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From the Series: Restore My Soul
September 7, 2008

“He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)

Last week I was talking with a teacher in our congregation who prepares students for ministry. She told me that when she asked her class about the attributes of God, they readily answered: “God is good, God is love, God is wise, God is kind, and God is righteous.”

But when she asked, “How have you seen these attributes of God in your own life?” they really struggled. Maybe you would struggle too. How have you seen God’s wisdom in your life? How has your life been shaped by His goodness? How have you experienced His love?

Mind the gap

If you travel to London, one of the best ways to see the city is on the underground train system—The Tube. Some station platforms on The Tube are set on a curve, and that means that there is a gap between the edge of the platform and the side of the train. Every time a train comes in on one of these curved platforms you’ll hear this looped recording: “Mind the gap. Mind the gap.” You can even get London underground t-shirts that say “Mind the gap!”

For many Christians, there’s a huge gap between the faith we profess and the life we experience. That’s where God’s people were when Isaiah wrote this book about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, [1] and his message is right on target for us today.

Isaiah’s ministry lasted about 50 years—from around 740 to 690 BC. Right in the middle of that (722 BC) came the first of two great disasters in the history of God’s people: The northern kingdom of Samaria was overrun by the army of Assyria. “Lately Assyria has oppressed you” (Isaiah 52:4).

The ten tribes in Israel’s northern kingdom were gathered together and marched off to other parts of the Assyrian empire. Imagine five out of every six homes in your country destroyed, and five out of every six members of your family displaced. 80 percent of the Promised Land was now occupied territory.

These people professed faith. They were known as God’s people, but their experience of life had been quite desperate. So God sent Isaiah to them with a message about Christ and all that would be theirs (and ours) in Him.

Remember, these people never saw Christ. They lived 700 years before the birth of Jesus. We live 2000 years after the birth of Jesus. We’re in the same position as they were—living by faith in this Savior.

He restores my soul

I’m calling this series Restore My Soul, and it’s my prayer that God will do that for you. Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd…” and David tells us what that means: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

God restores your soul by leading you to Jesus Christ. That’s what God was doing through the ministry of Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and that is what He wants to do in your life today.

The subtitle for the series is 9 Heart-Cries for Revival. We’re looking for God to do something fresh and new among us: new love for Him, new life and new confidence in Him, new strength from Him, and new obedience toward Him, and that together, these things would bring new joy to Him! We’re talking about God’s breath, God’s life, God’s Spirit coming to us, individually and together, breathing into us.

Christ Came to Redeem You

The one thing I want to see happen in this series in Isaiah is for you to experience the gospel more fully in your life. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest statements of what Jesus Christ has accomplished for His people in the entire Bible: Christ came to redeem you from suffering and sin forever by sacrificing Himself as your substitute on the cross.

Christ came to redeem you from suffering

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (v4).

To redeem you means to “release you” or to “set you free.” To redeem is to do whatever it takes to get you out of the mess you’re in.

When Isaiah speaks about the redeeming work of Christ, he does not begin with our guilt and sin. That comes later. He starts with our “infirmities.” That has to include your migraines, your arthritis, your depression, and your cancer. He took up our infirmities and carried our “sorrows.” That must include the division in your family, the loss of your job, the death of your husband, and the pain of your past.

Christ has not abandoned you to your infirmities and sorrows. He refused to remain in heaven at a distance from your tears and your pain. He came. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, so that in all the world of religion you will never find anyone else like Jesus Christ, who knows what it is to stand with you in pain and sorrow. He has come into the world so that pain and sorrow will not have the last word in your life.

Christ came to redeem you from sin

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities” (v5).

Sin and suffering are wrapped up together in the Bible. They came into the world together, they exist mingled in the world together, and the Bible tells us that God will take them out of the world together.

Think about how closely they are linked. What kind of heaven would it be if there was no cancer, but human trafficking remained? What kind of hope would heaven hold for you if there was no death, but sexual abuse continued? What joy would there be in a heaven where God’s people were all gathered, but still divided by race?

