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Stop, Look and Listen: Miraculous Transformation

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Sermon on Isaiah 51:1-16

Theme:  God’s people will be transformed for salvation

Goal: to encourage God’s people of his love through the transformation of his people

Need:  God’s people don’t often see the love of God.

Outline:

  1. Introduction on traffic safety:  Stop Look  Listen
  2. Stop Look and Listen:  God is faithful to his covenant
  3. Stop Look and Listen:  God transforms his people by grace
  4. Stop Look and Listen:  God’s salvation lasts forever
  5. Stop Look and Listen:  God calls us his people
  6. Conclusion:  Encourage people to go out as God’s saved people.

Sermon:

            Stop, Look, and Listen.  Some of you may have heard that phrase before.  I know it is one that was supposed to be ingrained in me when I was little.  Stop, look, and listen is what we were taught in school as we were taught how to be safe on the roads.  When we were riding our bikes to school, or anytime we were walking or biking, if you cross a road, you are supposed to stop, look, and listen.

            When children forget to stop, look, and listen, children get hurt.  One of the most tragic events in the life of a family is when a child doesn’t stop to look and listen for cars that are coming.  All children ought to be taught to stop look a listen.

            In our passage for today, it sounds an aweful lot like God is trying to train his children to stop, look and listen.  His people are going through life, they are living through troubles like being exiled to a foreign land.  They are accusing God of not loving them and not caring for them.  They are stopping to look at the work of God.  And they aren’t stopping to listen to what he has told us about himself.

            Easter is a wonderful time for us to hear this reminder, for sure.  As Christians living in a time where slowing down is seen as a weakness, and stopping is seen as missing a chance to build our profits even more, or accomplishing something else in our life, we need to spend a moment just to stop look and listen.  We need to stop, pause from the hustle and bustle of our life.  We need to stop.  Especially when we begin to feel like God isn’t fair, or he isn’t loving, or maybe he doesn’t even exist.  When we haven’t experienced the wonder of the love of Jesus Christ, we need to take some time to stop, look, and listen.

            As we read through this prophecy from Isaiah, there are two types of commands that occur several times.  They are reminders for God’s people to listen and look.

            The first verse says, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
       and who seek the LORD

            Hey People of God.  Listen up.   Everyone who likes to consider themselves one called by God.  Stop and listen to this reminder from God.

            The prophecy continues:  “Look to the rock from which you were cut
       and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

 2 look to Abraham, your father,
       and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
       When I called him he was but one,
       and I blessed him and made him many.

            Listen up people of God.  The first thing God wants them to remember about his love is that he is a God that always fulfills his promises.  God says, “go ahead try me.  If you look all the way, you will find out that I have lived up to all of my promises.”  And God points them back to the most important promise he made.  He promised to be the God of Abraham and his descendants.  He promised to make Abraham a great nation.  He did that.  He gave Abraham a child.  He fulfilled his promise.

            He always fulfills his promises.  That’s what Easter ends up being all about.  That’s part of what makes Easter so amazing for us.  God started out with a promise in the garden that he would crush the head of the serpent while the serpent would strike the heel of the son of eve.  At Christ’s death, it looked as if Jesus was taken out.  It looked as if Satan had crushed the head of Jesus Christ.  Finished him once and for all.  But on Easter it was proven in the most spectacular way that God always fulfills his promises.  Christ wasn’t defeated.  Sin and death were defeated.  Satan was crushed.  God cares for his covenant people by fulfilling his promises.

            In the very next breath, he talks about the transformation by his grace.  Stop.  Look.  And Listen.  God’s grace is transformational.  Verse 3 says, The LORD will surely comfort Zion
       and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
       he will make her deserts like Eden,
       her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
       Joy and gladness will be found in her,
       thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

            Out of his love and compassion God takes what is broken down and destroyed and he builds it up again.  When God’s people are destroyed, broken down and barren, God is going to make them alive again.  What an awesome picture.  When God’s people are like a desert, God will restore them, God will bring them through a miraculous transformation.  He will make them alive again.  The desert will turn into the garden of eden.

            At the time of Christ, the people of God were completely destroyed.  Not just as a nation, but spiritually as well.  Because of the legalism of the Pharisees, God’s people were a desert.  No life to their spirituality.  No spirit.  They followed laws and expected that to be glorifying to God.  They didn’t realize that God doesn’t want people’s actions first of all.  First, he wants your hearts.  Let the actions follow.

            When we are captured by the love of Christ, a transformation takes place.  Almost like the miraculous transformation that happens to Christ’s very own body.  He went into the grave as a corpse.  No life.  Only holes in his hands and feet.  But when Christ came out of the grave his physical body had been transformed.  He had been brought back to life again.

            If we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit turns our corpse like spiritual life and turns it into something alive.  It takes our desert-like faith, and makes it as rich and lifegiving as the garden of Eden.  God raised Christ from the dead.  God gives us faith through the Holy Spirit.  God is the one responsible for the miraculous transformation from death to life in his people.

            Then the passage continues:  People of God, Stop.  Look.  Listen for the coming of God’s salvation.  "Listen to me, my people;
       hear me, my nation:
       The law will go out from me;
       my justice will become a light to the nations.

 5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
       my salvation is on the way,
       and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
       The islands will look to me
       and wait in hope for my arm.

            God assures the people if they don’t just run around thinking only about themselves, but look to God, they will see that God is going to bring justice to the world.  he will save those who are oppressed and righteous.  He is going to punish those who are wicked and oppressive.

            God continues by saying, “6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
       look at the earth beneath;
       the heavens will vanish like smoke,
       the earth will wear out like a garment
       and its inhabitants die like flies.
       But my salvation will last forever,
       my righteousness will never fail.

 7 "Hear me, you who know what is right,
       you people who have my law in your hearts:
       Do not fear the reproach of men
       or be terrified by their insults.

 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
       the worm will devour them like wool.
       But my righteousness will last forever,
       my salvation through all generations."

            If we watch God and we follow the way he works in the world, he isn’t like everything else that is created.  All the things of this world are just fleeting realities.  Our clothes, our homes, our lives.  They decay and fall away.  God was there as every other world power built it strength and then disappeared.  God will be there when the world powers today are brought down to their knees as well.  God will be there through every event that is yet to come.  And right along with God’s presence comes his salvation.  No matter what situation the world may be experiencing.  God’s salvation last for eternity.  The death of Jesus Christ is not bound to the first century, or the first millennium, or to the first million years after the death of Christ.  God is a God of eternity.  And his salvation never wears out. 

            If you have been saved by the blood of Christ, that blood will never lose its power.  If you know you have been chosen by God and he has given you faith in his son, then you have salvation for all eternity.  You can’t fall out of the salvation of God.  And you can’t out live the grace of God.  God is good all the time, and his salvation over us will last forever.

            And the last line of our passage bring the assurance to its peak for us.  16 I have put my words in your mouth
       and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
       I who set the heavens in place,
       who laid the foundations of the earth,
       and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.' "

            Whenever God talks like this I am struck by the shear power of his love.  In the same verse it tells us that he has set the heavens in place and he has laid the foundation of the earth.  And right along with that it tells that he covers us with the shadow of his hand, and then this amazing God looks down and says, you are my people.  I am going to chose to love you as my own.

            Christ came because God chose us for his salvation.  Christ died because God has his protecting hand covering us.  And Christ rose again because God fulfills his promises and because his salvation last forever.

            People of God.  Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Our God truly loves us.

This is God’s will from his word.  And all God’s people say,  AMEN

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