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God's Great Invitation

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God’s Great Invitation

Isaiah 55:1-9

 

1. ADMIT your thirst and poverty.

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

–C.S. Lewis

2. LISTEN to God’s words of life.

Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free! Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love.

Isaiah 55:1-3, The Message

3. ABANDON sinful ways.

“If you take seriously the positive side of seeking God you have to take seriously the negative side of turning from behaviors and thoughts that offend him. You cannot seek God and practice sin or plan sin at the same time.”

–John Piper

4. RECEIVE God’s forgiveness.


TURN TO ISAIAH 55

INTRODUCE MYSELF

MESSAGE

Isn’t it fun to get invited to something that’s a really big deal? Have you ever had some event or party that is an exclusive thing, and YOU get invited to it? You know that you’ll be on the front lines of something very cool. It’s the concert that everybody will be talking about. Or the game that people have been anticipating all year—and a friend invites you to go with them! It’s an amazing feeling.

Sometimes the thrill of the invitation has less to do with the event than it does that somebody thought of you and cared about you enough to want you to be a part of something with them. This has happened for me over the last three Easters. Molly and I are far away from our families (hers in Ohio and mine in Colorado) and the holidays get lonely for us.

If you have family far away, or if you’re single, maybe you can relate.

All our friends have their big family gatherings with lots of great food and laughter and we are at home, wishing that we had a big, laughing family to share it with. It stinks to be overlooked or forgotten. Yet that is usually what happens to us.

After the fact, certain people say, “Oh, I forgot you don’t have any family here. I should have invited you over.” And I think to myself, “Yeah, you should have. Glad you had fun. We didn’t.”

But a few years ago, a couple of our friends actually remembered that we were family-less and invited us to come over for Easter dinner with their family. The dinner was so-so and the gathering was actually pretty corny (we played a couple of goofy games). But it was awesome that somebody cared about us enough to make us a part of it.

Tonight we’re going to look at one of God’s greatest invitations in the entire Bible. This invitation is amazing because of

□       what we get invited to and also

□       because it demonstrates how much God cares about us.

Perhaps you are here feeling as though you’re missing out on real life.

Maybe you’ve had thoughts like these:

§        Nobody really cares about me

§        The life I want seems to be passing me by

§        I’m exhausted and unsatisfied with my life

§        God could never really love a person like me

If you’ve ever had those thoughts, this invitation is for you.

Before we look at the invitation, let me briefly bring you up to speed on what’s going on in the book of Isaiah up to this point. Isaiah (written about 700 B.C.) has been prophesying against the idolatry of Judah. He predicted that they would be exiled to and then delivered from Babylon. It is written to give them hope in a coming Messiah—a suffering servant who would bring restoration to Israel.

Isaiah has often been called “the 5th gospel” because it is so evangel-istic. In fact, Isaiah 53 gives one of the most vivid descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion in the Bible (53:5). Then Isaiah 54 describes all kinds of benefits that were paid for by Jesus’ death (54:10). Finally, this chapter—Isaiah 55—is the invitation to enjoy what Christ purchased on the cross. It was a wonderful invitation for Judah, and it’s a wonderful invitation for us today.


Let’s take a look at it. Isaiah 55, verses 1-9:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:1-9)

Hear the invitation? Is this a great invitation or what?!?!?! It’s an invitation to be a part of God’s everlasting promise (v.3). It’s an invitation to be satisfied in God (v.2). It’s an invitation to receive forgiveness (v.7).

See the invitation? 4 times in verse 1 he says “COME!”

I want you to not only see it, but also accept it and delight in it. Here’s the first thing you need to do:

1. ADMIT your thirst and poverty.

All of us are thirsty and all of us are poor.

We are all thirsty for satisfaction and meaning.

We are thirsty to be loved.

We are thirsty for our lives to count.

We are parched and dehydrated.


What makes it worse is our poverty—our inability to satisfy the longings we have. We have tried so many things to quench our thirst that don’t work and we remain thirsty.

We hope that our friendships and relationships will satisfy our longings, but they don’t. Friends backstab and gossip, and relationships are stained with selfishness.

Some single people hope that being married will satisfy their longings, but they don’t—that’s why half the country gets divorced.

Some married people think that having children will satisfy their longings, but they don’t. If anything, they make the longings more intense after lonely days of caring for a young child.

We hope that career success will satisfy our longings. We work and work, but it doesn’t quench the thirst either.

