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Transformed by God

Transformed by God

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Transformed by God

Isaiah 61

In 2007 I was working in corporate sales and was at our company’s annual sales meeting in Atlanta, and I got to hear Chris Gardner speak. You may know him but he is the person the book “Pursuit of Happiness” was based on, and the 2006 film with Will Smith by the same name. It is based on Gardner’s transformation and climbing of the ranks from homelessness to successful millionaire businessman. In the movie he is down and out and  selling bone density scanners to doctors. But sales are slow and expenses mount. He loses his wife, his house and is left to care for his five year old son. One day he has a chance encounter in a cab with Mr. Frohm, a partner in a financial firm who is amazed at Gardner’s ability to solve a rubik cube. He gives Gardner a shot to interview for an internship with his company. However, the day before the interview, Gardner is arrested for unpaid parking tickets and nearly misses the interview. He arrives to it in the tshirt and jeans he was painting in and yet through his wit he secures an unpaid internship. On the last day of internship, he is summoned to a meeting with the partners. Mr. Frohm notes he is wearing a new shirt, to which Gardner explains he thought it appropriate to dress for the occasion on his last day. Mr. Frohm smiles and says he should wear another one tomorrow, letting him know he has won the coveted full-time position, and reimburses him for the previous cab ride. Fighting back tears, Gardner shakes hands with the partners, then rushes to his son’s daycare to embrace Christopher.

It is an amazing story that inspires hope. Gardner’s message to our company that day was keep your head up and keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles and you, too, can make it. Every rep in the company was encouraged and energized. 

This and stories like it resonate powerfully because we all have obstacles. We need encouragement. We need hope to change. We need examples. We live in a broken and dark world. There is brokenness and darkness outside and even inside of us. 

What hope is there to change.? Are there just a select few who are able to rise above it? What about the ordinary? That’s business but what about my marriage, what about my kids? That’s money but what about the heartache inside me?

We can find the greatest encouragement not in living up to another’s inspirational story, but by seeing what God is doing in the world. 

He is doing a work to fix all the broken, ruined, oppressed/put down. That is where we can take hope. It is where we can take courage. Today’s passage gives us hope that God is going to transform us and all the bad parts of life. 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. 8 For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult 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 like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:1-11 ESV)

God sends his anointed one into the world to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to set captives free, and to transform people into priests and ministers.  

  1. Transformation

Transformation is at the center of this passage. It is at the center of the book of Isaiah. God is seeking to work in his people to draw them to himself. This is really the most important thing for you. God is living. He is active. He is purposeful. He is working in all your circumstances. 

Remember the people Isaiah is speaking to. They have been through battles. They have been conquered by the Babylonians, many have been taken captive. Country, cities, land ruined by war. They are in a time of darkness and despair. Oppressed by another nation. And God is coming to them in this time to encourage them. He is using these circumstances to speak to his people. God has not abandoned his people or his promises. It is part of his plan, and he is going to redeem his people. 

to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

Organic inspiration. God spoke to people in various times and in various places. He spoke to their needs, to their actual situations. Not artificial. Not Dictation theory of inspiration: where God speaks in solitude to an individual and he writes it down without understanding or without it being connected to anyone else. God speaks to real people in real time, with real words that mean something to them. He more than inspires the words of Scripture. He breathes it out. He breathes out the events and times and people and places and superintends it all. God is working, orchestrating, 

And look what he says he is going to do. The theme here is transformation. God is doing something that will transform his people in every way. 

Massive transformation. 

Bringing good news for the poor. They have something to celebrate. Something to rejoice in. This news will transform them. They will not be defined by their poverty but by what God is doing. 

-Liberty to captives. Change their circumstances. May not seem like a big deal until you see a nation invade another. God is bringing peace. A release from restrictions people impose on them.

-Captives: rectification of circumstances. I have thought more about that one in light of Russia invading Ukraine. Things happen in life where you feel captive and oppressed, wrongly but even perhaps justly, suffering for wrongs you have done. 

-Captive to darkness. Addictions so many people struggle with. Think of Howard Hughes, the brilliant and eccentric aviator who aerospace achievements were marred by his debilitating phobia of germs. What is it in a person that leads them to start a war.

-Bind up brokenhearted: heartache in life. Lose people.  

Comfort: makes them feel better, but even more than that there are grounds for feeling better: God promises to change their circumstances and themselves as well. 

-Permanence. You also get the sense that this change is going to be longlasting because even longstanding brokenness is restored, ancient ruins are restored. 

To build off last week: God is taking their worst and giving them his best. Substituting one thing for another. That is what the servan would do in Isaiah 53 and see it again here. By his stripes we are healed. 

3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– 

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes

the oil of gladness instead of mourning

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; 

-Day of the Lord. Year of the Lord’s Favor. A fix for all the problems in the universe. 

God is going to solve all their problems. If they turn to him, look to him, they find a promise that everything is going to end ok. It doesn’t really matter what the problems in this life are, he is going to take care of them. This is more than just money. This is more than just health. This is more than a new house. It is the removal of every cause of sadness.

Everybody is turning to something to fix them. Everybody is turning to something for inspiration. It’s just a matter of is that thing worthy of your trust. Worthy of your attention. Addictions come because people are desperate for help. Fights arise because a fear of losing things. Disappointment arises because that vacation didn’t do what you thought it would, marriage didn’t fulfill you, kids exposed weaknesses instead of removed them. Political party did give you the promise of absolute peace and prosperity. 

*He is the only one we need! He can turn ashes into beauty. He can fix your problems. 

No person can promise these things and fulfill it. Often times we are trying to satisfy spiritual thirsts with material things. It just doesn’t work. Like a runner trying to satisfy his thirst for water with sand. It just doesn’t work. We have spiritual needs. We have longing for the world to be made right that only God can handle. 

