations (except Babylon) come true in their time before the Exile.

I find some peace in knowing that God keeps His promises. Sure the ones He gave in this reading were destructive, and not exactly something I want in my own life. Yet it is still nice to know that He will keep those promises. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses wrote, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NASB). This says to me that, even though God proved His follow through with these destructive promises, He still remains faithful to you and I for simply believing in Him. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB). God keeps that promise too. We haven’t been left alone to figure things out on our own. God gave us a way for salvation. It is found in Jesus Christ, and God will keep that promise until the end of time.

Also in this Series

 

O Praise Him (Isaiah 11-12)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah continues his description of the Messiah. The Messiah would bring forth a time where Israel can be reunited, and bring a time without fear. He says “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all … The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” (11:6-9, NLT). Isaiah adds a song about salvation and giving praise to God. This song is given to continue the illustration of the coming Messiah. It’s a song from people who have found their salvation and thank God at all times for it.

Do we do this today? Unlike the Jews that Isaiah was speaking to, we know where and when our salvation comes. When Isaiah wrote, the people needed encouragement to get through the difficult times. Today, the scripture is still there to encourage, but instead to encourage us to praise Him. We no longer have to wait for Jesus to come, as I said yesterday. Yet since he has come, when we receive His gift we get a new purpose. “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” (12:2, NLT). Jesus gave us our victory over sin and death. What better of a reason for celebration is there? We have been made new and clean, so we should praise Him everyday and every opportunity we can. When we get up, praise! When we get in the car for work, praise! When we get to work, praise! When we do well, praise! When we don’t do well praise! Praise Him all the time! He has saved you from your sin and death, so He deserves our praise!

Here’s a song all about praise!!!!

 

Also in this Series

No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

You Can’t Earn It!

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I read an article on the Breathe Cast today. It was talking about a comment that was made in an interview done for the New York Times with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. The interview was all about the work Mr Bloomberg is doing to advance gun control regulation. However at the end of the interview a statement was made, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” I’m not sure he truly understood the problem with such a comment.

If we turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans, you could easily find out what Paul’s response to this would have been. I think a good sub-title for this letter might be, The Epistle Against Earning Salvation. He consistently speaks out against our ability to save ourselves, and puts that power in Christ’s hands alone. Here are just a few of these verses found in Romans:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (3:23-24, NLT)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23)

“But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why Not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the Law instead of trusting him.” (9:31-32)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (10:9)

These are just a few of the verses in this letter. Our salvation is a “free” gift, that we cannot pay for. All we can do is trust that God is sufficient, and believe it with our whole hearts. There is no way that salvation can be earned. My pastor likes to say, “You can’t bake enough pies to get into heaven.”

I’m not saying that God doesn’t cause us to change or do radical thing for Him. My point is that we cannot go out with the mindset, “I’m going to do this so I can get into heaven.” Finding salvation is easy. There’s no need to earn it. You simply need faith. Paul again keeps this in perspective for us, “For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8, NLT)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 94-96

Nothing But The Blood

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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…” Ephesians 1:7-8, NASB

This wee’s song is Nothing But The Blood. In my church we will be singing the version that Matt Redman made, but it is actually based on a hymn. Both songs ask the question “What can take away my sin?” This is a basic question we face when we realized we have sinned. People tend to decide that they can get rid of their sin by “doing good”. Others believe that it was by making sacrifice that we get rid of our sin. But the answer lies on the Cross. The refrain of the hymn says this:

“O, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus”

This song tells us that Try as we might, nothing can remove our sin from us but the blood of Jesus. The blood that was poured out for all mankind as a means to remove sin. God did this for us. There is nothing we can do, nothing else will satisfy the need of salvation. God died on the Cross for us, and that is the only way we can be saved of our sins.

This week’s set:

  • O Praise Him (David Crowder* Band)
  • Open They Eyes of My Heart (Paul Baloche)
  • Nothing But The Blood (Matt Redman)
  • Give Us Clean Hands (Charlie Hall)
  • Here’s My Heart (performed by David Crowder)
  • God of This City (Bluetree)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 6

A Popular Misunderstanding

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LOVE the book of Colossians. It is most certainly one of my favorite books in the whole Bible. I would recommend reading it, if you haven’t, and do some good study on it. I may do a study on it soon here on The Heart Man. But my love of Colossians is not what I’m wanting to talk about today, I just wanted to lead with it (you’ll see why in a moment).

I overheard a conversation going on today (about politics) and there was a statement made that went something like this, “This is really a religious issue. I don’t see why they are letting their faith interfere with making law. The separation of Church and State forbids that kind of behavior.” (This isn’t exactly what was said, but it still gets the point across.) Statements like this get me upset, not because of disagreements on politics, but because it represents the idea that my faith belongs at Church on Sunday morning and nowhere else.

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians about becoming a new person in Christ. “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you…”(Colossians 3:5, NLT). Paul is saying to us, “Remember all those things you used to do before you encountered Christ? They made you dead, and Christ made you alive. Stop doing those things and focus on what God want you to do.” He even writes earlier, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, NASB). We are new! We are not the same as we were before, and we cannot go back!

The thing that bugs me the most is a misunderstanding over the separation of powers. I believe that people are well-intentioned, but have a problem understanding historical context. Historical context is when we read something from a different time, and try to understand what the text is saying within that time period, not ours. This is something we have to do constantly when studying the Bible, which is why there are misunderstandings on Scripture as well. But back to government! The separation of powers came up from two things. First, the thirteen colonies were seeking to break away from England. At the time, the King was not only the head of government, but also the head of the State Church. This lead to much religious persecution, which is why many of the colonist came to the “New World” in the first place. The second misunderstanding is that the first amendment gives freedom of religion. Many of the colonies (future states) had established a certain denomination as their State Church. However, the view was that this was inappropriate for a land to have religious freedom.

So a separation of powers, does not mean that we cannot vote based on religious beliefs. Based on Paul’s writing, that’s exactly how we should be voting. Christ has made us new, so before voting we should have a little WWJD moment. The other problem that arises during these types of discussions is that the people who oppose us, we mistreat because we disagree.

Paul urges the Church to “…put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12, 15, NASB). Paul is speaking to the Church about other church members, but I feel that this could be simply applied to our relation with people of other faiths. Show everyone compassion despite disagreements. We must treat others like they are people, just as we would want them to treat us. Pushing the Bible on people, who don’t want it, only drive them away from the Gospel. Instead we should live our lives as God commands us, and let that be our testament to Jesus Christ.

I disagree with several things going on in the world. But I will never condemn someone simply for believing differently than I do. We will never have problems, until you start having a problem with me believing the way I do. That’s the way we are called to live. Live as Christ taught us to live. Love everyone, even the people we disagree with. Let love overflow your heart, just as Christ did. That’s the call of a Christian lifestyle. We must keep true to our beliefs, we cannot compromise them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love those we disagree with. The call of the world to keep our faith to Sunday mornings is exactly what the Enemy wants. He doesn’t want God’s people living like God’s people, because it hurts his cause.

So stand up for your beliefs. Don’t ever let someone tell you that your Christian life should stay at Church. Christ made you new! We are no longer dead in our sin, but we are alive in Christ. Do you know who can change this world? People who are alive, not dead. And the Enemy does not want to see that change, because then he loses.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 2

 

PS I’m very sorry if this makes no sense. I’m really scatterbrained at the moment. Plus I was super excited to open up Colossians today. Please forgive me if you can’t follow this post.

Being Holy (1 Thessalonians 4)

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In today’s ready we get a few glances into what is the matter with the church in Thessalonica. Until this point, Paul seems to be giving the church praise after praise, without addressing any issues within the church. In chapter 4 he speaks to them about living lives that are pleasing to God, and what is going to happen with believer who have died.

The first point is what really grabbed my attention today. Paul defines this by saying, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (4:3, NLT). I’m sure that the problem Paul is addressing is someone saying, “Since we’re saved from our sins, does it really matter if we keep on sinning?” This is a continuous problem in the early Church, since Paul addresses it frequently; most notably in Romans, “What sall we say then? Are we to continue to sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NASB). Paul goes on (in Thessalonians) to mention not harming or cheating against others (4:6), and finishes this little section by saying, “Therefore, anyone who refused to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (4:8, NLT).

God’s desire is for us to be holy, but what does that mean? It sounds like a lot of rules that we must follow, but really it is more that that. The word that is being used here (hagiasmos) to describe holy means dedication to God, both in faithfulness to Him and in active service. It is a process, not an achievement. John Wesley describes grace in three parts: previenient, justifying, and sanctifying. That sanctifying grace comes to us after we have accepted Christ, and is what works within us to be holy.