We think that if we just had that house, in that neighborhood, with those countertops we would be satisfied. But we do all those things—and for a while it’s nice—and then we go back to being dissatisfied.

We hope that having enough money and cool gadgets and nice clothes and fun vacations will quench our thirst. But when vacations are over and when the newness wears off we are still thirsty.

We are like people who drink salt water for refreshment. But each drink makes us thirstier and thirstier.

Are you willing to admit your thirst? Are you willing to admit your inability to satisfy it?

The first step to true satisfaction is to admit your need. If you’re aware of your need, then this invitation is for you.

Look again at the invitation: 1’Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

If you are too proud to admit your thirst or too proud to admit that you can’t quench it yourself, then this invitation will do you no good. You have to realize that the world won’t satisfy you.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[1]

You see what he’s saying? He’s saying that if we had more intense desires we wouldn’t be content to nibble from the world’s table scraps. But that is the world that WE live in. It’s not just people out there. It’s us—Christians, church people.

That is the world that we live in—people fooling around with things that won’t ever satisfy in the end. The result is that we’re restless. We go from relationship to relationship, hobby to hobby, gadget to gadget, job to job—but the truth is that these things will never satisfy. The thirst will always remain.

Can you hear God’s pleading in verse 2?Why do you labor for that which does not satisfy? Why don’t you get out of the slum and enjoy real life?”


Will you admit your thirst? Will you agree with musician John Mayer’s song, “Something’s Missing”?

 

Something's Missing (John Mayer)

I'm not alone, I wish I was.
Cause then I'd know, I was down because
I couldn't find, a friend around
To love me like, they do right now.
They do right now.

I'm dizzy from the shopping malls
I searched for joy, but I bought it all
It doesn't help the hunger pains
and a thirst I'd have to drown first to ever satiate

Something's missing
And I don't know how to fix it
something's missing
And I don't know what it is
At all

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in, where it left you last.
And you never know, when it starts
Until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart:

I can't be sure that this state of mind, is not of my own design
I wish there was an over the counter test, for loneliness.
For loneliness like this.

Friends -check-

Money -check-
A well slept -check-

Opposite sex -check-

Guitar -check-

Microphone -check-

Messages waiting for me, when I come home -check-

Well, if all these things don’t satisfy, what will?

GOD


Only God will satisfy the longings in our hearts.

God is the

smartest,

most creative,

most loving,

most honest,

most gracious,

most thoughtful,

most powerful,

most energetic,

most joyful person in the universe.

God knows your biggest dreams and your scariest fears. God knows about your best day and he knows about your worst. The Bible says that God knows every hair on your head. Only God has the ability to satisfy is in a lasting way.

So, the big question is this—how do we get God? The good news is that he tells us. We have to:

2. LISTEN to God’s words of life

God tells us how we can get to know him. We must listen to him.

In verses 2-3 we get a threefold call to listen to what God has to say. “...Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.

In verse 2, God equates listening to him with eating what is good and delighting ourselves in rich food (abundance [NASB], richest of fare [NIV]). This is obviously in contrast to laboring for bread that doesn’t satisfy.

One of my best friends tells the story of the time that as a young boy he had been pleading with his parents to get a skateboard. His parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they began to save. Finally they took him to the store to get a skateboard. But it wasn’t the kind he wanted—he had wanted the nice, expensive one and they only had enough for the cheaper one that was the wrong color. Instead of being grateful, he began to complain about it, not totally understanding all that his parents had sacrificed. His dad informed him that when they got home he could expect a spanking as a consequence for his terrible attitude and mean words. So, the moment the car pulled in the garage my friend jumped out of the car, rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a bag of marshmallows and a 6-pack of Pepsi, and locked himself in his room to avoid being punished. The only problem is that you can’t live for very long on marshmallows and Pepsi, even if you’re a young kid. They don’t provide sustenance. They taste good for a brief time, but end up making you feel sick.

 

That’s what it’s like when we try to satisfy ourselves apart from Christ. When we depend on the latest electronic gadget or a human relationship to satisfy us, we are like people who grab a bag of marshmallows and Pepsi as if that will provide the lasting goodness we need. It’s foolish! Instead, we need to hear the words of Christ, who is himself the bread of life.

...Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” The life of your soul is at stake here.

It reminds me of John 6:68 when Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I like how the Eugene Peterson paraphrases verses 1-3 in The Message: 1’Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free! 2Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. 3Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.

Admit your need.

Listen to the remedy.

God gives it in verses 6-7.


