Jesus Came to Bring the World a Life-Transforming Message!
Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, we come before You this day with thanksgiving in view of the gifts received from You by grace and for the sake of Jesus. Help us during this Advent Season to grow in our understanding of Your ways and in our commitment to living in accordance with Your will. Be with us to bless our worship. Amen.
The apostle Paul closes his first letter to the Thessalonians with a series of evangelical admonitions - rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, among others. With these words, Paul reveals to us the nature of a God-pleasing life in this world as we await the second coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
The evangelist John describes the ministry of John the Baptizer. He came in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy to prepare the way for Jesus. Many thought he might be the promised Christ, but John protested that thought, knowing that he was rather "the voice crying in the wilderness."
Text: Isaiah 61:1-3,10-11
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
In Christ Jesus, who came into this world with a message that makes all the difference, if only it is heard and believed, dear fellow redeemed:
In ten days we will once again celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Over two thousand years ago, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, into this world. Why did God send Him? Why did He come? Different people answer those questions in different ways. If you were to ask a Buddhist or a Hindu, he might respond that it makes little difference to him, for Jesus plays no role in his religious beliefs. If you were to ask a Muslim the same questions, he would probably respond that Jesus was sent and indeed came into this world to be a major prophet of Allah, but certainly a lesser prophet than Muhammad. If you were to ask a member of the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, he would claim that Jesus came to establish the perfect family and produce perfect children, but failed to do so because of His untimely death. If you were to ask a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist, he would say that Jesus is not God’s Son, but rather simply He was sent and came to be a great teacher of morality, showing us how to live.
My dear friends, there certainly is a lot of confusion in our world with regard to the reason why God sent Jesus into this world. Why did Jesus come? The prophet Isaiah in our text informs us of that reason—first of all, by letting the promised Savior speak for himself, and, secondly, by voicing his personal response to that good news as a representative of all believers. Let us consider this thought that JESUS CAME TO BRING THE WORLD A LIFE-TRANSFORMING MESSAGE—a message of freedom, a message of salvation, and a message of growth!
Yes, Jesus came to bring the world a life-transforming message of freedom! If you have been following the new in recent weeks, there has been a lot of rather depressing talk about slavery and the loss or possible loss of freedom in our world. I have read articles referring to sexual slavery of Russian women in Israel, the virtual physical and psychological slavery of children who are sexually abused, and several articles concerning the possible loss of freedoms due to wider wire-tapping privileges given police under the Patriot Act. In addition, there are all of the issues involved with the repressive regimes of the world, among them that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Yes, our world can be and often is a pretty depressing place in view of the atrocious behavior of man over against his fellowmen. What is the problem? Some point to poverty, others to ignorance, and still others to ill-conceived national policy. But those, where they exist, are all symptoms of a much greater root problem. At the root of all of the sorrow and sadness of this world is an issue the world does not like to admit or discuss—sin and slavery to sin’s author, Satan! The Scriptures are crystal clear about the condition of man’s heart by nature—it is corrupt! “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:7). The Scriptures are also crystal clear about man’s situation by nature—he is enslaved in sin by Satan! “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Is there any question as to why there is so much pain and suffering in our lives and those of others in our world? There is not, if you recognize as true what the Scriptures say about mankind by nature.
What is the solution? Jesus came to bring the world God’s solution. He brought a life-transforming message—a message of liberty! Listen once again to the opening verses of our text, a prophecy Jesus would later quote in application to Himself, as He preached in the synagogue of His home town of Nazareth. Isaiah wrote and Jesus later repeated, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Jesus came with a message of joy for the sorrowing, a message of hope for the downtrodden, a message of freedom for those in this spiritual prison and captivity. There is a solution for sin and all of the suffering of sin. That solution was crystallized by John the Baptizer, when he called upon the people of his day to repent of their sins, thereby humbling themselves before their God, and to place their trust in His coming Savior! Freedom from sin will not come without the previous recognition of sin—the sorrowing over it and the turning away from it! Spiritual bondage will continue until the eyes of those bound, confronted by the grievous nature of sin, are led in sorrow to look with hope to God’s solution to sin—His Son, Jesus Christ! Jesus forgives sin. Jesus uplifts the sinner. Jesus gives the strength to overcome sin. Jesus provides the comfort and insight needed to deal with the consequences of sin in our lives and the lives of all men.
