Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Suffering Servant

Last week at the Bible study we talked about suffering on earth in the form of destruction on a global scale or within our daily lives.  We talked about how the cause of such suffering is our sins of forsaking God and turning away from him to dig our own cisterns and find glory in things other than God.  To move in a progressive direction of building upon last week, we switched our focus to the Suffering servant, also known as Jesus Christ.  Within this topic, two sub-topics of His sufferings and then also what his sufferings means for us were discussed.  

To open the message, I'm praying for anyone who might read this and for those physically at the Bible study:  
Father, thank you for allowing us to gather to have the freedom to learn about you and seek you out.  I thank you for the willingness of those here to come and hear of your Word and your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray that you would give us open eyes to see the gospel in its entirety and truth, gradually transforming our minds and sanctifying our souls to the likeness of Christ.  Father, prepare the hearts of those about to hear or read this to receive your Word and prepare mine to deliver it.  Let us see the truth of Jesus' sufferings, but also the truth of what his sufferings provides for us each and every day.  I love you and praise you forever, in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
We will be pulling from the scripture of Isaiah chapter 53 to look at the sufferings of Jesus.  If you have your Bible, go ahead and read the entire chapter to get a feel of the context of what is going on and what we're going to be talking about.  The focal point that comes to mind for me when reading through this scripture is verse 3, which says:
"A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
ACQUAINTED?!?!  That's it?!?! The man that was crushed, pierced, chastened, scourged, and finally murdered, and all he gets is that he was acquainted with grief?! Why would this word usage be chosen here?  My thought to this was this; The immense suffering and grief that consumed Jesus' life did not define him.  He did not allow the physical bondage of suffering to depress his passion or waver his faith in God the Father that his will is sovereign and his will shall be done.  What defined Jesus Christ was his intentional mission to save sinners from eternal separation from God (death) by way of the ultimate sacrifice; by way of death on a cross.  His secondary reason for coming was to live by example and show us how to LIVE for God.  Not talk about living for God, not "murmuring about our imperfections" as John Piper so eloquently puts it, not just going to church and going home.  Jesus Christ came to this world in order that we may SEE how to LIVE a full life devoted to supremely glorifying the grace of God in a manner that is to our human capacity's fullness.  That is what defined Jesus Christ.

Who knew more suffering than Christ? No, who knew even knew a miniscule amount of the suffering of Christ?  To get a strong sense of imagery on this topic, I would really encourage you to watch the parts of the Passion of the Christ where Jesus is whipped with the sticks and then the cat of nine tails, and also watch the crucifixion.  Watch it now, before you continue reading so that the severity of this message can sincerely  sink in and weigh heavy on your heart.  After watching that, let's continue with exploring the true sense of Jesus' sufferings.  I want to make something as clear as possible here; Jesus' sufferings in the physical manner were among the least painful of his sufferings.  What you just watched him endure in the Passion of the Christ in the physical body was NOTHING compared to the sufferings beyond the physical realm! NOTHING!!! And so we ask, what other suffering could he possibly have went through?!  Jesus suffered on three levels as a man in the flesh; Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The physical sorrows have been made painfully clear already; it consists of Jesus' beatings, floggings,  being disfigured, whipped, flesh ripped from his skin, and finally murdered.  Next is the sorrow of the emotional suffering of Christ; this is the realm of the constant rejection by the general population, the mockery, temptation, being hated by the world, and completely misunderstood.  Before I expand on the third type of sorrow, remember that the insane physical and emotional suffering are like NOTHING of Jesus' spiritual suffering.  No contest, not in the same ball park, nowhere near, not at all.  The spiritual suffering of Jesus Christ lies in the fact that he chose to leave the right hand of God on the throne in his perfect kingdom of heaven to come to this world in the flesh and suffer with us, for us, in the place of us to atone for our sins.  He was separated from God.... The apostle Paul tells us in Revelation about the Book of the Life of the Lamb that was Slain; this is a book that existed before creation that has written in it the life of Jesus Christ and all it entails.  Jesus Christ was with God since before creation reigning in the perfection of Heaven and chose to be separated from Heaven and the Father knowing that his life in the flesh would be full of suffering and pain.  These are the deepest wounds that Jesus Christ suffered in his time in the flesh.  Isaiah 53 verse 5 says ".... by his wounds we are healed."  By his scourging we are healed.  By his wounds and by his scourging we are healed.  This introduces us to the second part of the message, being what Jesus Christ's sufferings means for us.  

