Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Becoming Oaks of Righteousness – Part 1

This week Michael writes: Jesus read verses from Isaiah 61 at his hometown of Nazareth, when he began his ministry. Isaiah had prophesied these words about the coming of the Messiah over 600 years before and Jesus opened the scroll and read these words to fulfill this prophecy:

Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Jesus read this passage through the phrase, "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." This was the purpose of His first coming. At His second coming He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when He proclaims "the day of vengeance of our God." Even though we are in "the acceptable year of the Lord," we can still rest assured that He binds up the broken-hearted and "comforts all that mourn." Despite the tribulation, distress, pain, and disappointments of this world, God is still on the throne.  He is sovereign over all. He never says, "I didn't see that coming." He's never caught off guard. When we run to our Lord in our pain and grief, He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that we may be called "oaks of righteousness."

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

This week Michael writes: Three weeks ago many of us in our Men’s bible Study were blessed to attend the memorial service for our group leader’s wife. All who attended were confronted about the reality that in this life, the mortality rate is 100%. However, we mourn not as others who have no hope.  His wife's life was a witness and a living testimony of the good news of the gospel of Christ. For each person that hears the Gospel there are four possible responses. The first response is to reject it outright. For these people, their heart is not ready to turn around, repent, and surrender all. The gospel confronts them with the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, they have not reached the point of "conviction" and prefer to continue in sin.   

Most church goers are in the second and third categories. Those in the second category are the ones who go to church and are nudged in the direction of "repentance unto salvation", but the exchange never happens in their hearts. Even though they walk down the aisle and are baptized, they live in Romans 7, where the "law of sin and death" separates us from a true and living relationship with our Lord. They have not come to an understanding of Romans 8, the "law of the spirit of life in Christ."  

Those in the third category belong to a certain "denomination" and say "Jesus is Lord" but don't really mean it. These are the ones that Jesus talked about in Matthew 2:21-23 when he said:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” These people think they are saved, but they have not "done the will of my Father."  What is the "will of the Father" concerning salvation?  According to Romans 10:9-10, they have not "confessed Jesus as Lord and believed in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead." They believe in their own righteousness instead of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection on our behalf.

Let's continue Michael's message on responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

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