Our culture loves to try to predict the future. Look at the sports world. Every day there is an entire gambling industry built around the prospect of being able to pick which team will win – and even more importantly – the overall point spread. As if that does not provide enough of a challenge, when it comes to the upcoming Super Bowl there will be all sorts of exotic side bets: Not just the normal under-over in terms of overall point total, but just about anything you can imagine – here is just a sampling from last year’s Super Bowl:
- Will Richard Sherman get a taunting penalty? (4/1 on yes)
- Coin toss: Heads or tails?
- Peyton Manning total passing yards over/under 289
- Will the player who scores the first touchdown have a jersey number above or below 79.5? (Even)
- Who will be seen on TV first Pam Oliver (46%) or Erin Andrews (54%)
This lust for predicting extends to many other realms as well:
- In the field of Economics, the arrival of the New Year means that one must demonstrate their crystal ball proficiency in predicting the performance of the Dow Jones and the stocks that will be the best picks
- Politics is a never-ending game of using the polls to predict the outcome of every race
- When it comes to Entertainment, the experts weigh in ahead of time on who will win every imaginable coveted award
There is something magical about demonstrating the wisdom and insight and even gut feel to be able to call the shots ahead of time. And yet nobody but God would claim to be able to control the future to such an extent that they could be right all of the time.
Facing Hostility and Weakness with Courage, Strength and Rejoicing –
We are talking this morning about the recovery of Worm Theology. The great theologians and hymn writers of centuries past understood the doctrine of Total Depravity. They could sing with great conviction: “Would you devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” A worm is the lowest of God’s creatures. Certainly not attractive – not powerful – not desirable (unless you need bait for your fishing poles). Yet our modern day advocates of self esteem would have us change the lines of such hymns to try to put a more positive spin on the condition of man.
Piper: Satan has master-minded a phenomenal victory in the American church. By teaching us through a thousand lectures and articles and books that we are too valuable to be called worms, he has made it impossible for us to sing “Amazing Grace” with truly amazed hearts. The more beautiful and valuable man is made to appear, the less amazing it is that God should love him and help him. The gospel of self-esteem is healing our wounds very lightly. The wings of self-worth that carry us briefly out of fear will quickly weary and drop us in despair some day. For, as John Newton said in his hymn, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.” Where the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace pales in the shadow of human self-esteem, there will one day be a great shudder of fear.
DESPITE OPPOSITION AND WEAKNESS, GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE HAVE NO NEED TO FEAR AND MUCH CAUSE FOR REJOICING
Max Lucado: The House of God
Every time Satan sets out to score for evil, he ends up scoring a point for good. Consider Paul. Satan hoped prison would silence his pulpit, and it did, but it also unleashed his pen. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell.
Satan is the Colonel Klink of the Bible. Remember Klink? He was the fall guy for Hogan on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes. Klink supposedly ran a German POW camp during World War 2. Those inside the camp, however, knew better. They knew who really ran the camp: the prisoners. They listened to Klink’s calls and read his mail. They even gave Klink ideas, all the while using him for their own cause.
Over and over the Bible makes it clear who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance, but it is God who calls the shots.
The people of Judah were about to enter into a period of 70 years of Captivity under the oppression of the pagan Babylonians. They would be tempted to doubt the covenant love of the God of Israel. They would be tempted to doubt the promises of God’s providential care and future blessing. Pagan gods would be paraded before them and extolled while the one true God was mocked and despised.
But Isaiah wanted to encourage God’s people ahead of time not to panic or fear. Remember who it is that is in ultimate control. GOD CALLS ALL THE SHOTS
THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”
What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Secularists today continue to try to minimize Christmas. They do everything in their power to have the name of Christ blotted out from the very day that celebrates His great incarnation – the Word becoming flesh and dwelling with man; the arrival of Immanuel = “God with us.” What’s the big deal about a baby being born to the Virgin Mary (that’s a pretty big deal) and laid in a manger in the stable in Bethlehem? What’s the big deal about the shepherds in the local fields and the wise men from afar coming to worship this baby and bringing presents of great value?
There’s no question that Christmas is a big deal to all of the retail businessmen in our economy. Their whole year hinges on the amount of sales they can generate during this frenetic shopping season. Now we have the convenience of never leaving our couch but ordering anything we can imagine online and having it delivered to our door in a couple of days. Ask your friend who works for UPS – no question that Christmas is a big deal.
There’s no question that Christmas is a big deal to our Hollywood entertainers and the music industry. Every night there is one television special after another with the most bizarre people you can imagine associated with celebrating the holiday season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Miley Cyrus twerking some obscene rendition of a popular Christmas carol. Most of the music centers around the secular icons of Santa Claus and Christmas trees and mistletoe . . . but even the sacred songs seem misunderstood as they are sung by cultic religious groups like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – what do they know about the significance of Christmas?
Certainly our very calendar testifies to the fulcrum point in history of the arrival of Jesus Christ, the prophecied Son of David, the promised Messiah of the Jewish nation. We date everything by His birth – either B.C. – Before Christ . . . or A.D. — Anno Domini is Medieval Latin, translated In the year of the Lord – pretty impressive; no other individual has had that type of impact on the world. But the world remains blind to His true significance.
What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? The Apostle Paul unfolds it in our passage from Galatians for today. It changed everything with respect to our relationship to God the Father.
Last week at the end of the message we rushed over what is one of the most precious gems in the prophecy of Isaiah – 40:31. So this week we are going to slow down and catch our breath and just meditate for a short time on the encouraging truth in that closing verse. Especially in this Christmas season which is so often characterized by activity and hustle and bustle and busyness … we need to slow down and learn what it means to “Wait for the Lord.”
