Race 2020: Blessed Series – From Sins to Comfort

Sunday 24 May 2020

Ps Ben Hooman

We continue in The Blessed series as we look at the blessings in the Beatitudes as in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5. 

Our core Scriptures are from Matthew 5 and Psalm 51. 

The Beatitudes are not telling us how to become a Christian but they rather tell what a true Christian looks like.

Everyone wants to be blessed. We want to be blessed in life, blessed in death, and blessed in eternity. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us about the life that is blessed and about the people who are blessed. But Jesus does more than just describe a blessed life, He gives us a way to actually pursue it.

Today we will be looking at how we mourn spiritually, focussing on how to cultivate spiritual sorrow.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  (Matthew 5:4)

We saw last time that there are three kinds of mourning:

  • Natural mourning is when you grieves the loss of someone you love;
  • Sinful mourning is grieving over something God never intended you to have;
  • Spiritual mourning is grieving over your sins against God, and this what Jesus is telling us here when He says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

Christ tells us that this kind of mourning is blessed. Spiritual mourning is so laden with blessing that we are to go after it and get as much of it in our lives as we possibly can. We saw last time that the more you know of this mourning, the more joy you will experience in your life.

We also saw that spiritual mourning is the key to overcoming habitual sins, sins we tend to go back to time and again.

The book of Judges tells the story of God’s people over several generations. If you read the book, you will discover that there is a repeated pattern and it goes like this: God’s people turn to idols; God allows them into the hands of their enemies; they cry out to God for mercy; God raises up a deliverer and everything goes well again; but then God’s people turn to idols again!

The cycle continues throughout the book. If we were to give a popular title to the book of Judges, we most probably would call it “How not to live the Christian life!” going round and round in circles.

You may recognize this pattern in your own life: Toying with sin; then falling into sin; asking Christ for forgiveness; experiencing God’s mercy; but then starting to toy with sin again.

How do you break out of that cycle? How do we avoid being the person who sits in church every week, having faith but remains unchanged for ten, twenty or thirty years? It happens and we see it around us and may even see it in ourselves as well.

Spiritual mourning is the key to breaking that cycles in our lives. Deliverance from that cycle starts with taking sin seriously, and that’s the focus of this second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

Today, we focus on the “How?” This is the practical question before us today and it is all about application. How can I practice spiritual mourning? How can I cultivate this godly sorrow that is laden with blessing? How can I break the cycle of habitual sin and go after true repentance?

If we can answer this question today, it will be of great value and that is exactly what we are doing from the Word of God. We have three basic points today and my advice is that you take notes to put into practice what Jesus is saying about spiritual mourning that will lead us into a great and lasting joy.

These three things are: How to see; How to mourn; and How to find comfort.

How to See

There’s an old saying: “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.” For example; Johnny throws his ball in the house and bumps a vase over, and when Johnny cracks his mother’s vase, he turns the cracked side towards the wall: “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over,” he says. Nobody gets upset about something they don’t know.

We are talking about spiritual mourning. What the eye does not see, the heart cannot grieve over. But we can only enter into spiritual mourning over sins that we actually see!

How do you get spiritual sight? What is then the answer to that? To mourn over your sinful nature begins with seeing your sins.

There are three ways in which you can come to a clearer knowledge of your own sins: God’s Word; God’s Spirit, and God’s people.

  • God’s Word

When you open the Bible, you are reading God’s words and His thoughts. As the Scripture gets into your life, you will begin to see things as God sees them.

By nature, we don’t see well. We justify what we do. We don’t see ourselves as others see us, let alone as God sees us. Reading the Bible is like putting on a pair of reading glasses. You begin to see what God sees. You get to know what grieves Him and offends Him.

Reading the Bible will open your eyes to the sins that lurk in your life.

“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8).

Reading the Bible will open your eyes to the sins that lurk in your life. The Word of God helps you to see and this is a wonderful gift of God.

Some good advice as you read the Bible, is to keep these five questions in mind when you read the Bible:

  • What does this tells me about God?
  • What does this tell me about myself?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a promise to believe?
  • Is there a command to obey?

Today we are focusing in on the question: As you read the Bible, is there a sin here to avoid?

Reading the Bible will open your eyes to see the sins you must avoid. Let us look at three verses from the Bible that would be familiar to you:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”(1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

As we read these verses it clearly point out at least 7 sins. What are the things that grieve the Spirit of God?

  • Impatience (love is patient)
  • Envy, (love does not envy)
  • Pride (love is not arrogant)
  • Rudeness (love is not rude)
  • Insisting on your own way (Love is not self-seeking)
  • Irritable (Love is not irritable; it is not easily provoked)
  • Resentful (Love does not hang on to past hurts)

All of these are offensive to God. They grieve the Holy Spirit. They ruin character and contradict the way of Christ. God’s Word will open your eyes to what God calls sin.

Read the Word and you will see where sin occupies your life. Leave your Bible closed and your eyes will remain closed to the sins lurking in your life. People not reading the Bible do not often see their own sins. Open your Bible start reading the Bible in this way, and God will open your eyes.

Do not read the Bible like the hypocrites to show the wrong in others. No, read it so that God can also change you. You can’t mourn over what you cannot see. It has to begin here and with you if you want to enter into a joyful life.

  • God’s Spirit

Let us look at a very simple picture: Imagine walking through a dark room. There are hidden treasures in there and unopened gifts too. But there’s also all kinds of junk, and trash, and vile things that should never be there. There’s a bad smell because some rats got into the basement and died there, and they’ve been lying there for some time. Hidden in the corners, there are some living ones too!

That’s a biblical picture of your soul. God could show you all the junk in your soul by turning on a very strong LED floodlight. But if He does that to you, you would be completely and utterly devastated and you will never recover from it.

None of us could bear the full knowledge of the extent of our sin if all of it was all revealed to us at once. Thank God who is gracious and kind that He does not show us our souls with a floodlight, but by the Holy Spirit walking with a flashlight.

The Holy Spirit is always shining the flashlight into the hidden corners of your soul. Sanctification is a lifelong process as the Spirit leads us through the murky room of our soul. He illuminates hidden things in dark corners of your soul that we are not aware of, so that by God’s grace we can deal with the junk.

As the Bible opens your eyes to particular sins, ask the Lord to show you where they’re lurking in your life. Where have I been insisting on my own way? What is the hurt I’ve been holding onto? Where is impatience hiding in my life?

The Holy Spirit shows what the sins are, and the flashlight shows me where they’re lurking in my life.  When the Word of God through the Holy Spirit highlights certain areas in your sinful nature, use the prayer at the end of Psalm 139:

 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Let the Word identifies what the sins are, and allow the Holy Spirit let you to see and then leads you to repentance to receive forgiveness that leads to a path of joy.

You do that through three gifts given to a believer: God’s Word, God’s Spirit and through God’s people.

  • God’s people

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed.”  (James 5:16)

Other Christians who know you well can help you see where you need to grow. That’s why relationships with believers are such a gift from God. Therefore it is so important to belong to a body of believers, a local church and its life groups.

We are talking about today about putting into practice, so here is a direct challenge to every man who’s happily married today: Ask your wife, “What’s one sin I should be fighting against more strongly this week?” The person God has placed next to you will be a great help to you in this area. She might identify more than one area in which I need to grow. What she is saying will be insightful and will continued to help us to grow.

Ladies, if your husband asks you this question, don’t waffle with some statement about what a wonderful fellow he is except that you wish he would fold his socks, pick up his clothes, etc. What would help him grow as a Christian? What hinders him from being more useful to God than he is?

If you are not married or if your marriage is not at a place where there is a high level of trust, ask someone else who knows you well. Find someone who can speak into your life and listen to what they have to say. This is also a great area for honest discussion in your Life Group this week.

These are not easy questions to answer. You need spiritual light to be helpful here. Not only God’s Word, or God’s Spirit but also God’s people.

God did not call you to follow Christ with the intent that your life would remain largely unchanged for ten, twenty, or thirty years in your “Christian life”. Let us help one another to be on the growing edge of what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to walk in the comfort that brings joy!

It begins to see by what God gives me: His Word, His Spirit and His people to help me to recognise the areas that keeps me from becoming more like Jesus Christ.

How to Mourn

We want to be able to see sins to be able to enter into what Jesus is calling; “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”. Now the question obviously arises: How do I mourn a sin once I have seen it?

Let us look at four steps that answers that question:

  • State your sin clearly, without excuse or without evasion

It is important to note that spiritual mourning is always over particular sins. Most of us experience times when we feel a general sense of our own failure. The devil takes us to focus on a general sense of our own failures. That’s not spiritual mourning and it does not move you forward. How then do you address a general sense of failure? You can only address particular sins that you are seeing.

You see, a hypocrite may admit that he or she is a sinner, but they never get down to naming a single personal sin. A hypocrite always keeps at the general level of sins and never goes further. Mourning over sin in general never moves you forward but just leaves you feeling miserable.

Spiritual mourning has a clear focus. It is mourning over particular sins that you have come to see through the ministry of God’s Word, through God’s Spirit and through God’s people.

Spiritual mourning begins by stating your sin clearly without excuse and without evasion: “I have acted out of envy. I have insisted on my own way. I have deceived and I have covered up, and this is a sin against God.”

You have to take it out of the dark place where the Holy Spirit shines a light on it. What has been internalised, need to be externalised. You need to look at it and see it for what it is and seeing the problem it is causing.

We now look at different verses in Psalm 51 as David goes into spiritual mourning for us to further understand mourning.

 “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4).

Surely others were wounded by what David did, but at its heart, sin is an offense against God, and there is no such thing as a small sin against a great God.

State your sin clearly and without reservation. Then do the following:

  • Weigh what this sin has done to you

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

David is looking at the effect of sin on his own soul. It is important otherwise one may just say sorry and carry on and never change. Think about the life of holiness to which God has called you to pursue. Think of where you might have been by now if this sin had not held you back.

Consider how this sin has limited your usefulness to Christ. Reflect on how it has dampened your worship, and dulled your testimony, and kept you at a distance from God.

Think about the other sins into which this sin has also led you: Sins of deception and pretence. Look at what this sin is costing you and count the costs. Think of what your life could be if this sin been left behind.

So state it clearly, look it in the face, and weigh what the sin has done to you.

  • Recognize what this sin has done to others

Nobody sins to himself or herself alone. The people God has placed around you are all affected by your sins, even if it remains unknown to them.

Why? Your sins make you less effective in the kingdom of God and robs others of what they might have received from you.

Many of our sins are obvious. Often, they are sins against other people, clear evidence of it to others.

Our sins make us harder to live with, more difficult to work with, and tougher to love. Take an honest look at it and the effects in your life and in the life of others, and also to others you don’t even know.

Also consider what your sin did to Christ and what He has done for you.

  • Consider what your sin did to Christ and what Christ has done for you

Jesus Christ did not hang on the cross for sins in general, but for sins in particular; sins with names, dates, and faces on them for which there was real punishment.

How do we know that? On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment for sin, and God being just, does not punish sins unless they are real, and they are particular.

So, the sin I am mourning was a sin for which Christ died. He suffered on account of this sin that has lurked in my life. There was a punishment for this that would have been upon me, but it was transferred to Him.

We have been asking: How do you break a pattern of habitual sin? How can you in your heart of hearts begin to hate what you used to love, and despise what you used to choose?

The diary of Andrew Bonar, a godly pastor from the 19th century, says:

“The answer is that spiritual mourning happens at the cross!

Come and see, come and see. Come and see the King of love

See the purple robe and crown of thorns He wears

Soldiers mock, rulers sneer as He lifts the cruel cross

Lone and friendless now He climbs towards the hill

Come and weep, come and mourn for your sin that pierced Him there

So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail

All our pride, all our greed all our fallen-ness and shame

And the Lord has laid the punishment on Him

We worship at your feet where wrath and mercy meet

And a guilty world is washed by love’s pure stream

For us He was made sin. Oh, help me take it in

Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive.’

I worship, I worship the Lamb who was slain”

When we look at the cross, there’s more than seeing what sins did to Jesus. It’s also about seeing Jesus Christ in relation to what He did for you. At the cross you see how much you are loved!

You have been sinning against God and what does Jesus Christ do? He bears your sins in His body on the tree. One glimpse of the love of Jesus Christ for you will do more to you in your struggle against sin than a hundred commitments or a hundred disciplines.

Get your eyes up unto Christ to see how much you are loved! Only that can break your heart of what is breaking God’s heart and lead you into the joy of what Jesus is speaking about. Blessed are those who entered into spiritual mourning for Jesus comforts us.

So, we have looked at “see” for what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve; we looked at how to “mourn;” and let us now look at how to find “comfort”.

How to Find Comfort

“Have mercy on me O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.”  (Psalm 51:1, 9)

It is all about asking God. You come to see, you come to mourn it and now you are at a place you where you can really ask God. Now what did David ask of God?

–        Ask God for total forgiveness

Notice the emphasis on completeness, “abundant mercy” and “blot out all my iniquities”. Sins are blotted out by the shed blood of Jesus Christ because of the love for us. When your sins are blotted out, they are covered, never to be seen in God’s presence again.

God does not forget our sins as if He had amnesia. God knows all things. He knows who you are and what you’ve done. That’s what makes His love so remarkable. He knows everything about us, but in love He says He will remember our sins no more!

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, I will remember their sins no more.”(Hebrews 8:12)

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord; I will put My laws into their hearts, and right them on their minds,’ then He adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:17)

Sins that are under the blood of Christ are never in the mind of God! Does God know your past sins? Yes, every one of them. Are they on His mind when I come to Him in the Name of Jesus Christ?  The answer is no. When you come to God in Jesus Christ, know that the mind of God is for you and with you in love, and without reservation, no matter how many times you have come before and will come again.

Remember, we are justified by Christ’s blood, not by our tears. Forgiveness does not flow from the depth of your sorrow. Forgiveness flows from the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9)

The question is never: “Have I become sorry enough to earn forgiveness?” The question is: “Is the sacrifice of Jesus enough to release forgiveness?” Definitely the answer is yes!

It’s not: “Have I done enough in order to be forgiven?” but “Has Christ done enough for me to be forgiven?” The answer to that question is yes!

Ask God for total forgiveness, but don’t stop there; also ask God for a clean heart.

  • Ask God for a clean heart

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:2)

Notice how David keeps coming back to the effect of his sin in his own soul. He is asking God, “Cover my sin in your presence. But more than that, wash its effects from my life.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

Sin brings guilt in the presence of God, but it also brings pollution into the human heart. Sin makes the sinner unclean. It spoils the life and ruins the character.

Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me.” (Psalm 51:10)

David’s heart led him into sin. Sinful acts come from a sinful heart. So he asked, “What will keep me from doing this again?” He didn’t want to go on repeating the same sin, so he said, “Create in me a clean heart. Give me a heart that hates what I once loved, and despises what I once chose.”

  • Ask God for a renewed spirit

Spiritual mourning is always marked by and infused with hope. But when you get serious about mourning your sins, the enemy has tactics for stalling your spiritual progress. He can dull your conscience so you lose awareness of indwelling sin, and the junk remains in the room.

But when you get serious about addressing sin in your life, and the Holy Spirit is shining the light, Satan switches tactics. Once you see the weight of sin in your own life, the enemy will use that to try and crush you, “Look at all this junk! There’s no hope for you. Look at this mess.”

When Satan tempts you to sin, he tells you there is no harm in it. But when you have fallen into sin, he tells you there is no hope because of it! When he says, “You can never overcome this,” you need to remember that the devil is a liar, and ask God to renew your spirit.

“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm51:8-11)

Look at Jesus Christ and remember it is the Holy Spirit that holds the light in the dark of your soul that brings hope. Ask God for a clean heart and a right spirit.

  • Ask God for a useful life

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good, for those that are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

All things has to include your sins and failures. You may just find that God’s greatest work in your life begins at the point of your greatest failure.

When Satan tempted you, he meant it for your destruction, but God can use it for your everlasting good. That’s what the power of redeeming love looks like and it points to what God does through the cross.

Don’t waste your sins! Don’t waste your failures!

What good can God bring out of your greatest failures? Here are a couple of things that will come out of it:

Genuine testimony

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:13)

When you see what God’s grace can do in your own life, you are motivated to share this with others.

Heartfelt worship

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”  (Psalm 15:15)

The one who has been forgiven much, loves much!

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

There’s great joy to be found here! You will never mourn this mourning. You will never be sad over this sorrow. You will never repent of this repentance. This mourning is blessed. This sadness leads to joy. This repentance leaves no regret.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Believers are people who know their own poverty. They look to Jesus for what they do not have, and know that in Him they have all that they need: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Believers are people who know their own sins. They look to Jesus Christ for mercy and find joy in pursuing a holy life:“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Is that you?

Let us pray:

Father God, teach us we pray the spiritual mourning in which a life is changed and joy is found that we may pursue it all our days until every tear is wiped from our eyes and there is no more. Because there is no more sin and You have made all things new through Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. In His Name we pray. Amen.

Ascension Day: Celebrating Jesus Christ

21 May 2020

Ps Ben Hooman

What a privilege to commemorate and especially celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ with you today.

Our core Scriptures will be out of Luke 24 and Acts 1.

Today we look at one of the most important and least understood events in the history of Christianity, an important day of the purpose and position of our Lord Jesus Christ.

His birth, His death, His resurrection, Pentecost, and Jesus second coming, many get a lot of teaching on but not so much on the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ascension is understood as Jesus physical departure from the earth and that Jesus will continue to be with His disciples and believers by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Is the Ascension something to get excited about? It is somewhat inappropriate to get excited about someone leaving. If my wife gets excited about me leaving, or me leaving permanently and saying that I will send someone in my place, something seriously is wrong.

But let us look at what happened as given to us in the gospel of Luke:

“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50-53)

The Word of God says; “and they returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. If my wife celebrates me leaving by throwing a big party after I left, a lot of questions will be asked.

Jesus spoke about His leaving on other occasions as well. At the Last Supper He spoke about it in length. After that the disciples experienced Jesus horrified death after suffering and also His resurrection evidence; that Jesus is alive, and when Jesus eventually left in such a miraculous way, we find the disciples filled with joy!

Something must have happened, for that what they once dreaded so much they are now celebrating. What is it that made the ascension a cause for celebration?

Let us follow the story from Jesus resurrection onwards. This is given to us and we going to look at it in the book of Acts and in the gospel of Luke.

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. He presented Himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)

For forty days after resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples. Luke is here giving us the reasons and purposes of Jesus appearance to them and others.

Firstly, he is giving many convincing proofs that Jesus is alive and the fact of the resurrection being established.

Jesus appeared to His disciples on approximately nine to ten distinctive occasions and also to a group of more than five hundred people.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

The second reason for Jesus appearances after resurrection was to speak about the kingdom of God, to prepare the disciples for the work of the kingdom.

They have now a new level of understanding. Previously they saw the cross as a huge disaster for the expected King to come as per their perception is now dead. But after the resurrection as Jesus is alive in appearing to them, they now see all the plans as Jesus told them beforehand.

What is interesting is the fact that Jesus was now not with them constantly. He appeared and teach, then disappeared, appeared and teach, and then disappeared again, weaning them away from His natural and physical presence.

Their faith was previously built on sight, face to face with Jesus. But now they have to build their faith not on sight but on believe!

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:10)

“So, we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)

For forty days Jesus helps them with this transition in faith to walk by faith and not by sight!

Now they are on top of the Mount of Olives and this time Jesus will not go down the mountain. What He had to do in Jerusalem is finished and had been accomplished. He is now going up, ascending into the presence of His Father!

“And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-12)

This time they saw Jesus leaving. No more will there be natural appearances, the forty days is over, transition has taken place, evidence given, the Son ascended to the Father!

They now have to walk by faith and not by sight anymore as they return to Jerusalem filled with great joy. What made them so joyful?

Let us look at three things: the cloud, the blessing, and the promise.

The Cloud

“… He was lifted up and a cloud received Him.”

Was this just a weather report in Jerusalem that day, that it was cloudy and overcast? I don’t think so. The Bible is one truth and God ties the truth and revelations together in the most amazing way.

Remember that God is invisible, nobody has ever seen God, but He makes His presence known to His people.

How did He do it in the Old Testament? He gave His people visible symbols of His presence. In the desert Israel had a brim of fire at night and a pillar of cloud during the day. When Solomon build the temple, a cloud filled the temple as a sign of ‘God with us!”, a sign of God’s presence.  

When Jesus went up the mountain He was transfigured, a cloud came down upon the mountain and the disciples fell on their faces in the immediate presence of Almighty God!

This cloud Jesus blended into was no ordinary cloud but the manifestation, the manifest presence of Almighty God. Jesus was taken up, a cloud received Him, God the Father received His Son! Jesus Christ came from the Father to earth and is now returning to the Father, His work finished and now received by the Father! As the Father sent Him, He now receives Him.

This is the first time since Adam was expelled from the presence of God that a man, Jesus as man, entering into the presence of God, Jesus taking our humanity into the presence of God! The angels saw the first Adam expelled, and now they witness the second Adam; Jesus, being received by the Father. Jesus Christ, the first of many to be reconciled to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

No wonder the disciples went back filled with joy. The closed door that had been closed for so long, now be opened. We can now enter into the presence of God because Jesus is there. Yes, because Jesus is there we can be there also!

It is much more important to have Jesus Christ in heaven than naturally here with us.

A person that has act against the law, who did not keep the law, will need a good attorney, and not only a good lawyer but one with compassion. When he visits you, you want to find his presence comforting so you can discuss your difficulties and challenges with ease as you find yourself in a cell. But the place you need him the most is not in the cell but him representing you in court. The relationship you establish in the meetings is valuable and critical, but the thing you most need is an able performer in court.

My greatest need on earth as a sinner is not comfort on earth but effective defence in the courtroom of heaven! A representative, an attorney, an advocate who will plea my case before Almighty God.

When Jesus ascended, He went right into the very place we need Him to be. We will find many ways to get through life in this prison called “world”; some with great success, surviving and decorating our cells here on earth through tricks, and bribery and bargaining, but on the last day, when the case is brought, we need an effective defence; Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!

The disciples were filled with joy for they new where Jesus is and what Jesus is doing there.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who is indeed interceding for us” (Romans 8:31-34)

Your name is on His hand and on His heart. It is with joy that we approach the thrown of God.

The Blessing

A last impression normally makes a powerful impact on the mind, those who have lost a loved one knows that the last impression lingers. What was the last visual impressions the disciples had of Jesus?

“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)

Just picture this, you are with the disciples and Jesus lifts His hands to you and He speaks the blessing of God onto you and into your life.

 In Scripture we see that a blessing is of utmost importance. Just look at Jacob deceiving his father Isaac to get a blessing. The blessing was not just a few religious words, no, it was a prophetic statement of what God would do in and through a person’s life. When the blessing was pronounced by Isaac over Jacob, once been given, it was irrevocable and cannot be taken back.

The Bible and its happenings are preparing us, preparing our minds to understand things of importance.

Here is something far greater: Christ is lifting His hands over the disciples and impart His blessing onto them! A blessing to be used through the earth with God’s anointing on them. The last thing they saw of Jesus was Him blessing them. But He has not finished blessing them, as He is ascending, He is blessing them, an unfinished work and is still blessing us.

Ascension is speaking of Jesus completed work on earth as man, but also of His continuous work of blessing His people. This blessing continues till Jesus Christ return for His people.

If you look up with your mind in faith unto Jesus Christ, what do you think He is doing? He always lives to intercede for us and also for the blessing of God in every circumstance.

So, the disciples left with joy, and Jesus Christ is right there where they most needed Him and He is continuously blessing them as he blesses all His people.

The Promise

The promise comes in two parts as seen in Acts chapter one:

“And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, ‘You heard from Me; for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5)

Jesus has ascended and will not be naturally visible, but His presence will be with the disciples through the Holy Spirit. What an advantage to the church and to believers that Jesus can now be with everyone at the same time!

There were times when Jesus could not be with His disciples. His human ability did not allow Him to be everywhere at the same time. He told His disciples that they will be His witnesses.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Just before He departed to heaven, He tells His disciples that they will be His witnesses to the whole world by the power of the Holy Spirit that He sends in His place.

As Jesus Christ ascends: He is in a place we most needed Him to be, on the right hand of the Father, He continues to bless us, and He sends the Holy Spirit into those who accept Him as Lord and Saviour.

Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit so that the presence of God can be with every believer in every circumstance here and now on earth.

Do we now understand that the Ascension is a great celebration!

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven”. (Acts1:11)

When Jesus return for us, He comes in glory and we will also be snatched up into His presence. The ascension is also a model for our rapture to come! What happened here with Jesus, will happen to His own when He comes again.

No wonder the disciples were filled with joy and therefore we can be as excited as they were, filled with joy.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Jesus Christ is where I need Him the most, and He had to go so I could receive the help of the Holy Spirit. At His second coming, we will be taken up in like manner to be permanently with God!

Are you looking forward to that day and are you ready for it?

Let us pray:

Father God, we confess this morning that You have exalted Christ Jesus. You have given Him a Name above all names. In Him we have life and life in abundance. He is the exalted one, Our King, High Priest sitting at Your right hand also for our sake. He was and is and is the one to come for us. We are looking forward to enter into the cloud one day as we ascended into heaven to be with you always. We pray this in Jesus Name and at His Name every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. To His glory and honour, Amen.

Race 2020: The Blessed Series – Mourn into Blessing

Sunday 17 May 2020

Ben Hooman

Matthew 5:1-11

We continue in the Blessed Series that we were in before the lockdown.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

But before we continue, we need to recap what had been shared.

“Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed …. (Matthew 5:1-3)

In the Old Testament God’s people gathered at Mount Sinai. God came down, but His face was never seen. The people were kept at a distance. Darkness descended. Fire and smoke covered the mountain. The trumpets were blasting (Deuteronomy 4:11-12).

The whole scene was so terrifying that even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear” (Hebrews 12:21).

If that’s how Moses felt, how do you think you or I would have felt?

But when we come to the Beatitudes, the scene is completely different. God has come among us in the Person of Jesus Christ. We see His face. He bids us to come to Him.

At Mount Sinai, God comes down to the mountain in terrifying splendour, and the people are kept at a distance.

But here the Son of God goes “up on the mountain (Matthew 5:1), and when He sits down, His disciples come to Him.

At Sinai, God spoke thundering words, so terrifying that the people begged that no further words would be spoken (Hebrews 12:19).

But here the Son of God speaks, not thundering words of condemnation, but wonderful words of blessing.

Who would not want to sit down and listen to God in the flesh tell us about the life that is truly “blessed”?

Don’t miss the word “blessing,” that is repeated here, and over and over, in the Beatitudes.

We saw that the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes have a profound effect on us in at least three ways:

–        We are finding the Beatitudes compelling

Jesus is speaking of a life that is blessed by God and shows us the path by which blessing is to be found. We want to be one of those blessed people!

This is also giving us the means by which we may pursue such a life. In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us a key to progress in our Christian life.

–        We also find the Beatitudes searching

Am I displaying the marks of a blessed person?

We also use the Beatitudes as:

–        A tool for discernment,

–        As a key to progress, and

–        As a window to worship

Jesus says that “the one who hears My words and puts them into practice is like a man who builds his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:23)

We looked at “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus does not begin with a class of all the great doctrines of the Bible. He does not begin by saying: let’s get you all involved in ministry”. He begins by saying: “let Me tell you what a person who lives under the blessing of God looks like”.

As we go through the Beatitudes we have to ask, “are these the things I am pursuing, and what evidence are there of these things in my life?

There is an image I asked for you to have in mind throughout the series. Imagine a child at the playground swinging from one ring to the next ring on the monkey rings. The key to swinging on the rings is momentum. The momentum of your swing on the first ring as you leave the platform, makes it possible for you to reach the second, and the momentum on the second ring makes it possible to reach the third, and so on.

Without momentum from the previous swing, the next ring would always be beyond your reach.

The Beatitudes are like a series of rings. How do you get to the fifth or sixth Beatitude? You start from the beginning. Everyone can do this but you have to realize that you start from the platform; Christ Jesus our Lord as your Lord and Saviour. On the first ring recognise that you do not have what it takes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. It is then when repentance come.

When holding on too long on any of the rings, will eventually let you lose momentum and you will get tired and let go of the ring. Losing the momentum, and you fall off any of the rings, you go back to the platform, back to Jesus and start anew in Him. “Lord, I do not have what it takes as you start swinging on the first ring of “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, knowing your own inability and that gives you momentum to the next ring as you surrender to God.

We looked at:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs are the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:3)

Poor in the spirit means that you recognize your poverty before God. This is the first mark of a person walking with God. Being poor in the spirit is where your blessing begins. It is the gateway that leads to the other blessings.

Poor in the spirit will impact your life in four ways:

–        You will give up the idea that God owes you anything.

Pride says, “I gave Him something. He owes me something bigger and better than what I got back”. A person who is poor in spirit says, “What do I have that I did not receive? I owe God everything and I can give Him nothing. God owes me nothing and He has given me everything”.

–        People poor in the spirit are not afraid to ask.

 Such a person will be much in prayer.

–        People poor in the spirit are in a position to receive.

Those that feel they have something to offer God are always come with their hands full, but only those that come to God empty-handed; aware of their need of Him, can receive.

In the third message we looked at “being humble”:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)

We looked at the curse of pride and that humility goes directly against the grain of today’s self-affirmation culture. Jesus does not say to believe in yourself but He says, “Believe in God, believe also in Me”. (John14)

We saw that there is a blessing in humility: It helps us to bear affliction, it nourishes our love for others, it strengthens us to overcome temptation, and it release you from the tyranny of self.

The way we cultivate humility is by measuring yourself by the Word of God, using the Word as a searchlight in your soul, and also to model yourself on Jesus Christ, learning from Him:

–        I can do nothing on my own… John 5:30

–        I have not come to do my own will… John 6:38

–        I do not seek my own glory… John 8:50

If these are the word of Christ, how much more should they be mine?

Humility is the grace that brings more grace!

Today we move on to the second Beatitude:

Mourning that are Blessed

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

What is this “mourning” that Jesus says is “blessed” without qualification?

There are three kinds of mourning: Natural, sinful, and spiritual.

Natural mourning is grieving for someone or something you have lost.

God gave you a wonderful gift, and now that gift has been taken away. The natural response is to mourn. Those who’ve been bereaved know about this. Jesus knew about this. He wept at the graveside of a friend.

The presence and comfort of Jesus in the journey of bereavement is a treasured gift to every believer, but that’s not what Jesus is speaking about here.

Here’s why: in the Beatitudes, Jesus is speaking about qualities we are to proactively pursue.

We are to go after purity of heart. We are to seek righteousness. We are to desire meekness. We are to get as much of these things that we possibly can.

Jesus is speaking about conditions of heart that are so laden with blessing, and He is encouraging us to go after them at any cost.

That is true of all seven Beatitudes, and the eighth that is added is; being persecuted for righteousness sake and that is simply the outcome of a life marked by the other seven.

We are to desire and to go after as much of these blessed qualities as we can get.

Nobody would say that about natural mourning. No bereaved person would say, “I want to go after as much of that as I can possibly get.”

So that is not what Jesus is speaking about here.

There is another kind of mourning that is described here as sinful mourning.

Sinful mourning is pining for something God has not given

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

There is no sin in natural mourning. Jesus wept. Grieving over something or someone God has taken away is modelled by Christ.

But there are other kinds of sorrow. Paul warns us about a worldly sorrow that leads to death.

You have an example of this in Ahab, the king of Israel. God gave him a palace and a kingdom, but next to the palace, there was a poor man by the name of Naboth who had a vineyard. Ahab set his eyes on Naboth’s vineyard. The Bible says; “And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen…” (1 Kings 21:4)

 We might say today that he’s “pouting.” Why? Because he could not get his hands on the vineyard.

Another word for it is “coveting,” and it led to the murder of Naboth. Coveting is pining for what God has given to others, but He has not given to us.

This sinful mourning is a killer. It leads to death and obviously that is not what Jesus is speaking about here when He says “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

Natural mourning that is the outflow of what God has given; sinful mourning which is a killing kind of a pouting after what God has decided not to give; and the third is spiritual mourning which is clearly what Jesus is speaking about here – sorrow over our sins against God.

Spiritual mourning is sorrow over our sins against God

A.W. Pink says,

“The mourning for which Christ promises divine comfort is a sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow”.

This is the godly sorrow Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10. It is blessed because it “produces a repentance that leads to life.”

You know about natural sorrow. You may know about sinful sorrow. What do you know about godly sorrow, this “mourning” that is blessed?

This is a subject of huge importance to the church today, because true Christians are surrounded by a form of faith that has been so emaciated, so diluted, that it’s unrecognizably different from what Jesus speaks about here.

Thank God for great truth that we are justified by faith:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Why does faith justify? Why does faith justify and not works?

Answer: A believer is justified by faith because faith unites a person to Jesus Christ, who justifies, sanctifies and glorifies believers through the power of His shed blood.

This power is applied to the life of the believer by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Now here is the problem that has led to the Trivialisation of what is called “Christianity”, under the banner of Christianity today! A redefinition of repentance and a redefinition of faith.

Firstly, faith which unites a person to Christ, has been reduced to mere belief, an assent to certain truths of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Simply believing certain things will never change your life, as if believing what the devil, himself, knows to be true would change you.

No, Jesus Christ changes you!

Faith is the bond of a living union with Christ. And when Christ enters a life, He comes to forgive you and to make you holy. He accepts you as you are, but His grace will never leave you where you are!

The replacement of faith, which unites a person to Christ, with mere assent to certain truths, leads thousands of people to “accept Christ” without ever bowing to His Lordship in their lives.

We end up with a form of faith that does not change our lives. When the world despises that, they have the right to do so.

Secondly, repentance, which involves a change of direction, has been reduced to merely admitting that I am a sinner and saying a prayer.

Listen to two Scriptures today, and try to take in how far the Bible is from the kind of message that often poses under the banner of Christianity today. We quote one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Here is the call to biblical repentance:

“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.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

God says to the wicked “Forsake your way. Stop doing what you are doing. Turn! Stop thinking these thoughts”.

That’s a thousand miles away from merely admitting I’m a sinner and continuing on and don’t change!

Listen to this from the New Testament:

“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are His’ and ‘Let everyone who names the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

If you are going to name the Name of the Lord, here’s what it means: “Depart from iniquity!” Not think of it or merely know there is iniquity but to depart from it!

The call of God to repentance, to a change in direction, has been replaced by merely “admitting you are a sinner,” and saying a prayer “asking Jesus to forgive you.”

Union with Christ that humbles the sinner and leads to a holy life has been replaced by an emaciated form of faith that can easily be added to the worldly prosperity dream preached today.

Faith has been redefined to accommodate our selfish requests. Repentance has been reshaped to fit our indulgence.

The result is that you have people by the thousands who “admit that they are sinners” and “accept Jesus,” but who have not experienced spiritual life at all.

How would that be known?

The evidence of this is that they don’t feel poor in spirit, they don’t know what it is to mourn over sin. They aren’t characterized by a deep hunger for righteousness. They aren’t merciful. They aren’t pure in heart.

They do not know, even in the gathering for worship, the joy and the blessing of a person who has discovered that in Christ they have all that they need.

This theme of spiritual mourning is of critical importance to the whole church in our time. It’s a message that all of us need to hear!

What does spiritual mourning look like?

Distinguishing marks of spiritual mourning:

Spiritual mourning arises from humility

Spiritual mourning follows naturally from becoming poor in spirit. When you see that you do not have what it takes, you will mourn over the sins that are yours, and mourn over the righteousness that you do not have.

We’ve been picturing the Beatitudes as a series of seven rings. Swinging on that first ring of being poor in spirit will lead you to the second ring of the mourning that is blessed.

You swing on the first and it will get you to the second and so on. You can’t begin on the second ring. You can’t suddenly mourn over what used to bring you joy.

Every sin holds a passing pleasure, that’s why sin tempts us. Nobody would sin if this weren’t true.

So how can you learn to hate what you used to love and love what you used to hate?  You have to start on the first ring!

Spiritual mourning is a matter of the heart

You might not be able to tell the difference between spiritual mourning and natural mourning in another person, but you can tell the difference in your own heart.

The Bible tells us the story of Saul, a high achiever with a twisted heart. Saul was the first King of Israel. He led his army into battle and then took plunder for himself and for his men. He cheated, deceived and stole, and then he lied to cover it up. But later he was found out. Samuel confronted him with the truth, and Saul had nowhere to hide.

So, Saul confessed. He said he was sorry. He said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:24).He must have had a very long face when he said it. Then he says something else to Samuel, “I have sinned, yet honour me now before the elders of my people” (1 Kings 15:30).

He appears sorry, but the truth is that he would have continued what he was doing, if he could. He says he is sorry but his focus is on damage limitation. There has not been a change of heart!

Spiritual mourning is the key to tackling what we call “habitual sins,” sins that keep recurring in a person’s life. A true Christian does not live in a cycle of sinning, saying sorry to God and then repeating the same behaviour, year after year after year and never changing.

Why do we know so much of habitual sin? Because we know so little about mourning. We miss the blessing and remain unchanged!

God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, not to presumption. Here is a person who is content to sin and assume forgiveness but does not mourn, and does not change. That is not walking the path of repentance. That is walking the path of presumption.

What God is saying to us here? God announces mercy for mourners. Those who are not mourners have nothing to do with mercy.

Someone once said: “If you have never been down on your knees before God, feeling what a sinful man, or woman you are, I doubt hugely whether you will ever stand with radiant face before God, and praise Him through eternity for His mercy to you.” Spiritual mourning arises from humility, from the heart of a believer, and then also hope.

Spiritual mourning is infused with hope

Judas grieved over his sin in betraying Jesus, but he did not have spiritual mourning. Why? His grief led him to despair.

Grief that leads to despair is the work of Satan, not the Holy Spirit.

Satan brings you to despair of self, but he never brings you to hope in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit brings you to despair of self and then also to hope in Jesus Christ!

That’s how you tell the difference between what the devil is trying to do in your life, and what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life. Hope is a signature mark of spiritual mourning.

That’s why the true believer is in Paul’s words, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

It’s very fascinating that those two things go together.There are two sides to the coin on genuine Christian experience.

The true Christian always find him or herself saying, “Who is sufficient for these things?” but does not stop there for true mourning is infused with hope, knowing our “sufficiency is of God.”

The true Christian continues to say, “O wretched man that I am,” but he doesn’t end there. His mourning is infused with hope, so he says, “Thanks be to God who has given me the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The true Christian knows how to say with Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” But she does not end there. Her mourning is infused with hope and she says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

This is very important: True Christians mourns their sins but they never end there. Our mourning is infused with hope, and so we lay hold of the comfort that is in Jesus Christ. Without that it’s not spiritual mourning, it’s just the devil trying to make you despair.

We have looked at the mourning that is blessed. But they will also be comforted.

The Blessing that those who mourn will receive:

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

How will they be comforted? What in all the world can comfort people who feel the weight of their own sin?

A better question would be: Who in all the world can comfort people who feel the weight of their own sin?

Those who mourn find a friend in the “Man of sorrows”

The Saviour who spoke these words was known as the “Man of sorrows.” The prophet Isaiah announced that the Redeemer would be “a Man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” centuries before He was born.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not”. (Isaiah 53:3)

Christ knows all about spiritual mourning, not because He mourned over His own sins. He had no sins to mourn. But He mourned over the sins of the world, and grieved over their devastating effect. See Him mourning over Jerusalem, coming down the Mount of Olives, He weeps over a city that rejects Him and is headed for destruction.

Why did He come into this world?

The mission of the Redeemer is to comfort those who mourn

Writing years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah spoke of what the Redeemer would do when He came. Why did He come into the world?

His mission is to “comfort all who mourn… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:2-3 NIV)

Christ accomplished His mission by bearing our sins… and carrying our sorrows!

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”  (Isaiah 53:4)

 “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; …” (Isaiah 53:5)

 “… and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

The Holy Spirit comforts the person who mourns by making what Christ purchased his!

There is a beautiful statement in 1 Corinthians 6. In it, Paul lists a catalogue of sins:

“Some of you were drunkards, revellers, swindlers, idolaters, adulterers… That’s what you were, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

In Christ, the spiritual mourner can truly say:

“I am forgiven! I am cleansed! I have been washed. I am justified before God. I’m not the person I want to be, but I’m not the person I used to be. Sanctification has begun in me, and one day it will be complete—all because of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit.”

That’s the comfort for those who mourn! That’s why the true Christian is sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What do you know of this in your life?

Let us pray:

Father, we connect to hear Your Word today because we want to know You. We want to know the reality of life here and now that also secure us an eternal future. Our Father, by the help of the Holy Spirit to lay up for ourselves the comfort that is in Christ Jesus, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

Facing the Times – Life after a Crisis

Sunday 10 May 2020

Ps Ben Hooman

What a privilege to bring the Word of God into your homes this morning.

Have you ever been in a situation where you begged for a second change, or unexpectedly given a new lease of life? We are then thankful and want to make the best of the opportunity. But soon we forget the grace that had been shown, and pride creeps into our hearts.

May this last message in our series on “Facing the Times”, with a focus on life after a crisis, guide us to a new life of humility and gratitude.

Our core Scripture this morning is from Isaiah 38:18-20; 39:1-8.

In this story we see a great reflection of king Hezekiah, a godly man who faced an illness that brought him to the point of death. God heard his prayer and he made a remarkable recovery. This story is speaking to us directly as we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis.

As we look at Hezekiah, we saw that he went through different stages in this crisis. First the shock and turning to God in praying having hope, in the middle of this crisis in anguish, how faith get tested, strengthened and assured and today we will look at position after the crisis.

As we have gone through this series, we found that it has been speaking to us in a remarkable way to what we are facing as we walk through this crisis in these days.

As this dangerous virus entered our lives, we were all in a state of shock. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. We as believers then affirmed our hope, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but as time goes on, we felt increasingly distressed and in anguish. Our faith gets tested, finding our faith not as strong as we might have thought. We looked at how our faith can be strengthened by the Word of God and by praying the promises of God. We then looked at the things in which a believer can be absolutely sure that even in these times that we are loved, we are saved and we are forgiven.

Today we are looking at the last part of this story and again it speaks directly and powerfully to where we are in this corona virus crisis.

Hezekiah was sick to the point of death; he cried out to the Lord in prayer; God healed him and add fifteen years to his life. Now here is the question: What use did this man make of those fifteen years added to his life? Or, personally to each and every one of us?

Here we are in this crisis, we are past the shock. We have experienced a great deal of anguish but we have our hope in the Lord and see that there is life at the end of this all. We see guidelines for getting the country going, some restrictions lifted and hopefully more to be lifted in the near future. We all want to get our lives back. Back to work, back to church, back to friends and families, back to travelling again. We continue praying for this crisis to be something of the past.

But what are you going to do with your life when you get it back? That is the question before us today.

Let us look at the story of Hezekiah; what he said, what he did, what he discovered when he got his life back, and how God’s grace prevailed.

What he said

“What shall I say? For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it. I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul” (Isaiah 38:15)

Hezekiah said that “I walk slowly”, or as it might be translated “humbly all my years”. This was Hezekiah’s commitment and he was absolutely clear, saying: Lord, if you will give me my life back; if you will answer my prayers, here is what I am going to do: if you give me another fifteen years I’m going to live every day of my life before You in humility.

What would that look like? This Hezekiah tells us in the following verses as he describes the life his going to pursue. We see that a humble person seeks to glorify God and to seek the good in others:

“The living, the living, he thanks You, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children Your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:19)

  • A humble person seeks to glorify God.

Hezekiah is saying: ‘No one in the pit of destruction is going to be praising You, but You have saved me from that. You have promised me life, and I believe in Your promise.

So, I am going to praise You, I’m going to thank You, and if You give me another fifteen years, I’m going to praise You and thank You every day of my life’.

  • And, a humble person seeks the good of others.

Remember at this stage Hezekiah is not a father yet. Children has not yet been born to him, but he believed that God will be faithful to His promise given to David, hat the line of David in which Hezekiah stood, would continue. So, he makes this commitment to God: ‘I will tell my children of Your faithfulness. I will make sure my family knows that You are God, and that You are good, and that Your faithfulness endures to all generations’.

Notice that the cycle of praise keeps on expanding. It starts with one man; Hezekiah praising and giving thanks to God, then his family joins in with him, and then the entire community:

“The Lord will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 38:20)

Notice the movement from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in this verse. Hezekiah is saying: It is not just me that is going to thank the Lord, but all of God’s people is going to join in to praise Him with me. We are going to make music; we are going to sing praises to You O’ Lord. We going to do it in the temple and doing it all the days of our lives.

What a commitment! Lord, if You give me back my life, here is what I am going to do: I’m going to live my life humbly for Your glory, and I’m going to seek the good of other people.

That is what this king Hezekiah said. But what he did was something entirely different!

What he did

“At the time Merodach-baladan the son Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.” (Isaiah 39:1)

Babylon was the rising superpower of that day, and so when envoys came from Babylon, Hezekiah really wanted to impress them. He was flattered and couldn’t resist showing off his treasure. Look what he did:

“And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armoury, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2)

Imagine what effect this must have had on the envoys from Babylon. Their eyes widen as they see the gold, and as they see the silver. They then go back to their crown prince saying that there is serious money over there in Jerusalem.

After the envoys from Babylon had left, the prophet Isaiah came back again to Hezekiah in the palace and ask him about these visitors.

“Then Isaiah the prophet came to king Hezekiah, and said to him, ‘What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?’ Hezekiah said, ‘They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them’. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:3-6)

What do we learn right here? We learn that good people can make disastrous decisions. Hezekiah was a godly man, but here he acts in utter folly. A good man making a disastrous decision in showing future enemies all of the treasure of his house. An absolute disaster because this was what sowed the seed of the loss of Hezekiah’s kingdom in future generations, when a future king of Babylon would come and destroy the city of Jerusalem and plunder its wealth entirely.

When Hezekiah heard what will happen, he spoke one of the saddest sentences in all of the Bible. Isaiah had told him that his sons will be carried away, in other words this great loss will happen in a future generation. Hezekiah knew he was only going to live another fifteen years. He knew exactly how long he had left to live. So, when he hears this news that this disaster is not going to happen immediately, but that it is going to happen in a future generation, he knew it is not going to be on him but on his sons.

“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good’. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days”. (Isaiah 39:8)

What sheer selfishness! No thought for a future. He actually says: who cares to what happens to other people. As long as I live a good life and life is good to me, there will be peace and security in my days.

Looking at these words, how can any one be that selfish? But God has told us that judgement is coming to this world, and you know, we might not be so far from Hezekiah as we would like to think, when he basically says, ‘judgement is coming, well as long as I’m not involved. The world can go to hell as long as we don’t go with it’. That is the spirit of Hezekiah right here.

What Hezekiah said, and what he did, were two entirely different things. He says he is going to live humbly with thanksgiving. He is going to seek the good of others.

What he did though was all about himself. “As long as there is peace and security in my days…” God gave him life and he lived it for himself!

Here is the question: How could a godly man behave in such a way? How could a king who prayed and whose prayers have been heard and answered, how could a good man who the Bible says was the best king Judah ever had, behaved like this?

The key is given to us in the second book of Chronicles where God tells us what is going on at this time in king Hezekiah’s heart.

We looked at what Hezekiah said, we looked at what he did and we now will look at what he discovered.

What he discovered

“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefor wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem”. (2 Chronicles 32:24-25)

Here we see that this king that said that he will walk humbly, did not make return according to the benefit returned to him, but became proud. He said one thing but what he did was the opposite. Why? “for his heart was proud”.

Remember that Hezekiah was a godly man, the best king Judah ever had. The Bible says there was none like him before and none like him after. He was a true believer, and his prayers were heard and wonderfully answered by Almighty God.

But pride lurked in his heart and when God gave him his life back, the Bible makes it very clear what he did with his life: he lived for himself.

“And Hezekiah had very great riches and honour, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God has given him great possessions.” (2 Chronicles 32:27-29)

God gives him abundant goodness, and what does he do with it? It is all for himself. Here is a man who says to God: you give me back my life, and I will walk humbly with You all of my years. But exactly the opposite happened when God gave him back his life! It is all about Hezekiah. He becomes proud in his heart, and what he does is all for himself!

The question that really reveals our hearts is not ‘will you pray in a crisis?’ most people pray in a crisis. No, the question that really reveals your hearts is ‘how will you live when the crisis is over?’ what will you do with your life if God gives it back to you? It is this question that exposes the heart of Hezekiah. God knows how to deal with a proud heart.

“Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefor wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:15)

What are we being told here? When Hezekiah’s heart became proud, he came under the discipline of Almighty God. Here is a very important biblical principle: God loves His own children so much, that He will not allow His own children to continue in sin. What did His wrath look like? Chronicles tells us very clearly how God dealt with Hezekiah, and how He will deal with us, if our hearts become proud:

“And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31)

When a person who has been blessed by God turns away from Him in defiance and refuses to repent, things don’t go so well.

The prodigal son knew all about this. He sinned against God and against those that loved him, and for a long time there wasn’t the slightest hint of repentance in his life. He remained in a far country, and things did not go well for him there. In the end he became desperate. He most probably told himself that what he needed was a new job, or new friends, maybe move to a new location. But what he really needed to do was to repent! He needed to humble himself. He needed to repent towards God: “I have sinned against heaven”. He needed to repent towards people in his life. The money he had taken, the trust he had betrayed, the work he had abandoned, the love he had spurned. The Lord Jesus says in the story of the prodigal son that eventually ‘he came to his senses’.

That is what happened to Hezekiah. He came to his senses, and the reason he came to his senses was that God left him to himself, so that the foolishness of his own proud heart was exposed.

What he said – something very wonderful, what he did – something very different, what he discovered – that his own heart was filled with detestable pride and not nearly as godly as he might have like to think.

The last think we need to see is how grace prevailed.

Grace prevailed

“But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and his inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:26)

Here is something very significant in the Old Testament. The wrath of God in God’s mercy was postponed! It was held over for another time. It was postponed but was not removed. Justice must be done somewhere. Sooner or later, all sin must be dealt with, and this is why Jesus came into the world.

What we see in the Lord Jesus Christ is exactly the opposite we have seen in Hezekiah today. Hezekiah became proud in his heart, Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. Hezekiah lived for himself. He was all about himself, filling the treasuries for himself. Jesus left the riches of heaven and gave Himself for the good of others. Most striking of all; when Hezekiah faced the prospect of the wrath of God, he thought, ‘as long as it is on others and not on me’.

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus absorbed the wrath that was due to us, on account of our sins. He took it on Himself, so that for all who come to Him in faith and repentance, that wrath that was due to us is not only postponed, it is completely removed!

“There is therefor no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

Family, here is then the question that is before us today in these extraordinary days in which we are living: what are you doing with the life that God is giving you?

Maybe you see something of yourself in this story of Hezekiah. Maybe you say: ‘I have messed up, I have said one thing and done another. I have made commitments to God in the past but I have not kept them. I have even taught others, but I have not lived up to that teaching myself. I behaved like a fool! Now I see my own heart for what it is. I feel that there is no hope left for me’.

I want to say to you from God’s Word today: Yes, there is hope for you! There is hope for you in and through the Saviour that came for you and for me, Jesus Christ our Lord! The very fact that you are seeing the need of your own heart, is evidence of the grace of God at work within you.

Here is what you must do: you have seen that you need a Saviour. You have seen the need of your own heart. Now you must humble yourself. Thank God that Jesus Christ, His Son came into this world and bore the wrath for you, and then ask Him, ask Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to become your Lord and to become your Saviour. There is hope for you in Jesus Christ who died for your sins.

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised”. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Will you bow with me before God in prayer?

Let us pray:

Father God, forgive the foolish pride of our hearts and that we so often take the life You give us for granted and depend on ourselves. Father, our hearts are exposed by Your Word. Thank you that when we see our own self-interest, we see our need for a Saviour, and we thank You that Jesus Christ is the Saviour we all need. Therefore, in humble faith and repentance we embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Grant cleansing for our sins and renew our hearts. Take our proud hearts and make us humble. Grant that in Christ we no longer live for ourselves, but as You give us life, let us live for the One who died for us and rose again. In His great Name, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, Amen

Facing the Times – The Substance of your Faith

Sunday 03 May 2020

Ps Ben Hooman

What a privilege to bring the Word of God into your homes this morning. I pray that God open our hearts and minds accordingly so the truth can be implemented in our daily lives.

We in the series of facing the times and we stay in the story of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38.

It tells the story of a godly king who faced an unexpected crisis. Suddenly right in the middle of his life, he was afflicted with an illness that brought him to the very point of death. In verse 1 the prophet Isaiah comes to tell him to get his house in order for he will die and not recover.

It is important to note that this was a godly man who walked closely with God:

“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” (2 Kings 18:5)

What we see here is that Godly people also suffer. We see this in this story of Hezekiah and also in the story of Job, but also supremely in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we look at this Godly king Hezekiah, how did he respond to his crisis?

“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,” (Isaiah 38:2)

Isaiah then left the king’s bedroom but before he could leave the palace, the word of God came to him a second time:

“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus, says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:5)

What a remarkable answer to the prayer of a righteous man. But what is also of particular value to us is that after he recovered, Hezekiah wrote down his inside experience, what he went through as he walked through this unknown crisis in his life. What he experienced is also what we experience in this crisis we find ourselves in here and now.

Last time we saw the king felt fragile; he felt anxious; he felt weary, but also feared being separated from loved ones; his life being cut off, and also feared the possibility that God might be against him.

We looked at his distress, his anguish, and we saw how his experience speaks to our experiences and how we must let our anguish lead us to Jesus.

What we look at today is the faith of Hezekiah, the substance of his faith as seen in Isaiah 38:15-17.

In a crisis we learn three things from faith:

In a crisis our faith will be tested, how your faith can be strengthened and, how your faith can be assured.

Faith tested

“What shall I say? For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it. I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)

When you go through an unexpected crisis your faith will be tested. Hezekiah is here writing after he recovered from his illness:

“A writing from Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:” (Isaiah 38:9)

Looking back at his crisis, filled with thanksgiving, he asks: What shall I say? God has spoken and God has healed me!

“…. I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:5)

God did what He promised. God healed him and brought him back from the very point of death. When he recovers, he rejoices in the answered prayer, but when he went through the crisis it was a different story.

What is he honestly telling us:

“I walked slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)

When this Godly king suffered, he struggled with great bitterness according to verse 17.

He is saying: Lord I have given my life to be Godly, pursued righteousness and have served you. I am now in the middle of my life and you allowed me to be afflicted even to the point of death. God, that is not fair. I walk slowly because of the bitterness of my soul”.

Just look at the honesty of the king. He is not coming out of his crisis, look back saying: I was afflicted and I just trusted the Lord! No, he tells us the truth that when he was afflicted, he struggled with bitterness.

He is telling us that a battle raged within him. He trusted God but when the crisis came, trusting God was not so easy.

Perhaps there has been a time when your faith has been tested, or getting tested right now in these unknown times we find ourselves in.

If that has been your experience, would it help you to know that it was the same for this most Godly king in the Bible. Hezekiah did not come out of this crisis with some note of triumph. He had to honestly confess that when he suffered, he found that his faith was not as strong as he thought it to be.

He says: I had great bitterness. That is the confession of a Godly man. Faith was tested and when you face a crisis, your faith is going to be tested.

Notice what Hezekiah says in verse 17:

“Behold it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; (Isaiah 38:17)

He says that God used this crisis and his experience for his own good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Even when the weakness of our own faith is exposed, God use that for our welfare.

 “For my welfare I had great bitterness.” How could God use this man’s bitterness for his own good? The answer is in verse 15 as he looks back at the bitterness that he felt:

“I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)

Walking slowly here simply means walking humbly. Some translations here read; I walk humbly all my years.

Therefore, this is what Hezekiah is actually saying: “I use to think my faith was strong, but when this crisis came, I did not do so well. I wish I could look back and say that I trusted God all the way, but I can not say that. I have to tell you that there was a great bitterness in my soul. God even used this for my welfare and used it to humble me. I am done with priding myself on the strength of my faith. From now on I will walk humbly, I will walk slowly all of my years.”

Pride lurks in all of our hearts and the worst form of it is spiritual pride. God may use a crisis to humble you, and may use it to humble all of us. He may do it in showing us that our faith is not as strong as we like to think.

What happened to the disciple Peter? At the last supper Jesus said to His disciples:

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward’. Peter said to Him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for You’. Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? …” (John 13:36-38)

He thought his faith was that strong. Later that same night it only took a servant girl to be asking:

“Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looked closely at him, said, ‘This man also was with Him’. But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know Him’”. (Luke 22:56-57)

God used this to humble Peter, to make this confident man more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Later in the New Testament we amazingly find Peter, the gentle pastor writing these words:

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you”. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Here is the principle: An unexpected crisis will test your faith and God can use this to make you more like Jesus.

If you come to a time in your faith and your faith is tested, you don’t do so well. Let that experience humble you, let it show you how much you need Jesus and then thank God that your salvation does not depend on the strength of your faith, but on the strength of your Saviour.

Faith tested, and here is the second thing that is so important: How will faith then be strengthened?

Faith strengthened

“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. O, restore me to health and make me live!” (Isaiah 38:16)

It is hard to be certain of the precise order of events in this story, but I suggest this is how it unfolds:

Hezekiah became sick to the very point of death. Despite being a godly man, he struggles with bitterness. Isaiah the prophet visits him in his bedroom with a message from God to set his house in order for he is going to die. The king then turns to the wall and pray, weeping bitterly. Isaiah is on his way home but before leaving the palace, God speaks to him and direct him to go back to the king. Isaiah came back into the room and speaks the word of God saying that God heard the king’s prayer and will add fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah then prays with new faith and with new confidence, saying: O Lord, restore me to health and make me live!

Look at the pattern here: God speaks in verse 15, and in verse 5 He tells us what He said; that He will add fifteen years to the king’s life, that his prayer has been answered. We see the response of king Hezekiah in verse16 as he prays: Restore me to health and make me live!

Here we learn something of great importance on how faith is strengthened. The king had struggled, facing great bitterness, how is his faith then strengthened?

Firstly, Faith is strengthened by the Word of God.

How did Hezekiah overcome his bitterness? If you in a crisis and you discover your faith is merely strong enough, not as strong as you thought, how will help come to you?

The answer to that question is that faith is strengthened by the Word of God.

“But He answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (Matthew 4:4)

Your faith will be strengthened by the Word of God. When you in a crisis you need to feed on the Word of God. That is why we open the Word right here and now. By this means; by His Word God will strengthen your faith!

Secondly: Faith prays for what God has promised.

God speaks in verse 15, the promise is recorded in verse 5 and what does Hezekiah do? He prays in response to that promise.

Faith prays for what God has promised. The king prays and says: Lord you said you going to add fifteen years to my life. Heal me and make me live, give me these extra years.

It is good to always pray with an open Bible. In other words, look at what God has promised and then turn what God has promised into your prayers.

This is what Hezekiah models to us. When you see that God has promised something in His Word, the right response is to pray that what He promised will be yours, and that you will know it in yours by experience.

Faith prays for what God has promised. Let us look at an example: You read in the book of Philippians and you get to;

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13)

You say to yourself: Look at that, Christ gives me strength! What are you going to do at that point? Are you just going to say that it is nice that God gives strength and carry on?

Or what are you going to do? You say: Lord, Your Word says you give strength and I ask that You give me strength to bear the burden that I carry right now.

That is when you turn God’s promise into your prayer.

You read in 1 Peter 1:8 about people that love God and believe in Him and that they are filled with glorious joy.

What am I to do when I read that? Am I to say some believers have more joy and that is nice?

 No, I am to say: Lord, if it is possible for others to have such joy because they know you and they love you, I want that too. Look in the Bible for any clue why they have that joy and you will see that in the verses before it, they know they have a risen Saviour, a living hope and that they have a glorious inheritance, and that is why they have this great joy.

Pray and say: Lord help me to see the value that is mine in our Lord Jesus Christ, even in the middle of a crisis.

When you see in Scripture that God promises to forgive, we don’t just respond to say that God promises to forgive sins.

No, it is to say: Lord as I repent of these sins, will you forgive me. You turn God’s promises into prayer. That is what faith does!

Faith prays with an open Bible and turns what God promises into prayer so it become part of your own experience.

When you face an unexpected crisis, your faith will be tested. How does your tested faith get strengthened? Faith is strengthened by the Word of God and faith will then pray for what God has promised.

The promises of God will strengthen your faith and faith strengthened will turn the promises into prayers so that what God promises will become yours.

We looked at faith tested, and we looked at faith strengthened, and we need to look at faith assured.

Faith assured

“… but in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Isaiah 38:17)

Just take this in right now! When you face an unexpected crisis and your faith is tested, her are three things of assurance: I am loved, I am saved and I am forgiven.

“In love You have delivered me …” Literally the words are: God loved me out of the pit! Nothing is as sure as the love of God for you in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Father gave His only Son for you. On that darkest day of your life you can say: The Son of God loves me He gave Himself for me.

God did not redeem you because He had to but because He wanted to, that is how much He loves you. He has chosen to lay His life down for you and for me and that is how much He loves us!

How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God? In love He predestined us for the adoption of sons to the praise of His glorious grace.

Nothing in life, death or eternity can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!

When you face a crisis, you can say with confidence that you are saved, you are delivered from the pit of destruction. “but in love you have delivered me from the pit of destruction”. The Bible speaks of an eternal destruction, a destruction tearing apart that never ends.

We hear a great deal about fear in these days. Fear of the virus, fear of a great recession. But Jesus says:

“And do not fear those that who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. (Matthew 10:28)

Remember Hezekiah is a godly king and the worst thing he could imagine would be to live and to die for sins and find yourself in the pit of destruction for ever and ever. With a full heart he thanks God from saving him from that.

Jesus Christ came into this world to save you and me from that pit of destruction. When born again you can also say: Lord, you have delivered me from the pit of destruction.

Whether things are better or worse today, whether in sickness or in health, facing the prospect of the following weeks and months, in Jesus Christ today we can say: I am loved, I am saved!

The third thing: We can say with great confidence: I am forgiven.

“for You have cast all my sins behind your back”.

How does God save us from the pit of destruction? Notice the word “for”, this is the reason, this is the explanation of what God does in order for you to be saved.

Godly people know that our sins are many. The closer you walk with God, the greater your own sins are revealed. There are only two places where your sins can be; either before God’s face, or behind God’s back.

The question that determine your future are not whether your sins are many or few, but are they before God’s face or behind God’s back?

Jesus died and He bored our sins so that we can repent of our sins. When you repent, God takes your sins from before His face and cast them behind His back. As far as the east is from the west, he cast them out of sight

“You have cast all my sins behind your back”.

Someone once said: If we cast our sins behind our back, God sets them before His face. But when we set them before our face in true repentance, God cast them behind His back.

Many people cast their sins behind there back and never come to real repentance. As long as you are casting your sins behind your back, they are right in front of God’s face!

What do we do? We bring our sins before your own face in genuine repentance and when you do that, God cast them behind His back, and when your sins are behind His back, you can cast it safely behind yours. That is forgiveness.

Faith tested, faith strengthened, and faith assured.

Life in these times are much less certain, more that we think. We make all our own plans and a tiny virus throws everything up in the air.

But how rich are we in the Lord Jesus Christ! On the darkest day of your life, you can say with confidence: I am forgiven, I am saved, and nothing can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Therefore, we can face any crisis.

Let us pray:

Father we come into Your presence aware of our weakness and of the agree in which our own faith is tested and often showed up to be less than we think it to be. Strengthen us as we move through these days in which we live. Strengthen us by Your Word. Grant that we may pray what we see, and also believe as promised by you to make ours. Thank you today that in Jesus Christ, whatever we face, we are able to say with confidence that we are forgiven, we are saved and we are loved. May Your grace reign in our hearts. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.

Facing the Times – In the middle of a crisis

                               Sunday 26 April 2020  

Ps Ben Hooman

Thank you again for welcoming me into your homes this day. What an honour to share the Word of God with you. May God enrich our understanding as we open our hearts and minds to receive the truth this morning.

Our core Scripture is out of Isaiah 38:9-14.

In Isaiah 38 we read the remarkable true story of a Godly king by the name of Hezekiah who faced an unexpected and unknown crisis:

“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death”. (Isaiah 38:1)

We saw that the very first response of king Hezekiah in facing this crisis was to turn to God in prayer:

“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord”. (Isaiah 38:2)

This story has a very encouraging and joyful ending in that the Lord heard the king’s prayer and wonderfully healed him. From this we learned a very important principle that speaks to us today:

God is sovereign in all things and His sovereignty includes the prayers of His people.

Last week we looked at how God answered Hezekiah’s prayer.

“Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” (Isaiah 38:21)

We saw by this that God normally uses means but there are also some things that only God can do.

Only God can forgive sins, only God can change the heart, only God can raise the dead. Jesus was crucified and died, buried but on the third day God raised Him up from the dead, and because He lives, we will live also.

There are things only God can do, but normally He use means. This is a really important principle, also in the crisis we are facing these days. A new virus is sweeping across the world with severe consequences.

What should we do? We should pray! But we should also use whatever means are available to restrain the progress of the virus. God also works through means, so we should wash our hands, stay at home and practice social distancing. As we do these things, we pray that God will also use these things as means in His kindness and grace to slow and restrain the virus.

That is where we got to in this incredible chapter of Isaiah 38. We looked at the beginning of it and at the end. But what was it like in the middle? Although God restored king Hezekiah, what was it like in the middle of this unexpected crisis?

Today we are going to look at the experience of a Godly man as he waits for God’s deliverance from the crisis. When the crisis first hit, the initial experience was one of shock. At the end of the crisis it was one of hope and gratitude. But what was it like in the middle of it all?

The word that sums up Hezekiah’s experience as he went through this unexpected and unknown crisis, is the word “distress” or “anguish”.

That is what it was like for him and again it speaks to us to where we find ourselves today. We came through the shock of our lives being disrupted and we have affirmed our hope and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But right now, many begin to experience anguish and distress, especially as we see the increase in infections, the many people may not get an income, and the worst still to come in the weeks ahead.

We need to be prepared and therefore God’s Word is speaking directly to where we find ourselves in the middle of this crisis.

Let us look at the core Scripture in what God says to us today in Isaiah 38:9-14.

“A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:” (Isaiah 38:9)

Then follow the words that are a reflection of his experience after he had recovered. He is writing his inside story of his experience during this crisis. He tells us what he felt, what he feared and we are going to focus on these things as it relates directly to us in these unknown times.

1. He felt three things:

He felt fragile

“My dwelling is plugged up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent; like a weaver I have rolled up my life; He cuts me off from the loom; from day to night you bring me to an end;” (Isaiah 38:12)

Remember this is a king, he has authority and power, influence and wealth, a life filled with plans, living in a palace. But when the unexpected crisis comes, he feels fragile. He lives in a palace but his own body feels like a tent, fragile and easily taken down.

Is this how you feel today? Our lives are fragile, in fact the whole world is fragile. Everything the world lives for has been disrupted, been put on hold by a tiny virus. That is how fragile the world is!

Therefore, the question: are you feeling fragile? That is part of the anguish that comes in unexpected and unknown times.

Hezekiah then tell us the second thing he felt:

He felt anxious

“I calmed myself until the morning; like a lion He breaks all my bones; from day to night You bring me to an end.” (Isaiah 38:13)

Does this crisis keep some awake at night? I take this verse to mean that the king spent the whole night calming himself down. At the loneliness of night, it seems to be always more challenging and it gripped the king as well as he says: “I calmed myself until morning, I find my mind was racing and difficult to achieve a sense of peace. Anxiety was gripping me”.

Here is a Godly man in his bed finding it hard to sleep. Hours are creeping past and his mind will not come to rest. We will look at why he was so anxious a bit later, but for now we need to notice that anxiety was the experience of a Godly king.

This man walked closely with God. The Bible says that there was never a greater earthly king before or after him, no king more pleasing to God than king Hezekiah. A Godly king that was anxious!

Well, anxiety is part of the anguish that comes with an unexpected and unknown crisis.

Then Hezekiah tells us a third thing:

He was weary

“Like a swallow or a crane, I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O’ Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!” (Isaiah 38:14)

Anyone who has been seriously ill knows that sickness is exhausting, but I want us to notice why the king was weary: “my eyes are weary with looking upward”. That can simply mean that he was tired of lying in his bed looking at the ceiling, but I believe there is something than that he is telling us here.

He must have been sick for a while before Isaiah came to visit him to tell him that he is going to die. During that time the king must have called upon the Lord waiting for an answer and he was tired waiting.

Maybe there is a specific prayer you are bringing to the Lord for many years, something that is a desire of the heart. You are waiting for an answer and are tired of waiting also saying: my eyes are weary with looking upward, how long O’ Lord?

Are you feeling weary today? Being weary is part of the anguish that comes within an unexpected crisis.

If we are all together today; I wish that could have been, I would have asked: Is there anyone in the congregation who is feeling a sense of being fragile or anxious or weary, I am sure that what Hezekiah describes here, is getting at what we are feeling in these days with an unknown virus that is with us.

You might think to yourself: Wait but I am a believer and I shouldn’t be feeling like this at all for Philippians 4:6 says to us not to be anxious. The Bible records that this Godly king who walked closely with God, in an unexpected crisis felt fragile, and anxious and weary.

This is not a failure of your faith, but simply the reality of our humanity.

Secondly, he also tells us three things that he feared.

2. He feared three things

Separation from his loved ones

“I said, I shall not see the Lord, the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world” (Isaiah 38:11)

Notice what king Hezekiah is saying: I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living. He knows that he will see the Lord in the world to come but might no longer meet the Lord as he has done in the past going up to the temple of the Lord with God’s people.

When we worship together, we behold the beauty of the Lord:

“So, I looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory” (Psalm 63:2)

So, when we worship, we anticipate by faith what we will one day enjoy by sight. Behold, the very face of God!

That is why the king could say with all who were Godly then, and also today: I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’. This king was a Godly man and he loved gathering with God’s people, beholding the face of God in worship.

The thought that he will no longer be able to do that, no longer be able to worship with the people of God, was hard for him to bear. He said: “if my days are done, I will no longer be able to go to the temple. I shall look on man no more among the habitants of the world”.

It speaks so directly to the situation we are in today. We miss seeing one another, miss being together, miss worshipping God together at church.

But Hezekiah is not dealing with the inconvenience of a temporary shutdown, he is at the point of death and fears leaving his loved ones. For him it is to soon to say goodbye to the people that he loves. He is a Godly man and ahead of him is an eternal and joyful life, but still really finds it hard to depart from the ones he loves.

Apostle Paul speaks of man called Epaphroditus calling him a brother, a fellow worker and fellow soldier, a messenger and minister to his need.

“Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.” (Philippians 2:27,28)

That is love speaking! Paul knew that if his friend dies, he will be with the Lord but he will have sorrow upon sorrow. That is what Hezekiah feared; “I shall look at man no more”.

Some of us know this anguish, not ready to say goodbye to the ones we love. The Lord has taken home someone you dearly love and you miss them, more so in these days of isolation.

Value your loved ones, love those God has placed in your life and don’t take them for granted. Love them well whilst you can and cherish the gifts of God in your life.

We looking at what this king feared when facing unexpected times of crisis. He feared being separated from the people he loved. And then he thought about his own life and feared being cut off.

Being cut off

“I said in the middle of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years. My dwelling is plugged up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent; like a weaver I rolled up my life; He cuts me off from the loom; from day to night You bring me to an end”. (Isaiah 38:10,12)

See this picture, Hezekiah is talking about his body as a fragile structure, but now he speaks about his whole life as being like fabric woven on a weaver’s loom.

The threats of your life woven together by Almighty God! Some of these threats are of a bright colour, some of them of darker colours. Together God weaves all the experiences of all the days of your life and there it is woven on a loom. Then one day the weaver comes and cuts the fabric off the loom.

It is done! “He cuts me off from the loom” and your life on earth is over. That is what Hezekiah fears. He says it happens so quickly. “From day to night you bring me to an end”.

An unexpected crisis has brought this man’s life to a grinding halt. Hezekiah became sick and suddenly everything changed and he is not even an old man. He says: “in the middle of my days”.

As we all do, the king assumed to live a long life. He suddenly finds not having many years left and he is in anguish. So many things he still wanted to do, so many good intentions.

Family and friends, let us take this to heart today:

You do not have forever to do what God calls you to do. Seize the day, make most of every opportunity that you have. Redeem the time for it is given to us by God. We must work the works of the One who sent us while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as we are in this world, we are the light, we are Christ to a lost world.

Nothing is more important to use the time now in this world to prepare for the world to come! Use your time for your arrival in the next.

What did Hezekiah fear as he went through this crisis? He feared being separated from loved ones and he feared being cut off and not being able to add anything further to his life.

And then he feared one more thing, that what he fears the most.

God might be against him

“I calmed myself until the morning; like a lion He breaks all my bones; from day to night You bring me to an end” (Isaiah 38:13)

See this picture: The king is lying in his bed at night and he feels as if he is mauled by a lion and that this lion might be Almighty God. Why will a Godly king fears that God might be against him?

The answer is this: A Godly man knows that even at his best, he falls far short from what God has called him to be and to do.

I am so thankful for the honesty of these verses speaking to reality. Hezekiah does not come out of his crisis saying: O, I got to the point of death and I prayed and God miraculously healed me. No, he tells us the inside story, what he experienced, ploughing through the anguish of this unexpected crisis.

He tells us that he felt fragile, that he was anxious and weary. He feared being separated from his loved ones, his life being cut off and what he feared most of all that God might be against him.

This is teaching us something that is extremely important to us today: Believers also experience anguish.

This was the experience of king Hezekiah, a Godly man that walked closely to God. Another example is the apostle Paul.

“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fearing within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5)

If the apostle Paul knew what it was to find no rest for his body, couldn’t settle and establish peace with his own heart and mind, and struggles as fear rises up, how much more we will also feel and fear.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose, I have come to this hour”. (John 12:27)

Even our Lord Jesus Christ said that His soul is troubled. At the last supper Jesus was troubled in His spirit and when He entered the garden of Getsemane He said His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow.

Is that what you feel today as we face these unknown times? If Jesus our Lord knew what it was for His soul to be overwhelmed with sorrow, so do we. Let us settle this in our minds and in our hearts so we are not caught by surprise in the middle of a crisis. It is clear that believers can experience anguish!

What are we to do if we experience what Hezekiah experienced?

We have council and we have hope even in the middle of this unexpected crisis today. Here is what I want to share with you:

Let your anguish lead you to Jesus Christ!

When you fear being separated from loved ones, let your anguish lead you to Jesus. He knows what it is to be separated from your loved ones. At the last supper He said to His disciples that He will not again drink from the fruit of this vine until the day He drink it with them in His Father’s Kingdom. The Scripture says they sung a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. It was the beginning of Jesus being taken from His friends.

Jesus knows what it is to be separated from loved ones. No one has ever loved with a more perfect love than our Lord Jesus Christ. At the cross He trusted the care of his mother into the hands of John.

For many of us in these times the greatest distress is to not being able to be with the ones. But, when you are separated from your loved ones, let your anguish lead you to Jesus!

We are also not able to help one other in the way we use to. Many pastors this day ask what we are to do. Our primary responsibility is to help people to know the Lord is our Shepherd. The sheep belong to God. When we go through the valley of the shadow of death, He will be with us.

The pastor’s function is not to have people looking at him but to help people to look at Jesus. Let the church not compete for popularity and space on media like Facebook and television like populists, but let people look unto the Lord Jesus Christ and not to you.

There is only one Person who can truly say: I will never leave or forsake you. Not a pastor; a brother or sister; a mother or father; or a friend, but only our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1,4,5)

When you fear, and when you are separated from your loved ones, let your anguish leads you to Jesus.

When you fear being cut off, let your anguish leads you to Jesus.

Jesus knows what it is to be cut off.

“By oppression and judgment, He was taken away; as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living.” (Isaiah 53:8)

Our Lord Jesus died at the age of 33. He could say with Hezekiah: In the middle of my days I must depart.

But here is the good news we celebrate today and every other day: Death could not keep hold of our Lord Jesus Christ! On the third day He rose from the grave!

For those who trust in Him, death; whenever it comes will only be an immediate translation into His presence. The blood of our Lord Jesus had redeemed us that we may have everlasting life.

 Although cut off from loved ones now, nothing can separate us from the love of God. So, when you feel being cut off, let your anguish leads you to Jesus.

And finally, when you fear that God may be against you, let your anguish leads you to Jesus! If God is against you, what chance do you have? None at all. Thank the Lord that God is for us, a love so great that He gave His only Son to die for us so we can be reconciled with Him.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

I want to say to any one who is still resisting the claim of Jesus Christ upon your life: what are you doing? What are you thinking about? You, yes you, resisting Almighty God! What change do you possibly have?

Listen to the good news of the Gospel for God is ready for you to be reconciled to Him today. When Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross, the hand of God was against Him!

When He bore our sins, He was cut off even from the comfort of His Father’s love. That is why He cried out with a loud voice: My God, My God why have you forsaken Me! He was forsaken so that you can be welcomed. He was condemned so that you could be forgiven. He was cast out so that you could be brought in. Yes, He died so that you might live!

If you fear that God may be against you, let your anguish lead you to Jesus!

In Jesus Christ God is for us, and if God is for us who can be against us. He that did not spare His own Son, how will He not graciously give us what we need?

Let us pray:

Our Father in heaven, we pray that the great reality of our lives in this crisis, whatever we endure, leads us closer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thank you for all that He means to us and to all of His people in every circumstance of life. Father, as the anguish of these days is very real, grant that we may cling to our Saviour. Help us to know that whatever we need to face these days are in Him. Lord, we also pray for those we love and for many others who do not yet know our Lord Jesus Christ. May they in their anguish, by Your mercy and by Your grace, be led to our Lord Jesus Christ. In His wonderful Name we pray. Amen.

Facing the Times – God’s Way

                                                Sunday 19 April 2020

                                                 Ps Ben Hooman

Good day family and welcome to this service this morning. I thank you for allowing me into your homes again. These extraordinary times we in changed the way we meet on Sundays and I am looking forward to the time when we will meet again as a congregation at church.

Our core Scripture is out of Isaiah 38.

We pick up on the sermon of two weeks ago. As we have seen, this is a story that speaks directly to the situation we find ourselves in. It is a true story of a Godly king, king Hezekiah, who faced an unexpected crisis.

We saw in Isaiah 38:1 that the king got sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah visited him with a message from God to set his house in order for he is going to die.

His whole world turned upside down and all his plans now of no effect. A serious crisis always has a devasting effect and changes everything.

Previously we looked at how king Hezekiah responded to this crisis in his life and how we should respond as well as we face a crisis. First seek the face of God in a crisis. We see in Isaiah 38:2,

“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said: ‘Please O’ Lord, remember how I have walked before You in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what was right in Your sight’. And Hezekiah wept bitterly”. (Isaiah 38:2)

God answered his prayer, he recovered and God add another 15 years to his life on earth.

From this we learned the very important principle that God is sovereign over all things and his sovereignty includes the prayers of His people. He also responded in another way and we should also seek to live life with a clear conscience. The king could say that he walked with God in faithfulness. He was comforted by the fact that he was at peace with God.

At some stage we will also leave this world and need to enter into the presence of the Lord with a clear conscience. Live therefore in such a way that you are always ready for that day.

Today we will look at the joyful ending of Hezekiah’s crisis, what God did and more importantly how God did it. May this also speak directly to the situation we are in.

“Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father; I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:4, 5)

And then God said in verse 6 that:

“I will deliver you and the city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend the city”. (Isaiah 38:6)

At some stage we will get back to Isaiah 38 verses 7 and 8. We need to get the big picture of this very important chapter as a whole. From verse 9 to 20, we have a testimony written by Hezekiah after he recovered from his sickness. He explains how he felt, what he feared and tells us how he prayed. God willing, we will look at these verses next time.

At the end of Isaiah 38 we have two verses that was added almost as if it was a kind of note but of great importance.

“Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.’ Hezekiah also had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?” (Isaiah 38:21, 22)

These two verses illustrate for us a principle that is vital for a believer’s wisdom and speaks directly to the crisis we experience today. These are the principles:

God normally works through means, and there is somethings only God can do.

1. God normally works through means

“Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover”. (Isaiah 38:21)

Here we are given a clue to Hezekiah’s sickness. There was a boil, turned into some kind of dangerous infection within his body that brought him to the point of death.

Isaiah says to the king to take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, a kind of dressing over the infected area. I suppose that this was then often used to draw out the infection. They did not have the means of modern medicine as we have today.

Here is the important principle: God works through means so he must use the means God made available.

Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and he placed this poultice of figs on the boil and God healed him. God worked through this means and we should also use the means that God has available to us.

What if a person say that God will give me strength in my body so I don’t need to eat, or God will keep me warm, so I don’t have to wear warm clothes? Yes, God do give you strength but He strengths your body by the means He gives you which is food.

God works through means. Doctors, nurses and medicine are God’s means to restore health. Builders are God’s means of providing housing, farmers are God’s means of supplying food, teachers are God’s means of giving education, parents are God’s means of guiding and bringing children up in the ways of the Lord. The church is God’s means to gather the saints and to take the gospel to a lost world.

When you get hold of this basic principle, it will give you a proper sense of a believer’s responsibility. It will open your understanding to what God wants you to do.

When you see that God also works through means, you will daily ask how can you be the means that God uses to bring His help and His blessing to someone else and all to His honour and His glory!

This is a very clear and vital Christian principle. It goes to the heart of a believer’s wisdom and very clearly speaks to the crises we face today. A new virus is sweeping through the world.

What should we do? Well, we should pray and use whatever means available as given by God to restrain the progress of this virus. God works through means, so we should wash our hands thoroughly, stay in our homes and practice social distancing. As we do these things, we pray that God will use them to restrain the rapid spread of this virus.

Some have the view that if God wants to protect them, He can do that without our carefulness. Can this be a case of not trusting God but rather tempting Him for God also created us with intellect to guard and protect us and care for other people and live in good health.

In 1527 a deadly plaque was sweeping through Europe and Martin Luther wrote an article calling it: “Whether one may flee from a deadly plaque” and he speaks to those who is much to replace and tempting God and disregarding everything that may counteract death and sickness.

He speaks about how shameful it is for a person to pay no heed to his own body and who fails to protect it the best he can the plaque that can also infect and poisons others for they could have remained alive if taken care of your own body.

He concludes: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us and I shall fumigate my house, I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order to not become contaminated and pollute others and cause them their death as a result of my negligence”.

Thank God that there are some things we can do to slow the spread of the virus. Let us do that and ask God that He will use these means to grant us relief.

So, here is a principle that is vital to a believer’s wisdom:

God normally also works through means and we should use these means God makes available to us.

There is also a second conclusion we should draw from this principle:

Because it is God who works though means we must thank God when He makes the means effective.

Although God used the poultice of figs, let us look what 2 Kings 20:5 clearly states:

“Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will heal you. On the third day you will go up to the house of the Lord”. (2 Kings 20:5)

God healed him!

There is two ways in which we can lose the path of wisdom:

One is to forget the means God uses and the other is to forget that it is God who uses the means!

Isaiah had said: Let them make a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, but God says very clearly that through that means “I will heal you”. When king Hezekiah recovered, he is not saying: O, these figs are the greatest medication! No, he is not saying that but give God thanks for healing him. He knows it is God who has given the means for him to be healed.

When we know that God work through means, we will be grateful for the means that He uses, but also be careful and give God all the glory.

A 17th century pastor once said: we know that the same treatment for an illness that works well for one person, may not work that well for another person. Why is that? God controls and commands all remedy so that all cures take effect according to His will and His pleasure. Unless God blesses the remedy applied, it will have no effect. Even though the doctors instruct their patients to apply it on various areas, if the Lord chooses not to bless their work, the patient will have no improvement, continuing to give a lesson to both the sick and the doctor. The patient must learn to look to God that medicine will have a good effect. The doctor must pray that his work be blessed by God for the benefit of the patient. In all our troubles, let us turn first to the Lord and pray that He will be pleased to use the means that He has provided.

Think of this in relation to health if you are sick: “Lord use this medicine to make her well, make it effective in her body. Use this chemotherapy to grant relief to his cancer.”

Think of it in a different sphere: Someone has lost his job and you pray to God, how are you going to pray? If you grasp this principle that God works through means, you will pray like this; “Lord give me perseverance in my working and Lord use the connections that you have given to me in order to open an opportunity”. This is how we pray: “Lord guide this child’s parents to brings them up in the ways of the Lord; Lord grant wisdom to the leaders of our country to make the right decisions”.

Do we pray to the Lord to help our children in the exam, or do we ask God to help them in their studies and then trust God to help them in the exam?

Two weeks ago, as we looked at this chapter in Isaiah, we saw that our first response to any crisis is to pray. What have you been praying? What have you been asking God?

God normally work through means and it will shape the way you pray.

When a person recovered from the virus you will be greatful to the doctors and nurses, but you will give glory to God. When a vaccine is finally available, we will be greatful to the scientists but we will praise God for what they have discovered by His grace.

So, God normally works though means, therefore use the means God has made available. But above all, thank God where ever He makes these means effective.

God normally works through means but, also:

2. There are some things that only God can do

“Hezekiah also had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 38:22)

Let us look at the significance of this verse. Hezekiah was sick and at the very point of death, being so weak, it must have been hard to believe that God would heal him. So, God gave him a sign.

“Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dail of Ahaz turn back ten steps”. So the sun turned back on the dail the ten steps by which it has declined.” (Isaiah 38:8)

King Hezekiah’s father built a sun dail so that as the sun goes down, there is a creeping shadow that moved down the steps as the sun goes down. God said that He will give a sign that as the sun is going down, the shadow will go in the opposite direction.

“So, the sun turned back on the dail the ten steps by which it had declined” (Isaiah 38:8)

Something only God Himself can do! Imagine Hezekiah lying in his bed at the point of death, and he look out like every afternoon to see the time. But on this day the shadow moves up the steps in the opposite direction! Only God can make it happen and the king thought to himself: There is hope!

Why did God give this miraculous sign?

“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He has promised.” (Isaiah 38:7)

God says to Hezekiah: I am the one that heals. When I do that, I want you to know that I am the one who did it!

To get a clear picture of what happened that day we need to look at 2 Kings 20. It begins with exactly the same words as in Isaiah 38. The king got sick and Isaiah coming to tell him that he is going to die. The king then turned to the wall and pray to the Lord. In 2 Kings 20:4 we have an addition to this effect:

“And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.” (2 Kings 20:4,5)

Let us summarise of what happened that day:

  • Hezekiah became sick to the point of death
  • Isaiah came to him telling him that God said he must get his house in order for he is going to die
  • Hezekiah turn to the wall and pray to the Lord
  • Isaiah leaves the king’s bedroom but before he got out of the palace, God said to him to turn around and go back to the king. 2 Kings 20:4,5 there was immediate answer of the king’s prayer
  • Isaiah goes back and says to the king to put a cake of figs on the infected area, that God has heard the prayer of the king and that God will heal him and he will go up to the house of the Lord on the third day
  • Hezekiah then asks what the sign is.
  • Isaiah told him that God will do something that only God can do, He will make the shadow turn back and go in the opposite direction

Now that is the story.

