Friday, September 23, 2016

Satan's Endgame

We are looking at Jesus in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Isaiah.  We are going to digress a bit, but not really. 

If Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means "salvation," then one might ask, "Saving from what?"  Of course, we would respond, "From sin and death!"  

We distill Jesus' ministry down to: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Eze. 36:26) Then we would quickly add: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Sin and death:  These are the two greatest obstacles from fully experiencing God in this life.  Jesus came to give us victory and life.  

We have passed Theology 101.  Or have we?

Yes, but we have missed a key point that I had driven home to me this week.  Let me share what happened.

My husband is an eminent scholar in the field of gun rights.  He was asked to speak to the Texas Bar Association in Austin on Wednesday.  The presenter before him spoke about two cases he was an expert witness for.  The stories broke my heart.

Both involved domestic violence.  Two women had hooked up with two men who were involved in the biker subculture.  The first woman was a Christian.  She met him and he was willing to go to church with her.  Over time, his drug abuse and ill treatment of her led to finally kick him out.  Her fatal "mistake" was to say disparaging things about his biker patches and his biker club.  After screaming, "I am going to kill you!" he jumped on top of her with a knife.  She was able to get the knife and she stabbed him to get him off of her.  He went to the hospital with fourteen stab wounds and she was convicted of 2nd degree murder.  Her case was overturned, however, and the judge agreed that she had indeed acted in self-defense.

The second woman, after twelve years of being involved with her biker partner, and having found him in their home having intercourse with another woman, said disparaging things about his club and his patches.  He later menaced her with a knife and having threatened to kill her and her family, she drew a gun and shot him.

The presenter was discussing self-defense, juries, and women whose self-esteem is so low that they cannot see themselves with any other guy, thereby putting themselves at risk.  It was a sobering presentation, complete with ER and autopsy photos.  

My point?  We Christians tend to focus on the sins that people commit.  We look at the adultery, the homosexuality, the greed, the pride, the abuse, the whatever, and say, "You should not do that." 

We are horrified at what people do.  The presenter did not mince words about what losers these two men were; he repeatedly used the phrase, "***holes" in describing them.  Looking at their tats, their pictures and their attitudes, it was a label that easily fit.  In fact, the audience laughed their agreement every time he used that word.

I was horrified at what he presented.  I felt anger that these men had pushed these women to such a breaking point that one was stabbed and the other shot.  I felt awful that these women stayed with these men and now themselves were being viewed as criminals.

I was focused on what everyone had done.

Let me bring up a quick analogy.  A person walks into a room filled with numerous bottles of poison. The person is trying to select which one to drink.  We run in and focus on each bottle, and list all of the consequences of drinking such and such poison.  While we are talking, the person turns around and gulps down a bottle of cyanide.  We quickly say, "How could you do that?"  We then proceed to tell the person the horrible things cyanide does to the body.  Only after much detailing of poison and its effects do we yell, "It'll kill you!"  

We focus on what the person did and what will or could happen.  Then, almost as an afterthought, do we say, "It will kill you."

Now, let's go back to our presenter.  We listened to the horrible aspects of these people's lives and what they had done.  It was almost an afterthought that all of these behaviors would result in death.

Then it hit me:  Satan does not care what you DO.  He could care less what bottle of poison you drink.  His endgame is your death:  six feet under and cold as dirt.  Did any of those four people wake up that morning and say, "What we are doing will lead to our death.  We need to stop,"  No.  The one young man laying on the coroner's table never thought he'd end his day like that.  

My point is this.  We need to stop focusing on what people DO and focus on what will happen in the future.  Your drug habit will lead to death.  Your adultery will lead to death.  Your greed will lead to death.  Your pride will lead to death.

We are so focused on the horror of the sin, we lose sight of the most horrible outcome of all:  the death of the sinner.  

Oh, come on, you say, how could my adultery lead to death?  Adultery is the poison in the bottle. Once you introduce it into your life, Satan now uses it to separate you further and further from God and as the sin courses through your spiritual bloodstream, the more vulnerable you are to his attacks.  He isn't concerned what poison you drank; he just wants you to drink it and that starts the process.  He wants you dead.  The means are not his thing; the end is.

