3rd December 2017
Song: Diamonds (Hawk Nelson)
Readings from Isaiah 64: 1-9 and Ephesians 2:1-10
Post-exilic: return of Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem.
(Briefly explain reason behind exile – Jewish people had turned away from God).
It was not a time of jubilation as you may think, but rather pain, heart-break and internal division, land battles and power struggles (with those that had remained in Jerusalem). The restoration of Jerusalem back to its past glory was not happening.
Hence, in Chpt 64:1-4 Isaiah pleads with God, on behalf of the Israelites, for God to show His mighty power and save and restore Israel to its former glory. After all God had shown his power and might so many times in the past.
THE BAD NEWS
In vs 5-7, Isaiah concedes that Israel is not deserving of God’s presence!
Isaiah concedes, very graphically, Israel’s iniquities, wickedness, and sinfulness.
Is it any wonder that God, who is absolutely pure, “hid His face” (vs 7) from the Israelites?
It is not only the Israelites that have sinned atrociously against God, Paul extends it from the Israelites to all of us in:
Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind
But I’m not really that bad!!
Although some may identify with a life of wickedness, many of us will argue that “I’m not really that bad”. Surely people aren’t “children of wrath.”
A book written by John Calvin ‘Institutes’, begins with this sentence:
“Nearly all the wisdom we possess consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
The knowledge of God is difficult to comprehend and to embrace—that’s obvious!
What we don’t realize is that the knowledge of ourselves is just as difficult to comprehend.
We tend to think we do know ourselves, when, in fact, the depths of our condition are beyond our comprehension without the help of God. e.g. Peter swore that he would not deny Christ, but…..
When we consider the passages in Isaiah 64 and Ephesians 2, we can conclude that ‘INHERENTLY’ we are: Flawed – no one is without blemish, Immoral – loving what is evil, Lawless – not keeping Gods commands, Traitors – of the Word of God, Heinous – monstrous beasts, Yucky – truly repugnant, Spiteful – stepping on others to get our own way, Corrupt – thieving, lying, crooks, Ugly – bearing no inner beauty, Mean – it’s our way or the highway!
i.e. = we are FILTHY SCUM!! – we are the skid marks on the underpants of society!
In Isaiah 64, Isaiah humbly acknowledges the enormity of Israel’s sin, and in vs 5 says:
“How then can we be saved?”
vs 8-9 is a petition to God “Yet, you, Lord, are our Father”
The Israelites were God’s chosen people. And as God’s people, Isaiah humbly pleads for God’s forgiveness;
After all, they are God’s children, God the creator (potter), and they the product of God’s hand (clay).
“Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people”.
But what about us? We are not God’s children in the same way as the Israelites.
And in the Romans, Paul warns that as violators of God’s righteous law, we are deserving of death.
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
If it were only physical death, then that would be fine. Rather it is a spiritual death, which means eternity in the fiery pits of hell!!
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28), “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12)
So what hope do we have, or “how can WE be saved?” – especially considering that even “our most righteous acts are like filthy rags” to God.
We need a “Savior”!
Imagine yourself in any life-threatening crisis:
e.g. Plane about to crash — I tell you that your condition right now in this room and at this moment is more critical and more urgent and more threatening without a Savior than anything you can imagine.
THE GOOD NEWS!! (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Vs 4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with CHRIST —by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It is through Christ that we are transformed into diamonds…… out of dust!!
1) We were dead in sin,…… but God made us alive with CHRIST.
2) We were captive to the prince of the power of the air ……. but God raised us with CHRIST and made us sit with him in the heavenly places.
3) We were children of wrath and deserving of an eternity in the torments of hell, but God, instead of pouring out wrath, will spend eternity showing the immeasurable riches of his kindness to us in CHRIST Jesus.
I love the term immeasurable in vs 7. How big is immeasurable?
And, how long will God continue to do this? In the coming ages!! = Eternity!!
That’s how long it will take God to run out of ideas of how to show you kindness. Now tell me, when does eternity end?
In essence, GOD LOVES YOU. God Loves You! Let that sink in.
It is God who has/can turned you into Diamonds out of dust, but truly you are more precious to God than diamonds!
How Can We Have These Riches?
Verse 8 points the way: “By grace you have been saved THROUGH faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”
…… there is only one possible way to receive these things—through FAITH.
“By grace are you saved through faith.”
There is nothing you can DO to ‘earn’ the riches of God’s grace. It is a gift.
All there is to do is to believe whole-heartedly and accept it.
Romans 10:9 “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”.
A Personal and Urgent Response
Two ways to respond to this: One is theoretical and impersonal; the other is personal and urgent.
One says: How can this be, and how can that be?
The other says: God brought me here today. God spoke in these texts to me today. O God, today, I submit to your amazing grace that has brought me here and awakened me and softened me and opened me.
Thanks be to God for the riches of his mercy and the greatness of his love and the power of his grace.