Why is it in the Bible?

What we have here is the true story of a Godly king who was at the point of death and God heard his prayer and raised him up from his sickness on the third day.

The whole Bible points us to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! The King of kings and the Lord of lords! Not only at the point of death, but He died so we can have life. Raising the dead is something only God can do. Raised on the third day that you may have life for eternity.

And this is our hope! Resurrection is our hope. Jesus Christ became the means to not die but to have life.

What is the sign that we can go up to the house of the Lord? What is the sign that I am protected by God in these times? I can now dwell in the presence of the Lord. I can now pray to God and know that He will give me the means to receive what I pray according to His will. And as I pray, I know that he is in control and I will give Him all the glory! That is the hope of the gospel!

Let us pray:

Father God we are so greatly thankful that You are the sovereign God that works through mean.

We pray for the doctors, the nurses, the government, the scientists, the community workers, use them as the means to relief and the saving of millions of lives.

Father, because you through means, we ask that you help us to live always asking how we might be that means for you to use to help and to be a blessing in times like this.

Yes Lord, make us useful to others for your glory.

We thank you that in your power You are able to do where there are no means at all

Thank you that you raised our Lord Jesus Christ on the third day so that we may have life and life for eternity.

Because He lives, we shall live also.

Help us to walk by faith, be sustained in faith and to look to You and serve You well.

We ask this in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Amen

Resurrection Sunday – Truly the Son

Sermon by Ps Ben Hooman

What a privilege to celebrate with you the resurrection or our Lord Jesus Christ this day.

Our core Scripture will be out of Romans chapter 1.

The good news we share this morning is not so much about us, but about our Lord Jesus Christ. We connect not to celebrate ourselves, but to worship Him. We sin and we die.

So, hope does not lie in us. Hope lies outside of us. It is in God’s Son.

The good news according to apostle Paul in the first chapter of Romans is about God’s Son. It is good news for us as we become His and He becomes ours. Why Is the “Son of God” good news for us?

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 1:1- 4)

God’s Son is good news because He is Lord!

“The gospel of God… regarding His Son… Jesus Christ our Lord.”

If you getting attacked, and someone comes to help you, the first thing you want to know is, “How strong is he?” If you are having financial challenges and someone is willing to pay your bills, the first thing you want to know is, “How much does he have and how much is he willing to help with?”

The Son of God has infinite capacity! All power and authority in heaven and earth belong to Him (Matthew 28:18). A Saviour who is not Lord is of no use to us because he could easily be overwhelmed by a higher power.

But there is good news regarding God’s Son because He is Lord. His will gets accomplished, and no one can stop Him.

God’s Son is good news because He became a man

“The gospel of God… regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David.” (Romans 1:1, 3)

What does the Son of God, who has all power and all authority, have to do with us? How can He relate to us?

He took our nature! He was born of the virgin, Mary. He came to us, and stood with us, to act for us. Jesus Christ knows your life better than any pastor, counsellor, family member or friend. He knows human life from the inside. He gets it. He is our Saviour. And when you know that He experienced our life, it is easy to come to Him.

We don’t have a Saviour that is out there somewhere remotely from us.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

This is the good news because He became man!

God’s Son is also good news because He rose from the dead

“The gospel of God… regarding his Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:1, 3-4)

God’s Son is good news because He rose from the dead! That is our focus today, and I want you to see three reasons why the resurrection is good news:

  1. The Resurrection Declares What Was Already True

“[He] was declared… to be the son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4)

Notice the word “declared!” The resurrection was an affirmation, an authentication, a demonstration, a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus did not become the Son of God through the resurrection. He was the Son of God in eternity, with the Father and the Spirit in heaven.

He was the Son of God in the virgin’s womb. He was the Son of God as He lay in the manger, and as He walked the streets of Nazareth. He was the Son of God when He died on the cross. He was the Son of God when He rose on the third day. He was the Son of God when He ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. And He will be the Son of God when He comes again in power and glory.

Being the Son of God was not something that was added to Jesus as a reward for living a good life. No, the resurrection declared what was already true.

Suppose someone comes to a diamond dealer with a nice shinny diamond. The first question is going to be, “Is this authentic or is it a fake?” The dealer will want to run tests on the diamond. He will use different means to establish its authenticity.

After the dealer has run the tests, and he has confirmation, then he will declare that the diamond is genuine. The declaration does not make of the diamond a diamond. It recognizes, authenticates, announces, and demonstrates what was already true.

That is what happened at the resurrection! Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. This declaration challenges all other evaluations of Jesus.

Some people consider Jesus a great teacher, but great teachers don’t rise from the dead. Other people think Jesus is a good example, a source of wisdom, or an inspirational model. But good citizens, wise men, and inspiring leaders do not rise from the dead.

Jesus was crucified because He said, “I am the Son of God.” The High Priest charged Jesus under oath, “Tell us if you are the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “It is as you say” (Matthew 26:63-64). They all said, “He is worthy of death” (Matthew 26:66). In the judgment hall, Jesus says, “I am the Son of God.” At the cross the people say, “No. You are not.” In the resurrection, God says, “Yes, He is!”

The resurrection declares that Jesus is the Son of God!

He lays claim to your life, your love, your loyalty, your time, your talent, and your energy, your childhood, your youth, your middle years, and your retirement.

The last 2,000+ years have seen endless debates about Jesus. More has been written about Him than any other person.

In the resurrection, God says, “I am making a declaration. This is my Son!” This declaration is for us! The angels know who He is. The demons know who He is.

God is speaking to you in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says, “This is My Son. Listen to Him. Turn to Him. Come to Him. Follow Him. Learn from Him. Worship Him. Trust Him.”

2. The Resurrection Reveals What Was Previously Hidden

“[He] was declared… to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead” (Roman 1:4)

There are two ways to read this: Some translations say, “He was declared with power to be the Son of God…” That would mean that the resurrection is a powerful statement that Jesus is the Son of God. In the original Greek language, it says, “He was declared to be the Son of God with power…”

I think that is how we should understand what Paul says here. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead.

“For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 13:4).

Jesus, the Son of God, was seen in weakness.

Jesus had always been the Son of God, but during his life on earth, He had been the Son of God in weakness. Think of Him lying in the manger—helpless—needing to be fed and clothed. Look at Him in the wilderness—hungry, tired, tempted—receiving the help of angels.

People did not look at Jesus and say, “This is God in the flesh.” They said, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Luke 4:22). “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). “He saved others, but He can’t save himself” (Matthew 27:42).

The glory of the Son of God was hidden throughout most of his earthly life. His power was demonstrated in the miracles, but normally, only a few people saw them. When Jesus performed a miracle, He often told the person who was healed not to tell anyone else (Matthew 8:4).

He knew that His time had not yet come (John 2:4). Even among His disciples, it was three years before Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Before that they were saying, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).

Strung up on a cross, crying out in agony, forsaken by the Father, Jesus could hardly have looked like the Son of God.

But now He rises from the dead! No longer the Son of God in weakness, He is declared to be the Son of God with power! The resurrection reveals what was previously hidden: Jesus is the Son of God with power!

Once He was crucified in weakness, but now He has been raised in power! The Son of God is not on the cross now. He is not suffering in anguish.

He is risen, exalted, seated at the right hand of the Father. He is saving sinners, sustaining His people, giving the Holy Spirit, pouring out gifts on His church, ready to return in glory bringing His saints with Him.

See this, this sight that is so glorious. See how Jesus, the man of sorrows returned victorious!

Yes, every knee to Him will bow that Jesus is the Son of God with power!

Maybe you have been discouraged by a powerless religion. You know about rituals, traditions, and disciplines, but nothing that changes your life. Your religion is full of things you do, but none of them makes you different. There’s no power!

The resurrection reveals what may have been hidden to you: Jesus is the Son of God with power! He is able to give you peace with God. He is able to make you a new creation. He is able to give you the Holy Spirit.

 He is able to sustain you in your darkest hour. He is able to give you victory over sin. He is able to fill you with a new love for God and for others. He is able to bring you through death and into His presence in heaven.

There is hope for you in Christ. The risen Son of God has power to change your life, power to forgive sin, power to give the Holy Spirit, and power to open heaven.

3. The Resurrection Begins What Was Long Ago Promised

“He was declared… to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead…” (Roman 1:4)

When Paul speaks about the resurrection of Jesus here, he speaks about it in a way that includes our resurrection. Literally translated, what he says is, “He was declared to be the Son of God with power by a resurrection of dead persons.”

The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it is the first resurrection of many that will follow. Christ is the “first fruits” of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).

The full glory of the Son of God will be seen, not only in His resurrection, but also in yours.

Jesus is the head of a new family

The Bible speaks about Christ as the head of a new family, a community of people drawn from every nation who share what belongs to him:

“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing you praise.’ And again, I will put My trust in Him. And again, behold I and the children God has given Me.” (Hebrews 2:10-13)

Sons… family… brothers… children

The Son of God became man, endured the agonies of death on the cross, and rose from the dead to bring many sons to glory.

 God, in His great mercy, has chosen to take sinners like us and to conform us to the image of His Son. Paul says that Jesus will be the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

Here we are in this fallen world—full of God’s goodness—and yet at the same time, plagued with the scourge of human sin and death.

No man overcomes sin. No man can avoid death. Sin reigned over us. Death reigned over us.

God’s Son became a man, and came to us in our helplessness. He has done what no other man could do—lived a sinless life. He has offered what no other man could offer—he laid this sinless life down as a sacrifice for our sins. He has gone where no other man could go—through death and into everlasting life, now in the presence of His Father in heaven.

There is a Man without sin. There is a Man who has conquered death. There is a Man in heaven, and He is there for us. He is our hope.

That’s why the Bible ends, with a vast crowd that no one can number, singing in the presence of Jesus,

“You are worthy… because with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God!” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then the angels join in:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise” (Revelation 5:12).

Believe what God says to you.

Jesus is the Son of God. He was declared to be the Son of God by is resurrection from the dead!

This is what the resurrection says to us. Rejoice in what Christ has done for you. He has the power to save you, to redeem you, and to change you. He is the Son of God with power. He has triumphed and His victory is yours! There is hope for you in Jesus Christ.

Lay hold of what He offers to you. He is truly the Son of God with power!

Let us pray:

Father thank You for the Son of God,

Born in flesh, crucified on the cross, dead but risen

And coming again for us.

Father grant that we then will be found in Him.

Christ in us, our only hope and glory.

In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour!

Amen

Facing the times – “It is finished!”

WORSHIP WITH US

                                                Friday 10 April 2020

                                                     Ps Ben Hooman

My work is never finished, God has given me commandments, the same as given to all of us. We are all in the same position and it is not finished yet. We never can get to the point that we can say we have done everything God has called us to do.

Thank God that Christ’s work is finished! Therefore I can rest on the finished work of Jesus Christ. That is the only way I can have peace with God, the only way I can have assurance and the only way I can enter into heaven. I am not resting on my unfinished work but on the finished work of Christ.

That is the message today. We can rest on the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is about the atonement. Someone once said “one to meant”, bringing us in one with God by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross where He deals with our sins so that everyone that is separated from God, has an avenue back to God in faith and repentance.

This is at the very heart of the Gospel. Every believer needs to know what happened at the cross for it is at the centre of our faith.

Jesus spoke certain words on the cross. In the first three hours He hung there, between nine and noon on that day He spoke only three words. Then at noon darkness came over the whole land and for the next three hours He did not say a single word. He was our sin bearer and in that darkness He was plunged into all dimensions of hell. Then He cried out in a loud voice saying: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me!” A sudden sequence of events followed and Jesus said: “It is finished!”

Let us read from John 19:30;

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit”. (John 19:30)

What a privilege to minister on these words today. Jesus has come through the agony of His suffering, enduring all the pains of hell. He has cried out from the depths, but now He’s announcing his victory. He moves into death, not defeated, but triumphant: “It is finished.”

These are the greatest and most momentous words that were ever spoken upon earth since the beginning of the world. In these words chains are broken and prison walls fall down!

I am praying that this will be your experience as your hear these words of Jesus today. May you find this helpful: It is finished! Christ finished. You haven’t. But with Him, you will.

 “It is finished” (John 19:30)

What was finished?

1. The long night of His suffering

John described how someone held up a sponge soaked in vinegar on a stick, and the apostle says, “When Jesus had received the drink, he said ‘It is finished.’”

This was the end of his tremendous suffering. Jesus knows suffering from the inside—more than anyone has ever known it. But He is not suffering now. He’s done with that. It is finished. He’s not in the grave either. He’s at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us.

That is of massive importance for us. A suffering world needs a Saviour who knows about suffering.

We need a Saviour who has triumphed over suffering. That is what we have in Jesus. He was plunged into indescribable suffering, but He was not overcome by it. He came through it and he triumphed in victory.

What was finished?

2. The full course of his obedience

Remember why Jesus came into the world. The Son of God became a man to live the life you and I would have had to live in order to enter heaven. Jesus lived the perfect life. There was no sin in Him. The night before He died, He was able to say to His Father:

 “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do” (John 17:4).

Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish law but to fulfil it.” (Matthew 5:17). Every commandment of God was fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Throughout His life, Jesus loved God the Father with all His heart, soul mind and strength, and He loved His neighbour as Himself. He’s the only person who has ever done it. Jesus’ perfect life of obedience was now complete and He was about to lay it down, so He said, “It is finished.”

What was finished?

3. The decisive battle with his enemy

The life of Jesus was a life of suffering, it was a life of obedience, but it was also a life of conflict with our great enemy the devil. Look at the world today: Where does evil come from? Why do so many marriages fail? Why do wars keep happening? Why this virus?

Jesus spoke with absolute clarity about the devil. Confronting the devil was the first act of Jesus’ public ministry. The Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Throughout His ministry we see Jesus casting out evil spirits that were holding human lives in bondage.

The story of this conflict goes back to the beginning. Satan tempted Adam and Eve and led them into sin that caused them to lose the joys of being always in the presence of God.

As they enter the knowledge of evil, they came under the power of the evil one. That’s our story ever since. That explains what we see around us today. But God promised that a Redeemer would come, saying to Satan:

“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”. (Genesis 3:15).

 What a picture! The Redeemer stamps on the head of the snake, crushing it, and in the same act, the snake bites His foot with deadly poison. That is precisely what happened at the cross. In Christ’s death he breaks the devil’s power:

“Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

You might expect the Bible to say, “Jesus triumphed over satan by the resurrection,” and that’s true, but that’s not what it says here. It says Christ “triumphed over satan by the cross.

