In late November, Bro. Austin Wynn delivered one of the best and most timely sermons ever preached at Talawanda Baptist Church. Listen to his sermon on weighing our suffering against the glory of God for which He prepares us.
Elizabeth, John the Baptist (from the womb), and Mary all live to give praise to God. Mary makes God’s name great through a song that tells of His mighty deeds for His People. We are compelled by their example to use our lives for the same purpose: to bring glory to God by making His works known to all people.
While Mary’s character can be seen in other passages, God’s character is on display here. God gives grace to whom He wills. His grace is not earned, but freely given to His People.
Luke begins his account of Jesus’ birth by telling us of the day when an otherwise ordinary Jewish priest had his prayers answered. God had not spoken to His people directly for over 400 years. That all changed when Zechariah encountered an unexpected visitor inside the temple.
When God sets His People free from sin, He must deliver by His Hand. We cooperate with our lusts to the point that we do not realize that we are captive. Right when it looks like we will be destroyed, the Lord Sabaoth steps in to reclaim His People!
God uses a judgment against Assyria to show Judah the horrible nature of sin. Sin does not recognize God’s handiwork in any way, but instead puffs us up with pride.The dual nature of fire shows us how God responds to our sin through burning judgment or salvation by His light.
Our culture is filled with a spirit of entitlement. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had the same attitude after rejecting God. However, God asks a poignant question. “If you reject the True God, to whom will you cry out when His judgment falls on you?”
The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali had every reason to feel depressed and isolated. However, God promises they will be the first to be invaded by the Messiah. He will throw off their chains of slavery forever.
In this passage, Isaiah learns a little about what it will look like when God comes to dwell among His people. In a culture that wants to turn to the dead for answers, God reminds Isaiah (and us) to look to Him.
God encourages Isaiah not to live with the same mind set as the culture around him. God uses Paul to tell us the same thing in Romans 12:2. Starting with verse 12, God reveals to Isaiah at least three ways to walk counter-culturally. First, he must fear God, not men. Second, he must hide himself in God. God is a rock of protection for those who trust Him, but He is a rock of stumbling and a crushing boulder to those who do not. Third, Isaiah must wait on the Lord. In other words, he has to trust to watching God’s plan unfold. People get impatient waiting for deliverance to come, but those trusting in God will wait to see Him work. All is accomplished in the continuing work of Immanuel, especially His work on the cross.
Isaiah reiterates all that he has been sent to tell King Ahaz of Judah. God calls Ahaz again to fear Him. Then, God paints two very different pictures for him. Rejecting God and His Word leads to a sweeping judgment. Trusting in the presence of God (lit. in the Hebrew, Immanuel) leads to life. God challenges all in opposition to Him to do their worst, but He will still prevail for the sake of His Anointed One. Jesus will have His inheritance, those belonging to Him.
Ahaz receives the privileged opportunity to test God. When he refuses, Ahaz tests God’s patience. However, for the sake of His People, God gives the sign of Immanu-El, God with us. God reveals to Judah that His plan has always been and always will be to bless His People with His presence. Obedience leads to finding comfort in the God who dwells among His Own, but disobedience leads to being deceived by false hopes in political and financial security.
The Book of Isaiah can sometimes be confusing for western readers because we like our stories in chronological order. However, Isaiah compiled his prophecies according to thematic interests. The sign prophecies follow the commissioning because Isaiah wanted his fellow Jews to see God’s sovereign control over all kingdoms not just Judah. God’s Will stands and cannot be shaken, but the will of Rezin and Pekah comes to nothing. King Ahaz of Judah should take comfort in the God who preserves His people.
God’s glory leads to grace as He atones for Isaiah. Then, His grace leads Isaiah to go and tell. Isaiah receives a commission to speak to his fellow Jews the message that God has spoken. In this message, we learn a divine mystery that God is sovereign over all including the salvation of His people. Yet, the men of Judah are accountable for rejecting His message. Isaiah’s commission continues for those who have experienced God’s grace as they proclaim Him to the world.
In a time of chaos and transition after the death of King Uzziah, Isaiah sees that the true King is not dead. The one in charge is the perfectly holy God. Even the angelic beings have to hide their faces from Him. God’s holiness painfully exposes Isaiah’s sinfulness. Yet, God’s grace is sufficient for Isaiah as He makes atonement for him. Seeing God’s glory leads us to see the need for His grace.
