I love the inspiring testimonies of people who do not give up on others, parents with children who fall away, friends. Those who refuse to give up. On Thursday I stopped to see a young couple I’ve known for years… they had all three of their children with them for a supervised visitation. They’ve made some hard choices over the years, but they have never quit loving their children ~ they are going through the system. One more level of progress has now been made to be reunited with their children. I am so proud of them and I told them so….I know other parents who have all but given up. They love their children but are not willing to do the hard work of changing their life and getting the children back out of the system How about your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. There is still time. He has not given up on you, don’t give up on yourself! Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call on Him while he is near. It’s a great invitation… it’s time to go home! It is time for the wandering child to go home. God loves you beyond measure. His arms are wide open. It’s not really a matter of giving up on God, the truth is that there is a natural longing for God. It’s really a matter of giving up on yourself and your ability to change and do the hard work and be a different person that accepts God in your life. Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call on Him while he is near.
The invitation to return home is for US. It’s easy to think we’re all right because we compare ourselves to others and think we’re pretty good. That’s crazy thinking. God is not grading on a curve where a certain number of people get an A and a few get an F. Isaiah is speaking the word of the Lord to people who are broken, FEELING abandoned, but the truth: the people have abandoned God. God is always waiting and ready for his children to turn back to Him/to return home.
HOW do you return home? Isaiah 55:7 is a giant of a verse. The way Home is through Forgiveness. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Isaiah is speaking to a people who are broken. Last Sunday Chad made reference to the times Isaiah was written. The problem in dating Isaiah is that the first part of the book is written at the time leading up to the Assyrian invasion, yet in the last part there are obvious references to the Babylonian Exile. That’s about 150/200 years apart. Either Isaiah is very very old, or God gives Isaiah the words of comfort and challenge to a people for an historical event in the future, or there is more than one author of the book. To me, it makes no difference for the message is the same that Isaiah 55 is speaking to a people completely broken and have been in captivity for 70 years.
I imagine the captive Israelites are tired, broken, feel forsaken by God. Along comes the words of Isaiah: Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. These words make it clear the people have abandoned God. That seems wrong. Today, how many people in our world reject God because they feel he is not doing for them what they think he should be doing. How many people reject the church because the church has disappointed them. They feel abandoned. God is saying you have abandoned me. This is a giant of a thought: Take responsibility by admitting I am the one that has drifted away/rejected God.
“Wait a minute,” I imagine the people saying in the days of slavery. “I am the one that is oppressed by a foreign nation. My father/grandfather was ripped from the homeland. It’s not my fault. And now God is saying to “Forsake my ways!” Am I to be counted among the wicked? The unrighteous? Today, when confronted with the need for God, many people not see themselves as “the wicked?” We tend to think that pretty good is good enough for God. We tend to be proud of ourselves for the good works we do… the people we bless, the faithfulness we demonstrate…. The hard truth: Only those who understand the depth of their sin will turn to God seeking forgiveness. The depth of your sin awareness corresponds to the depth of forgiveness.
The exiles of Babylon are hurting and struggling. Their captivity is a way of life. They are broken, ready to hear the comforting words of God, and what are those words? “Let the evil forsake…” Surprising words. I am a sinner. Let that thought penetrate. Pretty good is not good enough. I tell addicts committed to straighten their life out that 99 out of 100 days sober is not good enough to keep the job, get the kids back, etc… Part time faithfulness to God is not what he requires. I am a sinner that falls short of the glory of God, the fullness of God.
Only One with no trace of evil: His name is Jesus Christ.
- Only one who is worthy when purity of thoughts and actions are the measuring stick.
- Only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life.
- Only Jesus is ONE with God in thought, word and action.
- Only Christ is the lamb that is worthy.
- He alone cannot be counted among the wicked.
- There is no other.
- Jesus Christ stands alone in having no reason to seek forgiveness.
- A perfect man, God almighty, born in a manger among men.
