Skip to comments.Our Glorious Gospel
Posted on 01/06/2004 6:08:05 PM PST by P-Marlowe
18. Our Glorious Gospel
When Jesus began His public ministry, He went into the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. He was handed the Scriptures. He turned to the Book of Isaiah and read this portion to them:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-2a).
After reading it, Jesus closed the book and said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus closed the book after the reading, but Isaiah's prophecy doesn't stop there. Let's read on.
And the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, that garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified (v. 2b-3).
The glorious "good tidings" that we proclaim to you today is God's glorious message to man. In a world filled with so much misery, strife, and trouble, it's good to hear some good news for a change.
Message for the Meek
Reading the newspapers or watching the news on TV gives a sad commentary upon man's existence. Oh, how ready we are for some good news! The Gospel is good news, but who is it for?
In reading from Isaiah, Jesus declared, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings," the Gospel "unto the meek." The Gospel is for the meek, those who are conscious of their inadequacies and needs and are reaching out for help. The best way to understand the word "meek" is to separate it: me...ek. When I realize how "eeky" I am, I know what meek is all about. The Gospel is for those who recognize their need for something more, who are dissatisfied with their current status, who desire a better life.
Many people today are very satisfied with their lives. They're satisfied with their possessions and situations. The Gospel isn't for them. Other people today are extremely proud of themselves. The Gospel isn't for them, either.
The Gospel Message
What does the Gospel do? First, it is meant "to bind up the brokenhearted." We've seen Valentine's Day cards that show broken hearts. Sometimes the heart is broken through the middle and sometimes it is totally fractured. Our hearts often break because of unreciprocated love. We have a deep love for another, but it's not received and accepted. This causes our hearts to break. I wonder how many times God's heart is broken over us.
Our hearts often break over our own failures and weaknesses. We promise ourselves that we'll do certain things, but we don't seem to be capable of achieving them. So, we experience heartbreak over our inadequacies. Our desire to be what we apparently can't be and to achieve what apparently is beyond our capacity causes personal heartbreak.
The Gospel has come to bind up the brokenhearted, to let us know that we can be what God would have us to be. The good news is that we can achieve, attain, and experience a love that flows and flows and doesn't quit. The second thing that the Gospel does is "to proclaim liberty to the captives." Paul spoke of those who had fallen in the snares of the devil and had been taken captive by the devil against their will (II Timothy 2:26). Many people today have fallen into the snare of the devil and have been taken captive by the devil against their own will. In another passage Paul referred to those "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15).
We often use the term "free moral agent," but it's almost a misnomer. To say that a man is a free moral agent when he cannot help but do the things he does is a contradiction. If some compelling force is driving you to do things even when you don't want to do them, you're not free. You're a captive.
Sin often comes to you with a sugar-coated covering. You taste it and "Wow!" you plunge right into it. After the sugar is gone, you taste the bitter portion and try to spit it out. But now it's lodged in your throat and you can't get rid of it. If you're controlled by a cigarette habit or if you've got to have a drink, don't tell me you're a free moral agent. You're a captive - and the bitterness is just pouring into your system.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has come to set free those who are captive. He can break every snare and deliver men from all the bondage of corruption that has held them in its power.
The third thing the Gospel does is "the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Today the Gospel will open the prison that you find yourself in.
When we were in Ecuador, the missionaries told us that if we get involved in a car accident, even if it's not our fault, the best thing to do is to go immediately to the airport and catch the next plane out of the country. When you're involved in an accident down there, guilty or innocent, you'll land in jail. You have to stay in jail until you can prove you're innocent, but you may not get a court date for five years. And in Ecuador they don't feed the prisoners. Someone on the outside has to feed you or you'll starve to death. And that's one of the nicer things about the jails.
I've also heard about the Mexican jails. If you get thrown in, your influence in the United States doesn't mean anything to the judge. They say the best thing is to stay out, because once you're in, you're really in. I don't know how true that is, but I don't want to experiment to find out.
Let's say that you're in jail in Mexico. You've tried every way to get out. You've written to the Mexican government, the American consulate, the UN. You've done everything, and you've finally concluded that you're not going to get out. So now you want to escape. Someone comes along and says, "I have a friend who can get you out."
