Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Make Known His Deeds; Isaiah 12, John 3:1-19

Have you ever been around someone who loves to name drop—someone who mentions all the famous people and “big wigs” that they know or have contact with? Name dropping can be annoying, or it can help you get a job! There’s one name that we are supposed to name drop, and that’s the name of Jesus! Our Isaiah passage today is a poem of thanksgiving and praise, and in it we are encouraged to sing praises to the Lord in all the earth, to give thanks to the Lord in the presence of others, to proclaim the name of the Lord, to shout aloud about what God has done and about God’s presence in our lives. Church consultant Reggie McNeal says, “God loves it when we let God do God’s job. God loves to show up and show off.” In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby describes how God invites us to join Him in His work and gives us God-sized tasks, so that we know that we cannot accomplish the tasks without God and so that God gets all the credit for the results. The apostle Paul said, “May I never boast except in Christ my Lord.” Ray Ortland says, “As God catches us up into His purpose sweeping through history, what do we contribute? Nothing to be proud of. What does God contribute? Grace greater than all our sin.” Our Isaiah passage today says, “Make known God’s deeds among the peoples.” We are to make known God’s deeds. It’s not about what we do. It’s not even about what we do for God or in God’s name, because if we are really doing those things in God’s name, it’s not us doing them anyway. We have no place to brag or take any credit at all. But when God does something in or through our lives, we need to share those things. When God answers prayer, we need to share. When God touches our lives, we need to share. When God uses us as God sees fit, amazing things happen. What is God doing in your life right now? Have any of your prayers been answered lately? How have you seen God at work around you? How have you participated in God’s work? These are the deeds of the Lord, and we can sing and shout about them and make them known. We do have so much to praise God for. God works in and through our lives all the time. English pastor Charles Simeon said that the key factor in maintaining and growing in his Christian walk was "Constantly meditating on the goodness of God and on our great deliverance from that punishment which our sins deserve. Keeping both of these in mind, we shall find ourselves advancing on our course; we shall feel the presence of God; we shall experience His love; we shall live in the enjoyment of His favor and in the hope of His grace. Meditation is the grand means of growth and grace." Personalizing God’s grace in our lives, when we meditate as Charles Simeon says, results in us having a confident testimony that God is real, that Jesus Christ does transform lives, that the Holy Spirit is present with us and working through us. And as we access that grace, we find that joy, which is our key word for Advent this morning. Isaiah says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Jesus described it as living water springing up within us. But shared meditation on these things not only helps us to grow, but others as well. It is our mission to corporately and publicly proclaim God’s grace. It’s interesting to note that in this text, the “you” in verses 1 and 2 is singular. It is personal to each of us. Individually we give thanks for God’s grace in our lives--for the times God has forgiven us when we deserved punishment, for the times God has comforted us instead of shown anger, for the times God as assuaged our fears, for the times that God has been our strength when we thought we couldn’t endure one more hardship or heartbreak or resist one more temptation, for our salvation! And even our prayers are answered by “No,” and we can’t see the good in that “no,” God is still God, Jesus is still our Lord and Savior, and we still have reason to rejoice. Puritan scholar John Trapp said, “It is no less a sin not to rejoice than not to repent.” In verses 4-6, the “you” is plural. We each have a story to share, a testimony so to speak, and together we witness to the world. Pastor Lester Agyei McCorn points out that in verse 5 where it says, “sing praises”, “The Hebrew word for praise employed here is yadah, which signifies the stretching out of one’s hands in thanks while singing. It is a confession of utter dependence upon God for the inferred gift, namely God’s deliverance. A people who were once scattered and symbolically disconnected from their God are now reunited, and thus reconnected to the One who has created them. There is an eschatological hope that has been fulfilled “in that day.” Their profound longings for “home” are now met in a glorious family reunion made possible by a God who promised not to forsake them. More importantly, they can bow before their true King without inhibition or recrimination. They can now wave their hands in joyous gratitude, for three essential reasons: God remembers, God redeems and God restores.” It’s also interesting to note that in verse 6, “inhabitant of Zion” is feminine. This symbolizes the church—the one body bride of Christ, we are to shout aloud and sing for joy. We don’t want spiritual amnesia; we need spiritual anamnesis—the opposite of amnesia, it is the recollection of past events for the purpose of reliving them in the present. It’s remembering who and whose we are. Last week, we were reminded by the life of John the Baptist to call people to repentance. We saw that if we love people and don’t want them to miss out on the joys of Christ’s kingdom, we will warn them of their need to repent because Christ’s return is soon. Shortly, we will sing “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.” In this hymn is the refrain of the truth of Advent—that the darkness will turn to the dawning and the dawning to noonday bright. And Christ’s great Kingdom shall come to earth—the kingdom of love and light.” This is the joyous good Advent news that the world needs to hear through us—Christ has come and Christ is coming again. We often share praises and thanksgivings when we have our prayer time in worship, but today we are going to have the opportunity to share joys, praises, and thanksgivings in this part of our worship time. The Thanksgiving holiday has passed, but the time to be thankful and joyous is still present. How have you seen God remember, redeem, and restore? Your responses may be for something in the distant past or recently. It may be an individual praise or for something God has done corporately for His Church. Let’s make known God’s deeds among the people gathered here... As much as these praises and thanksgivings are, they will be all the more when Christ does make the invisible kingdom visible. On that day we will sing like we’ve never sung, shout like we’ve never shouted, praise like we’ve never praised, and be joyful more than we have ever, ever known. Until that day, may we continue to testify and witness to the wondrous love of our Lord.

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