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Oh, the times we live in. Seems that we’ve tried everything; things others have suggested and some things we have come up with ourselves to try and make this Gospel work for us; work just like we want it to. We’ve tried saying everything, praying everything and sometimes believing anything, in order to see the proof of God in our lives. It will come as no surprise to those that have talked to me that I regard Paul’s writings (post-Jesus) as the most ‘necessary’ resource for finding the things that the Spirit of God wants to reveal to His Church. When people ask me where to start reading the Bible I usually suggest starting with Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It’s very important because this book is written in past tense and your high school English teacher has already taught you what past tense means. From there I suggest the letters to the Galatians, Ephesians and Romans. Those are foundational to our faith, and having a proper foundation is so important when building the whole house of God. I know it’s a bit goofy, but I think all the other writings of Scripture must be held up to Paul’s writings in order to understand their meaning, subjecting them to the light of the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus and Paul for clarification. This apostle was chosen uniquely by God to share His heart and His words.
In the Old Testament I suggest the Prophet Isaiah. I’m aware these are just personal preferences; however, other than David’s revelation of God’s Love and Mercy in the Psalms, I find Isaiah an O.T. book full of New Testament revelation. Written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah is largely about our Savior and the Church today. In it is, in my thinking, some of the foundational teachings about the Christian life that we must learn, especially today.
Almost all remember Isaiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth. They are aware of Isaiah’s teaching of the rejection of Messiah, of Jesus’ silent trial, suffering and sacrifice. This prophet gave us the list of characteristics of Christ expression: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father and Prince of Peace. He revealed that God would appoint Jesus as a covenant to the people and a light unto the nations. It’s Isaiah who confirms that this anointed One would take away our sins.
Isaiah identifies that there would be a time future when believers could trust and live out of their hearts. In fact, Isaiah tells us that we must live out of our hearts to serve God. Isaiah spoke of an order to the ministry of God (Chapter 28), simplified: that the Christian life would be put together ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’. It’s putting one foot in front of the other and just keeping on doing those things that are declared as Gospel action time after time. If we follow the wisdom and knowledge of God we will see the fruit of ‘following Him’. When we oppose the order of God, His wisdom, we will stumble backward; we will be broken, snared and taken captive (vs. 13). In verses 13 and 14, the Hebrew word translated ‘marvelous’ implies singleness. When we are dealt with ‘in a marvelous way’ (when we are without the wisdom of God, separating ourselves from it), the results are described in verse 14, ‘the wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the discernment of the discerning men shall be concealed.’ That sounds a lot like the mess we find ourselves in right now. It’s not the Father holding out on us, it’s the result of not following the progressive order of His Word and the wisdom found within it.
Isaiah’s remedy for New Testament living is found in Chapter 58:5. There, he contrasts an old and the new fasting. He obligates New Testament believers to fast, teaching of a fast from themselves rather than foods. It’s a fast away from our own interest, our own preservation. When we concern ourselves with ministry that loosens what binds, undoing the bands of the yoked and letting the oppressed go free, then we will see what is promised in verse 8: ‘your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth…then you will call upon the Lord and He will answer you, you will cry and He will say ‘Here am I.’
That’s what I hear the most from people when they describe where they would like to be in their Christian walk. Verse 9 encourages us to stop pointing the finger of accusation and condemnation. If we will do that, then our light will rise in the darkness and our gloom will become as midday. Not following the wisdom of Isaiah’s teaching leaves us without expectation of God’s revealings. There is a great promise found in Isaiah 60, it’s a promise about the angel of His presence, ‘Arise, shine for your light has come, and the Glory of the Lord has come upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness on the people; but the Lord will rise upon you and His Glory will appear upon you…and your heart will thrill and rejoice.’ How? When we are in ‘order on order’, building our faith ‘line upon line’, without that consistency we perish. This Christian faith is a lifestyle; it’s not a try this now and try something else later. Paul said he had become the same in all things. There was no changing in Paul. He did the same no matter what. We could use a little more of that in our lives, not judging the Gospel day to day but having determined in our minds about it from now until our eternity begins.
When we turn from God’s consistency for implementing the Power of God, we become single and we are without the Power of God to perform the glorious in our hearts. Notice I said hearts. That’s the joy of this Gospel; nothing external is as rewarding as what can be experienced in our hearts. All the splendor of Solomon cannot compare to the rejoicing to be found in our hearts. Jesus boiled it down to the simple: it’s in giving that we receive. That’s a first thing. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you, that is the order of God. You have to ‘bake’ it for awhile in the oven of God’s time. Keep putting in, even when you don’t see immediate results. I have a long story about this radio ministry along these lines that’s much too long to share here, but I can tell you that we constantly are looking for ways to serve the Gospel and its people, not looking for immediate confirmation, but just doing the same thing over and over, putting things in the oven to develop over time. We do not keep looking in to see how it’s going; we just trust it will go well in the long run.
Many times the secret of God is just getting into the order of God. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ yields an avenue for God to travel your heart. Don’t give up too soon. To do this Gospel any other way will drive us crazy. Trying to accomplish that lifestyle in our own effort and ability will leave us frustrated. Only the Spirit of God, living in and through us, has the capacity to produce the life we all hope for.
Let me add one thing that might be controversial, but true from my experience just the same. It is what I believe has made our journey terrific, although the road has been long. We do not serve people, we serve the Gospel. Our attention is on it. Our actions are for the Gospel’s sake. People are just the beneficiaries of our serving the Word. Trying to serve people just for people’s sake, while virtuous and good, can be frustrating and does not produce the long lasting joy of having served the Gospel. This Christian life is about Him and Him alone. People will benefit from the fruit of our serving the Gospel. We will benefit from the Joy of the Gospel from having served Him.