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Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—Called to ...

Notes & Transcripts

After the call to come and receive God’s satisfying salvation free of charge, the Prophet Isaiah instructs us to come in repentance also. We are called to repent of doing things our way because God’s ways and our ways are immeasurably different. Those who come to the Lord in repentance, ready to live life God’s way, find that He abundantly pardons. All sinners need God’s forgiveness, His grace, and His new life.

God brings about His purpose in life and in our life by His Wonder Working Word.

I. CALLED TO SEEK GOD AND REPENT vv. 6-7

    • “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6–7, NIV84)
            1. in verse 6 we are exhorted to embrace God’s salvation when we sense His nearness
                1. seek the Lord while He may be found
                2. call upon Him while He is near
            2. this invitation to seek and call is a universal invitation
                1. in light of the fact that the Gentiles are to be included in the household of faith (vv. 4, 5), the invitation addressed to all who are wicked and men of iniquity
                    1. here is God’s free offer of the Gospel to all men even though God is aware of who His Elect are and are not
            3. this invitation to seek and call is a limited invitation
                1. this seeking and calling upon is to take place, however, when God permits Himself to be found (such is the force of the Niphal stem)
                    1. God’s Sovereign grace is apparent in these words
                2. God cannot be found at any time but only when He desires to be found
            4. the two expressions together signify the repentance of faith and obedience
                1. they involve an abandonment of the old way of life
                    1. that old way is a life of wickedness and iniquity
                2. but more than just repentance, these verses imply a whole-souled turning unto the true God in humble faith

A. GOD COMES NEAR TO US THROUGH HIS SON AND THROUGH HIS WORD

*“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, NIV84)

            1. this New Testament verse affirms what Isaiah teaches us
                1. God comes near to us in the person of His Only Begotten Son
                2. the only way we can know about God is through His Righteous Servant
                    1. that Righteous Servant is the ultimate Word of God
                      • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1–4, NIV84)
                      • “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV84)
            2. the Lord has come near to man not only in the person of His Righteous Servant, but also in Isaiah’s preaching of the Word
                1. it’s a way that seems foolish to many men
                  • “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18–21, NIV84)
            3. God has come near because He wants to comfort the despairing, forgive the sinner, and deliver the bound
                1. it’s a message for even the most profane of sinners
                  • ILLUS. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was perhaps the most notorious atheist of the 20th century. Often profane and sarcastic, she was a powerful debater who shouted down her religious opponents. (In a 1975 debate with Dr. W.A. Criswell, she ‘ate his lunch’). After O'Hair mysteriously disappeared in 1995, her diaries were auctioned to pay back taxes she owed the federal government. They reveal an unhappy human being who didn't trust even the members of the American Atheists Association. She passed this harsh judgment on herself: "I have failed in marriage, motherhood, and as a politician." Yet she yearned for acceptance and friendship. In her diary she wrote six times, "Somebody, somewhere, love me."
                2. what must one do to experience the love of God?
                    1. sinners must seek the Lord and call upon Him
                3. what one is to seek is the presence of God and way of the Lord in one’s life
            4. it is a call to become a new creation under God’s leadership
                1. He is ready to forgive, clean the slate and give you a new page on which to write a new history
                2. we are commanded to do so before our day of grace runs out
                  • “before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you.” (Zephaniah 2:2, NIV84)
                3. the fire of God’s presence will either melt your heart or harden your heart
                  • ILLUS. An Insurance Agent had tried repeatedly to convince a man to buy fire coverage for his home. "No," the homeowner kept saying. "It’s well built, and I maintain it properly. My house will never catch fire." But one day it did! Imagine the look on that insurance agent’s face when the homeowner foolishly called to buy an insurance policy as smoke filled the sky and flames gutted his home. It was way too late!
                4. salvation, of course, is more than an eternal fire insurance policy, but when the sinner smells the sulphur, and feels the heat, and sees the flames, it will simply be too late to call upon the name of the Lord
            5. this text teaches the folly of presumption, and of putting off until tomorrow a decision that needs to be made today
                1. by paying for our sins on Calvary’s cross, Jesus has provided the only way of escape from the judgment to come
                    1. but we must make an important decision before we can enjoy that salvation
                    2. we must accept the offer while it is still good—before death overtakes us