What does Jesus' sufferings mean for sinners like you and me?  His sufferings give us healing; in the most plain sense, he gives us healing.  So the next question that arises is how and by what are we healed?  As sinners, who by the way need healing whether you choose to agree or not is erroneous, we are healed in three ways; We are healed in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls.  
1) We are healed in our hearts by God's love and grace
  • My thought process, according to the scripture and with God's help through prayer, serves me that God's love is shown in two ways:
  1. Jesus Christ left his Holy throne on high seated at the right hand of God in perfection to suffer, die, and be crushed for OUR iniquities.
  2. His love opens our eyes to the world for what it truly is by bringing us to God.
"Now we understand what it is to be loved, and it is not to be made much of, but to be rescued from the desire to be made much of." -John Piper
God's love is God bringing us to God; in case you didn't notice, everything is taken care of by God; all he requires from you is that you come along for the ride.
  • Now that we've established in the most basic sense, what God's love is, let's establish the most basic sense of God's grace.  His grace is simply upon the fact that he chose to reveal himself to us.  He doesn't owe us anything, he didn't have to provide us with a Bible to live by, or a human sacrifice of his own Son to atone for our sins, or anything.  God didn't have to do ANYTHING!  It is simply by his grace that he chose to reveal himself to us and open our eyes.  
The idea of grace is put plainly in this illustration:  Imagine you took a loan out from a bank for a million dollars, and are, in return, a million dollars in debt.  You lose your job, can't find a new one, have no money, no savings or any way at all to pay back the million dollars.  So you go to the bank and sit down with the manager to see if you can work something out.  Before you even begin to plead your case, the bank manager says, "Don't worry about it, your account is taken care of, you are no longer in debt."  Wow that's great, right?  Yes, but it goes even further, the bank manager continues to not only wipe away your debt, but he gives you a deposit of a million dollars into your account; so you go from being in debt a million dollars to owning a million dollars by the grace of the bank manager.
This idea relates in the grace of God in that we were in immeasurable debt to God since the fall of man due to our iniquities and sins; so God, in his ultimate grace, says it's ok, I'm going to send my son to pay for your debts by way of death on the cross and you don't have to do anything but accept this gift.  Then, he goes even further and says that not only will I forgive you and pay the debt, I'm going to deposit in you the Holy Spirit with which you will live by and be transformed slowly into the likeness of Christ.  That my friends, is grace.  

2) We are healed in our minds by God opening our eyes to see the world for what it is in the truest sense.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come."
A new creation, in Christ...  When I think of a new creation, I think of something that is completely different and brand new.  A person who becomes a new creation has new tendencies, new desires, a new aura among them, new passions, new ambitions, new purpose.... In effect, it serves to say that we should almost go as far as getting a new name in this world.  A new creation is 100% different.  Before we are made new and transformed, we had this pre-disposition to live in this world, for this world; after we become a new creation, In Christ, however, our eyes are opened and we learn that we are passing through this world for a time until the second coming of Jesus Christ when we will ascend to Heaven.  We learn to live not for this world, but waiting for the day of reckoning, so in the words of Sam Storms, we live with one foot raised ready at any moment to ascend into our final sanctification through Jesus.  

3) We are healed in our  souls by God's peace.

We find peace in knowing that Jesus Christ's work on the Cross made us able to enjoy God's grace, love, and mercy.  It is "by his wounds we are healed."  This shows us that ONLY by the wounds and scourging of Jesus Christ are we healed.  Not by Jesus coming in the flesh and speaking into our lives and living among us.  Note this part very carefully and soak it up friends:  JESUS CHRIST HAD TO DIE ON THE CROSS IN ORDER FOR OUR SINS TO BE PAID FOR.  The price of our sins wasn't just wiped away for no reason with no payment at all;  Jesus Christ became the price, he became our healing.  And so, once our hearts and minds are healed, we find peace in knowing that Jesus Christ is not only our Price, but also our Pearl.  He not only paid the price for our sins, but is the pearl of the beauty of God's grace that we hold dearest in our souls.  

Isaiah 53:10:
"Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord made  his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

In case you didn't notice.... IT'S ALL ABOUT HIM!!!! IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST!!! So if it's all about Jesus, then we need to follow his example and live as he did.  This is most clearly portrayed in Philippians 2:5-8 in which Jesus shows us to count ourselves as nothing and serve others.  
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

In closing, I just want to leave you with this last quote from John Piper out of his book Don't Waste Your Life, "If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full."  As you go throughout this week, ask yourself if you recognize that you need healing.  Ask yourself if you have been healed and made a new creation, and if you haven't, will you allow God to heal you by his wounds.  The price has been paid, and your deposit is waiting.... 

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