Matthew 24-25; Isaiah 5.26-30
Isaiah finishes his prophecy of the vineyard by describing its destruction by an invading army. Jesus proclaims the same thing to His disciples letting them know how He will uproot the vineyard. He points them to the coming clash between two kingdoms: the kingdom of man vs. the Kingdom of Messiah. Then, He explains how the battle will be won by His Kingdom because He has the authority to bear the curse of sin for the purpose of destroying it. Once again, he spoils the plans of the men of Judah.
The Pharisees, as the representatives of the men of Judah, have utterly rejected the authority of God. Instead of producing the good fruit of justice, they spread injustice. Therefore, Jesus pronounces woes against them according to the prophecy of Isaiah. God’s generous compassion and provision is met with self-righteousness, pride, and indifference.
The King invites His people to the wedding of His Son, but is rejected on several fronts. The mockers show their disregard for His authority. They would rather serve themselves than be under His authority. To confront their unwillingness to submit to the authority of the King, Jesus finally asks straight out, Who am I? The mockers agree he is human and a king, but they refuse to recognize His Divinity and, the fact that He is the King. Why? They would have to submit to His authority.
Jesus tells the chief priests and elders another parable in terms they would recognize. They question Him about the authority of John the Baptist and Jesus answers by unveiling human history. As long as they can harbor a doubt about John’s authority, they do not have to listen to his message. They have a larger problem when Jesus’ authority is revealed. What do you do with the Vineyard Owner and His Son?
Jesus repeatedly shows the chief priests and elders of the people that they do not understand who He is. Yet, many who are considered inept recognize Him. The blind know who He is; the children praise His name. However, the teachers and men of Jerusalem do not know. “Seeking after God,” the elders miss Him. Claiming to know God, they prove their ignorance.
Many of us believe (wrongly) that if we are good enough, we will gain eternal life. However, we do not understand what it means to be good. Jesus corrects us through teaching a rich young man and his apostles. In this first vineyard parable, Jesus teaches His disciples that the vineyard owner will show grace on whom he wills. It is His prerogative to be generous with His property.
God’s vineyard, the men of Judah, has rebelled against Him. They reject His law and live according to one they have made for themselves. God shows them the utter wickedness of their lives. They are not rejecting His law; they are rejecting Him. Therefore, He will leave them nothing. All sin will be forever purged by the coming Kingdom of Messiah.
God is a careful vineyard keeper. He prepares the land, cultivates His crops, and expects high output. However, His vineyard rebels against Him refusing to produce fruit. He expects His people to produce justice and righteousness, but instead Judah produces bloodshed and crying.
The Day of the Lord also includes the gracious treatment of God’s people. God promises to bring fruitfulness back to creation through the work of His Branch. Messiah identifies with His people and continues to add abundance to their lives through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah’s comforting judgment here confirms the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in protecting His people through shelter; guidance; and, best of all, His presence.
Isaiah continues his prophetic warning against Judah and her leadership. When the men of Judah begin to give up their leadership positions, immature leaders and women take over. God gives a scathing rebuke against the proud women of Judah, but implicitly He is harder on the men. Judah becomes an example of what happens when nations refuse to listen to God.
Verse 5 brings Judah (and us) to a pivot point. Either they follow the nations who are flowing up to Mount Zion to hear the Word of God or they continue to serve themselves and face judgment. Isaiah tells us the decision of Judah. They would rather serve nothings (Heb. elilim) than serve the Almighty God (Heb. elohim).
Isaiah sees the Word of God leading people from all nations to Mount Zion to hear the teaching of the Law. Because of the Word, men can live at peace with one another. They destroy their weapons and turn them into cultivating tools. These tools will be used to heal relationships and societal ills of all shapes and sizes under the peacemaking work of Christ on the cross.
Isaiah, the greatest of the writing prophets, opens his prophecy with an overview of his entire ministry. He teaches Judah of their position before God. Because of sin, Judah lives in rebellion. God calls His people to repentance because His justice will be done. We stand with Judah in need of God’s grace.
One of the greatest themes that Matthew develops in his Gospel is Jesus’ authority. From the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claims astounding authority for Himself. Who can make binding blessings and judgments? Who can demand obedience? God alone. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus claims for Himself. Then, proving it to His disciples, He heals a leper. In touching the leper, He risks being rendered unclean according to the Law, but instead He infects the leper with His purity.
Jesus uses two illustrations to point us to Him. First, He shows that judgment is coming and our works cannot save us. In the second image, He teaches us that construction on a solid foundation is essential. Therefore, Jesus constructs His church on the foundation of who He is.