Last week: (:12-31)
WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT FOR THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
2 Presuppositions already addressed:
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly”
[I don’t fall into either of these 2 categories where someone might imagine that they don’t need strength from the Lord – you are in denial if you think you can handle all that life throws at you by yourself]
- We all need strength — We all face hard times and need persevering strength which we do not have in ourselves
- Only the Lord can provide that strength — The Lord is awake and active and reigns supreme; He cares about the difficulties His children are facing; He has the power that is sufficient to grant us persevering strength
Waiting for the First Coming of the Messiah
Waiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah
THE KEY TO PERSEVERING STRENGTH IS WAITING FOR THE LORD
Often people like to downplay the relevance of studying theology. They prefer more of a step-by-step manual on how to deal with the practical problems they are facing in everyday life. Doctrine about the attributes of God and His sovereign decrees is viewed as too heavy and not directly relevant to help me live my life today. They couldn’t be more wrong. Their focus is more on what can man do to fix his problems rather than reliance on the grace of God.
We live in a God-centered universe (not a man-centered universe where the Trinity consists of Me, Myself and I) because God has created everything and only God sustains everything. Our passage today could not be clearer about the connection between basic theology about God’s Supremacy and His Significance and our practical pathway to strength and perseverance in the hardships and trials we face.
Motyer: No sooner the message of disaster (39:5-7) than the message of comfort (40:1-2)!
You can’t appreciate the message of comfort unless you can identify with the depths of darkness of the misery and bondage of the Babylonian Captivity – 2 Chron. 36:15-21
God’s message of comfort comes to a people who had not yet experienced the hardship of the Babylonian Slaughter and Captivity – all of this blessed revelation given in anticipation of the upcoming events
Oswalt: Chapters 40-48 particularly address the questions concerning God’s ability and desire to deliver that the exile would pose. This focus is evident immediately in ch.40. Would not the exile prove that God had either forsaken his people or was not the Lord of history? Would it not mean that he had been unable to defend his people from the pagan nations or that he had been defeated by his people’s pernicious sinfulness? Isaiah’s answer to both questions is a resounding no! . . . The exile would give God an even greater opportunity to show his sovereignty and his trustworthiness.
COMFORT FOR ZION DERIVES FROM THE SALVATION AND GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROMISED COMING OF MESSIAH
4 MESSAGES OF COMFORT:
We all know what a litmus test is. That is where one particular criteria serves as a watershed to place people into two opposing camps. The expression is a metaphor based on the litmus test in chemistry — Blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions and red litmus paper turns blue under basic (i.e. alkaline) conditions. When someone is trying to be appointed to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, they argue against the tendency to elevate one particular issue to such a litmus test status – preferring that their entire body of work be evaluated. But when it comes to our relationship to God and our eternal destiny, it all comes down to one central issue:
THE TRUE IDENTITY OF JESUS CONSTITUTES THE ULTIMATE LITMUS TEST
1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” – case closed
Rom. 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”
We have observed many key threads as we have studied through the first half of the gospel of Mark — 4 most prominent threads:
- The most important = the identity of Jesus as the true Messiah, the son of God
- Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”
- Mark 8:29 confession of Peter: “You are the Christ”
What do people say about Who Jesus is?
- Two halves to the book – First half is all about the:
1. THE AUTHORITY AND MIGHTY WORKS OF THE SON OF GOD
- Authority in His Teaching
- Authority in His miracles of healing
- Authority in His power over demons and even over death itself
2. THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT
- Increasing opposition from the Jewish religious leaders who remain spiritually blinded and hard-hearted
- Training of the Twelve for their leadership as Jesus hands off the baton to them for the fulfillment of the Great Commission – involved in that is the transition of taking the gospel now to the Gentiles – especially important is the development of their faith – they fail many tests but the Master Teacher patiently continues to build them up and prepare them
Today we are tackling a big chunk of Chap. 8 – 26 verses – looking more at the big picture than all of the details; Why this approach? Because it hangs together thematically as a unit of thought – preparing us for the great watershed that divides this gospel in half – the confession of Peter at the end of the chapter
We like to pat ourselves on the back for our spiritual discernment. We can easily be puffed up with pride because of an imbalance between knowledge about Jesus Christ and vibrant faith in Jesus. How can we tell we have maturity issues? Trials and difficulties reveal to us how far short we fall of mature faith. We easily sink into worry and fear and doubts and insecurities. Our physical vision is easy to measure. We take a simple eye chart test and we know where we stand. I see a lot differently with my glasses on as opposed to off. It is more subtle with our eyes of faith.
Have you ever experienced being an outsider – not being part of the accepted group with all of its privileges and standing? Maybe at school, you were an outsider of the various cliques of popularity. Maybe racially, you have experienced something of prejudice and isolation; maybe now at work you are regarded as something of an outsider because of your stand for Jesus Christ. In God’s OT kingdom program, the Jews were definitely the insiders and the uncircumcised Gentiles were definitely the outsiders. As we have been studying the ministry of Jesus, it has been concentrated in the Jewish regions around Nazareth and Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee and various cities throughout Judea. Today we see Jesus venturing out to Gentile areas – to the regions of Tyre and Sidon and Decapolis.
It should not be surprising to see the gracious delivering power of Jesus extended to the Gentiles. Many OT prophecies spoke to this promised worldwide blessing:
- 12:3 Call of Abraham — “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
- 26:4 “by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”
- 9:1-2 Messiah will be a light to the Gentiles — “Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light”
- 42:6 “I will appoint you [Israel] as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison”
If the Pharisees and scribes were put off by Jesus eliminating the distinction between clean and unclean foods with all of their detailed ceremonial rites and regulations, imagine their disdain at seeing Jesus reach out to the unclean Gentiles and include them in the sphere of Messianic blessing.