3. ABANDON sinful ways.

Verses 6-7 say, 6’Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God is belittled by wickedness. God is demeaned by idolatry (ch. 57). When we gorge ourselves on what doesn’t satisfy, it makes God look worthless. Also, until we turn from our sinful ways and thoughts we are trapped in our sin. Sin is guaranteed failure and worthlessness. It dishonors God and it makes it seem as though he were not valuable. Therefore, we must turn from our sin at all costs.

In what ways are we sinful? We sin in our ways and our thoughts. God calls us not to just abandon our sinful ways, but also our sinful thoughts.

·        Do you think mean thoughts about other people?

·        Do you think lustful thoughts about other people?

·        Do you think in a selfish way that says that you’re the most important person in the world?

If so, God is calling you to abandon that way of thinking.

John Piper writes, “If you take seriously the positive side of seeking God you have to take seriously the negative side of turning from behaviors and thoughts that offend him. You cannot seek God and practice sin or plan sin at the same time.”

He then gives this illustration:

It would be like a man who leaves his wife, moves into his own apartment, has a regular sexual affair along side his marriage, and then gets on the phone and "calls" his wife and "seeks" his wife. And she says, "Have you forsaken this woman?" and he says, "No, I can't." Then she will rightly say, "Then you are not seeking me. Your call is empty. You will seek me and find me as your wife when you forsake her and all others for me alone, just like you vowed!"[2]


I hope you see the urgency of this call. God is calling you to abandon sin NOW. There is no room to wait around or get to it later. It needs to happen NOW. See that in verse 6? “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” The longer you sin, the harder your heart may get. It may get so hard that you find it nearly impossible to repent. Abandon your sin now.

4. RECEIVE God’s forgiveness.

Abandoning sin is crucial. It’s absolutely necessary. Sin is what kills us and makes our lives difficult. But there’s a second side to this coin, found in verse 7: “let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Return to the Lord. Turn from your sin to God. If you do, here are wonderful promises:

[1] he will have compassion on you and

[2] he will abundantly pardon.

God loves to forgive sin. That is evidenced by verse 7: “he will abun-dantly pardon.”

Abundantly means overwhelmingly or greatly. He will triumphantly pardon you!

Jesus loves to forgive sin so much that he voluntarily chose to go to the cross to pay the penalty that we deserve.

Why do you think that is? Is it because he thought it would be fun to come to earth, live as a man, endure suffering and pain and torture, and be mocked and killed? Of course not. Why did he do it then? Why did Jesus suffer the pain that you deserved? Hebrews 12:2 says that “for the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”


What is the joy set before Christ? The joy set before Christ was being in a relationship with people who saw him as their highest treasure. It was creating a family of people who knew that the most satisfying thing they could ever experience was knowing Jesus. It was to secure a group of people who would say with Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

You see, God is our greatest joy. God is what satisfies.

Not God’s gifts, but God himself. And the only way you get God is to have your sin forgiven and your guilt cleared. You can’t have both your sin and God. You don’t get both.

So RETURN to the Lord and RECEIVE his forgiveness. Allow the Lord to have compassion on you and abundantly pardon you. God is eager to forgive you if you will ask him.

Maybe as you listen to this invitation—to be satisfied in a relationship with God where your sins are blotted out—it seems difficult to accept. I could hear somebody object, “It can’t be that easy...God couldn’t forgive the things that I’ve done.”

And God replies in verses 8-9, 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are better than your ways. God can abundantly pardon—and he will. But you must come.

Are you thirsty?

                                      Admit it.

Do you need solid answers for your life?

                                      Listen to God’s words.

Do you want to be satisfied?

                                      Abandon your sin and receive God’s forgiveness.


Will you? Will you find your satisfaction again in a relationship with Christ?

We’ll spend a few moments now contemplating how amazing this invitation is.

·        If you need to admit your thirst to the Lord, now is the time.

·        If you need to confess that you’ve sinned by trying to satisfy your heart with other things than God, now is the time.

·        If you need to confess sin to God and repent, now is the time.

·        And if you need to turn to the Lord, either for the first time or in a renewing way, now is the time.


Father, I am amazed at your invitation to be satisfied by you. Lord, we try to satisfy ourselves with all kinds of things that won’t work like relationships, money, work, sex, fame, or the approval of people. Lord, we acknowledge those things as sin and we desire to return to you and experience your abundant forgiveness. Cause us to adore you and find all of our joy in you alone. We love you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


----

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

[2] John Piper, “The Great Invitation: A Highway for Low Sinners.” 8/14/88. Isaiah 55:6-9

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