John 1:6-8, 19-28
Why is it that today we donít see as much of the power of God that we read about in the Bible? The reason, I believe, is because we are not completely one with the Lord.
We divide our time, our love, our soul, and our spirit between God and other things; thus His power flowing through us is less concentrated.
Both Isaiah and John the Baptist devoted themselves to the Lord, and the power of the Holy Spirit worked through them.
Let's begin by looking at Isaiah 57:15 and note carefully what the Lord says about Himself:
15. For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
"I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.
The Lord says that He dwells on a high and holy place, which is exactly where people expect Him to dwell.
But the Lord also says that He dwells with the contrite and lowly of spirit.
In other words, He dwells with us.
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite or humble people.
He dwells with us that we might have joy in our lives and also hope, when there seems to be no hope.
How does the Lord begin to do these things?
By working with people just like you and me who are willing to devote themselves to the Lord.
Now let's look at what Isaiah says of himself in 61:1-11, and at how this same power of the Lord is working through him.
And as we see how the Lord works through Isaiah, we can see how He works through us when we let Him:
1. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives,
And freedom to prisoners;
2. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3. To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Do you notice how similar what the Lord said of Himself, and what He was going to do, is to that which Isaiah says he is going to do because the power of the Holy Spirit is upon him?
In the power of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah looks beyond the present and pending destruction to the restoration according to God's promises.
And because the same Holy Spirit is upon us, we should also be able to look beyond our present problems to the better things to come, even if it isn't fully accomplished until we enter heaven.
But in the meantime, we're to do everything in our power to correct the problems and injustices we encounter in the here and now.
Listen to what Isaiah says:
4. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations,
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
5. And strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
Instead of being slaves to others, Israel will have foreigners come in to farm their land; and if you think about it, that is exactly what is happening in parts of Israel today.
6. But you will be called the priests of the Lord;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
Now, in this area, Israel is falling short of this expectation, as is the Church, and our own nation.
Why is this?
Because we still haven't learned to fully live in the power of the Holy Spirit, and because we haven't wholly committed ourselves to God.
We have not become one with the Lord by doing His will rather than our own.
Yet the hope is still before us, as is the power within us, if we are willing to commit ourselves; and remember that this applies to Israel, as well as to ourselves.
7. Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
And then Isaiah, speaking for the Lord, tells us how and why this can and should come about:
8. For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering;
And I will faithfully give them their recompense,
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
"Robbery in the burnt offering," is a poetic way of saying that the Lord hates the false worship and devotion of some people who want to look good before others in their churches and synagogues, but afterwards return to their evil ways.
We cannot cheat God.
We are to live a consistent life that is pleasing to the Lord, both in and out of our houses of worship, and particularly outside.
9. Then their offspring will be known among the nations,
And their descendants in the midst of the peoples.
All who see them will recognize them
Because they are the offspring whom the Lord has blessed.
And we need to ask ourselves a question: Will people recognize us as Christian, as followers of Jesus Christ, simply by observing the way we live every day of our lives?
Then Isaiah talks about his own feelings; and if we are one with the Lord, we should feel the same way:
10. I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
How does the Lord do this?
By people like you and me who are willing to become one with Him.
Have you also noticed that in his discussion of righteous living, Isaiah only uses the example of growing plants for food, for the hunting and the raising of animals for food always involves pain, suffering, and injustice, which can never be righteous.
Now let's move ahead some 700 years to the time of John the Baptist, and note how similar his ministry is to that of Isaiah's.
Please turn to John 1:6:
6. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John.
7. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.
8. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.
Once again, let's bring ourselves up to date, keeping in mind that the light is the light of God, as seen in and through Jesus Christ.
I'm going to put myself on the spot to help you focus upon what Isaiah and John are talking about.
Being very honest, ask yourself, "Do I see this same ministry in Frank Hoffman?"
Because as a pastor, as one supposedly called by God, this same witness should be seen in me.
The answer to this question will tell you whether or not I am one with the Lord.
Now, while still being honest with ourselves, and remembering that we are to be seen as a nation of priests, do you see in yourself this same quality of witness, as was present with Isaiah and John?
The answer to this question will tell you whether or not you are one with the Lord.
And if we are truly born of the Spirit, then we should be seen as witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world around us.
This is what it means to be a Christian.
Now let's jump ahead to verse 19: (John 1:19)
19. And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
20. And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, "I am not the Christ."
Being one with the Lord does not make us equal to the Lord, by any stretch of the imagination; and like John we must always focus people's attention upon the Lord and not upon ourselves.
21. And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
The others mentioned in this verse (21) were likewise servants of the Lord.
They were special only in that they were one with the Lord, not that they were special in themselves; but, unlike the vast majority of the people, they did come in the Spirit of the Lord.
22. They said then to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"
How would you answer such a question?
Listen to what John says; in his answer should be our answers:
23. He said, "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
24. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
25. And they asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
26. John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
27. "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."
28. These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John preached the advent of Jesus Christ to the people at that time.
What do the people of Athens [New York] and the surrounding community see in us?
And everyone else in the world need to ask themselves the same question about themselves and their own communities.
Do they see the advent of Christ's return?
Do they see our oneness with the Lord?
And I really hope and pray that they will see more of Jesus Christ and his servants before it's too late.
At least as far as you are concerned, be one with the Lord.
No matter what anyone else does, you be one with the Lord.
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