Matthew 26.20-32; John 13.21-30
Jesus delivers an important message to Judas and to His disciples. Amazingly, He uses a very simple prop to reveal the most important message the world has ever known: some bread and wine. The same message results in very different outcomes. For Judas, hope is gone as he enters eternal night, but the disciples witness the commencement of everlasting life.
Which way will you go? The broad way is easy and everybody takes it. The narrow way is hard and you cannot start it on your own. Jesus places His people on a different path that looks different to everyone treading the broad way.
Jesus uses three images to tell of the greatness of God’s forgiveness. God is not malicious; He is our loving Father who knows our greatest need before we come to Him.
Forgiveness plays a vital role in ministering the gospel. Yet, forgiveness wrongly ministered can hinder the gospel because it confuses the message.
Anxiety does not prove how much concern you have for your life. It shows how much you do not trust God. God has made us for a better purpose than to worry over food and drink and our next paycheck. Our purpose is found in God alone.
Bro. Austin takes us to a familiar passage to see how one can be reborn.
1 John 5
Austin leads us through the marks of a Christian. These things are not done to become a Christian, but are evidences that one has been reborn.
Jesus gives us three images in order to teach us one unified lesson. We are not the ones in control. So, who is in control of you? Are you being owned by those things you thought you owned or are you willingly submitting yourself to the loving God of the universe?
Though it is currently not in vogue in the world, fasting is expected of Christ’s followers and allows us the opportunity to focus on God in an undivided way. Jesus warns us not to practice fasting as the hypocrites do because drawing attention to yourself completely defeats the purpose from the start.
Our Father knows our greatest needs and meets them through prayer. We must eat to live. However, more than anything, we need to have a restored relationship with Him. Then, He will enable us to flee from the evil that easily ensnares us. Christ teaches us in the prayer that we are completely dependent on the Father for everything and He will supply all because it is His Kingdom that we are brought into, His Power that enables us, and His Glory that gives us purpose.
Christ teaches that prayer focuses on our Father. Therefore, we must be His sons in order to be heard. Only God’s sons can truly pray for His name to be set apart and honored above all others. Only His people pray for His Kingdom to come. Only His people deny themselves to see His will done. We cannot become sons through our labors because we would never deserve the title. However, God in His grace names us as His when He calls us out from the world.
When doing in-depth Bible study, it is imperative that we understand the context of any given passage. This is especially important for those passages that are so familiar to us that we can easily miss the meaning. Try seeing the model prayer again for the first time as we explore its immediate and extended context.
We have need for something that we cannot provide for ourselves. Since God knows our deepest need for redemption and has done something about it, how much more can we trust Him with the everyday cares of life. Depression, sore throats, and bank accounts do not seem too difficult for God when you consider that He holds the entire universe together.
While the world might flatter a big giver, God sees the secret places of the heart. If you give to gain a reputation among men, you will receive exactly what you want. However, God calls that one a hypocrite. On the outside, we see good deeds, but on the inside, God sees a fake. The good heart gives because of God’s character. The evil heart gives because giving is admired among men.
Jesus concludes His reinterpretation of the Law according to the original intent. We see more than ever the Trinitarian God acting to reveal Himself to us. The Father reveals His Heart in the Law. The Son lives it out. The Spirit gives us a new heart to obey Him. Praise God that He demonstrates the Law through the cross of Christ even while we were enemies!
We find God’s fairness and mercy unexpectedly in the Law when we understand that the Law is the revelation of God’s heart. However, the teachers of Israel pervert the Law to fit their desires and revenge escalates. Jesus uses this important teaching to reveal to us that we have no rights over anything because we are not the final authority, but are under authority.
If we make an oath, then ultimately we are swearing by the Lord. Therefore, we should be a people who keep their word. Praise God that He keeps His Word through the very One who teaches us this important truth.
Jesus teaches His disciples against the sinful prevailing view of the culture. Contrary to what they may have heard, there is no such thing as divorce between two children of God. God expects His people to reflect His character as His Spirit changes their hearts.
Jesus corrects the erroneous teaching of the day and warns His disciples against the danger of committing adultery in their hearts. Things go terribly wrong when our evil hearts commission other parts of the body to carry out the vile acts of sin.
Mary hears God’s declaration of war from the lips of an angel. To understand this declaration, we must remember the first time an angel spoke to a woman. Christ has come to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found!