Suffering continues as long as sin remains. If you want to free the world from human trafficking, and sexual abuse, and racism, you have to free the human heart from selfishness, lust and pride—which are at its root. Therefore, redeeming the world from suffering must include redeeming the heart from sin. Suffering will end when sin is defeated.

That is why Jesus came into the world—to redeem us from our suffering and sin. Isaiah tells us how Christ redeems us from our sins.

By sacrificing Himself as your substitute

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed” (v5).

When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, He was more than a friend suffering with us. Yes, He suffered with us, but Isaiah makes it very clear that He is also a substitute suffering for us.

Look at how Isaiah puts it: His “piercing”—think about his hands and feet being nailed—Why did that happen? Isaiah says that this happened to Him because of your “transgressions” and mine. His “crushing”—think about His body crushed under the weight of the beam and by the agony of the scourging—What was that all about? Isaiah says that was about Him bearing these things on account of your twistedness, your “iniquities,” your sinful nature and mine.

His “punishing”—the outpouring of the wrath of Holy God upon the Lord Himself—Why did that have to happen? So that you may have “peace” with God. And His “wounding”—What is that all about? It is so that you may fully, finally, completely, and forever in the joyful presence of your Savior be marvelously and eternally “healed.”

Christ came to redeem you forever. If you are in Christ, the suffering you know in this world is the only suffering you will ever experience in your life. Think about your eternity. What is 60 or 70 years of suffering in this world, compared to all eternity? The scale of this redemption is staggering.

Christ gladly counts the joy of your redemption…
            …as greater than the pain of his suffering

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (v. 11).

The risen Lord Jesus Christ already knows that He will look out over a vast company of redeemed people that no one can number. He already knows all of us by name. Already He walks with us, and rejoices over us as He will for eternity.

Already Christ sees us forgiven for our sins, healed from our wounds, brought out of our sorrows and into His everlasting joy. Christ counts His own joy in us greater than all the pain of His suffering. And He lives to bring us into that joy!

You are more loved than you ever dared to dream. It’s almost frightening to think of being loved that much. This love is so vast that it is difficult for us sinners to grasp—the love of the Savior who offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, substituting Himself under the piercing, crushing, punishing, and wounding that belonged to us on account of our sins.

He did all this so that we might have peace and healing as we are redeemed from our infirmities. This love, this sacrifice, this Jesus is your salvation. But who believes this? That is Isaiah’s question.

Do You Believe It?

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (v1).

Who believes this? He’s asking this question of the people of God, the people known by God’s name—the church crowd! Who really believes this here? Then he asks a second question: Who really gets it? Who gets the life-changing power of what God has done in Jesus Christ?

You may say, “Well, I do! We do! It’s in our statement of faith. We’re all Christians. We believe Christ died on the cross for our sins.” Really?

Would you say that you have lived in the conscious knowledge that the Son of God loves you and gave Himself for you this week? Knowing this subconsciously won’t change your life. Signing off on a statement of faith won’t restore your soul.

Preach the gospel to yourself every day

Earlier this year, I was given a book by Milton Vincent called “A Gospel Primer for Christians.” [2] It’s short, simple and profoundly helpful.  Milton says that many Christians make the costly mistake of viewing the Gospel as “something that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believed in Jesus for salvation:” [3]

“The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom),
so scandalous (according to my conscience), and
so incredible (according to my timid heart), that
it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should.” [4]

That means every day I have to reset my soul to embrace, believe, live on, and rejoice in all that Jesus Christ has done for me. Milton puts it this way: Preach the gospel to yourself every day.

Tell yourself who you are in Christ. Tell yourself what Christ has done for you on the cross. Tell yourself how He is with you now. Tell yourself what lies ahead of you. Tell yourself that your life is in the Redeemer’s hands.

Make sure it is the Gospel you are preaching to yourself, not the law! Some of us are in the habit of preaching the law to ourselves every day. That will drain the life out of your soul—“The letter kills, the Spirit gives life!” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Christians sometimes talk about spiritual disciplines—reading the Bible, praying, etc. I want to put this at the top of the list of spiritual disciplines: Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.  Here’s why—the Christian life is a life of faith. Faith lays hold of all that Christ has accomplished on the cross. Nourishing this faith is “Priority #1” for a healthy Christian life.

