Nov–Dec 2019

Build Your Life on Jesus' Love

1 John 4:7-21 • December 29, 2019 • Bert Alcorn

Big Idea: - Jesus is love, he is the manifestation of God’s love, and his love towards us changes everything. Key Text: - 1 John 4:7-21 Transcript: - Well. Hey, Anthem, Bert here, I hope you are having, or had, a good Christmas, or having a good New Year, depending on when you're watching this, but we are off this Sunday, December 29th. We'll be back in downtown Ventura on January 5th. Cannot wait to see you there. But as just this encouragement for the holiday season as you're spending time with friends and families, hoping to get some rest time in. I actually wanted to just give us a bit of a bridge between where we've been in these last four or five weeks of our Advent Series and then where we're going for the next year. That bridge is going to be out of 1 John. It was initially actually something I had planned for the previous Sunday's message and then time just ended up cutting it, but felt it was still really important to be sharing with you guys because where we landed on Sunday, December 22nd, just a little while ago, was this idea of building your life on Jesus is love. It was a, I think profound, impactful moment for us to wrestle with and looking at the suffering servant narrative from Isaiah 52 and 53, but one of those lingering questions that was going on in my mind was, that sounds good, but how do we actually do that? How do we actually build our lives on Jesus' love? What does Jesus' love actually look like in practice, both in how we receive it and then how we're showing it. That's what I wanted to share with you guys a bit today. In light of this suffering servant that we've been learning about, who paid the price for you and I to have life and life eternal. His redemptive sacrifice for you is to build your life on his love. To that end, the Apostle John. In one of his letters in 1 John Chapter 4, writes really poignantly about love and some of it's fleshing out into not only our relationship with God, but our relationship with the world around us. From 1 John Chapter 4, to build your life on Jesus' love is really to grapple with a few truths here, five in particular that I want to pull out. But I want to start by reading the text. If you're at a place where you can open your Bible, or look on your phone, you can go ahead and do that, or you can just listen along as I read from 1 John Chapter 4. I'm going to start in seven and go to the end here. John writes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest," or made known, "Among us that God sent His only son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this His love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation," or substitution or atonement, "For our sins." "And beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. And by this we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us His spirit." "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he and God. So we have come to know and to believe that the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him. And by this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. "There's no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear for fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." "We love because He first loved us. And if anyone says, I love God and hates his brother, he's a liar, for who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, whoever loves God, must also love his brother." Now I hope you noticed a few things in that text. First is it feels a little circular just over and over again. John's doing this, if you love God, you have to love people, and if you love people, this means... And if you don't love people, it does not mean this. Just tracing it back and forth in this circular back and forth. What he's trying to do is, is trying to leave no stone unturned where we can make excuses out of loving other people and still somehow say we love God. What John is saying is that our love for God and our love with God is intimately and divinely connected with our love for other people. Out of this text, there are a few important truths about building your life on Jesus's love for you. The first truth we find in a few different places in verse 8 and verse 16, is that God Himself is love. It's part of His character. It's part of His identity. It's His very nature. It's a core piece of who He is. When we're receiving God's love, we're not receiving these abstract thing. We're receiving a core part of who He is. And so as we talk about building our life on Jesus' love, what we're really talking about is building our life on Jesus. That's the first truth, that God is love, speaking to his identity. The second truth is that He loved us first. Now this is a posture thing. This is how God views us. While we were still His enemies, He loved us. So in verse 8, 10, 11, 19, His posture towards us is that of a loving father ready to need us, ready to walk with us, ready to provide for us. Not only that, but our own ability to love [inaudible 00:06:08] to love other people is entirely predicated on His existing love for us. He loved first. That was his move. That was his posture towards us, making the way and making a space for us to receive and give love. The only way that we can truly love is by being truly loved by God. Every other version of love that you and I may have experienced in this world pales in comparison to that truth. C.S, Lewis, the great Christian author, says this about love and God's love for us, he says, "Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins or our difference, and therefore it is quite relentless and it's determination that we shall be cured of those sins at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him." Which brings us to our third truth. So, first God is love. Second, He loved us first. And third is Jesus is God's love towards us. He is the manifestation of God's love towards us. This is God's action of love towards us. We talked about identity, posture, this is God's action towards us. In verse 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the manifestation or the flesh and bones and blood of God's love towards us. Love is from God and we can have life in Him. We abide in God through His spirit in us, given to us by Jesus. Not only that, but He was the sacrifice, the propitiation, the atonement for your and my sins. This is the expression of God's love for you and me. Ultimately in verse nine, which John says, "God sent His only son into the world that we might live through Him." This is God's action of love towards you and towards me. Fourth truth is that love removes fear. This is the implication of God's love towards us. God is love, He loved first. Jesus is God's love towards us and that love removes fear. It removes our deepest fear, maybe even the fears we don't even realize, the fears of not being accepted, not being loved, not being worthy, not being valued, and ultimately the fear in the longterm of not being found in Him on that day of Judgment that John talks about. He says, "Love casts out fear." There's no space for fear if perfect love has come. God is love. He loved first. Jesus is God's love towards us. Love removes fear. And finally the fifth truth is that loving God and loving people go hand in hand. We moved from God's identity, He is love, to His posture towards us, that He loved first, to His action of love in sending Jesus and to that implication that it removes the fear of not being found in Him. And finally to your and I's lifestyle. Loving God and loving people go hand in hand. The end result, if you follow Jesus, is to live a life modeled after the love that God has shown us. As we experience His love and learn to love and return, that love is not only just directed towards God, but it's directed towards other people. It starts to change the way we see and experience the world around us and see and experience the people around us. John goes on to say that our demonstration that we have received God's love is that we love others. It's almost the marker, the fruit, the proof that you have received God's love, is that you love other people. The world sees our love for God and our love for others, that's how they know who God is, the world. No one has seen. But if we love one another, they will see because God abides in us. And he goes on to say, you can't love God and hate people. That's hypocrisy. It doesn't work that way. You can't have it both ways. If you love God, you love people, but God's love compels us to love others. John goes on to say, if it doesn't, we actually even haven't experienced that love. So the reality is from this text, these five truths. God is love, is his identity. He loved us first, His posture. He sent Jesus as the motion of his love, it's his action. It removes fear in our lives and implication. And it changes our lifestyle to where if we love God, if we have received love from God, we love other people. When we talk about building our life on Jesus' love. It's not just an identity thing, it's that definitely, but it's not just an identity thing, it's not just one the warm and fuzzies, it's not just receiving God's love, but it's actually letting it change the way you and I live in this city, in this place, here and now. Jesus is the suffering servant living in rejection and humility, being crushed by the enemy, but ultimately victorious, bringing love and life to all those who would believe Jesus is love. He is the manifestation of God's love and that love changes everything. When we think about building our life on Jesus' love. As we think about the last year, 2019, that's just about to leave us and we think about the year in front of us, as we think about the culmination of Advent and Christmas and God's love made manifest for us in this little baby in a manger that we celebrate on Christmas, as we think about the new year ahead of us, what does it mean to build your life on Jesus' love? Does it, for some of you, mean to just receive that love? To know that even though you are unlovable in your deepest sense, you are lovable because God has chosen to love you first. Is it to not just receive it, but to actually show it back to Him, to express your love back to Him? This is not a one way street. God has loved you and he invites us to love Him back. Maybe for some of you it's the lifestyle, the implication of loving other people. It's because God has so loved you and so radically changed you that you can't help but love your brothers and your sisters in this church. That you can't help but love your brothers and sisters in this community. You can't help but love the poor, the lonely, the oppressed, the marginalized, the people who are not like you, the people who are different than you, the people who annoy you. You love them because you, being so unlovable in your sin, God has overcame that. He's loved you. He's expressed that love in Jesus and it's from the inside out. So totally changing us that we cannot help but love those around us. I would challenge you guys, sit in 1 John 4 for a little bit. Consider, enjoy, and delight in the love that God has shown you, and consider prayerfully what that means to express that love to the people in your life as we approach the New Year. We love you guys. I can't wait to see you back again in downtown Ventura. I hope this was helpful and an encouragement to you guys. Enjoy the time with family and friends. We'll see you soon.


Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • December 22, 2019 • Bert Alcorn

Big idea: - Jesus is our love, and Jesus loves you, and has demonstrated his love for you in his descent to be made human and extend to us the love of God through his life, death, resurrection, and is demonstrating his love for you, right now, in the invitation to live his way here and now, and be with him forever in the future. Key Texts: - Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 51:5; Proverbs 14:12; Genesis 3:15; 1 John 4:7-21 Transcript: - If you have a Bible, go ahead and take it out, open up to the book of Isaiah, where we've been camping out for the last couple of weeks in this beautiful Advent series sharing with a few other churches. We are closing in on Christmas. And just a bit of a recap, a reminder, this word Advent isn't kind of an obscure word. It's actually from Latin and it means coming or arrival. And the whole idea of Advent is we today are sitting in the crux of these two realities, where Jesus has come once and he is coming again. He has advented once. He has come once in the form of a baby in a manger, growing up and his life teaching ministry ultimately His death and resurrection and ascension and we are living in the wake of that. But we are also gloriously anticipating when he comes back again to finally set everything right. And this does a few different things for us and it helps us set our mind on Jesus in some really unique ways. And particularly in this Advent season, it reminds us that Jesus is our peace. And we know from the Bible peace is not just the absence of conflict, but it's the presence of something else. It's the presence of God's intended will, this Shalom, this thing operating in the way it should be operating and he is our peace because only through Him, Jesus, can we have peace with God and with other people. And Jesus is not only our peace, but he is the hope. He is the hope of the world, the hope of our church and the hope for us. Jesus purchased this church with his blood and it's only when we put our trust in him will our hope not disappoint us. And so Jesus is our peace, he's our hope. And like Brent was sharing with us last week, Jesus is our joy. And the guaranteed way to have a joyless Christmas is to find your joy in something other than just Jesus. And Brent, I love that he just comes and stands in front of us and the first thing he says is, "My goal for you is that you would have the most joyful Christmas ever." Why? Because we are finding our joy in Jesus. Realizing that we are dependent on him. We are in desperate need of real, actual joy because this world is full of joy, shams and joy, shadows and all these false joy's that we continue to seek after and find to be satisfied in. And it's only when we find our joy in Jesus are we actually joyful in life. And what we are honing in on today is Jesus is our love because it was the ultimate act of love for Jesus to descend, take on a human form, bear the weight of our sin, and death, and to actually bring us new life. This was the ultimate act of love. And so that's what we are huddling around today. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says, "The greatest is love." He says, "Faith, hope and love, abide or are bound, these three, but the greatest of these is love." And that's what we're huddling around today. One of the things I love about the word of God, the Bible, is it does just the perfect job of dissecting the human condition. Just from so many different angles, from so many stories and so many different literary genres, it shines a light on how often we as humans don't get it and miss it. Because to talk about love, we actually have to talk about how unlovely we are or unlovable we actually are in our default state to fully get and appreciate how much God loves us. We need to fully get how much we don't deserve that love, first of all. How much we don't actually deserve it and how God overcame that obstacle. There is an age-old question in sociology, in psychology and in human thinking of just trying to understand humanity is, why are we so awful? How did we get this way? What's wrong with you? What's wrong with me? And so the age-old question of, why isn't this world the way it's supposed to be? And why are you and I uniquely awful people most of the time? And the question always oscillates between, is it because we were made that way, or is it because our environment made us that way? Nature versus nurture, right? And so the prevailing thought or idea in most psychology and sociology is it's mostly environmental, if not all environmental. The way of the world is that little babies are born and they're perfect till their parents and the world around them mess them up, right? And there's definitely some elements to that. But if you have kids, you know that from the get go, they are hard wired with tendencies, with personalities, with certain bents in certain ways. So our oldest son, Calvin, he's really adventurous and really sensitive and he has been like that from the beginning, absolutely the beginning. And he uniquely knew from the day Truman, our middle son, was born how to push his buttons. Now, I don't think that's something Sherry and I taught him because we of course want the brothers to get along, to be best friends, to enjoy each other. But from the get go, Calvin knows how to push Truman's buttons, and Truman knows how to push them back. And Truman is our stubborn, more reserved one. And Truman, man, I love Truman. He is a liar. Truman is a liar and he is so stubborn and he has this look on his face when he's digging in his heels. And I'm like, "Man, is that something Sherry and I have done?" Probably. But it's also just who he has been since he was a baby. And Emerson, our youngest, our little baby girl is so funny and so cute and so bossy and so demanding. She's probably our most defiant child outright. But she does it in a really cute and really manipulative way and I'm just baffled by that. I'm like, man, is this the culture that is around them, the culture that were created in the house, or were they born this way? Were they born with certain tendencies? Now, the reality is it's a little bit of both, if we're being honest, right? We are all born with certain bends in our personality, born liking or attaching to certain things or not other things, but also the world around us influences. And what the Bible does is it actually brings some clarity to how this process works how you are an awful person. This could be the title of my message, but instead, I'll go with love. But you're not as awesome as you think you are and the Bible tells us it's because you were born that way. You were made in iniquity is the language of the Psalm. Psalm 51:5. This beautiful Psalm, "Create in me a clean heart, oh god," That's the Psalm. But then we get to this portion where David is saying, "I was actually born into iniquity, or born into sinfulness." And this idea and this word of iniquity is not just behavior. We're not actually talking about behavior here. But this word iniquity has to do with identity or a covering on you, something you just can't shake off. And David says, "I was born into this. I was brought forth in iniquity and sin did my mother conceive me." And since we were born with a bent towards error, towards sin, towards iniquity. In Proverbs 14, we have this line, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." And so often we have this contrast in the book of Proverbs of the ways of God or the plans of God and the ways of man and the plans of man. And we see this contrast back and forth that the way of God his life, is righteousness, is good way and God smiles and laughs at our plans because he knows they lead towards Death. There's something in you that has been there since the beginning that causes your way to be the way of death. This is what the psalmist means when he says you were born into iniquity. So the default human condition is sinfulness. And even these cute little babies I love — We got a bunch of little babies in the room — These little babies are little sinners too. And they were born that way. This is part of the broken and fallen world that we find ourselves in. We all come out with a bent. We're all touched by sin and death and brokenness. And since we're born in that iniquity, that identity, that covering, that has the results of transgressions. I'm using two odd words because these are words that Isaiah is going to use and I want us to have some framework for them. He says, "Because of this identity of iniquity, or this covering of iniquity, there is fruit to your life and that fruit, or transgressions, which are sins." Transgression is like a legal term. It means breaking the law. "Because of that, there is bad behavior that comes out." But that process, that flow of how we get to where we are is an important one in the Bible. You are born out of iniquity and that produces transgressions, and the environment around us amplifies all that. So if you naturally have a bent towards hatred or lust or impatience, chances are you'll be surrounded by people and situations and moments that will amplify those innate desires in the human kind. The environment doesn't cause the iniquity, iniquity causes transgression and our environment around us amplifies those transgressions and those iniquities in us. That is all relevant because this is what Isaiah is going to say to us today. You can go ahead and put that up because it's a bit of a loaded statement. "Out of love us and faithfulness to God's own promises, our transgressions and our iniquities are taken from us by this mysterious suffering servant." We're going to read a large chunk of Isaiah here in just a moment and it might be easy to get lost in where we're going. This is the big idea. This is what Isaiah is trying to tell us. That both our sinful behavior, transgressions, and our sinful posture, iniquity are taken from us by someone. And this someone in Isaiah 52 and 53, where will be, this someone is known as the suffering servant. Someone sent by God on a specific mission of love to rescue you. And the reason I went through that whole backstory of how awful my kids are and your kids are and everything like that is because, to really appreciate and live Under and accept this love, we have to understand that we are inherently unlovable. That we are inherently an opposition and rebellion to God. And it took a great ultimate act of love and sacrifice to bridge that gap with God to actually bring us near to God. And I want to tell you why this statement is good news for us today. Because if God is just dealing with our transgressions, or our sinful behaviors making us holy robots and act the right way in all the right circumstances, that's not really good news, totally, is it? If God just says, "I forgive you, but I'm not going to give you a new heart and actually help you change the way you live and give you a heart that won't fall back into sin." If God doesn't straighten out our bent ways, but just simply forgives the external brokenness, then we're just going to continue to return to that brokenness over and over and over again. And if that sounds like a familiar pattern, that's what a lot of the Old Testament is, is God giving his people ways to be made right with him and then they continue on choosing brokenness and idolatry and worshiping other things other than God. But the promise that God has given us through the prophet Isaiah concerning the coming of this suffering servant of Jesus is that he will not only forgive our transgressions, but heal our hearts. He will not only deal with those external behaviors and actions that cause so much wreckage to