My dear friends, JESUS CAME TO BRING THE WORLD A LIFE-TRANSFORMING MESSAGE—a message of freedom…a message of salvation! The freedom Jesus won for us has an end and a purpose. The end of spiritual freedom from sin is not experienced merely in this life, but rather finds complete fulfillment in the gift of eternal life bestowed upon us by grace through faith in God’s promised Savior! Isaiah, as a representative of all believers, speaks of this glorious end, when he goes on in our text to say, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
God’s plan for our salvation is not merely a plan for "moral reformation," as are the plans for salvation in every other religion apart from Christianity. Oh, yes, God is concerned about how we live, and we shall talk about that momentarily, but the heart of God’s plan for our salvation is His grace. God by grace sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to deliver us from sin. God’s Son, Jesus, lived the holy and righteous life we are supposed to live but cannot. He, then, in grace and by faith bestows that righteousness upon us just like a new set of clothes—a “robe of righteousness,” which covers our sins and allows us to stand before God without fear of His just condemnation. What of our sins? Are they not still there under those sparkling, clean clothes? "No!" Our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, shed in our place on Calvary’s cross. The message Jesus brings us bestows confidence within us, not in ourselves, but rather in our Savior God, whose plan of salvation grants us full and free salvation for the sake of Jesus. The hymn we sang before the sermon expresses these thoughts so very powerfully, when the hymnwriter states:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully through these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
Thy holy, meek, unspotted Lamb, Who from the Father’s bosom came,
Who died for me, e’en me t’atone, now for my Lord and God I own.
Lord, I believe Thy precious blood, which at the mercy seat of God
Forever doth for sinners plead, for me—e’en for my soul was shed.
My dear friends, JESUS CAME TO BRING THE WORLD A LIFE-TRANSFORMING MESSAGE—a message of salvation and, finally, a message of growth! Remember that I mentioned that spiritual freedom has both an end and a purpose. The end is eternal salvation for all who are led to believe in Jesus as their Savior. The purpose is so that we, who are redeemed by Jesus Christ, might grow in grace and knowledge—living our lives in loving service to others with real purpose in life, while glorifying the name of our saving God! Listen to these very familiar words of the apostle Paul, which express first the end and then the purpose of our spiritual liberation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God has created faith within our hearts for the express purpose that we might do the good works He has planned for us. In other words, each of us has specific callings, God intends for us in faith to fulfill, and by His grace we are to grow into those callings. It is only when we understand this spiritual truth and discover our particular callings that we find our true purpose and the meaning of the life God has given us in this world.
This, then, is what Isaiah is talking about when he writes, “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” God, who bestows upon us the righteousness of His own dear Son by faith, works within our hearts to produce righteousness through the love we bestow upon others in our lives. This, in turn, brings praise and glory to God, as the people of this world see our love in action. Jesus put it this way in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify yoru Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Dear friends, in a world, which is totally self-absorbed and in which people tend to look out only for themselves rather than others, God works through His gospel word to move His believing children to love others. He moves His children to place the needs of others above their own needs, and thereby to reflect the type of love that Jesus demonstrated for us. Let us take the time to listen to our God. Let us pray that God would indeed work within our hearts to move us to love as our Savior loved. Let us look forward with joy both to the upcoming Christmas celebration and the coming of Jesus Christ once again in what will be the ultimate celebration for all believers—the end of time and the beginning of our eternal rest in heaven. JESUS CAME TO BRING THE WORLD A LIFE-TRANSFORMING MESSAGEabout liberty, salvation, and growth! May we hear it gladly and rejoice in it daily! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting