Advent #3 – 2014

FINDING THE JOY OF OUR SALVATION – Pete Bauer

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on December 14, 2014.  To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Is.12.

The themes for the 3rd sunday in Advent have to do with joy, healing and our anticipation of the coming of Jesus the Messiah.  This morning we want to look at Isaiah 12, which was written to people looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as a day of great joy–the “Day of the Lord.”  Isaiah wrote about a day in which a righteous king would come and heal the land, bringing forgiveness and justice for the people of God.  The clear expectation of Isaiah was that the coming of the Messiah would be a life changing event for the people of God.

What is Joy?  Now, what we need to see is that what the prophet promised in Isaiah twelve has come true for us, the people of God, in part.  In other words, the joy that the prophet is described must, in some sense, be true of God’s people today.

However, joy is a tricky subject, hard to define.  Before we launch into a discussion of joy, we need to distinguish between what the world often means by joy and what the Bible describes as joy.  The Word’s idea of joy is fun and good times and feeling happy–states of mind and being that are directly tied to circumstances.  Sometimes, what Christians mean by joy is a pasted on smile or a plastic, unauthentic happiness, or a forced happy pleasantness to avoid bringing others down.

But what is joy?  I think that Christian joy must be a response to what God has done and is doing in our lives–by rejoicing.  So let’s define joy by saying that “joy” is shorthand for a sense that God is at work in our lives and that we are actually seeing/experiencing healing in our lives, which moves us to want to rejoice, to be glad, to praise God for his goodness.

This morning, I  want to look Isaiah 12, which is a prophecy about the joyful life that was going to be the result of the Messiah’s coming, and apply it to our present day situation.  I believe that this passage describes for us what a truly joyful life in the Lord can look like.

WE FIND JOY WHEN WE FIND PEACE WITH GOD.

We Find Joy When God’s Anger Turns To Comfort:  “Then you will say on that day,  ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord;  For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.

Isaiah was thinking about the day in which God would send a Spirit-filled, deliverer-king who would govern God’s people in such a way that they would be righteous people.  The Jewish kingdom would be a government that did what was right and was helped by God to overcome enemies.

But we know that Jesus came not only to be a reform king for Israel, but as the Son of God, to suffer the judgment for sin.  Jesus created justice not by imprisoning or getting rid of all the bad people, but by suffering the just punishment that we had earned for our sins–both those things which we have done, and those things which we ought to have done but didn’t.  Those who put their trust in Jesus’ sacrifice receive not only the pardon of God, but the continuing comfort and love of God.

This day in which we live is “the day” that Isaiah looked forward to with great anticipation.  The Messiah has come.  We have reason for joy because our standing before God has been changed, altered.  We were the unjust people, sinners, who had lived selfish, evil, destructive lives in rebellion against God.  But Jesus has rescued us, begun a change in our nature, forgiven our sins, and given us the right to be welcome in the presence of God.  Jesus, the Messiah has overcome the penalty of our sin and now brings sinners to God as dearly loved children.

So the question that we need to ask ourselves is, do we believe this?  One way to discern what we believe is to ask ourselves questions:  What does God think of you?  How does God feel when he looks at you?  Do you think God is disappointed?  Do you think he is angry?  Do you think God is disinterested and distant, or frustrated with you?  These are the kinds of things we think and tell ourselves about God.  We have an ongoing dialogue with ourselves in our own minds where we tell ourselves that God is disappointed, angry, etc.  We are our own best accusers.

But the good news is that God is none of these things–God rejoices over you.  We are God’s prize–his precious possession through Jesus, the Messiah.

WE FIND JOY WHEN WE FIND STRENGTH IN GOD.

Now, most people recognize what I have just said as the Gospel.  Many of us have received forgiveness of our sin and have joy because of the favor we enjoy with God.  But there is a tendency in believers to stop here and not to receive the benefits, which Isaiah anticipated, which are the result  of their new standing of favor with God.

We Find Joy When God is Our Strength:  What does it mean to say that God is our strength? How does God help us?  There are those who claim that God fixes all of their problems and makes our lives easy.  This idea is hard to reconcile with the life of Jesus.  Others say that they trust in God and he gives them strength–meaning a good feeling.   But what does it mean to say that God is my strength?  What kinds of things does Scripture say about this?

  • That God is for us–loves us– has turned his attention towards us–is paying attention to our lives.
  • That God directs our lives.  That there is a higher history-destiny going on in our lives than what we anticipate will happen to us, because God is directing our lives.  This does not mean “Making them easy,” but rather that God, who is good, and who loves us, has a redemptive plan for our lives.  That may not mean that he is going to cooperate with our plan–he may redeem it.  It does mean that I am not going to be left on my own to descend into death.  God is with us.
  • That God is with us–actually present and listening  to our troubles, fears, needs, questions, life.

When we trust in a God who is actually with us, listening, caring, involved in our lives, then our perspective on life changes, and the way we live changes.  We begin to recognize where we have been living by trying to be our own strength…

  • Our Own Strength is Worry:  We fret and worry over things we can’t control.  We try to anticipate and control the future–rather than handing these things over to God in prayer and trusting him to guide us as we work through the situations of life.
  • Our Own Strength is Winning People:  We try to win the affirmation and love of people we can’t control–rather than accepting the affirmation of God who is for us.
  • Our Own Strength is Trying Harder: We respond to sin and failure, more often than not, by promising God we won’t fail again, or by developing our own strategies for healing–rather than  facing and accepting our need for grace and and asking God to heal our lives.
  • Our Own Strength is Selfishness:  We all have very definite ideas about how we want our lives to go and we fight over, manipulate, push to get our way.

Our Strength Determines Our Song:  “For the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”  It is easy to slide over these words, but they say something profoundly important about joy.  When God is my strength–when I am trusting in him and depending on him, then I begin to see that he does walk with me through difficulties.  When that happens, I sing–I respond by reciting what God has done for me.  I become more aware of God’s loving presence in my life and my song of response is a song of joy.

When I am trying to be my own strength I also sing–a song of frustration, anger, depression, despair, irritation, stress, fear.  We all are always singing (metaphorically) some kind of song.

DRAW YOUR STRENGTH AND JOY FROM GOD.

We Have The Fountain of Life:  “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”  Isaiah assumes that, in that day, when Messiah comes, the people of God will, of course, joyfully celebrate their salvation–rejoicing over the presence and help and love and forgiveness of God.  But this is not automatically what happens with us.  We live between Jesus’ comings and, although we have the beginnings of God’s Spirit, we are not yet completed.  We anticipate and trust that we will be transformed into the joyful people we long to be.  However, right now, we live in a time of distractions, addictions, fears, sorrows, struggle.

We can choose to draw water from the well-spring of salvation.  We can turn to him as our standing and our strength and in the process find joy.  He will always welcome us.

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