At the cross, satan was the gambler who knew he was losing, and running out options and was forced to put everything on the table. Jesus swept the boards and then he said, “It is finished.”

When Jesus died, he went beyond the reach of satan. Satan could no longer tempt Him. The devil could no longer afflict Him or cause Him to suffer. When Jesus went into death, it was “game over” for the devil and “game on” for us. The decisive battle with the enemy had been won.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14,15)

The Son of God became man. He fulfilled the law of God, and then laid down His life as a sacrifice for us. He is able to save sinners and there is nothing that satan can do to stop Him! It is finished!

What was finished?

4. The complete work of his atonement

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to give His life as a ransom for many, and on the cross He says, “It is finished.” He has borne the guilt of our sins. He has endured the punishment of our hell. The divine wrath has been spent on Him. The justice of God has been satisfied in Him.

The perfect sacrifice has been offered. Complete atonement has been made. Hell has been vanquished. The condemnation has been removed.

Now the Redeemer says, “It is finished.”

What can be added to Jesus’ redemptive work, His death and resurrection? It is finished! His long night of suffering is over. He’s no longer on the cross. The full course of His obedience is over. The decisive battle with His enemy is over. Christ finished. You haven’t. But with Him you will!

You Haven’t

There was only one Person in the history of the world who could ever truly say, “It is finished.” No one will be able to say it when they die, because no one will be able to say it while they live. None of us will be able to say to God “I brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” I haven’t been able to say this of a single day of my life.

As a believer in Christ, you have begun the work of all the commandments, but you have not finished the work of any! I cannot identify a single day of my life that I could say, “I lived that day to perfection.”

Every day of the week, we are in the position of saying, “We have done the things we ought not to have done. We have not done the things we ought to have done.” And that will never change this side of heaven. You may grow in your walk with God, but you will never move beyond being a believing sinner.

Sinners on earth can never say, “It is finished,” and neither can sinners in hell. Christ finished. You haven’t. But with Him you will.

With Him You Will

Here’s what you get when Jesus is yours. Or rather, here’s what is yours “in Christ.” Jesus completed the work of atonement, so…

1. …In Christ you are forgiven, accepted and loved.

If you are in Christ, you don’t have to do something else to be loved and accepted. All that you need is in Christ. If He is yours then love, forgiveness and acceptance are yours. You are accepted in His love! (Ephesians 1:6 KJV).

Jesus completed the full course of obedience, so…

2. …In Christ you have already lived a righteous life.

Jesus has lived it for you. If your hope of heaven rested on your works, it could never stand. Your works are not complete; they’re not finished. If your hope depends on your own works, something you had to do in addition to what He has done, your hope could never stand.

But when your hope of heaven rests on Christ’s work, that hope is secure, because Christ’s work is complete, “It is finished.” The law says, ‘do this’, and it is never done. But grace says, ‘believe in this’, and everything is done already.

Some of us are living under the law and it is never done. You will never have joy as long as you live under the law.

In Christ you have already lived a righteous life. He lived it for you. You are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). Just as your sins were laid on Jesus and counted as His. His righteousness is counted as yours.

 “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus completed the decisive victory over satan, so…

3. …In Christ the devil is a defeated foe.

Some of you look at your past, at your family history and you can see the work of satan, the destroyer, running over generations. You wonder if some kind of curse hangs over your family. You ask, “What does this mean for me?”

Remember that no curse can stand if you are in Christ. How could it? He won the decisive victory over satan on the cross. For you to enter into this victory asks for the renewing of the mind to know who you are in Christ.

Maybe you find yourself overwhelmed by the strong pull of temptation. Satan knows your weakness and he has been running rampant in your life because of it. You have failed so many times that you’ve got to the place where you can hardly imagine prevailing over this enemy.

In Christ your enemy is a defeated foe!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him give us all things (Romans 8:31,32).

Jesus completed the long night of his suffering, so…

4. …In Christ your suffering will lead to glory.

No suffering lasts forever. Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Look at the resurrection body and the new creation. All this is yours when Christ is yours—no more sin; no more pain; no more tears; no more death. Christ finished. You haven’t. But with Him you will!

What to Do With a Completed Work

Believe it

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was surrounded by darkness, and He was two breaths away from death. Simply hearing that Jesus said this is not going to change your life, but believing it will.

As He hung there in the darkness, it hardly looked like satan’s power was broken. It hardly looked like hell’s gates were splintered. It hardly looked like death’s sting was drawn.

A week after Jesus died, the world did not look very different. The same was true after another month, another year, another century, another millennium. Is the world different than the day Jesus said this?

Caesar was still on the imperial throne, selfishness and pride still dominated high places, the hearts of many seemed to become no better but rather worse with the passing of time.

When Jesus said, “It is finished.” this was a cry of faith, a cry anticipating all that would come from His completed suffering, His perfect life, His atoning death and His decisive victory.

It means this is a cry that must be embraced by faith. Most people have heard the words, “It is finished,” but the question is: Do you believe that “It is finished?” It was not obvious then and it is not obvious now, except to the one who has faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 2:8 to 10 makes it clear how you live a life of faith.

“Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control. At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:8, 9)

That’s what the Bible says. “But we see Jesus”. What do we see? We see wars. We see cancer. We see viruses. We do not see everything subject to Jesus.

And what is Jesus doing? Making the world a better place? Putting an end to human suffering? Ridding the world of evil? He never says any of these things. He is “Bringing many sons to glory,” and he is able to do this for you!

“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10)

How does that happen? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in the middle of the difficulties you are facing today, in this crises we all face here and now. Believe that “it is finished,” and as you believe, what He accomplished at the cross will become yours!

Proclaim it

It is our privilege to share the gospel. It really is good news, which is what it means.

Think about what happens when a king triumphs in battle. He sends back messengers to proclaim victory. They sound the trumpets, “The battle has been won. The king has triumphed and the enemy is defeated. Now we can live in the peace and joy that flows from this victory.”

But if the king loses the battle, he sends back military advisers who say, “Man the gates. Prepare for battle. The enemy will be here soon. We all need to fight for our lives.”

Do you see the difference? Either the battle is won and we can live in the joy of it, or it is lost and we must prepare to fight ourselves. Every religion in the world says in some way, “You need to fight for your life. Say the prayers. Do the good works. Observe the disciplines.”

But in the gospel Jesus says, “It is finished.” King Jesus has won the victory and He invites all who will come to Him to share in its spoils. Our mission is not to ask people to do something for God, but to announce what God has done through Christ! We need to say; “Make this yours! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! Enter into the good of all that He has won!”

Enjoy it

It’s natural for us to feel we need to make a contribution to our salvation, but how can you contribute to something that’s already complete?

You can’t. When a new house is built, you don’t keep building, you move in and enjoy it. When a new road is opened, you don’t start digging, you get in the car and enjoy it. When a gift is given, you don’t start paying for it, you receive it and you start enjoying it.

Is He your Saviour? Christ finished. You haven’t. But with Him you will. 

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in his finished work today.

Let us pray:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in my place you stood,

You sealed my pardon with Your blood!

Thank you Father God for Your Son,

Thank you for our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who redeemed us, who gives us everlasting life.

The One that has reconciled us with you my God.

All honour and glory to Christ the Lord!

Amen

Facing the Times – The Power of Prayer

We live in extraordinary times that ask for different ways of connecting with you. Please open your Bibles with me today and put a marker at Isaiah 38 and 2 Kings 18.

Isaiah 38 tells the story of a severe sickness that afflicted King Hezekiah and he prayed to the Lord and the Lord helped him.

What a gripping story about an unexpected crisis. Who of us could imagine that we will find ourselves in the middle of a life-threatening crisis this day?

I pray that the Holy Spirit will open our spiritual eyes and our hearts to hear what God say to us in these times.

We focus on the first three verses of Isaiah 38 beginning with the first part of verse 1:

“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death.”

Isaiah 38:1

“In those days” – The people of God were under attack for the king of Assyria invaded the promised land from the north attacking the ten tribes of Northern kingdom of Israel that was independent from the line of David. They got completely scattered and Assyria turned its focus on the Southern kingdom of Israel demanding the surrender of king Hezekiah.

King Hezekiah was a direct descendent of David and ruled in Jerusalem in the south. Hezekiah then took the letter demanding his surrender to the king of Assyria into the temple of the Lord. He kneeled out before God with this letter and prayed from his heart saying:

“O Lord our God, save us, please from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You, o Lord, are God alone.”

2 Kings 19:19

God answered his prayer in a remarkable way. But another crisis came to Hezekiah as seen in 2 Kings 20 as exactly described in Isaiah 38:

“In those days Hezekiah became sick”. So here is a king who stood before God interceding for his people, praying for the deliverance of God’s people and his prayers being answered.

But suddenly this great king whose prayers were answered is now sick and staring death in the face, facing a life-threatening crisis.

Before we get to this story, let us first look at who Hezekiah was in those days. He was one of the best kings of God’s people in all of the old covenant, the son of king Ahaz who reigned in Judea whilst Hosea ruled in Israel. Ahaz was one of the worst kings of that time. Ahaz burnt his own son and the Bible says and did not what was right in God’s eyes.

There is someone that needs to hear this: like Hezekiah God can take a nothing and make of him a something. No matter what your lineage, no matter what your past, our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed you and can turn your life around to walk closely with God!

Hezekiah lived a good and righteous life in the sight of God. He was man of great faith for he trusted in the Lord:

“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following Him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him, wherever he went out, he prospered.”

2 Kings 18:5-7

What a great accolade. How great will it be if someone can say this of us. But this man became sick and was at the point of death. A painful affliction came to a Godly man at the worst possible time. God’s people have been plunged into a severe crisis.

Anyone that have experienced a serious sickness will understand, receiving treatment for cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. And currently we all are caught up in a health crisis of unknown proportions.

Why will God allow this? A Godly king doing what is right in the sight of the Lord. He became so sick that he was at the point of death.

And then he receives a pastoral visit by the prophet Isaiah saying to him that he will not recover.

“And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, ‘Thus say the Lord ‘set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”

Isaiah 38:1

Isaiah, a true prophet of God speaking the words of God!

You might now say that this is not what we want to hear in this crisis we are in. But this is a story of hope in a time of an unknown crisis. This story has a very good ending. Hezekiah recovers and God gave him another 15 years to live.

What is the value of this story? As we look at the life-threatening crisis we facing, we not at the end of it, not in the middle of it but at the beginning of it. That is exactly where Hezekiah finds himself in Isaiah 38:1.

What is God saying to us in this time of uncertainty and concerns of what will happen? What about my job; my finances; how long is going to continue; will my family be save and many other questions arising in a time like this.

How did king Hezekiah respond to his situation? I want us to look at two ways he responded.

  1. He seeks the face of God in prayer

“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,” Isaiah 38:2

This king at the point of death, greatly weakened when the prophet came to him. When Hezekiah heard this news that he is going to die, he turns his head to the wall and starts praying to the Lord.

Isaiah is still in the room. The king must have had many questions to ask the man of God. How long will I still live? What about my people?

We will at a later stage look at what he is praying, but we are given a summary:

“O restore me to health and make me live!” Isaiah 38:16

God heard his prayers restored his health. What can we get from this truth?

God’s sovereignty includes the prayers of His people! Isaiah said that the king will die and that he must set his house in order. If Hezekiah did not pray, not seeking the face of God first in prayer, what would have happened?

God is sovereign in all things and His sovereignty includes the prayers of the righteous. We don’t know what God is doing and we should not pretend to know what He is doing.

The first reaction of a Godly heart is to seek God in prayer. Let the others do the analysis, the why, the when and the where, but those in Christ first seeks the Lord and pray.

That should be our first response to a crisis.

  • Seek to live with a clear conscience

“Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” Isaiah 38:3

Was he bargaining with God? I don’t think so. Godly people acknowledge their sinful nature. The first response he made is that if he dies, he is at peace with God for he has a clear conscience. He most probably thought like the apostle Paul; I have thought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Why did he have a clear conscience? He didn’t live a perfect sinless life, no, only our Lord Jesus Christ is without sin.

“Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” Isaiah 38:17

Hezekiah was ready to leave this life here and now.

Our second challenge and encouragement as we face this health crisis, as we face the unknown, is to seek to live with a clear conscience.

For us to live in such a way that we are ready for that day. To live right with God and with other people because we know that one day that day will come for us too.

Hezekiah walked before God in faithfulness, seeking wholeheartedly what is good and right in God’s sight. A man of faith that had a clear conscience. That is what comforted him in his crisis,

A crisis always brings out the best and the worst out of people. We already experience this as we are in the beginning of this crisis.

Some will become angry; some will be ready to blame others. We already saw the aspect of selfishness as people have stockpiling food.

There will also be deeds of kindness as people think of the common good of others. We will also see great acts of courage, especially from those in the frontline fighting this attack on mankind.

May the Lord help us to live through this crisis in such a way that we are ready for the day we are called home. Lord help us to walk in faithfulness and help us to do what is good and right.

We need to pray and seek God’s face first and we need to be right with God.

I am closing with the last part of Isaiah 38:3.

“And Hezekiah wept bitterly” Isaiah 38:3

I belief he wept for this reason: He knew his work is not yet finished. God has promised a King that will bring hope to the whole world, this hope that we walk in now and here!

This King by prophesy should come through the line of David. Hezekiah was a descendent in that line of David. At that time Hezekiah had no son. As he prayed to God, God gave him another 15 years. God’s promise had to be fulfilled. For Hezekiah he needed to live to have a son.

He lived for fifteen years and the Bible tells us that his son Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem.

Maybe you have not yet in these times of crisis sought the face of the Lord in prayer and cannot say that you have a clear conscience.

How can we make right with God? For this reason, Jesus came to this world to die for you, to redeem you and put you in right standing with God. He made a way for your sins to be forgiven.

He is the way to the Father that allows us to seek the Lord in prayer. As we come to Him and repent, he cleanses our conscience. He is the great King that Hezekiah points to!

It is Jesus that overcame death and is ready to give you everlasting life.

Kneel before him, yes turn your head and seek Him in prayer right now. Repent of your sinful nature and ask for forgiveness. Invite Him into your heart and acknowledge Him as Lord of your life. He gives you a clear conscience and the Holy Spirit is ready to walk with you in this new life where you will be God’s child.

Let us pray:

Father God we bow before you in this time of the unexpected, in this crisis that has swept the world and we seek your face in prayer,

Help us to have a clear conscience and lead us by your Spirit.

We thank our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that made both these possible, giving us also life and hope.

Hear our prayers O Lord that we can face this crisis with faith that will give us courage and strength.

In the Name above all names, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen