Monday, August 22, 2011

Sermon on Isaiah 51:1-6, for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, "Your Attention, Please!"

Sermon outline

1. Do you ever get the feeling like God is trying to get your attention? Alarm bells? Financial collapse, disasters, personal illness, consequences of bad choices hit home, chaos in cities. All shake our security or peace. No clear message.

2. God is trying to get our attention, in His Word—notice all the “attention-getters” in Isaiah 51:1-6. “Listen to me...look to the rock...Give attention to me...give ear to me..lift up your eyes...look at...” Are we hitting “snooze” when God’s trying to get our attention? Spiritual sleep, unaware of God, ignoring. Alarm doesn’t shut off (Law). Wake up and listen…good news comes on. (Gospel)

3. What is He calling our attention to? He interprets (v. 6) the instability we see all around us. Not only the health, peace, and financial security are at risk, but the very heavens and earth, and those who dwell on it, are passing away. Attention! Peace isn’t in these! Look to Jesus, to His promises, to His salvation and righteousness. The comfy bed you are snoozing in (i.e. the world) is going to disappear out of under you!

4. Jesus’ ministry was the Instruction (Torah--more than ‘what can you do to obey’, but also promise) that God was going to send out and bring comfort for His people. Look to His justice, a light for the peoples. Pay attention! Pay attention! The warning is going out, and the light is raised for us to see and be saved. Like a lighthouse.

5. Jesus sent out His teaching of eternal life. This is the Gospel news. He was raised like a light for the nations. His justice is the light. We reflect that light to others. The lighthouse of Jesus’ justice, the torah of eternal life, shows us what is real and eternal. Not the heavens, earth, and its inhabitants, but the salvation and righteousness of God. Salvation by grace, righteousness of faith, not of the works of the law.

6. This is the message we should be paying attention to, giving ear to, when all things are collapsing around us. Hey! We knew that would happen! Trust what is lasting and real!

7. Righteousness and salvation drawing near. God’s plan is advancing toward us. Are we part of it or not? Pursue righteousness—seek the Lord: “30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” (Rom. 9:30-32) Righteousness is found in Jesus, not in ourselves.

8. Our puzzlement/worry about the speed and the location of the Gospel’s advance. Why not in some places? Why so long? Failed mission efforts. Aging or apparently dying churches. The mission will succeed in God’s timing. Planted seeds that bloom late. Romans 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” We don’t have the “God’s-eye-view” of why some are saved and not others.

9. Abraham and Sarah...remember your origins! Same way God will work through the Word, His Torah, to create the church. May look barren, dry, aging. But the promise!

10. Deserts, wastelands, wildernesses, turned to gardens and paradise, filled with joy and song. The church is a sanctuary, an oasis in a desert or waste place, because it has Christ, the Living Water. The church is an outpost with refreshing water in a parched world. A feast in the midst of famine. Joy and thanksgiving and song, in the midst of sorrow in a suffering world.

11. The light is for all nations. The Gentiles. All should hear the message. The coastlands/islands hope in Him and wait for His arm (that brings salvation!). We’re here spreading the word in the islands. When the mission seems unfruitful, remember Abraham and Sarah! Barren > fruitful, wasteland > garden. Remember God’s Word is active and powerful.

12. The church shines the beacon of Christ’s justice, righteousness and salvation. Hope for the distressed, those in darkness, those shaken by the warning signs that the world will not hold together forever--God’s salvation will be forever, His righteousness never dismayed. Trust in Him, and you will not be dismayed.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What events in life might compel us to turn to God’s Word for answers? What things have shaken the whole world recently? What does this tell us about the (im)permanence of the world? Isaiah 51:6; 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:22-25. Where should we put our trust and confidence instead?

2. Isaiah 51:4 talks about “a law” going out from God, His justice for the nations. “Law” here is in the original Hebrew “torah” which means more than just laws and commandments. It means “teaching” or “instruction,” inclusive of all of God’s Word—both law (commands) and gospel (promises & good news). Who would make this “teaching” go out, and serve as a light to the nations? See Matt. 12:18-21; Luke 2:32

3. How does the church bear this light to the nations? How is Jesus’ teaching the way to eternal life? John 6:68; 5:24; 14:6

4. What does it mean to pursue righteousness? Is. 51:1, 7. What are two different ways to pursue it, and which one leads to eternal life? Rom. 9:30-32.

5. Whose righteousness do we get by faith? What is the quality of this righteousness and salvation? Isaiah 51:6

6. How can the success (or apparent lack thereof) of the mission sometimes cause discouragement or doubt? How does the example of Abraham and Sarah remind us of how God is able to work when things seem barren or unsuccessful? Isaiah 51:1-2.

7. How is the church a sanctuary or oasis in the desert? A lighthouse? Who is the water? The Light? John 7:37-38; 8:12.

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