At the end, all four lives were destroyed.  The two women served time.  One man was dead and the other severely injured.  Even though one of the women was exonerated, her life is forever changed. She is a Christian and now has left death to enter life.  I pray for the other woman and the man who survived.  Satan would like the job to be completed and until we are in Jesus, Satan will not let up until we are dead.

That is why Jesus so focused on bringing life.  He is the Antidote to the poison of sin and its result, death.  Jesus says that Satan the thief is out to "steal kill, and destroy."

As followers of His, let's focus on the endgame:  Satan's is your death, by whatever means necessary. 

Jesus' is your life, and He provided the means:  His death on the cross.   

So, in loving the sinner and hating the sin, let's expand that to loving the sinner and hating the death that awaits them, if they don't find Jesus.

Let's be diligent to show the trajectory of the sin, and not let the sin itself steal our focus on sharing the beauty of Jesus.  He is Salvation, and He is what we need to counter the wiles of Satan. 





Monday, September 12, 2016

The Servant of God: Yeshua

We have two uses of the word and name of Jesus (Yeshua) in Isaiah 49.  It would easy to just select the two key verses, but I much rather have you read the whole context.  It is powerful and speaks mightily of the Messiah to come, with His name woven into the text.  

Did the people know this back in Isaiah's day?  I doubt it, but given their captivity and their hope for deliverance, these verses would not only comfort them but echo the cry of their heart for salvation. 

We can hear the name of the One who would make release from an even more painful captivity--sin and death--possible, for us and the world.  

Jesus inaugurated His ministry by reading from Isaiah:

"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'”

The listeners would be very familiar with all of Isaiah.  Here is Yeshua standing before them and reading about yeshua ("salvation").  Would they grasp that the very man standing in front of them was the embodiment of true salvation?  

The captivity in Babylon did not last forever; the Jews eventually returned.  But the people went on sinning.  They still felt alienated from God.  They eventually died. 

Many generations later, a man would stand in a synagogue, and read from the words of the prophet who had promised salvation from captivity.  He would state categorically that the words had been fulfilled.  Quite a statement from a carpenter's son, if that's what he was.

Let's look at the first part of Isaiah 49.  It is powerful:  

"Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 
2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.' 
4 But I said, 'I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.' 
5 And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— 
6 he says: 'It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.' 
7 This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.' 
8 This is what the Lord says: 'In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, "Come out," and to those in darkness, "Be free!" They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.'"

As we are working through the Old Testament, and finding Jesus throughout its pages, we see Him very much represented in Isaiah, who focuses mightily on the Servant of the Lord.  We all have read Isaiah 53, which describes the suffering of this Servant and His death for our healing and restoration. Yet I find it interesting that yeshua is not mentioned--the word for salvation and Jesus' name, in Isaiah 53.  

Yet yeshua is found in Isaiah 49.   

I believe that Isaiah is presenting this Servant by His character and His deeds.  

Names represent the character of someone in the Old Testament.  God's name--Yahweh--is not just what Moses was to call Him.  It is His character as well:  "I AM Who I AM."  Moses was given an insight to the One he was to serve.  This One has always been and will continue to be.  He was not made by human hands or dependent on human ritual or belief.  Moses is privileged to be introduced to Him, but whether or not the children of Israel believe in Him, this One will exist and reign in the universe He created and still sustains.  

That is why there are many names for God in the Old Testament, for each name gives an insight to Who He is, an aspect to His character.  Like a multi-faceted diamond, that catches light as you look at it from various angles, so too do the names of God give us a flash of light into Who He is.

So, Isaiah in chapter 49 is telling us who the suffering Servant IS:  He embodies salvation, for the Jews and for the Gentiles.  He is chosen in the womb to be the Servant and the Covenant for the people.

Isaiah 53 tells us what the Servant will do, how He will be received and what His mission is.  

But in the end, the two are really inseparable.  Who the Lord is and what He does cannot be divided. All He does is based on Who He is, and Who He is, is revealed by what He does.  

Have blessed day as you ponder the majesty of Who He is and what He does.












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