January 6, 2012 Devotion Sharing (Isaiah 40, 1 Peter 1, Romans 10)
Submitted by Tony K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Against the frailty of human life, the Bible asserts that “the word of our God stands forever.” This eternal, imperishable word has become flesh, and has been preached to us, and we are called to bring these “good tidings” to others ourselves, as preachers. Note these themes in today’s text, and make personal applications from parts of the text that speak to you.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” [Isaiah 40:8]
As I think about things that seem to “last forever,” that purport to have nearly eternal characteristics, namely great civilizations, empires, powerful kings and kingdoms of their day that no one during that time would ever imagined their downfall, history has really shown itself the reverse. Great civilizations have fallen, empires such as the Roman, Persian, Babylonian empires have crumbled, history has shown that there is nothing of this world that even the greatest men have created, that truly last, that “stand forever.” As we commemorated in 2011 the ten year anniversary of 9/11, never in my lifetime would I have imagined the landmark twin towers of the World Trade Center crumble to pieces as it did that fateful day. History tells us that nothing stands forever, but the Bible asserts that the word of God, the word that became flesh for all mankind, the salvation power of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, lasts forever.
“All men are like grass… the grass withers and the flowers fall.” [1 Peter 1:24]
The Word of God shows how frail human life is, how men are like grass, how short and temporary life is, how foolish it is to think that life is somehow secure, that it is a guarantee that I will even live my life at an old age. There is nothing certain, nothing secure, and so to receive another year, 2012, is truly a gift from God. I did not will my life to existence nor can I will another year of life for myself. It was given to me. And so, knowing that life is frail and that I cannot guarantee even one day of life for myself or my loved ones, what is the best usage of my life? Is it to amass as much as possible in as little time as possible? Is it to gain world renown fame? Money? Power? No, such things don’t last forever. The best usage of my life would to invest in the things that DO.
You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” [Isaiah 40:9]
As a Christian, I possess something that does last forever. I have been given something that no man can ever take away, confiscate, or steal. It’s the gospel. Salvation. Eternal life. And that is why, it is “good tidings” worth shouting out. At the Winter High School retreat, James inspired the Christian students to believe, that when you meet or befriend a non-Christian student, you ought to think, “It’s that person’s lucky day because I have an opportunity to share the gospel with him/her.” Good tidings. Good news. At my workplace, at any opportunity (while life is short and uncertain), at my place of service (Interhigh church), with any neighbors and community, I possess the central calling to point people to Christ.
“Here is your God!” [Isaiah 40:9]
In a society, in a place, in a culture where the strong pull to live the selfish American “dream” of being ultimately isolated from one another in order to live a “comfortable” life is the norm, I cannot and should not insist on my own personal comforts at the expense of God’s kingdom, His agenda, and the salvation of others. Sobering enough, there is a correlation between my living a selfish life and suffering for the salvation of others.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [Romans 10:14-15]
As I think about my own salvation and those who brought such good news to me, as I go back to my freshman year in college when I was young, ready to “conquer to the world” and/or thought that I had the whole world ahead of me, I’m thankful for the very people who instructed me on the uncertainty of life, on what I could (and couldn’t) bank my life upon, on what it meant to live a gospel-centered life. I’m thankful for the very people who didn’t give into the calling to live an ultimately inwardly-focused, that such people responded to the calling to preach the good news! I have one life to live and what better way to live it than for things that last! Such things are the gospel (word of God) and people. I’m thankful to God that He has given me another year to preach this good news to others, to not live a selfish life of ultimately hoarding onto my time and money, but to share this confession of faith, that has forever changed my life, I have made with my mouth that “Jesus is Lord.” As 2011 marked an amazing year of God’s generosity and faithfulness to us as a church, as our church had the incredible privilege of experiencing well over two hundred salvations, it’s my prayer and personal commitment to not “slow down,” but to advance God’s kingdom for the things that last.
Submitted by James K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
This text asserts that in the grand history of humanity we like grass and the flowers of the field. Like the seasons, the grass and all the plants of the field will die out in due time. The sense I get from this text is that indeed each and every person has a limited amount of time in which they are allotted to make an impact on the world they live in. As verse 9 states, there is an urgency therefore to go up on the “high mountain”, “life up your voice with a shout”, to not be fearful of doing this and to proclaim “Here is your God!”. So often I live with such a sense of now. I just think about the amount of work I need to do for the given work week. I think about HOW much work I need to take care of, and in very acute sense I am just thinking about myself and how much I can get by without causing more discomfort and unease in my life. This kind of thinking ultimately places myself as the most important person in the world and where I need to take care of myself. This passage is a reminder to me that first, I can’t ever predict how long I will have on this Earth. And second, that the time is urgent to proclaim the name of God to all the places I go to. Therefore, I need to live with that sense again that I have a very short time on Earth to make an impact. As I get older, I do think more about the time I have left instead of the time I have looking forward to. I can waste my time thinking about the things that will ultimately pass and won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Or occupy my thoughts and time I spend on the things that will last forever, which are souls and the word of God.
1 Peter 1:22–25
I am struck by the exhortation and command that Peter gives in the midst of the sense of urgency that he brings forth from Isaiah 40. He doesn’t give commands to therefore do a lot of hard work for God. He doesn’t exhort the audience to become “better” people, or to follow a set of rules to make sure you go to heaven. Instead, he commands everyone to love. Not only to love but to love one another DEEPLY. Not at a superficial level that only the world does or in a way where I feel comfortable at. But to spend and give your all being able to love the people that have been placed in your life. For me, I just think it’s easier to just work harder, or to change my behavior in some way, or even to follow a set of rules I can do in order to measure myself against that metric. I would be more than willing to just put my head down and feel like I am making progress on that front. But to love just even one person is a totally different thing I am just not used to doing and something I need to always be aware of and to act on. All the more as I think about this upcoming year, I know that there will be a lot of things to do, busy work, church work, things to occupy my time with. But I need to prioritize and understand again that in the end, people and loving them trumps them all. If someone is in need, if someone just needs that word of encouragement, if it means I need to get deeper in their life and involve myself in their issues, this is what I am going to need to do in order to love. I know that this is how I have been loved and cared for in my own life.
This is the Gospel message pure and simple. This was the same exact passage I actually had shared with my mother as she was dying. She had been to church before, had heard the message, but never really responded to God in any way before. But as she was dying and we knew that time was close before she couldn’t respond anymore to hearing, all I could plead and tell her was to cry out to God, to just confess that Jesus is Lord and to believe in Him. What could one do but just say that in the midst dying and clinging on to life. […] As the New Year is here, I am given this allotted time I have in my life to preach and live out the Gospel in my life. To love the people God continues to place into my life. To continue to give it my all to serve and honor God with all my life knowing that this affects the eternity of the people that will hear the Gospel message.
Write a prayer of gratitude toward the fact that the word came to you, and a prayer of commitment to become a proclaimer of the word.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I am thankful again for this reminder of just how precious and amazing your Gospel message is. Lord, so often I just want to do a lot of things and to try to prove myself to you by how much I can do. But you remind me again that I am loved and that I am saved simply because of Your great mercy and grace in my life. There is nothing I can do to earn your salvation. The time is short that I have been given on this Earth and eternity is long. Please help me always see that my greatest priority is therefore to love the people You have placed in my life. Help me always keep the perspective of eternity in my mind as I serve and spend my time this upcoming new year.
In Jesus Name,