Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Friday, 26 January 2018

Isaiah Days 181 to 189

Isaiah Day 181 - He Is So Inclusive

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

I struggle. Every day it feels like we take a step deeper into a bottomless pit. Last night news from a friend was so painful it kept from sleeping. Inevitably when you hear horror stories like the one this last week of the family with 13 children who were kept as prisoners by their own parents, you discover the history is deep. Children are raised in extreme dysfunction and then become adults who perpetuate the dysfunction.

The truth is it doesn't have to be some deep awful that we inherit. In some way or multiple ways we all have dysfunction. We all see the world through glasses so tainted yet the taint is our normal. For a Jew to hate a Samaritan at the time of Jesus was not considered racist or prejudice or dysfunctional in any way. It was considered proper.

For whites in the south to consider blacks less than human or at least lesser humans a century ago was normal. For men to see themselves as more capable and intelligent than women was also normal and a view still held by too many. We fancy ourselves enlightened yet we seem to be moving backwards in so many ways. The internet is helping drive it and we don't even realize what is happening. We read an article and the algorithms of the web track that. Companies want you to see their advertising so they create these powerful algorithms to feed you the stuff you want to see and then attach their advertising to it. You read an article that you agree with. The next day or the same day another similar article pops up. The next day the same. Soon you start thinking "I'm pretty smart, there are lots of people who see the world just like I do!" You keep reading, the internet keeps feeding you and you unwittingly get further and further down a trail of bias and you don't even see it. The "right" and the "left" get further and further apart. Every event is seen, written, and read about through very different lenses and very few are listening to any side but their own.

What does this have to do with Isaiah and Jesus? Have you ever looked at the twelve disciples? Have you ever tracked the scattered clues we have about who they are, their interests, their political leanings, their inherited prejudices, etc...? It's quite a group. Matthew was collecting taxes for the Romans. Simon was a zealot who belonged to a fringe group who wanted to somehow topple the empire.

 Peter was confident about everything even when he shouldn't have been. Thomas doubted everything, even when he shouldn't have. Some were from far off Galilee. Others were from around Jerusalem. Some were fishermen, some were "above" that. Some speculate that Judas Iscariot was part of or raised in a family that was part of a terrorist organization against the empire. John had a vicious temper fueled by prejudice and racism. Andrew seemed to be a people person fixed on bringing people together.

In a word, they were "varied". It's no wonder they fought all the time. It's no wonder they all wanted the highest position in Jesus imagined new kingdom. They wanted to make sure their worldview was top on Jesus' radar.

All we like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way. We all think we know best but we have all strayed in some way from the heart and mind of God. Jesus didn't come and pick the strongest group as His allies or the most "correct" one. Instead He gathered men who represented everyone. He has no favourites. He loves us all.

I can tell you as a leader it is easier to gather people around me who think like I do. It is easier but it is so dysfunctional. I learned from Jesus early on to bring everyone to the table. I don't always succeed but I always try. There is a much better chance of seeing a healthier picture and making better decisions through the eyes of many than through the thought processes of "one side". It's uncomfortable sometimes. It hurts my head sometimes. It hurts my heart too. Getting outside of our own point of view is never comfortable.

So what is the good news in all this? No matter who you are or what your world view is, Jesus will include you. He promised and demonstrated this through His actions "Whoever comes to Me I will in no wise cast out".

The world talks about inclusiveness but Jesus lived it. Let's make Him our teacher.

Isaiah Day 182 - When Silence Was the Perfect Argument

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

Why is it significant that on the day He died Jesus didn't speak? Some will argue He did speak and they would be right, but when Isaiah wrote that He would be silent it was at a specific moment in time. He didn't speak in His own defense. He didn't speak to free Himself. He made no arguments before Pilate, Herod, or the High Priest. Imagine if He had? How many times previous to this did the religious leaders attempt to trap Him and trick Him with words and scenarios and each time He escaped with just a few words or a question they couldn't answer? Had Jesus opened His mouth He would have been set free. No human argument could have held up against Him. Knowing this He just didn't say anything to defend Himself. The few words He did speak were for our benefit, so upon later reflection we would see what actually happened on the day we smugly silenced the voice and crucified the trouble maker from Nazareth.

Watch the scene:

Matthew 27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.
13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”
24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”
25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

One of the last things Jesus did say that day was "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing". Sure they knew they were killing a man but they didn't know Who, and they certainly didn't know the significance of what was happening. When they cried "His blood be on us and on our children" that's exactly was Jesus was doing, but they didn't understand. They thought they were accepting the responsibility for His death, when really He was accepting our guilt so that we would never have to die.

Coming from along line of stubborn arguers it is humbling to know that Jesus could have argued His way out of torture and death but never said a word. He chose the cross. He gave His life for people who didn't have a clue. How many today still don't have a clue yet it was for us too. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world!"

Isaiah Day 183 - A Taste of the Future

His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

Sit down. Take a deep breath. This is going to be quick but awesome.

We crave acceptance. We want peace. It's difficult to swim upstream when everyone else is floating downstream. If the stakes are high enough it can be dangerous and even deadly to go against the crowd. Here's the thing: If you are serious about following Jesus you are swimming against the current. It got so bad for Jesus that His own mother nearly turned against Him, the mother who knew He was born in her virginity and was talked to directly by an angel. That's how deep an impact tradition, false teachings, and false expectations had on her. Talk about swimming against the current.

Jesus wasn't just a man with different ideas, He was a threat to the entire Jewish system. They concluded it was "better for one man to die than the whole nation perish". That's how they justified their murderous plot. Jesus was presented as evil. Every word and action was twisted to make it seem like He had to go for the good of everyone.

Pilate even gave the mob a choice. They could set Jesus free, or set a known criminal free. They chose to free the criminal.  There was no Hollywood rescue; no last minute saving Him from the cross. He was beaten, crucified, and died.

Then something odd happened. Before they could bury Him with the criminals a rich man came along and got permission to have His body and buried Him among the wealthy. He went from the cruel undignified death of a wicked person to a burial with honour and prestige. It was a sign. It was the first hint that things were going to end well and that right would triumph.

For most of North American history no one had to worry about being in any danger if they aligned themselves with Jesus. That is beginning to change and in the future it will change drastically. Just remember no matter how lonely or dark the valley of death becomes, if you with Jesus the Story will end well. Right and light will triumph. Good will overcome evil. Love wins.

Isaiah Day 184 - Did it Please God to Crush His Son?

By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9  His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.

Deep water. Heavy stuff. A sacrifice of a magnitude we may never fully grasp even after we get Home. John expressed it this way: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." Paul expressed it this way: "Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising it's shame and is sat down at the right hand of the Father." He also expressed it this way: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; and perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

No matter how it is expressed it is both awe inspiring and woefully inadequate all at the same time. First I want us to see that the very things that are happening in Judah which are leading to their demise are the same things that lead to Jesus being crucified; specifically oppression and injustice. What that means is that if Jesus had come at the time of Isaiah the result would have been the same and if He came now to us we would oppress Him and judge Him falsely also. The crowd that cried crucify Him would have risen up in any age.

Secondly Isaiah says that it pleased God to bruise Him. That sounds terrible and without understanding what it means it would be terrible. Notice right after the declaration that it pleased God to crush Him (vs 10) it says "if". It was the purpose of the crushing that pleased God, not the crushing itself and there is an enormous difference. The latter makes God a sadistic bloodthirsty lunatic. The former shows a God so committed to our rescue and restoration that the brutal treatment of His Son (by us remember) pleased Him because of what would happen as a result. It pleased Jesus to do it also. It brought Him joy, not the suffering, but the knowledge of what would be made possible by it.
We ask doctors to operate on us and are happy they are willing to do so. We aren't happy about the process of the surgery, we are happy about the healing and restoration that will follow.
If Jesus hadn't come, Satan could have and would have rightfully claimed us as his own. If Jesus hadn't come, neither we nor the angels would ever have known the depth of God's love for His children, or the purity of His character. That the Ones who created us and the world that sustains us would subject Jesus to life here as a poor, misunderstood, and rejected teacher/healer and then allow Him to have nails driven into His body, thorns pressed into His head, and be hung as a humiliated warning to all other would be "prophets" is unfathomable. If you ever wonder about or question the character of God the Father, He had to turn away while this was done to His Only Son. If you are a parent you know that would be harder than going through the agony yourself. It did not please God to crush His Son. It pleased Him that the crushing of His Son would open the way for His children to come Home.

The real tragedy of the Story is how many will refuse the freedom, refuse the offer, refuse to go Home.

I personally believe that God and Jesus love us so much that they would have done it even if not a single person had responded. Love is love. Love never fails. Love wins.

Isaiah Day 185 - Jesus, Anguish, Knowledge, and Rescue Part 1

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Confused? It's not obvious at first glance what this is exactly about is it? What specific anguish are we talking about? What will anguish help Him see? Why/how will it satisfy Him? What knowledge are we talking about and how can knowledge justify us? What does any of that have to do with bearing our guilt?

These are the questions we must ask God as we read His word. If we don't understand we have to talk to the Author.

Let's start with anguish. What anguish? Jesus' life was anguish from beginning to end. The deepest source of His anguish was separation from His Father. He was alone. His own human family didn't understand Him. They couldn't comfort or support Him. Born as one of us, He had to find out His identity and succeed where Adam and Eve failed, to live as a human by faith in God. It was nothing but anguish. The more He learned about Himself and His mission, the greater the chasm became between Himself and the expectations everyone had of Him. We often only thing of the anguish He suffered on the cross, but His entire life was a unique kind of suffering no one can truly understand. Anyone who has been in a situation where they don't fit in or aren't understood has some sense of what His life was like everyday but only a sense.
Now what did this anguish accomplish? How did it bring Him satisfaction? Jesus had a mission. His mission was to make a way for us to come Home. To do that He had to succeed where Adam and Eve failed. Where did they fail? They didn't trust God. The moments at the tree we're moments of anguish. Was God trustworthy? Was this creature telling the truth? Were they missing out on something? Up until that moment they had lived in peace and certainty. Now nothing was certain and it was anguish for Eve. Adam's anguish came when he saw what Eve had done and felt he had to choose between her and God.
Jesus lived this anguish every day. On every side people had expectations of Him that would separate Him from His Father. However He knew if He stayed the course and trusted His Dad, He would not just survive the anguish, but save us from the consequences of Adam's failure.

This is deep water. We are entering the very core of the Story. We will continue tomorrow.

For now think about this. The anguish of His soul was to live on our side of the war. He saw the scene, lived the reality from our side. He didn't sit beside the bed of a cancer patient and try to empathize. He had cancer. He didn't pass out soup to the homeless, He was homeless. He didn't go back to heaven every night after a day of miracles. He slept in fishing boats after days of anguish. He entered our world. He became one of us. He saw how real and awful the struggle is by living it fully. Tomorrow we'll find out how that satisfied Him and what knowledge He gained.

Isaiah Day 186  - The Anguish of Jesus’ Soul

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Jesus became one of us in every way. He wasn't half and half. He wasn't both God and man at the same time. He became fully human. He didn't perform miracles. God performed the miracles. He said plainly "without My Father I can do nothing." He was 100% dependent on God for everything just as we are. He had no advantage over us whatsoever. He was tempted in every way just as we are. The only difference is that He never once yielded to temptation. He never gave into the desire to please others. He never stopped trusting God. He never put Himself first. His life was constant anguish but He never relented His faith. That's why He was satisfied. He came to save us, and by relentlessly maintaining His faith in God He knew we would be able to come Home. This is why in Gethsemane He prayed "Let this cup pass from Me, yet not My will but yours be done." His humanity wanted to quit, to avoid the pain, to escape the ultimate anguish, yet His desire to maintain His faith in God and see His mission through was greater so He said "Not my will but Yours be done."

It was the opposite of the choice Eve made. It was the opposite of the choice Adam made. Jesus suffered in the short term to gain in the long term and when He saw the joy that was set before Him, He was satisfied.

I grew up with my dad painting cars and some of the projects he took on were massive. He always told my brother and I that you have to keep a clear picture in your head of the finished product. This vision will keep you going when discouragement would have you quit. That lesson has served me well. It was the secret to the success of Jesus. His Father showed Him the results of His mission and by faith He stuck to the plan and was satisfied. No satisfaction comes from quitting. There is no joy in giving up.

Tomorrow we'll explore what it means that "By His knowledge Jesus justified the many."

In so doing we will discover what a personal God we have. He knows.

Isaiah Day 187 - He Knew, He Knows, He Can Justify

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

By His knowledge He will justify many. What does that word justify mean? Well let's use the word in a sentence we can relate to. An organization collected donations for a charity project. When the event was over, the charity only received half of the money raised. When this was discovered the organization who raised the funds was asked "How can you justify this? Only half the money raised ever reached the charity project it was raised for."

Satan is the accuser of the brethren. His goal is to ensure not one person ever returns Home. His argument or accusation is simple. "I was kicked out for rebellion and can't return and every human has rebelled so they can't return either and if You let them come Home, how can you justify that?"

Now let's come back to the organization that had to justify only passing half the money on to the charity project. They explained that 25% of the money went to advertising and promoting the fundraising efforts. Another 25% went to salaries connected to the fundraising project. They were able to justify only half the money going to the charity project itself.

Can God justify taking sinners to heaven? Can he answers the accusations of Satan? If He can't then either we can't go Home or Satan can return with us. Neither of those are good options.

Isaiah said Jesus would justify us by His knowledge. What knowledge. What does He know that will silence the accuser? Jesus became one of us. Jesus came to know our position in the war between good and evil, truth and lies, light and darkness. He came to know what it is to trust God from a distance. He came to know what it is be on the dark side of the equation. The Righteous One became one of us. The Son of God became the Son of man.

So how does this knowledge justify us? Simple really. We can't undo our rebellion. We can't earn our way back. The Bible says that before God ever laid the foundations of this world He devised a plan should Satan's rebellion infect our world. Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It simply means the plan was in place from the start, it was not a reactionary plan after things went wrong. Why death? Why did Jesus have to die and how does that solve anything?

The wages of sin is death. Sin leads to death, it causes death. Life comes from God and a willful, stubborn, persistent separation from God is to separate from life like unplugging an electrical device from the power source. Satan remains alive by the sustaining grace of God in order to demonstrate to the entire universe how deadly and horrible sin is. In the end he will die. God will give him what he wants, complete independence, and that independence will be lifeless. It's the same date we have inherited. Adam and Eve chose to go their own way. Satan deceived them and plunged our world into his demonic darkness.

To get us back God had to both be able to justify what He was going to do. Jesus came to he one of us. He succeeded where Adam failed. He demonstrated as one of us that trusting God no matter what is possible. That removed the accusation that God was demanding the impossible from us or from the fallen angels. That part is done. He came to know our circumstances and overcame them. Then He literally took all our guilt on Himself. He died as us. The death penalty that sin causes, our death penalty, was paid in Him.

Now when Satan accuses God can point to Jesus and say "In My Son, their death penalty is paid". If then accuses by saying "How can they get off and I can't?" God will say "Whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."

Now Satan is trapped. Pride prevents him from bowing before our Saviour and accepting the gift of mercy. Sadly many of us will also refuse. The choice is ours.

Tomorrow we will track the life and choices of the disciple Peter and see how this plays out in a practical way that we can relate to. Until then know that He knows and if you trust Him He can justify why He will be bringing you Home.

Isaiah Day 188 - He Knew Peter, He Could Justify Him

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

He will bear their iniquities (sin/guilt). He bore the sin of many. Notice it is many and not all. The "discrimination" is not on His part. He plainly said "whoever believes" and "whoever comes to Me I will never cast away" and "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Not everyone will be receive the benefit of forgiveness but that is our choice, not His. It is like throwing a huge banquet with all kinds of amazing food and inviting everyone free of charge. The food is there and fully accessible but each person decides if and what they will eat.

Yesterday we found out because of what Jesus did He can justify saving us in the face of Satan's accusations. Let's see how that plays out in the life of Peter. Peter is an everyday hardworking ordinary citizen of Galilee. He meets Jesus and decides to follow Him. In time he realizes Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised One and says so. Others leave but he stays. Through the teachings of Jesus and by his faith in Him Peter is able to heal the sick and even walk on water even if it was only briefly. Simon was his name before he met Jesus. Peter was a new name Jesus gave him. Often Jesus called him Simon Peter, an intentional play on words signifying that he was partly the man he was before he met Jesus and partly a new man.

The night before Jesus died, He told Peter that he would deny Him three times. In telling him this He addressed him as Simon Peter. Peter denied he would ever do such a treasonous thing but Jesus insisted he would. He followed me the prophetic warning with these famous words: "But let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I'm going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I Am there you may be also."

Jesus, the same Jesus who said "If any man denies Me before men I will deny Him before My Father" promises heaven to a man about to deny Him. What is going on? Can Jesus justify His plans to bring Peter to heaven in the face of Satan's very real and factual accusations?

In a word yes. Here's why. Peter denied Jesus through fear, panic, and disillusionment with words but he never denied Him with his heart. The very fact he was in that courtyard by that fire, as close to Jesus as circumstances permitted shows he never denied Him, not in the sense of rejection and abandonment. Jesus knew that. Jesus knows us. He lived our experience. He knows we use words to profess love when there is no love and sometimes we say awful things that our heart does not mean.

Can He justify His plans to bring us Home in the face of Satan's accusations? You better believe He can. "Satan, Peter loves Me. His love may be faltering due to his broken condition but it is real and sincere. He trusts me to save him and that's exactly what I'm going to do. If you trusted Me and loved Me like he does I could save you too but you and have made your choice and Peter has made his and both choices will be honoured. Any punishment due him I took. He is My son."

By His knowledge of our true choice and His experience and death as one of us, He will justify many. Will you let Him justify you?

Isaiah Day 189 - Impossible Is Beautiful

“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord.

Guess what? Paul quotes this verse in his letter to the Galatians. Do you know what that means? It means these Old Testament words still apply. We have much to learn from them. If God didn't intend for later generations to learn and benefit from them, there would have been no need for Isaiah to write them down. He could have just delivered the message verbally to the people of his time.

We just finished chapter 53, the greatest Old Testament passage pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Following that description of Jesus suffering and dying on our behalf, Isaiah then speaks of a mother who never gave birth having more children than those who did have children. What is he talking about? It doesn't even make sense right? Let's see what Paul was talking about when he quoted it in the New Testament:

Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”

28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise."

Now in true Paul fashion that is a little heavy but he is comparing Abraham's two wives (wife and concubine) and the children they bore. His true wife had a son when it was medically/humanly impossible. His concubine had a son first because Abraham took matters into his own hands and tried to fulfill God's promise on his own.

 Paul uses both the Old Testament life of Abraham and the circumstances surrounding the births of Ishmael and Isaac and the verse in Isaiah 54 to underscore what God has been trying to tell us from the beginning. He will save us and we can't save ourselves. The attempts we make (Ishmael) are illegitimate and fraudulent and never match the promise. God is not asking us to do the best we can with the hand we have been dealt. He isn't asking for a patch job or a plan B. He is promising the impossible. Just as a woman who never gave birth can't have children, so we can never be the perfect children we were before Adam and Eve "handed the keys" to Satan. However we will be those perfect children. It will happen. Sarah had Isaac didn't she? Jesus survived the grave didn't He? He specializes in the impossible and our role is not to patch up the mistakes of Adam and Eve. Our role is to believe in the One who has promised He will usher in a new Day.

Rejoice at your impossible situation because Jesus has come and is coming again.

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