This week our E-newsletter previews the next two messages: “The Cost of Righteousness” (12/23) and “The Proof of Righteousness” (12/24). As both messages are a continuation of our series Jesus Wins, and preached in close proximity, we thought it made sense to combine our preview. But after receiving the following jotting of an anonymous young person during last week’s 9:30 service it makes me wonder.
That’s a classic, wouldn’t you say? I’m considering finding out who this kid is and doing a joint message some Sunday!
Now, on to the previews… This week in a letter to the Pittsburgh Presbytery, Dr. Sheldon Sorge, General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery, wrote:
Martin Luther came to think of his sin not as that which separated him from God, but as that which brought near to him the Savior who would take away his sin. If we had no sin, we’d need no Savior. What the coming of Jesus teaches us is that our sin brings God near to us to grant us wholeness in place of our brokenness, and justification in place of our judgment.
Luther used to wear out confessors until the Holy Spirit opened up the heart of the Gospel to him. As Luther learned, the heart of the Gospel is how a sinner can be made a saint.
When surveys are conducted among Christians and the question is asked, “What is God’s chief attribute?” The invariable answer is love. And yet such an answer begs another question, “If love is God’s chief attribute, how do you explain His judgment?” After nearly thirty years of ordained ministry I can’t begin to recall the numbers of times I have heard Christians ask, “How could a loving God do/allow ---?” It’s a question that doesn’t originate with men but was first posited by Satan.
Think of it. Satan believed that if he could induce men to will their own will rather than God’s will, God will send the same divine response Satan endured. When Lucifer rebelled, the judgment of God was swift and eternal. He was cast from the heavenly Eden into a darkened and ruined creation. For him the words, “The wages of sin is death,” were axiomatic. He had experienced them firsthand. And yet, when divine judgment comes on sinful man there’s grace all over it. In the pronouncements of work and birth and the clothing of animal skins God showers these offenders with His grace. And, of course, the pinnacle of His grace is heard in His promise of Genesis 3:15.
But by the time we come to Isaiah 55, thousands of years have passed since the Garden and Satan has seen no evidence of his head being crushed. Indeed, when God invites His people to come and buy food and drink for no money, etc., the vast majority turn Him down opting to satisfy their own will again, rather than His.
But as we will see on Christmas Sunday, Isaiah 55:1-9 is not only a shot across Satan’s bow; it’s a completely shocking unfolding of God’s plan of redemption by the seed of woman – the Son of David. We will look at five points – the Scene (v.1); the Surprise (v. 3); the Secret (v. 4); the Solution (vvs. 6 & 7); and the Significance (vvs. 8 & 9).
In preparation for Christmas Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. What was the point of the Protestant Reformation?
2. Who is the first audience to hear Isaiah 55?
3. Who is Cyrus and how did God use him?
4. Why does Jesus quote Isaiah more than any other Old Testament prophet?
5. What is the significance of the covenant referenced in verse 3?
6. Who is the “witness” in verse 4?
7. What do you make of God’s claim, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Malachi 1:2,3; Romans 9:13)?
8. What does the word “compassion” mean as used by God in verse 7?
9. What did Luther mean by the statement, “O felix culpa”?
10. What does it mean to say that without the holiness of God there would be no knowledge of the love of God?
Our Christmas Eve message is a striking illustration of what we cover on Christmas Sunday. Here in Luke 14:1-14 Jesus is at a Sabbath dinner party thrown by a ruling Pharisee. Here Jesus is put to the test. Rather than testing Him with words, they test Him with a broken man in much the same way they test Him in John 7:53-8:11. They bring in a man who’s suffering from a serious disease to see whether or not Jesus will try to heal him on the Sabbath. But that’s not the only test present at that party. The account can be divided into three parts, each providing Jesus center stage. In part one He deals with the infirm man. In parts two and three He offers advice about being a guest and a host. And as we will see on Monday night, in everything Jesus says and does He offers a complete portrait of His Father’s righteous plan to defeat Satan and glorify His name.
In preparation for Monday night, Christmas Eve, you may wish to consider the following.
1. Do you think Jesus ever repeated His sermons?
2. How are Matthew 23:1-12; Luke 14:8-12; and Luke 18:10-14 related?
3. How does Jesus’ message in these texts address Satan’s rebellion?
4. How many times does Jesus heal on the Sabbath?
5. How is Jesus like the man He heals?
6. How is Jesus like the perfect dinner guest?
7. How is Jesus like the perfect dinner host?
8. How is the point of Righteousness made clear in this text?
See you Sunday and Monday!