Preach the Gospel to yourself every day and your soul will be strengthened, lifted, restored, renewed. The same life looks very different when you know that life is in the Redeemer’s hands.

Your Story in a Different Frame

On the walls of a room we call “the Parlor” on our Douglas campus hangs a series of pictures showing each of the locations where our congregation has worshipped. Earlier this year the room was repainted. The team who took on that project decided that the pictures would show better if they were set in different frames.

Now that they’re in new frames, the same pictures look entirely different. Before they were hardly noticed on the wall, but now they draw your eye and are a very attractive feature.

Many people view their lives in a frame called “unbelief.” When I talk with folks who don’t feel that God loves them, I ask them “How do you know that God loves you?” Many don’t even mention the cross.

The old frame 

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men” (v2).

“Unbelief” is the default mode of the human heart. In this frame, your life looks like a series of events, from which God is largely absent. He seems passive or even hostile.

Many Christians profess faith but live in unbelief. You feel that God is largely absent from your life. You feel that He watches passively from a distance, but that he is either unable or unwilling to do anything about your illness, your family, your broken heart. He seems removed from this broken world.  If he is active, you may feel it is because he is against you, giving you what you deserve, paying you back.

If you look at your life in that frame you will live in confusion, doubt and fear. You will find yourself saying “How can there really be a God of love when my life, or the life of someone I care about, is like this?”

You may honor this God even though He doesn’t seem to care for you much. But you will do it out of fear, feeling that if you don’t something worse may happen to you. But you cannot love Him. You will not trust Him, and you certainly will not find joy in Him.

Isaiah knew that many of God’s people professed faith but lived in unbelief. If you were to believe Isaiah’s message, I mean really believe what he says here. Your life would be in a new frame called “faith.”

The new frame

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all” (v6).

Faith is the Cross-centered conviction that God is always up to something good. I spoke to a young Christian this week. He told me that he lost his job this week, and he said “I think God is yanking my chain.” His instinct was that God must be up to something, and that whatever that is, it has to be good. I said “Remember, God doesn’t view you as a dog. He sees you as a son!” But he was exactly right.

Faith says “God is totally for me!” The cross drives me to this conclusion. It trumps everything else. All around me I see suffering, pain and death. I hear evil, abuse, and injustice. I experience loneliness, heartache and disappointment. But the Son of God loves me and gave Himself for me. That outweighs everything else.

God stepped into this world of grief and sorrow so that you would not be abandoned in it or to it. In Christ, the pain you experience in this world is the only taste you will ever have of suffering for all eternity! The picture of your life would look very different in that frame.

The same life always looks different when you know that it is in the Redeemer’s hands. Joseph understood this. Placed in the frame of unbelief, his story was a catalogue of disasters.

He was born into a dysfunctional family where his brothers beat him up and he was sold as human traffic. He set his heart on integrity and suffered the loss of his job and years in prison on account of a totally false accusation from a woman who tried to seduce him. He reached out to help a colleague in prison only to find that when the man was released, he forgot about Joseph and did nothing to help him.

You read the story and you think “This man will be totally messed up—bitter and dysfunctional.” But when he finally meets his brothers, he says “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 45:5). That’s the transforming power of the Gospel.

In the Redeemers’ hands, your life is the story of God’s love and kindness reaching into your pain and sorrow and into your sin and rebellion, redeeming you for his eternal glory and your eternal joy!

Wouldn’t it be a good thing in the Life-groups this week if we could encourage one another to retell our stories in the frame of faith? This is where restoring your soul begins. Do you want to see revival in your life?  I commend this to you: Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.

Tell yourself who you are in Christ. Tell yourself what He has done for you. Nourish your soul on the truth. Bathe yourself in the healing stream of Christ’s love for you. Refuse the unbelief that says God is absent or hostile or that He doesn’t care. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!

 

[1] Walter Kaiser, A History of Israel, p. 355, dates Isaiah’s ministry from 740–690 BC.
[2] Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, pp. 97, Focus Publishing, 2008.
[3] Ibid., p.5.
[4] Ibid., p. 14.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org



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