B. WE COME NEAR TO GOD THROUGH REPENTANCE AND FAITH

    • “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7, NIV84)
            1. the call is to start life over again with God
                1. only if people forsake their way, which is the way of wickedness, and turn to the Lord and His way will they authentically be seeking and calling the Lord
                2. seeking which is not accompanied with forsaking our former way of thinking and living is not genuine seeking
                  • ILLUS. Mickey Cohen was a well-known Los Angeles gangster in the 1950's and 1960's. Very early in life he was known as a hustler, and a runner—delivering boot-leg gin made by his older brother. As a young man, he became an enforcer in Al Capone's gang. He also began running card games and engaging in other illegal activities. While in Chicago, he survived arrests, prison and at least one assassination attempt. After the attempt on his life he moved back Los Angeles, which had been his boyhood home. There, he partnered with Bugsy Siegel and helped Siegel create and then run The Flamingo Hotel. In the early 1950's, Cohen was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion. After his release he became something of a media celebrity. In 1961 he was again convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 15 years. In 1949, one of Cohen's "associates," Jim Vaus, was converted to faith in Christ by Billy Graham at his famous Los Angeles crusade. The man renounced his life of crime and made restitution for the things he had stolen. Mickey was intrigued and asked Jim Vaus to arrange a meeting with "that guy who's converting all those famous folks." A meeting was arranged, and along with a few others, Mickey Cohen sat and listened to Billy Graham preach the gospel. But he went away unconverted, and his life of crime continued and he ended up in prison. When he was released from his stint in prison, a Los Angeles evangelist named Bill Jones made it his personal mission to lead Cohen to Christ. After Cohen heard Jones's simple gospel presentation, he repeated a prayer to accept Christ. The evangelist was elated and word soon spread that Mickey Cohen, the once dangerous mobster, had turned his life over to Christ. Hallelujah! But Mickey did not change his ways. He continued his life of crime. The disheartened Jones confronted Cohen to tell him that as a Christian, he needed to put distance between himself and his old buddies in crime. Puzzled, Cohen responded, "Jones, you never told me that I had to give up my career. You never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, Christian businessmen. So what's the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all that—if that's Christianity—then count me out."
                3. well, that is Christianity and it’s why many people don’t want anything to do with it
            2. the Lord is found in turning away from our way
                1. unfortunately, in many American pulpits, the message that is being preached is “Gospel-lite”
                    1. the message of repentance has been minimized or forgotten entirely
            3. forsaking is only is only one side of true repentance, the other is turning to God which implies a change of mind, purpose and conduct
                1. lives focused earthward are turned Godward
                2. when we turn away from our wickedness and our own way of thinking and turn to God we receive His compassion and multiplied pardon
                3. in Isaiah 55:7 we hear God calling out to the godless, inviting them to come to Him and experience His mercy and forgiveness
            4. those of us who have experienced the Lord’s grace have an opportunity to proclaim His invitation to others
                1. our message is simple: God saves sinners and if the sinner will repent and turn to God they will be saved
                2. if they respond to His love for them they will find peace for their troubled hearts

II. CALLED TO GOD’S WAYS AND THOUGHTS vv. 8-9

    • “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, NIV84)
            1. ways and thoughts are repeated from verse 7 where Isaiah proclaimed what is wrong with human ways and thoughts
            2. man’s ways and thoughts seem so right to us
              • “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12, NIV84)
              • “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:2, NIV84)
            3. but man’s ways and thoughts are not God’s ways and thoughts
                1. both cannot be correct
                2. our ways and thoughts have been perverted by original sin and by living a life of unrighteousness

A. REPENTANCE AND FAITH BRING US THE MIND OF CHRIST

            1. only as we turn to God and His mercy do we acquire the Mind of Christ
              • “A person who does not have the Spirit does not accept the truths that come from the Spirit of God. That person thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because they can only be judged to be true by the Spirit. The spiritual person is able to judge all things, but no one can judge him. The Scripture says: “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been able to teach him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:14–16, NCV)
                1. the God of the Bible instructs us to turn from our sinful ways and thoughts because they are not His ways and thoughts
                2. anyone who has read the Scriptures have come to understand God’s ways are foolish to the world because His ways don’t make sense
            2. the Scriptures are full of paradoxes
                1. consider these ...
                    1. Exaltation Through Humility (Jas. 4:10)
                    2. Strength Through Weakness (2 Cor. 12:10)
                    3. Receiving Through Giving (Acts 20:35)
                    4. Freedom Through Servitude (Rom. 6:18)
                    5. Gaining Through Losing (Phil. 3:7-8)
                    6. Living Through Dying (John 12:24)
                    7. Finding Through Abandoning (Matt. 10:39)
                2. the unbeliever rejects these enigmas as impossible to understand
                    1. but the Christian, who has the Holy Spirit to enlighten him, can accept these paradoxes, realizing that, we may not fully understand them until we see the Lord face to face
            3. God is great and God is good, but God also is elusive and God is strange
                1. it’s dangerous when we think fallen man knows God’s mind, God’s will, or God’s intentions outside of biblical revelation
                2. God has indeed revealed Himself to us in Jesus, and He revealed Himself in how He moved and worked through the lives and stories recorded in the Bible
                3. but He hasn’t revealed Himself exhaustively
            4. He hasn’t ceased to work in mysterious ways

B. THE MIND OF CHRIST HELPS US TO UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERIES OF GOD

            1. verse 9 makes a vividly striking comparison between God and man
                1. our ways must be changed if one is to walk in fellowship with God
                2. if one is to find and follow God he must abandon the thinking and ways of natural man
                    1. Christians must consciencely work at developing a Biblical Worldview
                    2. a profession of faith in Christ without there being a change in our thinking, and living like Him is really rejection of Him
                3. the simple truth is, if you do not change your ways and thoughts into His ways and thoughts you are living a lie
                  • ILLUS. These are the goats who will be separated out at the end of the age.
            2. how different are God’s ways from our way, and His thoughts from our thoughts?
              • ILLUS. How high are the heavens above the earth? On December 5, 2011, astronomers trumpeted the discovery of an ‘earth-like’ planet. It’s in the ‘habitual zone’—the distance from the star it orbits that would allow for the development of life. They’s named it Kepler-22b. It’s 2.5 times bigger than our earth. The problem is that we will never know if it supports life or not, because we’re never, ever going there! It is 600 light years from Earth.
                1. that’s ‘fer away’
                    1. and Isaiah says that’s how much higher are God’s ways and thoughts from ours
            3. God’s plan is something people would have never dreamed of
                1. His knowledge and wisdom are uncomprehendably greater than man’s
                2. God makes plans that are beyond our wildest imaginations
                  • ILLUS. No one ever played basketball like Pistol Pete Maravich. He was a ball-handling wizard, a scoring machine who broke nearly every major college scoring record. Ten years as an NBA star and millions of dollars later, he retired—unhappy and empty. But that’s not the end of the story. In 1983, Pete surrendered his life to Christ. For the next four years his driving passion was to share with others the wonderful joy he had found in Jesus. Then, early in 1988, he died suddenly of heart failure while playing a pick-up game of basketball with friends. He was only 40 years old. Christians asked “Why did God take him? Why didn’t He allow Pete to continue leading people to Christ with his hard-hitting testimony?” Perhaps Pete’s autopsy report holds the answer. Doctors discovered that Pete had a congenital heart problem that should have prevented him from playing basketball. In fact, they said he probably should not have lived beyond the age of 20. Suddenly, we could get just a glimpse of God’s marvelous ways. He didn’t take Pete early; He preserved his life until he had accepted Christ and made his testimony known.
            4. because God is so far above us in wisdom and knowledge, it is remarkable that we are able to understand Him at all
                1. yet in His grace He has provided the written Scriptures to tell us how to live and die well
                2. He made the way of salvation, unmistakably plain so that no one has an excuse for not receiving Christ, the gift of eternal life
                  • ILLUS. D. L. Moody once said, "I am glad there is a depth in the Bible I know nothing about, for it shows its Divine authorship.” He told the story of a man who came to him with a very difficult bible passage and said; "Mr. Moody; how do you explain that?” Moody replied, "I don’t.” "But how do you interpret it?” the man asked. “I don’t interpret it.” said Moody. "Well, how do you understand it?" the man asked in exasperation. “I don’t understand it." replied Moody. "What do with it?” the man said. "I don’t do anything with it." Moody retorted. "You don’t believe it?” the man asked. “Yes, I believe it!” said Moody. “I believe many things in the bible I don’t understand.”
            5. we need not be disturbed that we cannot comprehend all the mysteries in the Bible
              • “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29, NIV84)

III. Lessons

A. Though Salvation Is a Free Gift, God must Be Sought While One Is under the Convicting Power of God

            1. if not ...
                1. we will drift away
                2. we will erect a barrier, or
                3. we will harden our heart
            2. we are commanded to seek Him while He is near

B. True Faith Will Always Involve True Repentance

C. When We Receive God’s Free Gift, We Spend the Rest of Our Lives Developing the Mind of Christ

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