the people around us, but he'll actually provide a remedy to what's actually wrong with us. He's not just going to treat the symptoms, he's going to cure the disease. That's what Isaiah is on about here. That's what Isaiah is telling us to look for in the person of this suffering servant. And God, through the prophet Isaiah, concerning this coming Messiah, concerning Advent, concerning Christmas, says "Yeah, I'm going to take care of all this external stuff, But I'm also going to give you a new heart." I'm going to correct your crooked and your bent heart so you don't live broken lives anymore, so you don't have to be separated from me anymore. I'm going to change your heart to change your life. And really, the story of the scripture over and over and over again is God is more concerned with heart change than external actions. Because he knows when our hearts are transformed from the inside out to be people of love, people of Jesus, it changes all that external stuff. It changes the way we live. Not to beat the analogy again, but if you have kids, you know that just correcting behavior, while necessary for a season, doesn't actually change the heart. Sherry and I all the time with our kiddos talk about a heart for obedience. We want you to want to obey. Not just obey, we want you to want to obey. And what Isaiah is pointing us towards is someone who will give us a new heart. And this suffering servant will have to endure a whole lot to make that possible. He has to overcome a whole lot of things because our sinfulness has created such a wide gap between us and between God. There's an Old Testament scholar who writes about this particular passage, J.N. Oswald, and he says this, he says "God's power is at its greatest, not in his destruction of the Wicked, but in this taking all the wickedness of the earth into himself and giving back love." What we are about to read is Isaiah's picture of this ultimate act of love. You need it, I need it. Humanity needs this ultimate act of love. And according to the scholar, this is God at His greatest. Not destroying those who are wicked, but offering love and taking that wickedness on himself. So here we go into Isaiah. Go to Isaiah chapter 54. Isaiah is a really fascinating book. There's a couple of different movements that are happening in here. And just so you know, the part of the book that we're in today, 52, it starts back in Isaiah 40 where Isaiah is doing a different thing here. He's moving from just berating God's people for continuing to be just awful people and sinfulness and turning away from God. And now that God's people are in exile. And so now he's comforting God's people. So God and Isaiah together are assuring God's people of their salvation in him, of hope for a future. And so we're in this portion of the book where Isaiah is actually comforting those who are in exile. When all has been lost and life seems like it's over, Isaiah is saying, "Remember God's promise to make things right again." So here we go into Isaiah. I don't want you to get lost. Imagine a sandwich. There's a proper way to make a sandwich, by the way. I'm going to share with you the proper way to make a sandwich, that is bread on the end. If you need gluten free bread, that's okay. But there's some bread on the ends here. So think of this passage we're going to be in like a sandwich. Okay? Because there's a lot in here I don't want you to get lost. So think of it like a bread and the first piece of bread is the servant success. This is the first bit that we are going to read today. The servant's success. But then, like a sandwich, you get to all the accoutrements that go along with it. So your lettuce, your mustard, your cheese, whatever you're putting on the sandwich, and that's going to be the suffering. So on the ends, the book ends are success, the suffering servant success. And then one layer in on either side is the servant's suffering. What they had to endure to make something possible. But right in the middle, the most important part of every sandwich is the what? The meat. Sorry, Vegans. It's the meat That's the most important. Maybe it's imitation meat, or whatever. But that's the significance of this passage. So this is how our passage is going to look today. On the outer ends it says success. Like, what he's accomplished, what he's done, the victory we have now. The inner layer is everything he had to endure to get there and the very middle bit is the significance of that suffering. Okay? So have this sandwich framework in your mind as we go through Isaiah. So we're going to start at the beginning here. We're in this text, and this text is right in the middle of the section, and it hones in on the suffering servant. And that all the promises of God will come true because the suffering and triumphant servant removes their guilt before God by his sacrifice. That was enough of a preamble. Let's get to it. So starting in Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah quotes God. God says, "Behold, my servant shall act wisely. He shall be high and lifted up and shall be exalted." Okay, real quick. This is an important sort of precursor to what we're going to get to because there might be the temptation to feel pity for the suffering servant. And right away, God at the beginning is saying, "This is not someone to pity, this is someone to worship." We're about to get to some moments that may start to irk our compassion, may start to make us sad or depressed, or take on guilt. And God from the very get go is saying, "No, no, no, this is a servant to worship. Don't pity him. Don't feel sorry for him." We can mourn what he had to go through because it was our fault, partly, that he had to go through this, but worship him, lift him high. "As many were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance and his form beyond that of children of mankind, so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him for that which has not been told to them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand." So God saying the servant of mine will not look like much on the outside. In fact, his appearance is going to be distorted. It's going to be marred and might even be repulsive, but there is a victory. He succeeds. There is redemption through this repulsion. This outward appearance of being marred, of being distorted, that's not the story. But he had to go through that to get the victory that shuts kings mouth and helps people see and understand through his outward looking repulsion is our redemption. Now, those of us who are versed in the story of God can immediately picture the cross in this moment. The brutal, ugly, beaten body that is on the cross. A repulsive external appearance, one that is marred and distorted. But through that act brings about redemption for you and for me. The servant will not look like much on the outside, but it's through that, that we have redemption. And this is the wisdom of God. The undeserved sufferings of Jesus Christ outperforming the best of the world's attempts to be made right with God. In every moment where we try to earn favor or earn love or earn acceptance with God, on the cross that's already been dealt with. And Jesus in this moment, broken, bloody, beaten marred, in Isaias language, outperforming every attempt at perfectly keeping the law, perfectly making every sacrifice, perfectly making all the right moral choices. That's been done for you already. Next layer in, the servants suffering, right? So this is the cheese, the lettuce, the mustard, whatever else you put on the sandwich. The next layer in his suffering. And the suffering that he highlights right here at the beginning of chapter three is that he had to live in this life of rejection. "Who has believed what he has heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He had no former majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as was one who men hid their faces. He was despised and we esteemed him not." Part of the suffering servant's life is a life of rejection, where the people closest to Jesus couldn't even see his beauty and understand him. His own family misjudged him. And when he traveled with his disciples, it wasn't like what you've seen in movies or plays or whatever. Jesus didn't have this holy glow about him. This thing above his head just attracting people. He was booted out of towns. People were chasing after him, trying to kill him, trying to stone him. And the woman at the well didn't even know who she was talking to. Even John the Baptist was confused about who Jesus was at multiple points. The people around Jesus did not fully understand him, and part of his life had to be a life of rejection. And now getting into the meat, verse four. The servant's significance was he is our sin bearer. He did what we could not do. He took on himself what we could not bear so that we can have life with God. Verse four, "Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteem him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities." There's two words transgressions, iniquities, right at the core of this passage. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the suffering servant, the iniquity of us all, you and me. He bore our sins, even though he was innocent, and didn't deserve death. He died willingly for you and for me, bringing salvation to all who believe. Now, what's fascinating about these couple of verses is Isaiah writes as if we were there at the cross, heaping our grief, sorrow, transgressions, iniquities on him. He invites us into this part of the story because Jesus really was a man of sorrows, but it was not his sorrows. It was ours heaped upon Him. Jesus substituted himself for us at the cross and he did what we had no right to do. God has shifted the blame to Jesus and He died for guilty people like you and me. I've been reading through The Old Chronicles of Narnia. I got this sweet book. Sherry said we actually had a box set somewhere, but I didn't believe her. So I bought it, but it's all of them comprising the one huge volume. And I've been just trying to read them all. I'm on the horse and his boy, which I fully do not understand at all, if you've ever read that, but I just finished The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, probably one of C.S. lewis's most famous writings. And right at the crux of the story is this moment and C.S. Lewis is brilliant in how he does. There's this moment where one of the sons, Edmund, walks in this act of betrayal and treachery. He eventually repents and he wants to be on the side of good, the side of Aslan, and he repents, he asks for forgiveness and he's healed and all of that. And he's in Aslan's camp, but then the white witch comes and demands her blood because a part of the deep magic in the story is that she gets the blood of every trader in Narnia. Most of you, if you've seen the movie or read the books, know what happens. Aslan, the great and glorious line, makes this deal with the white witch — In secret, no one knows about — To exchange his life for Edmond's, the guilty one. According to the deep magic, according to the law, he deserved to die. He broke the rules and Aslan steps in and takes his place. This is beautiful moment. And C.S. Lewis, one of the most brilliant writers in the last few centuries, makes this obvious pointedly call out to the cross. So you and I were guilty because of our actions and the actions of every human dating all the way back to Adam And Eve, we were guilty and deserved death. But instead of dying, instead of being held to account, Jesus steps in and says, "No, I'll swap myself in for you." And he does it for all of mankind, all of humankind and that's helpful. But for today, I need you to understand he did it for you. Knowing you living in 2019 in Ventura, knowing all your foibles and all your brilliance and all your beauty and all your missteps, he steps in and says, "No, I'm actually going to take this for Jen. I'm going to substitute myself in." I'm going to replace myself perfectly innocent and good. Who broke no rules, who did not deserve to die, steps in and takes that for you. Now, why would anybody do that if not for love? For God so loved the world that he sent his only son. This is the ultimate act of love that Isaiah points us to. That God has laid on Jesus Christ the iniquity and transgressions of all of us. So we're no longer... And how we think of salvation is how we think of our right relationship with God. Those things are no longer keeping us from a relationship with God. Those things are no longer keeping us from salvation in him because Jesus has taken that on. Believe it, and trust your guilt to him. He's already made the sacrifice for you for me, and the call for us is to believe and to stop trying to atone on our own. With your good works, with your church attendance, with whatever it is, stop trying to atone on your own. With your recycling, with your good-like political behavior, with your good-like city, whatever that is, stop trying to atone on your own. Now, living in that atonement has implications into all kinds of our life. Yes, absolutely. But Jesus has already purchased redemption for you with his life. You don't have to buy it again. This is the meat of this passage. If you want something to meditate on as you lead up to Christmas, meditate on through these three verses as you lead up to Christmas, the suffering servant who's born our griefs and carried our sorrows. There's more to the sandwich though because we get the other half of that book end. In verse seven, "The servants suffering as he died in innocence. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opens not his mouth like a lamb that has led to slaughter like a sheep that before it sheers is silent so he opens not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and as for his generation, who consider that he was cut-off off the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people, and they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death. Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth." The cross is not Jesus caught up in a web of political events in first century Rome. He was not trapped in something beyond his own control. He willingly laid down his life. He made decisions in his life teaching and ministry to tee him up for that moment. He was not overpowered, he chose not to fight back. In both actions and his words, he died in entire innocence. The only person who didn't deserve this took it on willingly. This famous scholar, Pastor R.C. Scproul said this. Sproul said, "Why do good things happen to bad people? There was only one and he did it voluntarily." This was Jesus. But it doesn't end with his death and innocence. To finish the sandwich, we start and end with his success. The thing he set out to do, he accomplished. He was crushed, but he was victorious. If the story of Jesus ended at his grave, his heroism would have been admirable, but it would have been futile. But the story does not end there. The empty tomb proves there was more to his death than anyone ever realized. Look at verse 10, round out our section. "Yet it was the will of God to crush him." And if that language sounds familiar, that's the call back to Genesis chapter three, where the serpent crushes his heel, but he will crush his head. You should have that language in mind, is the will of the Lord to crush him. He has put him to grief. "When a soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days. The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul, he shall see Him be satisfied. By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." "Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the many and he shall divide the spoil with the strong because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors." Satan, in this moment, gets that small, temporary victory, but Jesus gets the ultimate victory. The death of Jesus was not just a human plot, it was divine strategy to bring about God's redemption. And at his cross, Jesus achieved this ancient promise of God from Genesis 3:15, that he will crush the serpent's head. That he will have victory and this is why his death produces in us life. And this is why it's good news for you and for me and not something that happened thousands of years ago. But Jesus' act, the suffering servant and his plan of redemption and ultimate love brings about life forever with God and true life here and now. He saved us guilty people and he's going on saving guilty people. The cross isn't this moot religious symbol, it's the power of God. Paul says the power of the gospel. The foolishness of man, but the wisdom of God. He treats transgressors as his friends and shares his victory with former enemies. You and I, former enemies with Jesus, share in his victory. We share in his life. We should sharing his righteousness. We share in his right relationship with God because of his death. Out of love for you and for me, we share in everything Christ achieved on the cross. He stands before the father making intercession for you and for me, the very ones who drove him to his death. To fully get how much God loves you, you have to fully understand how much you put Jesus on the cross. And that he doesn't hold it against you, but he makes friends and enemies. He brings in close sons and daughters who used to rebel against him to be an opposition to him. His cross is a power that evil cannot conquer or even understand, but to God and to you and to me, it's everything. Isaiah is answering this question, how can the gracious promises of God come true for guilty people like you and me? It's because this servant, who is high, lifted up and exalted, willingly laid himself down to live a life of rejection and suffering, to be misunderstood, to be misjudged, to die and innocent man for your sake, for my sake, so that we would have life. Ultimately, we would have life in him. Out of his intense, unending, unceasing love for you, Jesus took your place. The suffering servant is this beautiful and tragic and glorious account of what it took to make you right with God. What it took for you to enjoy a loving relationship with Him, that we so often because of the lack of persecution and the social acceptance of Christian often forget. When it's so easy to coast on our cultural Christianity and it's so easy to phone in the church thing, this is a stinging reminder of all it took to save you. And that's not to heap on guilt, it's not to heap on shame, but it's to increase our love and worship. He shall be exalted to increase our love and our worship of the one who stepped in our place. This Christmas, I want to be your most worshipful Christmas, because you are so overwhelmed by the love of Jesus to step into your place. And we know that when we receive that love, when we enjoy that love, when we live in that love from Jesus, it changes everything. It changes the world around us, it changes other people. It helps move the mission of God forward. Isaiah answers, how can the glory of God come down to people who deserve the wrath of God? The question that's lingering in the background, that question of life, how can God love us? This is maybe a question that you or I are wrestling with consciously in our thinking, like actively, how can God love me because I did X, Y, Z last night or last week or in my life? But it also is a question you and I are wrestling with subconsciously in just how we live because so often we are trying to earn the love and favor of God or of other people and we forget we have been so loved by God that he has already sacrificed for you. The truth of the gospel of God, that God loves you. At the heart of everything we find in scripture, God loves you. And He loves you not in a shallow love, but he loves you in a love that makes intense sacrifices for the people he loves. He loves you enough to send His son to die in our place, take our transgression and our iniquity upon himself for our sake and bring us life. The Gospel also says that being shown that kind of love changes you. Change on the inner life, the inner self, your heart. It changes your external actions. It changes your posture towards God, your posture towards other people. It changes decisions you make with your time, with your money, with who you spend time with, who you hang out with, what kind of work you do, what you put your hands to. It changes everything. Jesus is our love and Jesus loves you. He has demonstrated his love already for you in his descent to be made human and to extend to us the love of God through his life, his death, his resurrection, and is demonstrating His love for you right now. And in that is an invitation to live in his love, to build your life on his love. And that's ultimately what I hope we take away from this moment in Isaiah, the suffering servant, is the clear call based on God's own actions. His own faithfulness in light of this suffering servant is to build your life on Jesus's love. As the song says, "It is a firm foundation to build your life on his love." He is the suffering servant and he has suffered for you. And the call to action is not to feel sad or feel guilty or pity, but to receive his love, his life and build your life on that love, something that will not disappoint. Build your life on the reality that he is our peace, he is our hope, he is our joy and he is our love. We can be with him. We can be like him. We can do the things he did because he has extended love to us because God loved first. We can love him, we can love other people and we can show others a better way, a better life. And even in this season, a better Advent. We are anticipating something very different this Christmas because of the love of God that's already been extended to us. I want to end with this one more quote from C.S. Lewis. And he said, "God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because he is love. Not because he needs to receive, but because he delights to give." We're going to spend a few moments worshiping and responding. And what I would hope for these few moments as we sing is for you to gladly sit, stand, whatever metaphorically, sit, stand, in this posture of love. In this moment of receiving God's love for you. Most of us do not have a problem. If you've been tracking with the Bible for any length of time and following Jesus for any length of time, most of us do not have a problem intellectually getting that God loves you. It's cliched enough to where it's drilled into our minds. But often I see this in my conversations with many of you and times in our community group and counseling and in people in the world that I'm talking to, out in the coffee shops, breweries, people actually don't receive God's love. It's one thing to know it, it's another thing to enjoy it, accept it and let it shape your life. We often think we have to earn it somehow. It's already been given. This love of Jesus that so surpassed your and my sinfulness and brokenness is extended to you. And whether you're new to this Jesus thing or you've been following Jesus for a really long time, this is an invitation to actually receive the love of a good father who delights to give and who has given in the person of Jesus.


Isaiah 9:1-7 • December 15, 2019 • Brent Hisayasu

Big Idea: - Jesus is our joy because He is our treasure and greatest good. There is a unique type of joy to which God’s people are called. It’s more than a happy mood, but rather a choice to trust that God will fulfill his promises. Key Text: - Isaiah 9:1-7 Transcript: - Well, good morning, Anthem. Thanks, man. Appreciate it. Look, you guys should know, before we get started, we love your pastor and your pastor's wife, and really excited that they moved in close by down the street, around the corner, down the street. So we're going to be neighbors, and we're going to get to do all the more things together, things like this. So, the partnership that exists is between Harvest and Anthem and Arise is something that's super precious to me. I think it's a great demonstration of the power of the gospel to everyone in Ventura. And, like your pastor, I'm just stoked on how God's going to continue to use our unity, as we continue to partner, and lean into one another more and more. God's going to use that unity to powerfully change Ventura, because that kind of unity is only possible through Jesus Christ, and in the church of Jesus Christ. So, it's a huge privilege to be here. I'm thankful for it. Why don't you take your Bibles. Open up to Isaiah chapter nine. It's going to be our text for this morning. My goal is very simple. I want this Christmas to be your most joyful Christmas ever. Okay? It's just very simple, simple goal. Kind of high and lofty, but this is an amazing text, and I think the Lord can do that. This Christmas I want to be your most joyful Christmas you've ever experienced up to date. And I know I can see in some of your faces that some of you are already like giving up on this idea. Right? I don't know where that's coming from. Maybe there's some family drama, or maybe there's some past hard memories from Christmas, or missing someone at the table this year, or something like that. But I think this text is going to help us. So let me ask you this. We often believe that joy is going to come, especially joy at Christmastime, is going to come when we get Christmas to fit our vision of what we want Christmas to be like. Okay? And so, when our vision of Christmas and our vision of what we want to be kind of diverts, then we start to believe we lose joy, and believe we don't have the capacity to have joy in that season. Let me ask you this simple question. How many of you are done with your Christmas shopping already? All right? How many of you... All right. A few hands. All right, yeah. I'm not raising my hand, I'm just showing you what to do. Okay, that's not me. How many of you are really angry at the people who have their hands raised? Right, right, there you go. That's right. And you know what, that's cool. That's okay, because joy at Christmas doesn't come through gifts. We know that. We're old enough to realize that that's not lasting. That's not going to get you there. Joy during Christmas, your greatest, most joyful Christmas, isn't going to come because of Christmas music, right? Your already tired of Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas. You're already sick of that by this point. You started it around Thanksgiving, hopefully not earlier. And you're already singing... We know that joy's not going to come from there. We know that joy's not going to come from binge watching Christmas romantic comedy movies, right, and the Hallmark channel. Anyone else? Oh, just my church. All right, well that's good. I can skip that. Right? It doesn't matter how many of those things you watch or how many of your Christmas traditions come to fruition, joy doesn't come from those things really. like we think that it does. But it doesn't come from... Joy comes from Jesus, right? And so, if you're going to have your most joyful Christmas ever, it's because you're going to be leaning into Jesus in a way this year that's unique and more powerful than you have in years past. And that's why we're in Isaiah chapter nine, okay? Isaiah chapter nine is just an amazing text that gives us Jesus. And it's a quintessential Christmas text which, it's perfect that we're in the book of Isaiah, that we've been walking through all of Isaiah for quite some time for this whole Advent thing, because Isaiah is addressing people in different historical circumstances. Sometimes they're at war. Sometimes they're at peace. Sometimes they're talking about being taken over and deport... I mean, it's just a vast variety of historical circumstances that Isaiah is writing for. And every single one of them, he always points to Jesus being the solution. Jesus being the ongoing hope. Isaiah nine is no different. If joy comes from Jesus, what we need this Christmas is a larger, better, more intense and intimate connection with Jesus this Christmas than ever before. So, Isaiah chapter nine is the text. Let's look at verse one. Isaiah, no, sorry. Isaiah says this. "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he, God, brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations." Now, there's a lot of history, like I was talking about going on here. And so, this text is steeped in geography. Okay, you can groan there. But if you're going to understand this text, you're going to need to kind of get what Isaiah is talking about. If you grasp with me the geography what Isaiah is talking about in this text, you're going to get more of Jesus. You're going to see what Jesus is doing here. So, if you've got maps in the back of your Bible, you can kind of go there. I think I might have, no I don't. I'm good. Look, here's the deal. Israel and Jerusalem are on the far southwest corner of what we call the Fertile Crescent, okay? And it's called the Fertile Crescent because it's legitimately just a crescent of land that is habitable. In the middle is this massive dessert, okay? And so what's going on in this, and if you look in the back of your maps of just kind of the wider shot of Israel. Let's see if I have one. Yeah, there. On this side, on the east side, are all these four nations. Babylon, Assyria, all the bad guys, okay, are on one side. Thanks. Appreciate it. On one side of the Fertile Crescent. Israel is on the far other. Now the reason this is important is because anytime your enemy or a conquering army wanted to travel from like Asia to Africa, or from Africa to Europe, they had to go through Israel. And the most exposed land of the people of Israel was the land on the north of their land, because Assyria, Assyrians, Babylonians, all had to come from the north down the Fertile Crescent into Israel. Now here's the key, okay? Zebulun and Naphtali are the two tribes that occupy that northernmost territory. Those tribes are the most exposed. They're the most war-trodden. They're wrecked. And so, when Isaiah's writing Isaiah chapter nine, Isaiah writing about Naphtali and Zebulun, what he's saying is, the most exposed and the most regularly destroyed place of Israel is going to be a land of blessing. They're going to experience glory. Now the way of the sea that's being talked about in this verse is the road, it's still a road today, that they would travel around on the Fertile Crescent, that kind of rides along the Mediterranean Sea by the time you get to Israel. It's the road that all the armies would take. And so, when Isaiah says that God is making glorious the way of the sea, and that there will be no gloom for the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, he is saying that the most vulnerable, exposed, the most regularly destroyed and suffering people on the front line, on the warpath, are going to experience great joy. Like he's going to reverse this whole thing, okay? That's the first point that we get from our text, if you want to summarize it, if you take notes, is this: Joy increases when I'm desperate. Joy increases when I'm desperate. Because the people there, in Zebulun and Naphtali, would be the most desperate and the most suffering people in all the people of Israel. If they hadn't been destroyed in recent, around Isaiah nine, they're just about to be destroyed by Assyria coming down and conquering everything all the way to Jerusalem. And so these are wounded, weary, grieving people. Now it's also interesting to note that, in the chapters previous on Isaiah, that these two tribes were part of a rebellion against God. In their idolatry, they teamed up with foreign nations and started to attack their own people in Jerusalem. And so that was the plan... So not only are they like the most destroyed people of Israel, but they're also the rebels who got punished. They got disciplined for their idolatry and their rebellion. And so this, they're wounded, they're grieving, they're depressed, they're suffering, they're rebellious. And it's these people that Isaiah is promising joy to. And I think that's important for us to acknowledge this morning, because a lot of us as Christians, we think that our life, we're going to have joy when everything is the way we want it to be, when we're experiencing comfort and safety. When we're experiencing prosperity here and now, that we can't have joy until then. But the promise that Isaiah is giving through Jesus Christ is that these lands, in the midst of their valleys and in the midst of their destruction, while the rubble is still smoldering, and the smoke is still rising, joy can be had because of Jesus. Joy comes to those how acknowledge that they're in desperate need, especially because of their rebellion. Joy comes for these people. So this is what we lean into in the gospel. We lean into, not as religious people who hide their sin, or try to pay for our sin, or cover over their... No. We are the first to admit in our families and our communities and our own hearts, "Hey, I'm in desperate need of Jesus. I'm on the borderlines. I'm on the warpath. There's temptation. There is failure. There's rebellion here. And I need Jesus. I'm desperate for Jesus." That desperate plea is answered with the promise of God each and every time. He is faithful. He is a good God. Look what Isaiah promises to these people. Verse two. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those two dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation. You have increased its joy. They have rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken, as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire." A few things you need to notice about this text, okay? Number one, it's in the past tense. And that's significant. Isaiah is talking about things that will happen in the future, but he is talking about them as though they had already occurred, right? "You have increased it to joy. You have multiplied. You have broken the yoke." He's talking about God's acts that he is promising in the future, as though they've already happened. And that's significant. Because Israel, Isaiah is so sure that this is his future, he can speak of it as though it's already happened. Like, take it to the bank. It's going to happen. And I think this is the second thing we need to notice from this text. Point number two is simply this: Joy increases when I am certain of the future Jesus has promised me. Joy increases when I am sure, and I am certain, and I am absolutely convinced that this is my future. Which would be very hard when your house is smoldering on the ground, and the armies are walking away. Which would be very difficult when there's loss and there's hurt and there's drama, and there's brokenness. Having eyes on the certainly of the prosperity and joy that God is bringing in your future would be very difficult. And I think this is super helpful for me when I realize this. I don't do this often. I don't have our people jump around a ton, but keep your finger is Isaiah nine, okay? And flip over to Matthew chapter four. Or just scroll. I know you guys are cooler than my church. That, Matthew chapter four, I want you to see this with your own eyes, okay? Matthew chapter four, verse twelve, at the beginning of his ministry, beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus says this, "Now when he," Jesus, "heard that John," John the Baptist, "had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of," what? "Zebulun and Naphtali. So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled." And here's our text quoted in the New Testament. I love it when this happens. "The land of Zebulun, the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light. And for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." There's some differences in the text, in this quote, and I love the differences. I think the New Testament authors can do whatever they want with that, inspired by God, not something we get to do. But he uses the Old Testament, and he refers back to it. And I love the little change that he puts at the end of verse 16. "The light has dawned." Rather than, "the light has shone," as it is in our text. Its almost as though he's referring to this idea that it's just begun. It's just the dawn. It's just begun. I love this idea because this is where my certainty comes from. Jesus has already, in his first advent, began to fulfill this prophecy. Now, it's not fully fulfilled yet. So I think that's kind of the difficulty we experience here. Is because we're living in between the two advents of Jesus. Advent means arrival, by the way, the coming of Jesus. So Jesus has one advent that's already occurred. That everything we celebrate on Christmas and on Easter, that's the first advent of Jesus. The second is the thing we're looking forward to, that all of our hope and anticipation is being placed in. The certainty of our future at that second advent is the source of joy for us. And we can be certain it happened, because it's already begun. Jesus, God's not going to send Jesus to the first advent, to come here and to die and to not finish the job. He is going to see it all the way through. Your future in Christ is certain because God isn't going to waste the death and resurrection of Jesus and not finish what he started. He's going to bring you home. And I love how, in this text in Matthew chapter four, it's almost like an inspired quote that stops at an inspired point. Because when you look back at Isaiah in Isaiah nine, the rest of the text that Matthew doesn't not quote, it seems to be a description of the stuff that's going to happen in his second advent. And the Bible does this often, they'll quote, think is something that God is fulfilling in the first advent of Jesus, and then he stops. And he's like, the rest of it's still coming. The rest of it's still... That future is certain, and I know this because, and I can embrace this life of living in between the two advents of Christ, because I know my future's going to be great. Now here's how we take this home. I find in all my counseling, as I'm meeting with people in my church that are going through struggles and going through difficulty, and I'm pointing them to Jesus. I find myself often saying the same thing that I believe all of us Christians need to hear. And it's simply this: This life is not supposed to be great. I mean, I know that sounds like a big downer, and there's a great reality in which everything our heart is longing for and that we are anticipating is all bound up in the next return of Christ. And so there's some way in which, like I know your Instagram feed is beautiful and perfect. Okay? I get that. And I know that we all want to give this portrayal of a life that's amazing, and our families are all good and all, but the reality is, often in counseling I'm like, "You know that? That's what marriage is like in a fallen world until Christ returns." And yes, it's difficult. We've got to embrace living in between the difficulty of living in between the promise and the fulfillment. And here we experience a lot of that as just difficulty. And I think this is a relief for us. Like again, life's not supposed to be awesome all the time. And if you're riding this wave of everything's amazing for you, I'm actually worried for you soul. Like there's some lessons that we need to learn in the times of deep darkness and depression that you cannot learn when everything's going your way. There's Jesus that we grasp onto in those seasons that we never get if we don't experience those things. And I want, I know it's not fun to experience loss and hurt. But we have joy because Christ has raised victorious and coming again. That's exactly what he tells us in John chapter 16. Jesus says, "I've spoken these things the you that in me you may have peace. In the world, you're going to have tribulations." Look, it's not that great here. And if you try and make it great, you're going to be frustrated over and over again. If you try to make your kids perfect, and your marriage this, and try to portray all that, and try to have all your fun and joy here in this life, that's not going to go well for you. Jesus says, "But take heart. I have overcome the world. I have overcome the world. I have come, I have brought peace, I have reconciled you to God. Your future is amazing, because I have overcome and defeated sin and death on the cross. I have resurrected from the grave. Your future is great." Deal with today, okay? Cling to Jesus today. Embrace him in ways that you're not going to experience unless thing are going wrong. And so you can have joy when, if this morning, you're one of those where it's like, "What the heck happened do December? Like, I never want to do this again." This is Jesus, just like, "Come. Lean in on me. This is going to be great." Okay. The third thing I think we need to see in the text in Isaiah, go ahead and flip back to Isaiah chapter nine, is this: Joy increases when I embrace the true nature of Jesus. Okay. Joy increases when I embrace the true nature of Jesus. And this is the, again, the quintessential Christmas text. Isaiah says this in verse six, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. On the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord will do this." Now think about this. We're familiar with this text because you've been, some of you have been raised in the church, you've heard this text over and over again. It's in Christmas songs. It's the whole deal. Think about how this would land for the people that Isaiah is writing to. They've got a foreign army at the gate. They're getting killed. And God's like, "Hey, it's okay. A baby." Did you think about that? That's significant. Like what is wrapped up in this baby? Okay? Also significant. The baby's not coming for another 700 years. They're still going to get conquered. They're still going to get deported. And this future anticipation of the baby is the solution for their problems real time. Significant hurts and anguish that you can experience in this life, and it's solved by a baby coming 700 years in the future. That's how amazing this baby is. and as we consider that, not Jesus's first advent's in the past. His next advent's in the future. But every difficult that we face in between is designed to draw us to Jesus and make us depend more on who he is. To discover more of how faithful he is and more of his character. And that's where joy increases, when we use these things to discover more about the goodness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. That's so good. Joy embraces when I embrace the true nature of Jesus. Now I've got four kids. My wife is front row center, [Becca 00:23:31], here, we've been married 14 years next month. Fourteen, right? Yeah. Fourteen years. I know, we don't look that old. Asians don't age, and my wife still looks the exact same as the day I met her. But we've got four kids, okay. And so what that means is that we, as parents, have gone through the same exercise that all parents have, of naming your children. Remember this? I didn't realize there were rules, but evidently you can't name them after ex-boyfriends that she's had. And you know, you can't name them anything that sounds like a body part. That makes sense. But all those kind of things. But we've gone through this whole thing. Now when we name our kids, we normally name them after things that sounded good or had some sort of family connection, right? And that's often the way we name our young kids. That's not the way it goes in the Old Testament. When God gives someone a name in the Old Testament, it means something. Now Titus, our oldest, his name means, his name means, honored guest. And Titus was, obviously, a missionary companion to the Apostle Paul. His twin brother, Silas, both nine years old, his name means, the one we asked for. Now I don't know what that means for his older brother, twin brother. But his name means, the one we asked for. Silas was also a missionary companion of the Apostle Paul. Micah, our ultimate middle child, six years old, it means, who is like God? Micah was an Old Testament prophet. Kylie, my daughter, my last kid, her name is Australian for boomerang. And it means that mom and dad were tired of naming children. We don't often think about this, and I don't know what it is, whether it's prophecy, or just the sovereignty of God, but when God named someone, it's an explanation of their essential character and their most important part of their nature. So we have four names for Jesus here in this text. And they're not normal names that we call Jesus, but they're essential. Now let me warn you. I've got 14 minutes and 28 seconds left. Each one of these names is a whole sermon, okay. And the depth of what we enjoy about Jesus coming out of these names is significant. I'm going to fly by these, but I encourage them for your deeper meditation later this week. Four names for Jesus that should fuel our joy this Christmas. Number one: Wonderful Counselor. Wonderful Counselor. Two things you should know about this text. Counselor is not what you and I would picture of counselor today in our modern society. Counselor isn't someone you go to, you lay on a black couch, they take out a pen and ask questions and listen really well. That's not a counselor. By the way, I know counselors do way more than that. I know, because I've needed them. So that's not a counselor. A counselor in this text, in the Old Testament, would be an advisor to the king. It is the four-star generals. It's the entire presidential cabinet. That's what's being talked about as counselor. Jesus is the informed decision maker. He is the all-wise advisor to the one in charge. What's also interesting to me is that the Hebrew word for wonderful, I think it's kind of a word that doesn't make sense. The real meaning I think is more impressive to me; it's more helpful for me. Wonderful, in the Hebrew, doesn't just mean delightful and pleasing, but it also means miraculous. In fact, it's the most strong Hebrew word, as close as you can get to supernatural or miraculous in the Hebrew. And there's just not words for that often in the Old Testament in the Hebrew. This is the miracle-working counselor. The miracle-working advisor. And it gives us some reality about Jesus that we all need to come to grips with this morning. Because it's something that we don't often talk about, but it is essential for us, if we're going to trust in Jesus when the land's being taken over or when there's enemies at the gates. Jesus knows everything. And this is one of those omnis, right? Kind of got over the omni, omniscience. He knows everything. And by everything, I don't just mean everything that is here. He knows every possibility of every choice that has ever been made in the everything. He knows every way everything could go. He knows exactly how it's going to go, and he knows exactly what is best, and he knows exactly how it ought to. And so we have this idea in this presentation of Jesus as the all-knowing, all-wise informant for us. And that's significant. I was traveling through Europe, and actually got all the way to St. Petersburg in Russia. And I was a little younger. We're cool here. This is a young hip group; we can talk about alcohol here, right? Right, we're good? I don't know if that would go over well at my church down the street. So, I'm in Russia. So, if you're going to be in Russia, you're going to drink vodka, right? And not a ton, okay? Not a ton. I'm a pastor. I wasn't a pastor yet. But still. And so there's this, "Okay, I'm here. I'm going to caviar, and I'm going to do vodka. And then I'm going to get out of here, because it's really cold." But it's a thing. So like you go, and you figure it out. You ask a Russian, and they'll tell you. This is bad. I'm giving drinking advice. Chill vodka. Drink just a little. Again, just a little. And then you smell a cut onion. Have any of you guys... No? Like this is literally how they... I know. It sounds weird. Amazing. Like it's good. But if you're going to learn about something, you might as well go to the person who created it. Like the one who knows most... Russians know vodka. They know how to, and as weird as it may sound to us, they know how it's best enjoyed. Jesus created everything. He knows everything. He knows how this thing that we do day in and day out is best enjoyed. So like, go to him. He is a supernatural counselor, who advises you in the ways of joy. Like when God gives you rules, those aren't like, oh, try to kill your fun. This is Jesus, creator of the universe, being like, "Dude, this is the best thing ever. This is the way I made it to run, and this is what's best for your soul." That's how Jesus does counseling. You are not smarter than Jesus. And when you think you are, when you think that God's rules are getting in the way of your life, you're the one who's got it wrong. He's the Wonderful Counselor. He knows. Embrace him. Listen to him. He knows what's best. It's a significant reality. I think it's something about Jesus that we need to get our hands on, because his commands become life-giving, rather than life-taking. So, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. The second name given to Jesus is Mighty God. Okay. This in the Hebrew refers to a strong warrior who's never lost a battle and has already won the war. A perfect description of Jesus. He never lost a battle. He wins every war. He's already won it. And this is significant, because this description of a strong warrior is one who has no weaknesses. What a perfect description of Jesus. One who has no lack. He doesn't need anything; therefore he has no vulnerabilities. He doesn't need air; he can't be choked. He doesn't need gravity; he can't be tripped. He doesn't need food; he can't be starved. He doesn't need, he doesn't have any limitations; he cannot be bound. He doesn't lack knowledge; he cannot be tricked. He cannot be coerced. He cannot be weakened. He cannot be stopped. He cannot be defeated. That's our Mighty God. This is the Mighty God that we see in Jesus. Now, one of my favorite parts of hanging out with your pastor is, we like to rib each other on theological areas that we kind of disagree in, but we don't actually disagree in. It's our favorite. In fact, I've even done it with some of your people, just kind of talking through some theological areas. So I've got to take this opportunity to come and preach at Anthem to kind of go into an area that's a little eh, right? It wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't be demonstrating our relationship. He's worried. He's worried. Okay. Let's talk about this. We've had this discussion. If you've been a Christian long enough, you've thought about free will, right? Anyone else? You've gone there. You try to figure it out. Complicated question. The idea of free will is an important theological reality that we all need to wrestle with. It's something that's critical to our faith to acknowledge that exists. Free will absolutely exists. God has it. He has absolute free will. Now, you can talk about whether we have it or not. That's kind of a later discussion. But I think it's essential. Part of God being a Mighty God. For God to be mighty, it must mean that nothing can restrain him. That his will is entirely and utterly free to do as he pleases. He gets to do what he wants, and no one tells him no. That's what it means to be mighty. That's what it means to be Mighty God. Now, I know that has problems with your worldview, and it shifts some things, but I think it's a shift that necessary to embrace. Everything else in the world is contingent. It's dependent. It's completely reliant. We all rely on the rules of physics, right? We all rely on necessities for life. Limitations of our own physical existence. We're all dependent and conditioned by our past, our genetic inheritance, the context in which we live, or a million other things that limit us. But not God. He does as he pleases. Now that creates some difficult spaces. I get that. But here's the relief. Here's the joy of that reality; your sissified version of Jesus is not enough to get you through the hardest seasons of life. I'm a SoCal boy through and through, born and bred. Traveled elsewhere and don't understand it. So, my wife and I were driving through the Midwest. And just flat. Like your dog runs away, you watch him for five days. Just flat out there. And it's kind of weird, flat, and these storm clouds are rolling in. And then we realize like we're the only ones on the road. Like what's going on here. And then we pass a couple overpasses, and my wife and I, we're, "What? This is weird." All the cars that should be on the road are all parked under the overpass, like way up in there. Like, you know what's going on? A tornado warning. SoCal boy doesn't get it. Doesn't get it at all. But evidently the practice is, if there's a tornado warning, what you're supposed to do is, you're supposed to go find refuge in the strongest thing possible that you know on the road. The strongest available thing is those massive concrete bridges that are spanning the freeways. And so you get up right under there; that's your best shot. During the storm, we run to what we believe is the strongest. And if you don't have eyes on Jesus as Mighty God, you're going to run to other things. They will fail you. Your compulsive need to control, that's a thing you run to, right? Your compulsive need to find your identity in friends or relationships or significant other, that's going to fail. You run to the thing you believe is strongest. And so you have to have eyes on Jesus as Mighty God. That's got to move you. That's got to be a hugely significant for you. And yet, the combination, because we get kind of weary of Mighty God; that's a little creepy for us, but here's the relief. Mighty God came as a baby. Man, that humility combined with that power. That service combined with that strength is everything we need in those seasons. So Mighty God. So we're embracing the true nature of Jesus. Jesus, God calls him Mighty God. And not only is that obviously a declaration of his divinity, but it's a statement of his strength. And we need to get eyes on that. Third name for Jesus in our significantly lessening time that we've got left is Everlasting Father. Now let me run through this. This is important. It's abnormal for us to talk about Jesus as Father. But that's exactly what this text is doing. Now, when we talk about Father, we're normally talking about the first person of the Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. First person of the Trinity, Father. But here in this text, Jesus is being called the Father. Now that's not saying that Jesus and The Father are the same and that it's just a manifestation. That's not against the Trinity. No, that's not it at all. It's also not a statement necessarily for the Trinity, like, this name is not a reference to the fact that God, Jesus and God the Father are one. It's not what's going on here. What's going on is, in the Old Testament, this idea of Father isn't necessarily a designation of the first person of the Trinity. In the Old Testament, when God is called Father, it's a reference to how much he cares. So he's called the Father of Israel. That's not like, oh, he's the first person of the Trinity to Israel. No, he's the one who cares for Israel. He's called the Father of the Nations. He's called the Father of certain individuals in the Old Testament. So in the Old Testament, when you see the concept of Father, it's not necessarily saying, not Jesus, not the Holy Spirit. It's just saying, the God who cares. Okay, so that's the description here. So you've got to make sure you get it right, and you're in the right mindset. But this identification as Father has more to do with God's care and concern for the people he loves than it does delineating the difference between the first and second person of the Trinity. Now, this is essential, and one of my favorite stories about Jesus is about his fatherly care and concern. Mark chapter five. Jesus is called by Jairus, saying, "Hey, my daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her." And he's just healed a whole bunch of people, and Jairus the leader, significant, powerful leader, is like, "Jesus, come this way." Jesus goes. And on the way, there is a woman with an issue of blood. Now, her circumstances are so difficult that it's even hard to describe in church. I mean, this is every woman's nightmare, and we, like, her situation is desperately sad. So much so that she believes she can't even talk to Jesus; otherwise, she will make him unclean. She definitely can't touch him, because it's against the law. Like this is anti-law. The Old Testament law says you can't touch other people when you're having this issue. So for 12 years, according to the text, no one's touched this woman. No one's hugged her. Evidently she doesn't have a father like Jairus's daughter has, to come and entreat Jesus to come and help her. She's all on her own. Significantly outcast. Not dealt with. Family excluded. Family would have been like, "Oh, this is a sin problem; we've got to cast you out." This is a huge... And so, this woman doesn't even want to talk about her situation. Nor is she allowed to be in the crowd. Nor is she allowed to touch people. So, there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for 12 years, and who had suffered much under many physicians. Mean, I don't even want to get into what that means. Had spent all that she had, and was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard reports about Jesus, came up behind him in the crowd, touched his garment. For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well." And immediately the flow of blood dried up. And she felt in her body that she was healed from her disease. That's amazing. That's our Jesus. But look what happens next. Jesus perceived in himself that power had gone out from him. I don't understand what that means; I'll ask him later. Immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it, but the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. I think this is an amazing picture of Jesus. And I think it's helpful for us. Because this woman had faith to believe that Jesus could heal her. But she didn't have faith to believe that Jesus cared. Jesus was Mighty God to her, but not Father. And in the absence of a father, this comparison between Jairus's daughter, that he is on the way to, and her apparent absence of anyone who cares. Can't imagine, she's just trying to get away with getting healed. And get away from everybody, because she's convinced no one cares. Jesus is like, "There's a little girl dying right now, but I am stopping to take care of this woman's soul." That's our Jesus. For us, Father, some of us, doesn't bring great memories for, perhaps, you. Don't judge your Heavenly Father by the performance of your earthly father, okay? He cares in a way that you will never experience on this earth. And it's an amazing thing. He proved it by dying for you. He never stops caring. He is an Everlasting Father. Maybe you're missing your dad this Christmas. You've got one that never fails. Will always be there. Never forsakes, never leaves, never dies, never disappoints, in Jesus. Fourth point. This fourth name for Jesus. He's the Prince of Peace. He's the Prince of Peace. The message of the Messiah and his name was a position of a political ruler. It's at the center of this passage. It's political. It's government. So we've already talked about vodka, let's talk about politics, too. Why not? Let's just jump all into it, pour gasoline all over it. It doesn't mater what your political views are or what side of the aisle you're on. The universal acknowledgement of all humans who have been governed by all other humans is, someone's got to come and fix this mess. Someone's got to be able to do this better. It's why we keep on reinventing, like that's every human ruler or system of government is absolutely the problem. And often not the solution. And so whatever side of the aisle you're on, capitalism, social democracy, want to build the wall or not, constitutional republican, I don't care, okay? You can vote for a politician, but you put your faith in Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Ultimately, peace comes from Jesus. And if you've ever been satisfied in a human ruler or human government, it's because you're ignorant about what's going on behind the scenes. All of it, all of its failures points you to the better ruler who's coming. I, for one, am looking forward to the dictatorship of Jesus on earth. That's going to be amazing. I'm not so pro-democracy that I'm not looking forward to the tyrannical rule of Jesus, because that's going to be fantastic. The tyranny of peace in a world of war. The increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. On the throne of David and over his kingdom, another promise fulfilled, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness, from this time forth. This is the world that our heart is longing for. This is the world that our heart is voting for. This is the world that we all see, and one we complain about it when we're watching the news, but the solution's Jesus, guys. So bring the message of the gospel to yourself, to your home, to your neighborhood. Because without him, you've got nothing. Every single one of us have plenty of reasons to have the most joyful Christmas ever, because Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace. And he promises a great future for everyone who's found in him. Let me pray for you.


Isaiah 65:17-25 • December 8, 2019 • Bert Alcorn

Big Idea: - The call of Christmas is for us to look back on God’s faithfulness in sending Jesus, and to look forward to our hope of glory where God will liberate humanity, and the entire universe, from evil. Key Texts: - Romans 5:3-5; Isaiah 65:17-25; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 8:17; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Revelation 21:1-5; Romans 15:13 Transcript: - For those of you who are from Harvest, I want to introduce to you one of the guys I respect most in this community, preacher of the word I'm very thankful to be a brother with and very thankful for the fellowship that we have, very quickly becoming a close confidant and an encouragement at all times. Bert and his wife Sherry are actually moving in down the street from us, so I'm excited for the increase of fellowship and be able to have a brother who's a pastor who kind of gets many of the things that my wife and I go through on a regular basis. But it's our privilege to come here and to not only share advent with our brothers and sisters from Harvest, but to rejoice and to worship together and to study and to hear the word of God being delivered by our brother Bert Alcorn. Why don't you guys welcome him? Hey, I like that, close confidant. That means he talks to me about you guys. So hello. It really is a delight to be with you guys. We love you guys. We pray for you guys often. We love you from afar and we're so excited this morning we get to love you up close and personal. My wife Sherry is right over here and we checked our crazy kids into your kids' ministry, so thank you for that. But I'm delighted to be opening up the text with you guys this morning. We are in a shared advent series where we're tracking with you guys in Arise. And we've kind of been co preparing this season, kind of culminating in Christmas Eve together and celebrating the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. So if you have a Bible, go ahead and open up to the book of Isaiah chapter 65. If you were here last week, you know we're kind of hopping all around during advent, but I'm going to anchor us today in the prophet Isaiah. We are going to start there. While you are turning there, I want to tee up the text that we are going to be in today with just a little bit of a get to know me and my family and how we are reckoning with some of what is in here. Our kiddos are ages five, three and a half and two which means Christmas time for us is a lot of fun. Like Brent said, we're moving in a week, which means we haven't been able to set up our Christmas tree or put lights up or do any decorating in the house, and we hear it almost daily if not multiple times a day like, "Where's our tree? Where are the lights?" And we just try to be watching Christmas movies but it doesn't quite feel like it's Christmas yet in our house. And really what that showed me is we already as a family have our own Christmas tradition that our kids are banking on. They remember already how Christmas goes in the Alcorn house. And it is making me think about how, I mean, we all have different Christmas traditions in our family. And I was seeing about some of the ones that I was raised with growing up in the Alcorn house, there were a couple of Christmas traditions that immediately came to my mind. And one was Christmas for us started the day after Thanksgiving, not Halloween. That was a big deal in our family. If you started decorating before Thanksgiving, we shunned you as a family. But it started after Thanksgiving. And one of the reasons it started after Thanksgiving is because for Thanksgiving we'd go visit some of my dad's family up in Auburn, which is Northern California up in the mountains. And the day after Thanksgiving we'd all pack up into our cars or vans, whatever, and we'd head out to some obscure piece of land someone in my family had and we would pick and chop down our own Christmas tree. Nothing made me feel more like a man as a 10 year old than trying to hack away at this Christmas tree. Then we'd throw it on top of our cars and drive home and that inaugurated Christmas time in our house. And then the whole month after Thanksgiving, the anticipation is building. And so we had a couple of traditions around presence in our family. And one was we could wake up as early as we wanted on Christmas morning, and we got to open our stockings as long as... Parents, you know what the rule was? As long as you don't wake up my parents, right? As kids, you could get up at 3:00 AM if you want, unload the stockings and get to work as long as we did not wake up my parents. But there was another Christmas tradition we had, which was the night before on Christmas Eve, we could open one present, the teaser present, right? And as a kid, this is kind of all our brains were focused on. And so we got the teaser present. Now here's the thing about the teaser present. This was never the show stopping present, was it? No. What do you think this was? Pajamas, Christmas socks, it was all this stuff that we had to wear or some craft or activity we had to do the next day. And I don't know why, but every year as a kid I thought that was going to be the year when I got a brand new drum set, right? On Christmas Eve and I could just wake up everyone at 4:00 AM in the morning. I thought that was the day when the good stuff would finally be the first thing we did. But it was never that way. It was always the thing we had to wear or do on Christmas day. And as a kid that was always such a let down and it's okay, I've moved on and we've moved on in the world and that's okay. I realized also that story probably shows you more about me than anything else. But I think what it made me think of is how often we are excited for something. We put our hope in something or we anticipate something only to be let down by that something, whatever it is. And for me as a kid it was the Christmas Eve Christmas present that every year I was delusional and thought that was going to be the thing that changed my life and it was always a let down. And I think as we're thinking about advent, you can maybe identify with putting your hope in something or someone that ultimately lets you down. So whether it's the new job you've really been hoping and even praying for only to find out it's not all it was cracked up to be or finally you got accepted into that school you wanted to go to, only to find out your professors are awesome and you're not making any friends there. We finally get that new car we've been dreaming about and just breaks down and it lets us down all over the place. But maybe on a more serious note, we felt that way about God sometimes. We put our faith, our hope, our trust, only to feel let down or appointed. And this idea of hope in the Bible, what we're huddling around today is a really strange and peculiar thing. Hope is this idea and this practice that seems to permeate the entire story of God and it seems like a really vital component for how we relate to God, and it's often something you and I get so wrong so often. What I think is astounding is this way Paul who writes to the Romans talks about hope. Now, if you have your thumb on Isaiah 65 stay there. But you can flip there if you want, but I'll read it for you. In Romans five Paul is laying out that you and I had been justified by Christ and because of that we have peace with God. And in verse two he says, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And he goes on to say in verse three not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces what? Hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who's been given to us. Hope does not put us to shame. Another way to translate that is hope does not disappoint. Have you ever been disappointed in something or someone that you've put your hope in? Absolutely. Have you been disappointed in your spouse or your kids, your boss, your retirement plan, someone you voted for, your pastor, maybe even your church, your best friend? Chances are, yes, you've been disappointed by all of those people and all of those things. But Paul here in Romans chapter five it makes this really provocative claim that hope in God does not disappoint. It does not let you down. We do something in this season together as Christians, something really profound and unique in this advent season, this leading up to celebrating Christmas. It's this moment where we in between two realities. The reality that Christ has come once, inaugurating, initiating something and he's coming again and you and I live in between those two realities. And we're living between this reality where Christ is king and he's brought salvation available to all people but we know the world is not all that it should be. He started something but it has not been brought to completion yet. And so we're left with what Paul calls in Romans eight, groaning. This longing for something to be different. We live in between the reality that Christ has come, but we as Christians know that's not the end. So we hope, we long, we anticipate for something else to come. But in talking about hope, it begs this question, why do we really need it in the first place? Because if we look around at our lives today, we can easily fool ourselves into thinking we don't need hope. Why do you hope for a new job? Typically hope for new job because your current one stinks, right? The pay is not good enough, or you work with awful people or whatever. Why do you hope for a new car? You hope for new car because your current one breaks down all the time and it's leaking oil or whatever. It's the same idea here. We hope for something in this world because we look around and we know the world is not all that it should be. And the old Testament prophets pick up on this idea all the time, which brings us to Isaiah chapter 65. And the old Testament prophets pick up on this theme all the time because God's people frequently found themselves outside of the life that God had intended for them, and living in the consequences of their disobedience and their rebellion. So frequently, prophets just like Isaiah are painting these pictures of something that's to come. They're trying to give us a vision for this preferred promise future that we have in God to help them, motivate them, to live differently here and now. In Isaiah 65 we have this beautiful picture of how things should be, but more importantly, how things will be when God finally puts everything to rights. And this is where God has been leading his people for so long. This in Isaiah 65 is the radical renewal and restoration of all things. Isaiah 65 starting in verse 17 Isaiah records... By the way, this is just helpful to know in Isaiah. Sometimes it's confusing the prophets. This is God speaking, this is Isaiah being a good scribe, this is a message and a vision from God. For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Now, if this sounds familiar, it's because John in the book of Revelation echoes some of this language. This is the hope for a new future will be so enveloped by this new world that we'll forget the old. Verse 18, but be glad and rejoice forever and that which I create for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people, right? Isaiah is recording this God vision for a preferred promised, better future. And then he goes on to use some imagery from life as we know it now to help us create an image in our minds of life as it will be. And he continues in verse 19, no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not fill out his days. For the young man shall die a hundred years old and this sinner, a hundred years old shall be a curse. And then he goes on to say even our work will be blessed and redeemed and will be better than what it is right now. Verse 21, they shall build houses and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit, they shall not plant and another eat. For like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be. And my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them just like it was in the garden. Notice what even Isaiah is recording here what God is saying, it's both wedged between these two realities where we look back to how things should have been in the garden and things were in the garden before sin entered the world, but it's also helping us look forward to when Christ comes back and redeems and reconciles all things. Remember, work is not cursed until sin enters the equation. But that doesn't mean there was no work before sin entered the equation. Adam and Eve had stuff to do. They had work, they had mission, but it was blessed and it was redeemed. And you weren't fighting with the ground, you were partnering with the ground. And Isaiah says, this is how it will be like it was supposed to be, it will be again. But he goes on to say in verse 24, our closeness with God will also be restored. Before they call, I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear just like it was in the garden. The closeness between God and Adam and Eve will be restored, and finally peace and justice will reign. Verse 25, the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat the straw like the ox. So it's peace. Things that you wouldn't think would be in harmony are back in harmony, back in shalom, just like it was supposed to be in the garden, it will so be again. But look at this turn too, it's not just a restoration of peace, but justice will happen and the dust shall be the serpent's food. And they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord. The serpent will eat dust, he's going to fail. He'll finally be dealt with, which means he and sin and death do not get the final word. The way it was supposed to be, it will be again. This is no run of the mill promised land, this is something different. This is new heavens. This is new earth in which sin and violence and death and pain and sadness are all wiped away. And Isaiah is saying to God's people then and to us now, this is the life you've always wanted. This is the life you've been longing for that's alluded us, that's been just out of reach, this is it. Hope in that, hope in God who supplies that life, that new heavens, that new earth. Don't trust the things of this world because they are broken and tainted by sin. Trust in that, trust in God's promise that he will once again make things the way they were supposed to be. We were made for that world. That world where peace and justice reign, we're work is blessed, where our relationship, our closeness with God is restored. We were made for that world where God and humankind dwell together in harmony and shalom. And what Isaiah describes is not our current reality, is it? We maybe see shadows of it, shreds of it here and now, but it's not our reality. So something is off in this world. Things are not as they should be, but we still yearn for that. There's still something in us that wants that. And C.S. Lewis, the great Christian author came to this conclusion about that reality. He says, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasure satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it to suggest the real thing." The world we were intended to live in was distorted by sin, but right then amidst the darkness, the moment where sin enters the human and God's story. God spoke a word of hope in Genesis three verse 15, what many people see as the first gospel, the first glimmer or glimpse of hope. We get this, God says, I will put enmity between you and the woman. Before he talks to Adam and Eve, he's talking to the serpent and he says, "You will be dealt with. I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel." From that first moment of our need for rescue, God's promise of hope was there. His promise for grace was there. And he says that the final say would not rest on the serpent and his schemes. Not on death, not on sin, not on separation, but someone would come and restore things to the way they should be. God's answer to the problem of sin is a someone, her offspring shall bruise his head, a savior, the Messiah. And this is our hope, that a Messiah would save us from our sins. Not that we just kind of live morally here and now, but to remove us from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light and actually start living in a way that brings that kingdom of light here and now into the domain of darkness. That's our hope. That's our hope in Christ so we'd be ready for the world that we were intended to live in. And this picture in Isaiah reminds us that God's restorative salvation will touch everything. Nothing in all of creation will be untouched by God's restorative salvation, which seems great if we stop there and we pack it in for the day and we say good message of hope. But the problem is that often has such a disconnect with how we live here and now. If intellectually we're on board with everything Isaiah has just put down, we have a practice problem and we live in this state of cognitive dissonance where we're believing one thing and not living another because we have all these problems with hope in our life today, three in particular that I want to beat down a little bit with you guys this morning. Three problems with hope. The first is maybe one of the more dangerous ones, is that we convince ourselves we don't need hope. Why? Because life is amazing. Guys, we live in Ventura, best city in the world. I've done a little travel for some ministry work and seen some family over the last month. And it's like something about my heart is racing when I'm landing again in LAX and I can see the coastline, I'm like, "It's the greatest city in the world." I love it, it's amazing. Guys, Ventura is spectacular and I have a hunch you're something like me where generally life is pretty good. Blessed with family, blessed with friends. I mean, I'm incredibly blessed to have a gifted wife and partner on this mission, to have kids that are healthy and that are growing. I've never really had to skip a meal unless it was on purpose, I've never not had some place to sleep at night. All these basic life earthly pleasures we take for granted starts to woo us into thinking we don't need to hope for something better because life is pretty good right now. Now, this is not a moment for guilt and shame, the real problem is not that life is fairly good right now. The real problem is the implications of that reality. That because life is pretty good right now and we're increasing our desire for pleasure and comfort in this world, we're decreasing our perceived need for hope for something better. This message of the gospel seems to not fit us sometimes. This message that we need saving or rescuing because we think we're good. Some of Jesus's harshest and angriest criticisms and teachings came towards people who were convinced that they're good. I believe this is one of our more dangerous problems with hope when we are not regularly reminding ourselves of the reality that we still are sinners. We were once living in the domain of darkness but God has rescued us. We were children of wrath but God in his great mercy brought us out. And when we are so wooed and convinced by the world around us that we are pretty good, we start to lose our need for hope. But the second problem is not that we just convince ourselves we don't need hope, that maybe when we finally do we weaken it and tamp it down and we think hope equals optimism, right? It's just like, "Whatever," saying, "Okay, today's going to be good. It's just power positive thinking. It's optimism. It's just having rosy colored glasses on all the time." But the Bible takes a very different approach. Because if you've been through the story of God's people, sometimes there seems like there isn't that much to hope about. The old Testament translates this word hope into to a couple of different words. Two of them are yakal, which means to simply wait for. So have in your mind Noah and the arc and the animals, and he had to wait for the waters to recede. But the second word that comes up quite frequently in the old Testament is this word qavah, which has a little more to it. It doesn't mean simply to wait for, but to wait for with longing and expectation and anticipation, right? It's related to this word qav in the Hebrew and it's this idea, a cob means this idea that you kind of wait and you're stretching out and there's tension and you pull it like a rubber band and there's a state of tension until you release it. So this word is more than just to wait for something, but it's to wait with this feeling of tension and anticipation and expectation as you wait. And in the old Testament, hope means that, to wait with this tense expectation that something else is coming. And if you know the story of God's people all over the old Testament, it's story of people who keep perpetually turning away from God and reaping the consequences of that lifestyle and so they find themselves constantly in the state of self destruction and ultimately exiled. And it's during that time when people like Isaiah writes and reminds the people to hope in God, not their external circumstances. And Isaiah describes the season earlier in his book in Isaiah chapter eight where he says, I will wait for the Lord who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob and I will hope in him. That word hope is qavah. They're hoping for something different because the Lord is hiding his face from his people. But it's not an empty hope, it's not a wish. It's not wishful thinking. It's this hope grounded in Yahweh's faithfulness in the past, right? Throughout the old Testament, the biblical writers, even God himself, appeals to his past work to give us hope in our present for a better future. And so things like we find in the book of Exodus like 19 and 20, where he says, I am Yahweh who brought you out of slavery, so live this way and live that way. Over and over again, it's a reminder of who God is and what he's already done to help us live here and hope for a better future. It's God's past faithfulness that motivates our hope for a future, which means we have to look back to look forward. And the new Testament writers pick up on this all over the place and see the birth, life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as the culmination and new starting point of hope. God's answer to their qavah. And that word gets translated into Greek a little bit differently, it's elpis. But what's fascinating is there's a little more added to it. So as you go through the story of God, there's this added meaning to hope that keeps getting put on it. And it's not only waiting with tension anymore, but it's waiting with the expectation of good, joyful, and confident in this expectation of eternal salvation. And so Peter in one of his letters picks up on this same word and he says this in first Peter one, blessed be the God and father our Lord Jesus Christ. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living what? Living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in heaven for you. According to his mercy, we have hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which cannot be taken from you, which is undeterred by external circumstances. Because Jesus is back from the dead, you can have hope. Hope that does not disappoint, that does not put you to shame, that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, that is preserved in heaven for you. You don't even possess that hope. It's in heaven for you, protected by God and Jesus at his right hand. Nothing in this world can mess with that kind of hope. Do you trust it? Better question. Do you trust him who is guarding that hope? Jesus himself is our living hope, offering the chance to be reborn into a whole different kind of human. The Bible writers are trying to tell us something over and over. Hope in God, he will not disappoint. Put not your trust in chariots, put your trust in God. Put not your trust in riches, put your trust in God. Do not trust the things of this world, they will let you down, God will not. Hope in Jesus. The third problem. Maybe if we are convinced we need hope and if we're not weakening it, we say, "Okay, there's more to hope than just wishful thinking." What now? The third problem for us is we often put our hope in all the wrong things. Maybe you were onboard at this whole hope idea, but we misplace it time after time. You've done it, I've done it. You're probably doing it right now because I know I'm doing it right now. I'm putting my hope in all the wrong things all the time. Maybe even good things, things that feel like they wouldn't disappoint like Sherry or my kids, but they do. Whatever you're putting your hope in, if it's not Jesus, will disappoint you. I tell my church this at least once a month in case they forget, but if I've not disappointed you yet, I will, definitely, really soon. I'm imperfect. Our church is imperfect. I love Brent, he is imperfect. This church is imperfect. You are imperfect, which means you will not only be on the receiving end of someone letting you down, but you will let someone down too. And the problem comes when we put our hope in all those people and all our things, and when they do disappoint, you can set your clocks by it and our whole world comes crashing down. And the Bible writers from start to finish saying, that does not happen if you put your hope in God. If you hope in Jesus Christ, he will not disappoint. He will not put you to shame. No one else can bear the weight of your hope. Pastor tip here, a guaranteed way to crush your marriage is to ask your spouse to be your savior and put all your hope for a better life in them, expecting them to be everything to you. Guaranteed 100% of the time, anytime Sherry and I are not doing well, we're in the midst of an argument or we're struggling to communicate or whatever it is, it's because one of us or usually both of us are putting our hopes in each other to save this marriage, not Jesus. A guaranteed way to crush your kids, if you have kids, is to ask them to be your hope for a legacy and you keep all this expectation on them and then they just grow up to resent you. Hope in Jesus. If you're single in this room, single folks, love you so much. If you place all your hope in getting married one day, that person will crush you. That idea, that belief, that lifestyle, will crush you. A guaranteed way to be crushed as a single person is to place all your hope in getting married someday. Can I just like an aside for who's single in this room? If you are single, first of all, you are honored and valued by Jesus. You do not need someone else to complete you because Jesus completes you. On the flip side though, if you are single, marriage will not fix your porn problem. It will not fix your lust problem, it will not fix your loneliness problem. It's just going to add shrapnel to the equation. Hope in Jesus. If you're single, if you're married, if you have kids, hope in Jesus. If work is your idol, your god, a sure way to be left without anything after you retire is to put all your hope in your career. If you're an academic, if you're a student, if you're getting a degree, a sure way to be crushed is when you get the degree and find out it does not get you the job that you want it to get you. All these things will crush you, but the gospel doesn't leave us there. Jesus steps in as the perfect object of our hope. When we put all our hope in all the wrong things, he steps in, he says, "I can carry the weight of your hope." Isaiah nine says, all the governments of the world are on his shoulders. Jesus says, "I can take your hope, come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest and life and satisfaction and hope." Biblical hope chooses to wait expectedly for God to bring his goodness and restoration to bear in our future regardless of how broken our world and our circumstances seem, and regardless of how good your life seems right now, chooses to wait, to put our hope in Jesus knowing that he's the only one who can carry the weight of our hope and he who promised is faithful. Remember Romans five at the top end of this sermon? Paul says to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and rejoice in your current sufferings. Why would he say that? Those things are not where hope is found. We can rejoice in suffering and we can rejoice in glory. Paul says, I found the secret to living with much and with little. Because our hope is not in those things, our hope is in Jesus Christ, so we can weather any circumstance. And like James says, we can see even the hardest of circumstances as an opportunity to produce character in us. Paul says, character produces hope, hope in Jesus. This hope is motivated by what God's already done and what he promises to do. And because he's already done what he said he was going to do, we can trust him when he says he's going to do more. He's proved himself faithful. And so we're not only celebrating advent right now where we're practicing this looking back and looking forward hope moment, but our whole lives are a sort of advent until Jesus returns or calls me home. Wedged in between these two realities of looking back for what God has already done, giving fuel to our hope for what he will do. Every day is advent for the Christian living in the truth of these two realities. And so we wait. We wait for Jesus to return, to make everything right. But it's not an empty waiting or wishing. It's a waiting fueled with expectation because biblical writers like Isaiah paint a vivid picture of what it will be like when Jesus comes back to put everything back the way it should be. And John writing in the book of Revelation picks up on this same idea, echoes all this same language when he says, then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. Just a little aside, in Jewish thinking the sea was the personification of everything scary, unknown and bad. That's all gone. What's left is everything that's good, perfect, the way it should be. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold, the dwelling place of God is with man just like it was supposed to be. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God and he will wipe away every tear from their eye and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away and he who is seated on the throne says behold I am making all things new. That's what this season is about. We look back when God intervened in human history and Jesus Christ born as a baby in a manger 2000 and some odd years ago and look forward to this moment where God from the throne says, behold, I am making all things new. And that meets the groaning and longing of our souls because we know things are not the way they should be in this world. We know there's evil and pain and injustice and fractured relationship and we say, "God, you've done it once. Do it again." Jesus has come once and he's coming again to restore everything to the way it should be, like it was in the garden. Where work has meaning and purpose, family has meaning and purpose. A closeness with God is restored and peace and justice is reigning. And we don't have to hope anymore because it's here. Hope is temporal. We only hope because we're wedged in this reality waiting for Jesus to consummate the kingdom here, inaugurate it. Once he comes, hope is fulfilled and we are fully present, enjoying the presence of God, unfiltered, unadulterated. Jesus has come and he's coming again and that big hope offers us both personal intimacy with God forever and a renewed world of peace and justice and righteousness. So the call of Christmas is to look back and to look forward to where the hope of our glory, where God will liberate humanity in the entire universe from evil. Hope is a vision for something better ahead. But once again, if you're onboard with me so far and we end it right here and it says, "Yeah, that's awesome," and we just live dreaming of heaven, but we don't have to change anything about how we live now. Hope does something else. Hope doesn't just give us a vision for a future, it also transforms our presence. Real biblical hope, hope in Jesus Christ changes our present reality. It's not escapism, it's not wishful thinking. Hope is hard work here and now. Once again for the win, C.S. Lewis, he says, hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not as some modern people think, a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Anyone else in the room resonating with that line right there? Aim at heaven and you will get our throne in, aim at earth and you will get neither. Setting our eyes on this future resurrected body, resurrected life, the promised hope of glory changes how we live now. And if it's not, we have to ask ourselves, is that really where our hope is? Because like Jesus said so frequently, the fruit of your life where we feel what's happening inside. Where's your hope? The gospel says if anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come. Therefore, we're ambassadors here and now, we're representing and living out and ushering in the kingdom we eagerly wait and hope for now, today, in our present life. So what do we do with a message like this? What do we do with a text like Isaiah 65, Revelation 21 painting us a vision for the future? I believe scripture clearly says it must change how we live here and now. And if it doesn't, in all gentleness and love, maybe we've misplaced our hope. So maybe today is not only an invitation to look back and to look forward, but in the present to take a moment right now and identify where you've placed your hope, comfort, and security here and now, in a growing bank account here and now, in a family that's well put together, well behaved, says the right things, looks the right way. Jesus says none of that stuff is going to last. Where are you asking someone or something to be your hope? If it's anyone or anything other than Jesus, you will be let down. Test it out. I don't know if this is good pastoral advice or not. Try it out, try hoping in something other than Jesus and I will wait when you come back and tell me that person or that thing has let you down or disappointed in some way. First Peter 3:15 says, always have a reason for the hope that you have. So this hope demand some kind of gospel explanation. It should look different. You as the Christian should not look like everyone else around you because your hope is somewhere else. And it's a hope that other people will look at you and going, "Why are you doing that? Why are you giving all your money away and being generous? Why are you choosing to give up more of your nights to serve other people, to help other people? Why is this thing that's going on at work not bothering you like it's bothering everybody else? Why are you not jumping on the gossip train with that person who's maybe done something not great? Why are you different?" Does your life demand a gospel explanation? Does your hope in this life demand a gospel explanation? If you're hoping in anything other than Jesus, you will be let down. I've gotten more stories than I have time for today to tell you how that has been true in my life. And if that's you like me, feeling a twinge of Holy Spirit conviction, repent and choose to put your hope in Jesus, in whom you will never be disappointed because he who promised is faithful. And one day God will create a new heavens, a new earth where we can rejoice forever in what God creates, where God will be with us as our God and we his people, and we will be his gladness and he will be ours. So I leave you with the words of Paul, closing out his letter to the church in the room. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. That you may abound in hope this week, this month, to abound in the kind of hope where other people have to ask why. May you abound in this kind of hope. Father, we humbly put our lives in front of you. Holy Spirit, we ask you to help examine our lives, help us have boldness and confidence in this moment to figure out where we're misplacing our hope. Help us to hope in you. Holy Spirit, would you even help shine a light in our eyes when we've trusted you over the things of this world and how you've came through? Would that moment of faithfulness give us confidence to hope in you in the future? Jesus, you say the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance things you've taught and done, would you help us remember the things you've taught us and done for us, done to us, done through us so that we can live a life fueled by this kind of hope that demands the gospel explanation. Would you fill us with all joy and peace because we have your Holy Spirit living in us, the very presence of God helping us remember what you've done and look ahead to what you will do, empowering us and training us to live well, here in this moment. Jesus, we're grateful to your entrance into this earth and your glorious sacrificial death, your resurrection that was the first fruits for our resurrection and the reality that you are in heaven guarding our hope. What do we have to fear? Jesus, to you be the glory. Amen.


Isaiah 11:1-10 • December 1, 2019 • Steve Ross

Big Idea: - Jesus is our peace because only through him we can have peace with God and others. Biblically, peace is not just the absence of conflict but also to the presence of something else: shalom. Key Texts: - Isaiah 11:1-10 Transcript: - Hey look. So as was said, I'm Steve Ross and we have a wonderful church just down the road from you all. Some of you've been around long enough to remember your glory days in the river at the River Church. And so our local church called Arise, which is a replant of the church Seed, actually meets at the river right now. And this Summer we kind of sunset ministry at Seed and then went into a core team time and replanted our church. And we just launched Arise at the end of September. And we just have been really grateful for our partnership in the gospel with Anthem and not just Anthem here, but also your church family that's down in Camarillo and TO. And then also we got good friends in Downey at Imago Dei who are great friends of us. And for Celebrate Generosity, they actually elected to send some of the funds our way. And so we just received a check from Celebrate Generosity down in Downey. And it's just one of those things that kind of knits our hearts together and we're grateful for you. So thank you for the opportunity to host us well, to do ministry alongside one another. And as we go into this season of advent, what we have here is an opportunity for us to just showcase the capital Seed Church, the beauty and the breadth and the diversity and the unity of God's church and the people he's called to reach Ventura. And so when you think about what was just said even I hope that for those of you who just walked in, I just don't want you to come back here next week. So I'm going to remake that announcement. There won't be any gathering here next Sunday, but you'll be gathering together as a church alongside Harvest in Harvest Building and Bert will be preaching. And then the week after that I'll be preaching over at Harvest and then on Christmas Eve we'll all be together at Harvest. So we're doing that and we just think it's a wonderful opportunity to be able to celebrate much during this season and also to be able to point to the greater good and the bigger picture to keep the main thing the main thing, which is the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. And obviously we know that it didn't start there, but we are really excited about the incarnation and the first Christmas when Jesus actually came to the world, God, Emmanuel to be with us. And so that's what we're going to be talking about today. I know Bert did kind of an introduction last week to advent and we're going to actually jump into what we're somewhat calling lightly and loosely, Isaiah's Christmas list. We're going to look at what things Isaiah looked for in the Messiah and what we would call Christmas. We're going to look at peace today, we're going to look at hope next week, look at joy and look at love, and we're going to find those things and Isaiah's prophecy. So I hope that it's a good moment for you to turn maybe to some old Testament scriptures that you haven't pondered as much and for us to be able to dig into the word. And so just as a precursor, I know today is going to be somewhat heavy on the cross referencing and flip here in your Bibles or turn your Bibles on on your phone and scroll here. So I have one or a few of the scriptures that will come up on the screen, but if you have your Bible it will be good for you and helpful for you today as we get into the word. Is that good? All right, praise him. So let's pray together and then we'll jump in. And this is a Bert's glorious table. I don't know if I should have my water on. It seems like it's not going to do what I want it to do, but we'll roll. Let's pray together. Father, we thank you this morning that we have been given the privilege to open your word yet again and to come before you with thanksgiving in our hearts. And Lord, we just desire that you would meet with us in this time on the backside of a national holiday where most of us may have gathered with friends and family and given thanks to you or a time where we spent time alone and had to ponder or to reach for what we're grateful for. We are glad to move into this advent season where hearts can be still and we can be reminded of what it is that we're grateful for ultimately, which is the gospel. Father, I ask that as we jump into the scriptures today you would give us clarity and that you'd give us a sense of awe and wonder as we just marvel at the prince of peace. I ask you Lord to give me your grace, give our hearers and those who will be taking notes, your grace that we both be and all be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we look to your word. And so meet with us here in this moment, in Christ's name I pray. Amen. All right, I'm going to turn it around this way. I'm sure Bert would never do that. All right, check it out you all. I think at any time and on any day you can open up various news articles, you can turn your phone on, you can scroll through your Facebook and you'll find various sources and stories that'll all be pointing to and asking for and longing for peace. Because at the very same time you will see wars, you'll see division, you'll see dissension. We live in a world with conflict and a world that has been plagued by tension since the beginning. If you think about Genesis chapter three and the fact that as soon as sin entered the world, Adam moved away from his wife and blamed her for his sin. And it was their children, it was Kane, their son who killed his brother, their other child just after they were removed from the garden. Sin separates, sin devastates and sin plagues our society and causes us to be kind of agitated by strife at all times. And so our world is always longing for and looking for peace. On Thursday, some of you would know that the president of United States got onto a darkened plane and flew over to Afghanistan and he met there secretly unannounced with the Afghan government and president and also as was reported, with the Taliban. And as he had this surprise visit, he went and visited with our soldiers and had a Thanksgiving meal with them and during that meal he announced to our armed forces who are there on the ground in Afghanistan that peace talks had been re initiated. Listen to what he said, he said, "I have reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban in hopes of ending 18 years of war. They know we're going to stay in Afghanistan until we get total victory or a ceasefire so the Taliban wants to make a deal. They want to make a deal very badly," Mr. Trump said. As I read that news headline and I saw that come across my screen the last couple of days, it dawned on me, the US forces landed in Afghanistan not long after 911 and have never left. We've been in war, the same war since that time. And it begs the question, what's peace? How do you get it? Who brings it? How long does it take? It's one those things that really challenges you if you allow it to, if you sit with that. I think you recognize that the reality is that peace is something that everyone wants and most people spend their whole lives trying to get, but not many experience in this lifetime. Few people actually understand it. We turn to the Bible, we understand that the idea of peace comes from this Hebrew word shalom. And shalom is so commonplace that it may as well be an English word. I'm sure that we use it, but we probably use it most of the time out of context. We use the word shalom when we think of it right alongside what we consider peace. And when we talk about a peace treaty or making peace or saying peace, we kind of think of it as one and the same. But let me just try to give us a biblical definition for what peace is, that Hebrew word, shalom, before we look at our scripture so that we'll understand a little bit more of what the Messiah brings to us in the first advent. Shalom should be properly understood as a completeness or a wholeness, an inner resting of the soul that never changes despite whatever else is going on. It's the wholeness or completeness of a complex issue. It might be many parts and many sides and a whole lot to be considered. But with shalom, it all comes together as one. When there's peace, everything is reconciled together and unified. It's in harmony. That can be walls, that can be the foundations of things. It's used in terms of relationships and in life in general, and I think that this morning I would not be wrong to say that some of us have come here today and need to hear that no matter what's falling apart around us and no matter what's trying to crowd in on our lives, we actually need shalom. We need wholeness and it's available to us in the Messiah, the prince of peace. Things may be falling apart all around you, but shalom and God's peace can hold you together and provide rest for your soul. Anybody else need that this morning? I hope that's good news for somebody today because after Thanksgiving and leading into Christmas, losing loved ones and living in a darkened world and hearing the kind of news and headlines that comes across our screens every single day, we all experience brokenness. They're broken relationships, unmet expectations, too much month at the end of the money and anxiety or depression because of all of it. I know that we're all frail. This is our experience. And so my task today is to remind us that God offers peace in the midst of the storm and not only does he offer peace, but he is peace. Not only does God offer peace to us, but he is peace and that peace can and will give rest to all who trust him. It was once said that peace is not just the absence of something, it's the presence of someone and I like that. And so today what we're going to do is we're going to look at the prince of peace and the peace that he offers. Is that good? All right, and so that's my introduction. It's a lot, but let's turn to the scriptures. We'll be in Isaiah chapter 11 and we'll flip around a little bit. I pondered whether or not we should read the whole text and I just feel like the best thing to do is at least read the first 10 verses because I'm just going to take a lot for granted today because there's so much here. In fact, as Bert and Brent and I talked about this scripture, the first thing you need to know is that they elected that I'm going to preach this at all of the churches. So I was like, "You can do that," right? But there's a lot in it and we're just kind of scraping from the top here. All right? But just read it and then see if you can follow along with me in our three simple points today. The prince of peace is the title of the message, and in your Bibles, if you have an English standard version or if you're reading on the screen, it probably would be headed, the righteous reign of the branch. Verse one says, there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord and his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see or disputes by what his ears hear but with righteousness, he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips, he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist and faithfulness, the belt of his loins. The Wolf dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie with the young goat and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together. And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together. And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra and the wean shall she'll put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day, the root of Jesse who shall stand as a signal for the peoples, of him shall the nations inquire and his resting place shall be glorious. Amen and amen. The three points that we're going to look at from this text as we look at the prince of peace, which in Isaiah chapter nine if you know your Bibles at all, it was prophesied of this child who would be born. He'd be a son, the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called things like wonderful counselor and mighty God, everlasting father and prince of peace. That's where I'm getting that title from. That the virgin born son, the promised Messiah is the prince of peace. Again, he himself is our peace and it says of him that the increase of his government and of his peace, there will be no end. We're going to look at the prince of peace and see that he provides for us in himself, peace with God, peace with one another and peace on earth. The first thing that we look at is from verses one down to three. It will come from a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a branch from his roots shall bear fruit, the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him and so on. A shoot from the stump of Jesse. In order to understand this, you've got to understand who Jesse is. Jesse is, among other things the father of David. And Isaiah is prophesying here in relation to the Davidic covenant and kingdom and he's referring even back to David's father, Jesse, and he's saying that there's going to be a shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse. Now, if you know anything about the Jesse or David's line and the Davidic covenant and Davidic kingdom, what you should understand is that this is a royal family. Full of power and prestige, not just any family, if you would. God has made a covenant with his people through David's line to say that this family will be blessed forever. It carries on the Abrahamic covenant, that in Abraham, all the nations, right, would be blessed. Every family on the earth would be blessed. And so when you think about David's family, you understand that God took Jesse's son, the one that was a shepherd boy and smelled like sheep, the one who didn't know how to do anything but heard dirty animals and he made him the king of Israel. He changed the whole landscape. He changed his whole family line and he did that for forever. If you had time, we'd read first Chronicles chapter 17 and see that from verses 7 to 14 if you want to read that later and study it on your own, you can. But let me just go ahead and read a couple of verses for you from it. In verse number seven, now therefore, thus shall you say to my servant, David, he always says to Nathan, and Nathan goes and carries a message to David and says, thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture from following the sheep to be a prince over my people, Israel. And he goes down and he says, I will appoint a place for my people and I will plant them and they will dwell in their own place and they will not be disturbed anymore. Verse number 11 says, when your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up... Walk with your fathers, the way of your fathers. When you go to the grave is what he's saying. He says, after you even die, David, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him, a father, and he will be to me, a son. In establishing the Davidic kingdom, God promised this eternal reign and this eternal ruler who would actually take on and stand in the place that David was covenanted to stand in, that he would rule in righteousness and he would come from David's family line. Psalm 89 says things like, I will establish your offspring forever and I will build your throne for all generations. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne will be like the days of heaven. And so David's throne is not just like the throne that came before him, one that would come and then go and end, but he actually says this is going to carry on and it will be forever. It's an eternal throne. I hope you're tracking with me. Jesse's line in the Davidic kingdom are known for power and prestige and God's covenant and God's promise and there's never going to be an intuit. And yet in our text following Isaiah chapter 10, which talks about the destruction of Assyria as a wasteland that's full of stumps. He goes and he opens up the chapter and says that the line of Jesse is likened to a stump. Did you see it in our text? There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse. He portrays something that's dead, something that's lifeless, something that's no good. This is prophecy. And if any of you know like I know, that there definitely came a time where in that line there was not much good coming after David. His son, Solomon, and those who would come after, it seemed as though the promise was given up. So it's no wonder that Isaiah here has Jesse's lineage pictured as a dead stump because that's exactly what the lineage, the line, the family, the kingdom looked like when Joseph and Mary came trotting into Bethlehem. Think about Jesus's genealogy. It says Salmon, the father of Boaz by Rahab. If you know who that is, you know that there's some scandal in there. Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. And Jesse the father of David the king, and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. It goes on and says, Amos, the father of Josiah, and Josiah was the father of Jeconiah, and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon. Eleazar was the father of Matthan, and Matthan was the father of Jacob. By the time you get to the birth of Christ, Jesus's line is full of all kinds of scandal and suffering. We've been in captivity, we've seen people lying. We've seen all kinds of immorality and this is what has happened. This is how the line has been perverted. And you get down to Matthew one and verse 16 and it says that Jacob, the father of Joseph was the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Jesse's line was full of scandal and sin, yet springing up is a new branch that grows and it bears fruit. It's Jesus. It's the Messiah springing up life out of that which seems as though it is lifeless and no good. It's life rising out of that which is otherwise lifeless. You know why he can do that? Because the spirit of the Lord rests on him, it says in verses two and three. This is similar to Isaiah 61, which he would go on and layer on and say, the spirit of the Lord is upon me. He's anointed me to preach good news to the captives. He's anointed me to set those free. He's anointed me to proclaim liberty in the year of the Lord's favor. And Jesus would actually stand up in the temple, unroll a scroll and read that Isaiah 61 and say, this has been fulfilled today in your hearing, the scriptures are talking about me. The reason why when we come to seeing that there was hope and there is peace that's available to us is because life comes out of that which seems like it's dead and it's only in Jesus Christ. It makes sense that Isaiah would go on later in verse number 10. If you look down or if you have a Bible open, he goes from talking about the shoot of Jesse to calling him the root of Jesse. A shoot, this idea that a new branch comes up out of that stump and grows and life comes out of it. Now all of a sudden he's pointing to the fact that that can happen because Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ is actually in the root. He's in the very foundation. He can bring life out of what seems lifeless because he's the one that undergirds it all. The Messiah brings life, he brings salvation. He brings that to his people and it's no matter their condition, no matter their location. It doesn't matter what has come or what is happening before Jesus, the Messiah brings life. And he brings peace and he does that even out of destruction. To quote Jesus standing over Lazarus's grave in John 11:25 he says, I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, while he dies, he shall live. Resurrection power, life, which is peace with God. When sin entered the world and death through sin, it separated and it made us enemies of God. Every person, every man, woman, boy and girl born under heaven, affected by sin is separated from God as an enemy. And yet a shoot. No. How about the root of Jesse, springs up and bears fruit, brings about a remnant. It's salvation, it's life, it's peace because it's peace with God. In verse 11 it says that he will be essentially assigned for the people as our banner for the nations, right? In that day, the Lord will extend his hand to recover the remnant that remains of his people from all over the world essentially and from the coastlands of the sea, and that includes Ventura I'd say. This peace is first and foremost a peace with God. That's why Romans chapter five opens up with verse number one and it says this. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The prince of peace brings peace with God and that's justification. That's salvation. That is the best news for anyone and that is the greatest gift that could ever come in the advent season and it was ushered in it's first advent and we longed for that day. First Peter tells us that we will receive the salvation for which we have longed for and what we've waited for. So we have been saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. That justification is a beautiful thing because it is peace with God. It's peace with God. I don't know what or in this room not familiar with most of you, I don't know who might be experiencing your own inner war, your own inner turmoil, your own separation. You may be very convinced that you are an enemy of God or you may just know that you're one of his beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, but everything around seems like it's up in arms. There's devastation, there's frustration, there's brokenness. There's even turmoil on the inside. I'm here to tell you that whatever appears to be impossibly dead and without peace and without hope can be resurrected by the Messiah, the prince of peace. He can transform you and it today. Jesus wants to resurrect it by making peace with God. He can bring peace to a family that's full of tumult. He can reconcile an otherwise broken and divided relationship. Jesus can resurrect a dead marriage. He doesn't need Dave Ramsey to bring financial peace to your pocket book, but it starts with peace with God. I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he'll live. Peace with God. Jesus, the shoot from Jesse's stump is the Messiah who's peace can breathe life into everything and everyone who believes. It's when we have peace with him that we then go and we have peace with one another. He brings peace with God as the prince of peace, but he also brings peace among men and that's our second point. Peace among men here is giving us a visual picture in verses three to five where we see him judging with justice and fairness. I'm not going to read it all, but we just see that he doesn't judge. He doesn't judge by what his eyes see, it says. And it says he doesn't decide disputes by what his ears hear. He has equal concern for the poor and he impartial against poverty. He cares about those who are meek and on the margins. He cares about the least of these. In fact, he came into the world to reach the least, the last and the lost. And the prince of peace stands between any disputes or any distinction. And rather than judging by what appears like it looks good or it sounds right or it may appear or look like something impressive. No, he judges by justice and fairness and with righteousness. It says he judges with wisdom and understanding. He's informed by the fear of the Lord. He decides on behalf of the marginalized with a covenant faithfulness is essentially what's presented to us in those verses. I read the Proverbs often and Proverbs 16 says that we can reconcile relationships and watch God bring wholeness and unity to all of our relationships when we walk in his ways. It says it like this, when a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. If you read the message Bible, it says even his enemies will shake his hand at the door. I've been in some circumstances where some people had to give me dawg they really didn't want to, but because of God's favor and because of the cross and because I'm not walking around holding onto bitterness. What's up dawg? I got love for you. The cross brings about peace in our relationships. I'm skipping ahead talking about the cross but you guys get it. Ultimately we see this fulfilled in Christ. He rights the wrongs between humanity and he does that and gives us righteousness, does that by his righteousness at the cross. Ephesians chapter two, I'll begin in verse 13 I think you have a couple of the verses that might be on the screen, but now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. He goes on and says that he creates in himself one new man in place of the two divided and hostile groups, so making peace. He made peace and he reconciles us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility and he came and he preached peace to you who were far off and peace to you who are near. He's talking about Jews and Gentiles, people who could not be more separated than the East is from the West. I'm talking about those who absolutely have no dealings with one another and who thought of one another that they ought to be despised and avoided and that there's so much division that it's characterized as a dividing wall of hostility. And it says that Jesus at the cross tore it down and made peace by making them one. What a beautiful picture that if we read Isaiah chapter 11 and we see him ruling by fairness and we understand that he is one who judges with justice and he's one who doesn't look on the outward, right? But he looks on the inward and he's characterized by righteousness and faithfulness and the fear of the Lord is what counsels him and directs him. What a beautiful picture to know that that is ultimately pictured for us. Yes, at the first advent of Christ, but we know that it ushers and it leads us to longing for that second advent because he was born as a baby, but he was born to die and on that cross he made peace with God and he made peace with us, vertical and horizontal. The cross of Jesus Christ, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ, all of his miracles and ultimately his death, burial, and resurrection are all about not just our vertical peace, but our horizontal peace. He purchases that for us. You may look around and ask yourself, will this world ever have peace? You may hear me read something like what I just stated from the headlines. You shake your head in a peace treaty in Afghanistan 18 years later and roll your eyes. I look around me on holidays and I see broken family. I see broken hearts. I see broken trust. I see countries and individuals alike who are absolutely divided. Peace, peace, there is no peace. When I look around and I look at this world, individuals, companies, whole countries fight each other for no valid reason other than selfish greed oftentimes. That's what we see if we don't look through the eyes of scripture and see with the eyes that this peace gives us, that we might be able to look beyond circumstances. There's hope for this violence plagued world, it's the prince of peace who reconciles all people from every nation together in himself. And not only does he reconcile tribes and towns, but Isaiah says the prince of peace will ultimately be bringing peace to towns and tigers too. We've considered peace with God and peace among men and now let's look at peace on earth. Read with me verses six to nine. I think this is fascinating. The Wolf show dwell with the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with the young goat and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze. Their young shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. This is redemption and restoration. This is the mission of God. This is what it's all about. This is the final restoration. This is the final picture, this is what we all longed for. He redeems all things, all creation. He restores all things, all creation. In the Messiah's reign, all that frustrates creation and fractures communities is reconciled and made right. Death and destruction are done away with. Verses six through nine portray this impossible. All these things that are meant to make us shutter, it portrays them as these beautiful things to long for and to hope for. It makes it possible all of a sudden that wolves are lying with lambs and leopards and goats are lying together and all these creatures who normally don't even coexist, they become like family. They're usually predator and prey and now all of a sudden they dwell together in this crazy unity. Infants playing with venomous snakes. When I read that I think about being in Zimbabwe. I went to a snake farm and as I walked down and the guy just showed us, "This is a rattlesnake. If it bites you, you'd be dead in seven days." What was next after that? I think it was the... I don't even know some other snake that I'm not familiar with. If that one bites you, you'd be kind of okay. And we go all the way down this list and then he starts going, he said, "This is a cobra. If you get that one's venom in your eyes, you'll be blind, but if it bites you, you'd be dead in 24 hours. This is the black mamba." And I thought that was just Kobe Bryant. I didn't know it was a real snake and I saw this big long thing and it was amazing. It was beautiful. It was less than black, it was more silver. It was very nice looking, beautiful. He said, "But if that thing bites you, you'd be dead in an hour or so, just a few hours." Right? So I'm looking at this cobra and I'm looking at this black mamba and I'm like, "I want to get out of here. I don't even want to be here." He said, "No. I want to show you one more thing." He said, "This is a puff adder." Now we don't use that word much. And I considered reading from the NIV that says, I don't know, I think it uses something like rattlesnake. But no, the adder is actually different than that. He said, "This is a puff adder." The thing was probably about this long, but it was that fat and it puffs itself up. He said, "If this thing gets a drop of its venom into your blood, your blood will coagulate like jello in seconds and you die on the spot. No one's ever survived this." And I'm staring at this thing. I've never seen an adder in my life. Now all of a sudden I'm captivated by it. And in reading and in studying this, I'm hearing that a weaned child, a one or a two year old, three year old, I'm supposed to see that they would stick their hand in a den full of adders and be safe and be fine under the Messiah's reign and his rule because he has brought peace on all of the earth. My Lord, I long for that. Right now, I cannot fathom that, it seems otherwise impossible. These images compel us to this hope beyond reason. They call us to believe and to wait for impossible things and even to expect them and they find their home in the prince of peace. He brings that to earth. I think some say the all this is literal and they refer to a final time when the actual literal reign and rule of Jesus will come and then it will take place on this earth. It will be the final restoration and the final revelation of God's chosen people. And then some say this is a picture of the work of Christ in human hearts today. A picture, more of a metaphor. I definitely believe that. I think we can all agree wholeheartedly that this is at least a metaphor that pictures a spiritual peace. Even if it is more than that, I doubt seriously that it can ever be less than that. It has got to bring us a spiritual peace before we see the literal. A peace that rules kingdom hearts and progressively ushers in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for that and we work for that. I also believe it is literal. There's certainly coming a day when the curse is reversed and removed from the earth. Paul goes to length about that redemption on such a day and he calls it the great day of the revelation of the sons of God. I talk frequently about how Romans eight is depicted in the Chronicles of Narnia where all of a sudden you see who they are and they're revealed before all of creation and even the trees. They're bright and they're swaying and they're singing because the curse has been lifted. All creation groans. The animals eat one another. There's death, there's decay. There are weeds. Because Romans eight says that all of creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but until that day, the revelation of the sons of God. God does bring peace on earth and he will literally do that. But for those of us who place our faith in the Messiah now, it begins in the here and in the now already, but not fully recognized yet. Remember, it's all a love story. For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, his Messiah, to bring peace between us and him, peace between tribes and nations and to usher in peace on earth. How do we pray Lord? Pray like this, our father who are in heaven, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Peace on earth, goodwill, the angels sang towards all who he's pleased with. All men means all from every tribe, every town, every area, every place. And so whether it's the love of God or it's brotherly love or it's laundry love, you guys are very familiar with that. Look forward to joining you in it on December 24th. It's all by the redemptive peace that's brought to the world through Jesus in the gospel. Amen? Redemptive peace, spiritual, literal, metaphorical, whatever you want to call it. At the end of the day, what we should be seeing is that the prince of peace, he himself is our peace and he gives us peace with God. He brings peace between us and also brings peace to our world. Let's see if we can make this a bit more practical. What seems impossible in your life today? What seems impossible in our community today? Dead, lifeless, impossible. Let this advent season in this week of peace remind you that because of the presence of Christ, life actually springs up from death. There is resurrection power. Hope comes forth from disappointment. Peace is birthed in the midst of chaos. The impossible becomes possible through the coming, the advent of the prince of peace, the Christ. When Jesus left heaven's glory to arrive in Bethlehem, he was on a peace mission. He was on a mission to bring peace. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be known as the prince of peace. As princey, graciously and judiciously reigns in the realm of peace and everything about him and everything around him is peaceful. And when we put our faith in him, there can be chaos on the outside but peace on the inside. That's why Philippians two tells you to take all your chaos, all your anxieties, all your worries and pray to him and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding and don't make no sense to everybody else who sees that you lost this loved one and you lost that finance and you've got this broken relationship, all of a sudden they see peace. How in the world is it that he, she has such peace? It's because the prince of peace gives us this threefold peace when we place our faith in him. Life can be lived in a constant tension, but I think if we just allow him to, God has a different plan for us as his children. I'm going to conclude here. I just want to remind us in this advent season, which is really Christmas season, which is really consumeristic season, which is really frustrating, the trials and tribulation of life can rob us of the sense of peace in holiday. It's been hijacked by consumerism and for some of us, it's been hijacked by death, by suffering, a loss, by memories that seem like they're just fading and fading away. I want to recapture them. I want to redo them. I want to do over and I can't. God initiated his redemptive plan to provide us with peace in our relationship with him, with others and within the world. He brought that to us and the prince of peace. We need to be comforted by that. We also need to be compelled by that because we know yes, that Romans five says, the only way to peace with God comes through faith and the finished work of Jesus. And as we trust Christ to transform our lives, the peace we have with God is something that takes over us, but the truth of the matter is that if it is a real peace, it will begin to spill out onto our neighbors and seep out into our neighborhoods. The peace won't just be vertical, the peace will be horizontal and it will be experiential. The question for us is, are we going to allow the advent season and are we going to allow the prince of peace to reign in our hearts for the kingdom to come and his will be done in Ventura as it is in heaven?

The Grace of God has Appeared

Titus 2:11-14 • November 24, 2019 • Bert Alcorn

Big idea: - Jesus has come, he’s coming again, and that changes everything. Key texts: - Titus 2:11-14; Genesis 3:15; Psalm 77:11-12; 2 Peter 3:13; John 1:14 Transcript: - How many of you guys find yourself stumbling into Christmastime and sort of like, "Yeah, all right. Thank you, John for being the only honest one in the room. The rest of you guys are liars"? How often do you just stumble and be like, "Oh shoot, it's Christmas." The list suddenly of Christmas present gets really long, and you're overwhelmed by the family commitments and obligations, and work schedules, and suddenly have no idea what you signed up for, but you're right in the thick of it? One of the things Advent does is Advent prepares us. It prepares us to celebrate in a whole kind of different way. And so what we want to do is take these next few weeks, you'll be hearing for me, you'll be hearing from a few other people who lead churches here in Ventura and actually prepare ourselves, prepare ourselves, the church for what God has done and will do through the season. And many of us grew up with this idea that the Advent story or Christmas begins in a stable. We can picture the scene. If you grew up in church you can picture the flannelgraph moment on the board there. You can picture the coloring book stories. But the story of Advent actually does not start in a stable outside of a city, it actually starts in a garden thousands of years before when God created the world and all the things were as it should be, creation was functioning perfectly, everything was as it should be. Creation was functioning at God's good, beautiful design. Man and woman walked in this unbroken relationship and fellowship with God. Right there is where the Advent story starts. Because in an instant, in a moment of time, in a slip-up of trust and believing the lie that relationship was broken and busted. In an instant, everything changed. Adam and Eve no longer believed God's good instructions for this world and believed the voice of somebody else. And creation was thrown into chaos, darkness, depravity, fear, shame, selfishness. All this stuff flooded the human heart separating man from God. But right then in that moment of darkness and that moment when everything was thrown into chaos and all seemed lost, God made a promise. You don't have to turn there but in Genesis chapter 3, what some scholars and theologians have called the very first gospel Proclamation. Genesis chapter 3 verse 15, God says this after sin has entered the world, man and woman believe the lies of the enemy over the truth of God. And God says this, talking to the Satan, the serpent the personification of evil, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel." From the first moment of our need of rescue, God made a promise. He made a promise to us and to all mankind, this promise for grace, getting something we do not deserve. We opened the door for sin and death and rebellion in this world and in that moment God promised that he would make things right. And so the Advent story starts. Before he addressed even Adam and Eve in this moment God turns to the serpent and announced that sin would not have the final say, that death would not have the final say, that not all was lost. That someone would come and make things. That someone would bruise the head of the enemy. A savior was needed, a messiah. And right here in Genesis 3:15 is where the Advent story starts, where this long-awaited expectation for Jesus the Christ, the messiah, the savior where it all begins. But the story continues throughout the entire Bible, throughout the Old Testament. God spoke to his people about the promise and gave them things to watch out for in order to recognize the savior when he comes. God revealed that this Messiah, this Savior, he would be born in the line of David, of the tribe of Judah. He'd be even born in this town of Bethlehem that he would be a man of sorrows crushed despised rejected justifying many through what he suffered. That this promised deliverer would be a light overcoming darkness, sin, and death. That he would be a preacher, the good news to the poor, one walking in the power of the spirit. And there were hints and shadows of him everywhere, all throughout the story of God. And God also reminded his people to not lose heart in their waiting because from that moment in Genesis to the moment Jesus enters the scene is a really, really, really long time. And so God encourages his people do not lose heart. They waited for a long time. They spoke of this promise rescuer from generation to generation. They told their kids and their kids told their kids through endless cycles of war and poverty, and exile, and rebellion and captivity, and restoration. They watched and they waited anxiously, expectantly for God's faithfulness, for God to keep his promise because God had always kept his promises. Our world is full of evidence that something is wrong and needs to be made right, and this has been the case since Genesis. And the reason we celebrate Advent today is because the story of the garden does not end in man's rebellion and separation from God. But we know the story ends in redemption and reconciliation and resurrection, and the catalyst to make that possible was Jesus entering humanity. And so after hundreds and thousands of years arriving as a small baby. Jesus brought down the kingdoms of Earth and forever changed the course of human history. This is one of, if not the most important events of all human history. The almighty eternal creator of the universe becoming human living among us and suffering on our behalf in order to give us life. And so Advent is all about celebrating Jesus in a time and in a season that we can, unchecked, get swept up in all the Christmasy type things, Advent is about celebrating Jesus. The Old Testament looked expectantly to the savior that would come, that would fulfill all the promises of God. And the New Testament looks back on that moment as the singular human event in history that forever changed the course of all time and space in history. But it doesn't just look back, it looks forward because Jesus said, "I'm coming again to finish what I started." And this is the theme of Advent looking back and looking forward. This word comes from a Latin word that means coming or arrival. And we during this season celebrate the first Advent, the first coming of Jesus, and we live in that tension where we look back and we look forward to his second Advent, his second coming. Jesus Christ has come and will come again. This is what Advent is about. And over the next couple of weeks there are some parts of our life that the story touches in really profound ways. And there are a few classical or traditional categories of Advent or themes to be processing and thinking through because Jesus has so forever changed everything. And over these next four weeks, we'll be looking at each of these four historic themes of Advent, peace, hope, joy, love, but not in the abstract, not in the way they get defined in our marriage or our friendships or with our family here on earth but in the way that Jesus himself has redefined these things. Jesus is our peace because only through him, we can have peace with God and others. And so biblically peace is not just the absence of conflict but it's the presence of something or someone else, Jesus himself. Jesus is our hope, the hope of the church and we purchased with his blood, and his coming is the eager expectation and desire of all people who trust in him. He has forever saved us, but we eagerly await the completion of what he has done. He's our joy because he is our greatest treasure and greatest good. And there is this unique type of joy that Christians are called to that is not happiness. It is so much more than happiness. It is more than a good mood. It is a choice to trust that God will fulfill his purposes no matter what circumstance you live in. Jesus is our true joy and he is our love because it was the ultimate act of love for Christ to descend, to be made human, to extend the love of God to us. And each of these biblical themes help us remember what God has done, help us remember what he will do and helps train us to live in the present wedged between those two realities, which is what we're doing for the next few weeks, looking back, looking forward and seeing how that changes our present reality. The purpose of Advent is to remember, it's to anticipate but it's also to celebrate, to live differently here and now. We remember that God has sent his son to step into our world to initiate his rescue plan for all humanity and creation. So we look to the past, we searched the scriptures, we see how God has already been faithful to his people. We look to our own lives to see how God has been faithful to us, and we remember that. We are a forgetful people, forgetful. And I'm not just talking about forgetting what you ate last week, we forget often what God has done for us. That's why so many of the refrains in scripture are like this one in Psalm 77, "I will remember the deeds of you, Lord. Yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds." This kind of refrain in Psalm 77 happens all over the Psalms and all over the Bible because we are a forgetful people. Especially when our faith is tested, we forget how God has already met us in the past. As we're thinking about our 90 days of generosity, this generosity challenge. We're already forgetful for how God has lavishly provided for us already. We said, "We can't possibly be more generous. I don't have any margin. I don't have anything to give," and we forget how God has already been generous to us. When we're in moments of hopelessness in our work, in our family, and our relationships, we forget the Christ has already sustained us and brought us more hope than we could ever possibly imagine here and now. We are a forgetful people and so the call of Advent is to remember what God has already done, to remember that he has sent his son, Jesus to Earth, incarnate, living and breathing to provide us life. Jesus even says one of the roles of the Holy Spirit, says this in John 14 is to help us remember what he has done and what he has taught us. When we anticipate Jesus' second return, we look ahead to when Jesus comes back again, brings our resurrected bodies in the day when God makes everything right again. And Peter has this encouragement in 2 Peter 3. He says, "But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new Earth, in which righteousness dwells." We are eagerly awaiting. And so we are wedged between these two realities of remembering what God has done already, how he's been faithful. How he has kept his promises. How he's provided for us. How he's been our peace, and our hope, and our joy, and our love. But things are not the way they should be. There's still sickness, there's still rebellion, there's still war, there's still sinfulness in you and sinfulness in me and so we look ahead to that day when Jesus comes, makes everything right. Sets creation back to the way it was supposed to be. And so what do we do in the middle? In the middle of these two tensions, in the middle of this reality of looking backwards and looking forwards, how does that shape here, how we live here and now? It causes us to celebrate how that reality of sitting in this unique moment of God where Jesus has come and he's coming again, we celebrate how that changes everything. And how actually when we embrace and follow Jesus, we are more bound to the life that's to come than the life that was behind. And we actually, our role is part of bringing that kingdom here to Earth now. You are not passive passengers on the bus, but you become active participants and you help bring about God's kingdom here and now as we eat early await for him to return. Remembering, anticipating, celebrating are all acts and postures of grace because you suck at all those things. And so do I. And without the Holy Spirit in us, we cannot possibly get beyond our own self-centeredness to remember what God has done. We cannot get past our own despair and our own despondency to see that things will be better that this world is not all there is, and to actually sit wedged in between those things looking beyond our circumstances, and to say I can have joy here and now. I can have peace here and now. I can have love and hope not because I'm something awesome, but because we trust Jesus who has come once and is coming again. He has filled me with his Spirit to bring about his kingdom here and now as we sit in this moment in history looking back and looking forward. His grace has given us this long story of faithfulness and salvation. His grace gives us a hope for the future a day when not because of our own right standing, but because of Jesus is everything will be set right. And as Grace is the means by which we live our present lives wedged between these two realities. We have to ask ourselves, and the question that we are putting in front of each other and I'm putting in front of you as the outset of this Advent season is before you even start listening to Christmas music, we wanted this question before us. How do we live here and now? In light of the past and the future, how do we live in the present? This is a common theme we've actually been wrestling with as a church because the end of 1 Corinthians is all about having the right future in mind, and letting that dictate and shape how we live here and now. And this Advent season is no differently. It's having the right future in mind and also remembering what God has done in the past and letting that shape how we live here and now in the present. How does the first Advent and the second advent of Jesus change how we live here and now? And to that end, there's an encouragement from Paul wedged right in the middle of this letter to a budding church planter and apostle on the island of Crete, which is right in the middle of the Mediterranean. It's to Titus. This person for whom he has placed on this island is planting churches, he's setting in order what is in disorder, he's helping churches flourish and wedged right in the middle of some instructions on setting elders into place teaching the right doctor and helping people live in this context of following Jesus. He has this encouragement about the grace of God. So if you have your Bible, that was all introduction to get us to Titus chapter 2, Titus chapter 2 and verse 11 Paul writes, "For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people." The grace of God has appeared. How? What do you think Paul is getting at here? Anyone wan to take a guess? What is Paul getting at here? Christmas. Christmas. No. Paul's getting at Jesus. Jesus, the grace of God made manifest in the person and work of Jesus. He has appeared and he is the manifestation of God's grace, and through him salvation is available to all. It's no longer a Jewish centric story. It's not only a uni-ethnic story, but it's available to all people, no matter your background, race, socioeconomic status, where you're from, what you've believed in the past. Salvation is available to all people. "All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved," Paul says in Romans. And our hearts reading that should be filled with wonder, and thanksgiving, and gratitude, and awe and worship, but it should also fill us with something else. This determination to no longer be bound by the old self, to no longer be fooled into following the plans and the schemes of the enemy. When we realized we have been rescued from the clutches of evil against which we were helpless, you had no way out. No amount of good works or right thinking got you out of that. The grace of God has appeared. Our resolution is strengthened to never go back there to that place. Over and over again as Paul's talking to new Christians says, "Put on the new self, take off the old. Don't go back to that place, to that way of thinking, to that way of acting." Keep in step with the spirit, not the flesh because that is something else. You have been rescued, you have been redeemed, you've been brought into the kingdom of light and rescued out of the kingdom of darkness, so live like it. And that's what Paul gets into here. It's like being rescued from prison and fighting the urge to go back into the cell. Paul says, "Don't do it. You've been freed already." And this is why Paul links two ideas here about grace in verse 11 and 12. Two ideas that I want to tee up for our season in Advent. That's why the rescue of saving grace, bringing salvation to all, he links to training grace. Saving grace does not leave you to your own devices, but it actually puts us in training mode, in workout mode, in practice mode. Look at this in verse 12, "For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people." What's the next word? Training. Training us. This saving grace trains us to put off some things, to put on some things, to renounce some things and to live into some things. There is in the saving grace saying no to things so that you can say yes to things. George Harris, many of you know. He says, "Everything in life is a trade-off. You have limited capacity, limited time, limited money, whatever. Everything in life is a trade-off." What Paul is getting out here is this saving grace is a bit of a trade-off as well. There's no room for saying yes to Jesus and still wanting the old ways we used to live. This saving grace actually trains us into a new life, a different posture. This is saying no to something so that we can live a yes to other things. What are those things? Luckily Paul does not leave us hanging here. Continue on in verse 12. Training us to renounce, two things, ungodliness and worldly passions, which are just the most Christianese words were going to glaze right past. So I want to define them a little bit for you. Saying no to these things, by the way, are not just the entry point into Christian life, it is the path of daily repentance. These things try to creep their way back into our lives and often we let them. And so this is a daily practice of faith and repentance to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions. And in the most simplistic forms, I'll break these down for you, ungodliness, the first word is like external. It's sinful actions, behaviors, things you actually do with your mind, your eyes, your hands, whatever, practices in life. They're sacrilegious words, deeds, if you will. They are external behaviors. The second word Paul gives us worldly passions is like an internal desire. It is your internal thought life, your inner life. The stuff that happens when no one is looking. The things you are thinking when no one can peer into your eyes is sinful desires that produce those deeds. I mean, there's so much more we could do on each one of those words, but what I hope you see is external and internal as Paul's way of saying everything. Everything that isn't of God, everything on the inside that people have no idea, the things you think about, your spouse, your friends, your co-workers. The things that lead you towards those external actions, those external sinful actions, he says to renounce those. There's a scene in The Office where Michael is like running out of money and he thinks the way to get out is to declare bankruptcy, and he comes out and what does he say? I declare bankruptcy. Yeah, I declare bankruptcy. And then Oscar comes over and says, "That's not actually how you do this." But for Paul this is actually how you do this. Out loud, you say the things that are holding you captive. Out loud you repent of the things of your old life. Out loud and regularly, not just the entry point but daily faith and repentance, out loud saying, "I'm renouncing these sinful desires and these sinful actions." Earlier in our all church prayer, pre-gathering prayer, we're sitting around and we were just expressing together... Because I made them, but we're going around the circle and we're expressing together just how we were coming in today, lazy, tired, distracted, frazzled, some thankful, joyful whatever. Just expressing how we're coming in this morning and letting the gospel actually preach to our own souls. There is something beautiful, uncomfortable maybe, but beautiful, healthy and necessary in the life of of Jesus follower to out loud repent and renounce the things of the enemy, of the world, of our own flesh that take hold in our life. The saving grace leads us to renounce to put off both sinful actions and sinful desires, things that are outside of God's good intent for you in your life. But it's not just negative, the saving grace also trains us in these positive virtues or ways of life as well. Notice the language shift, it's no longer renouncing something but it's living a certain way. So you renounce the things of the old self and the saving grace enables us to live a yes to these other things. First is self controlled, self controlled. Aristotle said about self-control, the avoidance of extremes and careful consideration for responsible action. It's basically... Well, no. I was going to go in a weird tangent. I will not do that today, I promise you guys. It is righteous constraint on your own actions. You can't self control somebody else. That's you, self controlling you. It's taking thought, taking every captive thought. It is daily putting on the things of God, daily saying no to things to help you say yes to things. Upright, this is righteous conduct in dealing with other people. Notice the picture Paul is starting to build here. Self-control the starts with you. The saving grace trains you to be self-controlled, to not give in to every urge and every desire, to not be impulsive, to not be overindulgent to actually scale back. Here's one of the beautiful things about fasting is just practicing self-control, practicing that you get to tell your body what's going on. It's a beautiful thing about budgeting and generosity. It's you telling your money what to do, not being dictated by how much is in your bank account. Self-control. But then he moves to upright. This righteous conduct in dealing with other people. It's integrity, it's honor. It's keeping your word. It's keeping in step with the spirit. It's compassion and grace for other people. It's a moves from you to others, but if Paul stops there and just talks about being self-controlled and upright, and if being a Christian only involved those two things, self-control over our own passions and upright behavior before other people, we might get the idea that Christian life was only a matter of living according to certain rules and not to others. By adding this third word, godly to the ways grace teaches us how to live, Paul reminds us that the Christian life is one of dependence on God. The interesting thing about this word godly is it's not talking about more proper ways to live, it's remembering that a relationship with God results in a life that honors God. But the first part is the first part, that from a relationship with God, from that saving grace entering is from the reality that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, we can actually live a life that honors God here and now. That's not something to pass off to the future and say, "When everything is made right, then we can finally live the way God wants us to live." It's saying, "No. God is actually interrupted humanity and history giving you his spirit so that you can live like Jesus here and now." It's this reverence respect towards God. Godliness is not a consequence of human resolution or willpower. You cannot self-will yourself to be godly. It's relying on God. It's a relationship with him that results in a life that honors him. And so taking these three characteristics taught by grace in order, we learned that the life of grace is comprehensive. It involves yourself, your own actions, your own thought life, your own behaviors even when no one's watching. It involves how you interact with other people. But most importantly it's a reflection and outflow of your relationship with God. And the key part of this that we cannot leave out is this happens in the present age. This is not the result of our glorified resurrected bodies down the road. This happens here and now. Paul says, "Live self-controlled upright and godly lives in the present age. Grace enables and produces all of these virtues here and now in this present age." And even though we are not yet what we will be perfectly whole, made right in our new glorified and resurrected bodies, God's grace has transforming effects on us here and now to become who we are. And all this happens in the present age as we wait. Notice even in Titus chapter 2, the past, present, future narrative of grace. God has done something. Grace has appeared to all people bringing salvation. In this present age, you renounce and say no to ungodly sinful actions and desires, and behaviors, and you're saying yes, to this new life of self-control, of uprightness of godly lives as we wait. Notice that verse 12 just sits right in the middle chronologically what God has already done and what he will do. Verse 13 says, "Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ," wedged right in between our anticipation of what's to come and recognition of what God has already done, you are to live a certain way, a way that prepares us. A way that says the saving grace has not just come to me but through me, and it's actually changing how I live, training me to live the way of Jesus not the way of the world. Certainty about this future enables constancy in the present. Faithfulness, perseverance, here and now, day by day living in the grace of God, and not using that as an excuse to do whatever we want and believe whatever gospel we want, but letting it train us to be self-controlled, upright, and godly in this present age as we wait. As we wait for Jesus. We know what will happen. We know the end of the story. Jesus comes back. He will return. He's victorious and resurrects all those who follow him and that certainty of God's redemption and reconciliation changes how we live in the present, because of that reality that Jesus has come and he is coming again. It's the reason we live differently. It's the reason we budget differently. It's the reason we calender differently. It's the reason we can live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We can live holy, righteous, pure lives because we know what the end game is, and this life is not all there is. How much of your life makes sense if you only have 80 or 90 years, versus you looking towards this blessed hope? If this season here on Earth is preparation for what's to come, how much does your life actually prepare you for what's to come? Or is it just running out the hedonistic clock while you can. Jesus Christ who gave himself for us. Verse 14 says, "The work of salvation is his, not ours, not because of your works, his work. And because of that we are his purchased by his blood. We are his to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possessions who are zealous for good works." Paul anchors this entire thought in the reality that one of the parts of Jesus defeating death was to make you holy. It's not fire insurance. It's not just to keep you out of hell. It's actually to change your life here and now, to make you holy, to make you blameless in the words of 1 Thessalonians that he would sanctify us completely. One of God's goals for your life is to make you holy, make you more like his son, Jesus. Holiness, righteousness, purity, all these words get a bad rep because I think of the fundamentalist movement in the last 50 or so years. But Paul clearly says, "This is Jesus's goal free life. He saved you in part so that you would become holy." Not that you would one day avoid something that seems really bad, but you would enjoy him so fully here and now that actually changes the way you live. It alters your priorities, it alters what makes you satisfied. It alters what makes you happy, what makes you complete. It changes everything. And to forsake godliness and holiness and purity is to despise the very sacrifice of Christ. To add your voice to the scoffers as he's on the cross, and to say your sacrifice wasn't good enough. It didn't change enough. It wasn't powerful enough. Paul says this saving grace trains us to renounce those old sinful ways, daily. Not just once is the entry point and then you're good, but daily recognize that we are plagued by sin and death and selfish motives and desires and behaviors to renounce them and to live out this new life of being self-controlled and upright and godly. The grace of God has appeared says Paul in the person of Jesus, in a stable promised from a garden, and his grace isn't just saving grace, but it is training grace. And often at Christmastime why I went on that whole tirade is we do celebrate the training grace at Christmastime which is good. We definitely should. I'm not advocating for anything different, but we abandon this training grace. Like, "Okay, Jesus was born. He's a cute little baby. He died on the cross and then I can do whatever I want." No one actually says that. You don't say that, I don't say that. But how often do we live like that? Paul says, "A true saving grace doesn't actually leave us in that spot. It trains us to become different. It trains us to become different sorts of humans who are bought into a different kingdom with a different economy." He says, "I'm actually a part of this kingdom that's here but it's not fully here and by me participating and living, and I'm actually helping that kingdom come here to Earth and exposing that to other people so that they would have hope and light as well. This year we have the opportunity to practice and enjoy not just saving grace but training grace. What if in this Christmas season one of your goals was to become more holy? What if we actually took this saving grace and training grace seriously? What if and how we inter with a family this week, family you love or family you can't stand, over the next few weeks as you go to Christmas parties, you go to work, as you buy presents, you do all these things that are fun and terrible all mashed together in about six weeks, what if we actually took saving grace and training grace seriously into those moments? We actually said, "Okay, I'm going to this family dinner. I don't like any of these people, but is an opportunity for me to be trained by grace." I got to work over time over the holidays because everyone else is bailing and I'm just staying here in Ventura. What if that was an opportunity for training grace? As you're buying presents and running out your budget, and exploding your budget, what if that was an opportunity for grace, the grace of God to train you to live differently? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a phenomenal book. He wrote a bunch of amazing books. He lived during the time of World War II and worked out these ideas of discipleship in one of the most oppressive regimes ever. And he says something in his book, The Cost of Discipleship about cheap grace. He warned us of this cheap grace. This grace that promises to rescue us but to not renew us. This cheap grace that offers to save us from hell but not from our sins. A grace that says, "It's okay, you don't have to change." And he says this, I want to share with you a quote, it's a little bit long, but it's worth it, and he said this, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate." However, on the flip side, he says, "Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow and his grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it costs God the life of his son. You were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God, which is the celebration of Advent and Christmas. So we celebrate here grace that saves, grace that trains, and the costly incarnation of God on our behalf. John opens his biography of Jesus saying the word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we have seen his glory, glory as the only son from a father full of grace and truth. Jesus the hope of the world. God's manifestation of grace and the glory of the father became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. He has come and he's coming again and that changes everything. The grace of God has appeared bringing hope and salvation for all, bringing a saving grace and a training grace. So will we resist his saving grace or will we embrace it? Will we resist the training grace or will we embrace it? Will we say no to the things that Jesus has saved us from and say yes, to the life he has called us to? So maybe a question to ask yourself, what is Jesus calling you to renounce? What is the Holy Spirit prompt that has been here for the last 20 minutes that you've been trying to suppress? One of the things I really rely on when I teach and preach is that the Holy Spirit is doing his thing, because sometimes I'm good and sometimes I'm not very good and I have little to no control over that, but what I do know is whenever I'm preaching I know the Holy Spirit is working in you. What is he calling you to renounce? You don't have to think too hard. Chances are you know what it is already. What is he calling you to renounce? How will you do that? What is he calling you to pick up to put on, to live out in his Titus language? What is he calling you to live that yes? What is he calling you to renounce? What is he calling you to live out?