- Jesus lived in an evil time yet navigated the course of his life with holiness, centered on his heavenly father, knowing and doing the will of God.
- Jesus was tempted like all men, but like no other man before or after, he resisted the pull of Satan and the temptations common to man.
- He rejected the temptation of self centered living.
- He could have had all earthly power heaped on himself, received the accolades of the crowds, but he gave it all up to continue the steadfast beat of doing and living God’s will.
- The life of Christ was a focused life, sifting every decision not through the lens of what it would do for him, how safe would he be, but what is God’s passion, what is God’s will. Jesus never wavered.
- Jesus prayed. Like no other man, he sought perfect unity with God and the Holy Spirit.
- He listened, he acted, he was focused.
- There was no evil found in Christ, no impure thought, no misguided well meaning action, but a simple demonstration of love for all that took him all the way to the cross.
- Today, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, is now raised from the dead.
- The resurrected Christ is alive.
- He, who lived no evil, took upon himself the penalty of the evil that lurks within every one of us.
- “Let the wicked forsake their ways, and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
- This is the good news of Jesus Christ: he is waiting for people to come to Him, to return home.
- It’s time to return home.
The greatest gift offered by God is the gift of forgiveness. The fullness of forgiveness means a transformed lifed. Forgiven people are changed people.
It seems in our day the need for forgiveness has fallen by the wayside. We act as if only people felt better about themselves or if only they could accept the love of God then they would have a better relationship with God. Forgiveness removes guilt. The next phrase in the text says the forgiven will receive mercy from the Lord. Mercy is often defined as not receiving what we deserve for our actions. Boom. Guilt is gone. The price has been paid for you.
Two aspects of forgiven are described:
1. Let the wicked forsake their ways.
2. Let the unrighteous their thoughts.
A transformation of the things we do and the things we think! Which is harder? Depends on the person. Our patterns and our mind must come under the reign of God. Sin is not as much a specific lists of wrong doing. Sin is really a matter of the heart, anything that takes you away from God. it is about the direction of your life and whether you are pointed towards God or traveling away from him. What we do is a reflection of our heart.
There is a need for repentance asking God to lead us into new patterns, a new life. There is a need for repentance asking God to change the way our mind works. Long lasting change, drawing closer to the Lord is about both what we do and how we think. For some of you, your greatest need is to be transformed in the patterns of your life. You live with guilt, you live with constant disappointment with yourself, and you keep on in destructive patterns or habbits that keep you away from God.
Let’s stop right now and pray for those whose habits need to be redeemed for God… close your eyes and bow your heads and as I pray if you want to stand then do so…
Other’s of you are stymied by your mind, overwhelming depression, negative thoughts, constant anger, resentment, apathy, withholding forgiveness from those who have hurt you…the battleground for a right walk with the Lord is often found in our minds/thoughts. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 10:5 about bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. In Rom. 12:2 he said we must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
Let’s pray for those whose mind needs to be redeemed for God… close your eyes and bow your heads and as I pray if you want to stand then do so…
Forgiveness is a transformation of what we do and how we think. God is ready to receive those who seek forgiveness. It is time to go home. It is time to quit making excuses, feeling sorry for yourself. It is time to do the hard work of forgiveness because it means you will be changed. No more holding back. No more waiting till tomorrow.
For those who seek true forgiveness through the transformation of our patterns and minds, the last part of is. 55:7 is awesome: READ. God will have mercy and God will freely pardon. This is freedom. Our God is a merciful God. What a glorious promise! When we turn to the LORD, He will have mercy on us! He will abundantly pardon! God does not reject those who turn to Him. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks a relationship with the Lord jesus Christ.
Seek the Lord… this is the reason for the season. Seek the Lord through forgiveness, the redemption of your patterns and mind. God is merciful. God will forgive your sins so you will ever be the same. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that God sent his son as a baby to earth. He is near. He is still waiting for people to seek him. It’s time to go home to God.