"How can your friend get me out? Man, I've tried everything."
"What makes you so sure?"
"He's freed thousands of others." Really! What do I have to do?"
"Just trust him." "But how's he going to do it?"
"I don't know. He has his own ways. But I know he can."
"But if I don't know how he does it, I'm not sure I want to trust him."
"It's your choice, friend. Either rot in jail or take a chance."
We find ourselves in the prison of our own lust and sin. The good news comes that there's One who can deliver us, set us free, open the doors of the prison and liberate us. But we've got to put our trust in Him completely. We've got to commit ourselves totally into His hands, trusting that He can do what He has promised. We can be assured that He's already delivered thousands out of that same jail. He has set multitudes free from the bondage of sin. He can set you free today from your prison, if you'll give Him a chance.
There is an urgency in this Gospel of Jesus Christ. "...To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Though the Lord is offering you this freedom today, His offer is subject to withdrawal at any time. You see, Jesus Christ is under no obligation to save you at all. He doesn't owe you anything. His offer comes to you strictly because He is so good and loving that He hates to see you in a mess. So He offers to set you free.
However, this offer will be withdrawn - just when, we don't know. God told Noah, "My spirit shall not always strive with man" (Genesis 6:3). If you reject His offer today, you can't be sure whether the offer will be good tomorrow. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6). "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
We proclaim to you "the acceptable year of the Lord." "Now is the accepted time." Now is the time for you to receive this glorious Gospel. Now is the time for you to be set free.
There is coming a "day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2). His offer will then be withdrawn and men shall experience nothing but what they justly deserve for their sins: the "day of vengeance of our God."
The Gospel Power
What will the Gospel do for you? Verse 3 reads: "to give unto them beauty for ashes..." I love the power of the Gospel! I've seen the effects of the Gospel, and I've seen it bring beauty for ashes. Some people are burned out, wasted, and destroyed. I've seen the Spirit of God take those burned-out lives and remake, remold, and reshape them into new and beautiful men and women.
I think of Mike MacIntosh, the pastor of our church in San Diego. When Mike first came to church, he was totally burned-out. He had taken so much acid and speed that he thought a bag was over his head and a .45 pistol was going off inside his brain. He would hear the explosion over and over. As I watched this handsome but totally burned-out young man, I wondered if he would ever recover from the damage done to his brain cells. I saw God take these ashes and begin to work with them - mold, shape, and change. I saw God restore Mike's wife and children. I saw God restore all that he had lost through his own folly.
Today, I see that beautiful young man standing before a glorious congregation in San Diego, with the glow of Jesus on his face and the love of Christ radiating from his life. I realize the power of the Gospel gives "beauty for ashes."
"The oil of joy for mourning" (Isaiah 61:3). Many people today find themselves in deep depression and sorrow of heart, grieved not only over themselves and their inadequacies, failures, and inabilities to cope, but with all of society. Our glorious Gospel gives "the oil of joy for mourning." It will lift your life from depression, sorrow, despair, and despondency to joy and hope.
The Gospel will also give you "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3). Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy leaden..." (Matthew 11:28). If the burden you're carrying is heavier than you can bear, if you feel pressed down by life and by your circumstances, our glorious Gospel will fill your heart and life with praises unto God. How glorious to see people who once wallowed in the dejection and hopelessness of this world now walk with a spring in their steps, a smile on their faces, and the garment of praise covering their lives. That's the elect of this glorious Gospel.
The Gospel Glory
What is the purpose of the Gospel? That we "might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3). God has done His work so that we might glorify Him. "To God be the glory, great things He hath done." As we see lives change - men and women set free and remade through the power of Jesus Christ, born again by the Spirit of God - we give glory to God for His work. These hopeless lives are now "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord." The changes are God's work wrought in them, and there is no other explanation for it.
So often a man who has fought against alcoholism has been defeated by it. His life is burned out, and he's now an outcast. You see him in the street in his pitiful condition. He has cried out for help. His family has tried to help him. But finally everyone has given up, and we call him a bum. As the power of the Gospel touches the ashes of his life and begins to turn him around, it changes and sets him free. The Gospel liberates him from that prison and makes of him a glorious person, beautiful to behold, a tower of strength within the community.
Only the Gospel can do that, and only God can be glorified for it. That's the purpose of the Gospel.
The Gospel Truth
You ask, "Just what is the Gospel, the good news?" Just this: Though you have failed and sinned, God loves you. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to set you free from your prison. If you'll put your trust completely in Him, He'll free you today, change your life, and make you what God wants you to be.
We have a glorious Gospel, but there's only one difficulty. To be effective it has to be applied. A fellow once asked a minister, "If your Gospel is so great, why isn't everyone a Christian?" The pastor responded, "If soap is so good, why isn't everyone clean?" Does the fact of dirty people testify against the value of soap? No. It works, but you have to apply it.
I think that ultimately it is irrelevant why someone will decide to pick up the soap and why they will lather up. The point is that unless a man picks up the soap, he will not be cleansed. God has placed the soap before you. It then becomes your responsibility to pick it up and to put the soap on your body. It is quite possible that many will actually pick up the soap, and may even pretend to put it all over their body, but they don't believe in the power of the soap, they believe in the power of themselves to get cleaned and the soap is just a step in the cleaning process and that they themselves must continually scrub themselves in order to be cleaned. Hence the soap itself just becomes additional dirt on their bodies.
But no, it is the power of the soap that brings you to the point where you can be cleaned and if you exercise a little faith and lather up believing in the power of the soap and allow God to wash you clean, then God will pour out his living water and wash you so that you will never get dirty again.
My experience is that these sorts of objections always turn out this way.
I remember vehemently objecting to a praise/worship chorus we sang at Crusade, which contained the phrase, "My heart and flesh cry out for You, the Living God." That, I argued, flew in the face of "in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). However... that phrase is almost an exact quote from Ps. 84:2. Oops....
What happened was my systematic theology had taken the place of Scripture in my mind. I believed, and still believe, in Total Depravity, so to suggest that the flesh (which I inadvertantly equated with the sinful nature -- and I'm certainly not alone) could desire God was unthinkable to me. Yet Scripture did so, and I got caught with my theological pants down.
As an aside, what can you tell me about Oklahoma's and Florida State's law schools?
Preach it, Brethren. Press on.
Then why does the Calvinist insist that before a man can be saved, that the man meditate on all his past sins prior to salvation. How is it, based on your reasoning that a man who is unsaved and cannot recognize his sins be able to meditate on them?
I believe that the flesh of every man, even in his sinful state cries out for God. But until we come into a relationship with Him, we do not understand What, or Who, we need.
"Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever." I believe that need to glorify God and enjoy him forever is within every man.
Natural man cannot even reach out to God. ICo. 1-3 and Romans 8 makes that abundantly clear.
All I was trying to say is that, while man is totally depraved in that he cannot independantly even desire to follow God, he is not wholly ruined in that once God works in him, he cannot even with his body desire to serve God.
I've never heard that....
Perhaps I was not clear (perhaps I was, but you'd distort it anyway).
I do not mean to imply that sinful man seeks God. But I do believe sinful man is seeking fulfilment, seeking purpose.
The only thing that will grant that fulfilment, that purpose is God.
But sinful man doesn't know that. I believe sin in itself is seeking for fulfilment. Often defined in pleasures that fade away.
IOW - within every man there is need for something more. In a sinful state, we don't know what that is.
That may be a calvinist cartoon depending on your a priori perspective, but the problem still lies in how do you get to the point where you are standing in front of the machine? You have to recognize that there is dirt that needs to be cleansed. You have to walk into the laundromat. After that it is indeed all automatic. Somehow, some way, you must take an active step. You have to believe that if you go into that laundromat your clothes will be cleaned. You have to recognize that your clothes are dirty. Nobody walks into the laundromat on their own. The laundromat owner calls them to the door and convinces them that their clothes are dirty and invites them in. If they walk away from the door, then they have no excuse for their situation. If they walk through the door, they will be cleaned.
Again, it is ultimately irrelevant why the person chooses to enter through the door. But enter they must.