This understanding shows me that it is obvious that we cannot simply accept Christ and do nothing about it. There are obvious exceptions to this, one being the thief that accepted Christ while on the cross with him. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NASB). But for those of us that accept Christ long before we are on our deathbed, we are called to become holy, to be set apart for God and for God alone. This means we cannot sit idly by and do whatever we’d like. There’s are reason that “sinful nature” is also called “ways of the flesh”. Our natural status is for us to rebel against God. Paul tells us that if we work to become holy, we “will control [our] own body” (4:4, NLT). So to become holy is a path that we must forge, it is not something that just happens to us.

Spend some time in prayer today. Figure out where that next move is on this trip to holiness.

Are You a Fan or Follower?

followingjesus

This morning, I was reading in Matthew’s gospel and came across a story that just floored me. If you look at Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus says something remarkable that I don’t think many Christians think about anymore. Jesus is sitting with tax collectors and sinners for dinner, when Pharisees and Sadducees saw what was going on and said to themselves “What is this man doing eating with those people?” (Matthew 9:11, paraphrase). Jesus comes back at them and quotes Hosea to pass on a message that I believe we all need to hear. “I’m after mercy; not religion.'” (Matthew 9:13, MSG).

Do you hear that friends. He’s more concerned that you live and walk a Christian lifestyle, over the fact that you go to church and say you are a Christian! Just let that sink in before we move on.

 

 

 

We all know somebody that fits into this latter category of Christian (the ones who say it but don’t do it). It’s unfortunate that they don’t comprehend how this is bad. Being a true follower of Christ changes you. There’s a reason Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB). I’m not the same man I was before I met Jesus, and neither are you (if you have truly met him).

This group thinks that it is sufficient to simply claim Christ. While this is true (if we mean it, i.e. Luke 23:39-43) it can’t be all there is. James writes in his letter, “What us is it, my bretheren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and on of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what us is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:14-17, NASB).

So clearly it is important to do more than simply profess the faith. While it is most important to take Jesus as your Lord and Savior, truly meeting him changes you into a new creation. I encourage you to spend some time in worship and prayer today. Thank Him for all He has done, and ask for Him to meet you where you are. There’s a song that has a great lyric for this. The chorus of the song goes “If there were a thousand steps between you and God/And you can see no way across the great divide/ Just take one step towards his loving arms/ And He’ll take nine hundred and ninety-nine”. So take that one step, and he will come running to you!

PS I recently read a great book that talks about this very subject. If you are interested in reading it, you can get it here.

God Cares (Jonah 4)

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In this final chapter of Jonah, Jonah gets mad at God. His anger comes from the fact that the message he gave to Nineveh was the same message he was giving at home. God’s response is “Have you any right to be angry?” (4:4 NIV). At that Jonah travels just outside of Nineveh and builds himself a shelter, while God provides some shade by causing a vine to grow. Then during the night, God caused the vine to shrivel up and die. So Jonah became angry at that as well, and God responded in the same way. Then God says to Jonah, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight an died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:10-11 NIV).

I believe that God is saying to Jonah, “It’s okay for you to care about something you’ve put no work into, but it’s wrong of Me to care for this city I’ve raised?” Even though Nineveh rejected God and His ways, He still wished from them to come to know Him. God sent Jonah to them, so they would have this opportunity.

It’s an idea that still exists today. Honestly, I have no business being a child of God. I am most certainly guilty of sin, and I am obviously not a Jew. Before Jesus, I had to have the opposite of both those things in order to be saved. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;…” (Romans 3:23-24 NASB). God sent His son so you and I can be reconciled to Him.

God cares for humanity. He doesn’t just sit idly in heaven, watching events happen. Our God is one that intervenes in history; the Bible is full of those experiences, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. He wants us to be with Him. I think that’s the underlying point to Jonah. We can read the book at face value and say that it’s all about obeying God, even if we don’t want to. But the deeper meaning is found here. God did everything possible to get the message to Nineveh. Jonah did want to listen, but God turned him around. When the message reached the people, they repented and came back to God. That’s what Jonah is about. God will come after you with everything in his arsenal. All you have to do is repent and believe!