And here he promises to fix those. He promises to fix the world outside but also our own hearts on the inside. We need hope. Then open your Bible and read it. This is what the God of the universe says he will do!

  1. The Bringer of Change/The Anointed One.

These are incredible promises. But who is the one doing it? This is a great deal – where do I find it? I want to know when there is a buy one, get one free coupon, how much more when it is the holistic transformation God is bringing.  

The one doing this is the anointed one. He is identified simply as one who has the Spirit of God. Anointing was often done for kings and was a ceremony that they had come in power. Annointed with oil symbolized God’s spirit coming on that person. He is appointed for the purpose of changing the world and every person. 

So who is this person? Is it Isaiah? Who do we go to? Look at the theme of a deliverer. 

[ There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, (Isaiah 11:1-3 ESV)

[6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.  (Isa 9:1 CSB)

[“This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations. (Isa 42:1 CSB)

[ “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10 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… I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middle of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool of water and dry land into springs of water. (Isa 41:18 CSB) (Isaiah 41:8-10 ESV)

x[ And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” … I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” … 8 Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; (Isaiah 49:3-9 ESV)

This points to the one who will reign over all things, set prisoners free, mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, reign forever. Through whom salvation will come. I want to meet this person!!

It’s audacious to think Isaiah is this one. Isaiah would probably be appalled. He is the one pointing to another coming. Isaiah was undone in the presence of God. Kings were undone by God in this book. Don’t play games with God. Don’t get a big head King Hezekiah, who was delivered from Assyria but don’t think you can do whatever you want. Serve God. 

Jesus. In about 33 AD a man will come from the line of David, tribe of Judah, and after being tempted privately by Satan in the dessert, will begin teaching publicly and people will marvel at his teaching, teaching as one with power and being acclaimed by everyone. He will be known for healing diseases, opening blind eyes, healing the lame and broken, going to the prostitutes and sinners and preaching good news. And the first time he enters into a pulpit in a synagogue to teach, this young upstart teacher would enter into a synagogue morning, open to this passage in Isaiah and say of his ministry, “Today this passage is fulfilled!”

[ “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, 

[“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:18-22 ESV)

This is audacious. Mic drop moment. Who in their right mind would state this. Blown away when someone calls their homerun shot. Some state they will be president. They will win the 1st chair in the band. This is a prophetic word that has stood for 600 years that this young man will stand up and say this word is now fulfilled. How do you even take that seriously. If there is significant evidence to back up what he is saying.

And society today wants to dismiss him. Dismiss as uneducated. Dismiss as a fairy tale. You can’t dismiss him. 

And yet many believers dismiss Jesus by never looking to him and never really allowing him to work in their lives. 

-God is promising to heal you, but you have to put yourself under the care of Jesus. 

-God is promising to set you free, but Jesus is the one with that power

-God promises to give peace, but it is only giving your allegiance to King Jesus. 

If a doctor came in to tell you he had a plan to heal you then you would adhere to his prescription. If you are in jail and someone tells you he can get you out then you would follow. If you are in darkness and one tells you he can bring you into the light you would follow. So what is your relationship to Jesus. Is he your doctor? Is he your guide? Is he your deliverer? Is he your savior? Not just a doctor, a counselor, but my doctor. My doctor of doctors. 

If you think it’s crazy, then consider how others have found peace. Adulterers, liars, thieves, the sad and depressed.

This is what it means to be a Christian. Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is my healer. Jesus is my deliverer. Jesus is my everything.  

He’s the only one who can heal. He is the only one you need. 

One more aspect of what he does for his people. He makes them…

  1. Transformed into Priests and Ministers

6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; 

they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; 

It may not be your desire to be a priest or minister. But I bet you have a longing to help others. I bet you have a longing to see others experience peace and wholeness. I think the reason so many people have so much stuff and are satisfied is because their longing to meet spiritual needs is one of the deepest and most significant longings a person has, and they don’t even know it’s there or how to do it. The healing you have experienced you can help others experience. 

Young lady working in a big city with an impressive education, impressive company, impressive job, and she is completely unsatisfied and thinking of leaving it all to help people in a third world country. Noble. But if you don’t know how to help the needs around you now, you probably won’t be able to help those in another country. 

You all will be priests. 

Notice what this is saying. The anointed one is going to come and free the captives, heal the broken, release from darkness, bring dancing instead of mourning and then those very ones will rebuild ruins, restore what has been long devastated, bring renewal to cities (v4), and for that they will be known as priests and ministers (v6).

May as well insert the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations. Help others know what God is doing in the world. Tell them – use words. 

It will mean going to those who are captives, who are bound, who are brokenhearted. It is going to messy situations. They are getting their hands dirty. There is excitement. There is commitment. They look like their Lord. Not just inside studying. They are out and about seeing lives changed. 

Ho hum Chrisitans are dying christians. You should get excited by this. Are you excited about Jesus? Are you excited about his church? Do people around you get more or less excited about God’s plan? Are our kids learning this? Makes you want to sing!

Who is God calling you to minister to? We are called to make disciples. We are called to share the good news with others. Where has God called you to go? Who is he calling you to help? Consider this. If you don’t take your walk seriously, you suffer. But so do others. 

Will need to go to those who are captive. 

Discipleship has place and face

This is our big opportunity as believers. It’s a big challenge, too. If you are not being sharpened in it, then you are growing duller. This is why we are spending time in discipleship training. We need to be faithful with the calling God has given to us. 

You have the most inspirational story ever told to share with others. It is not what you have done but it is what God has done and is doing in the world. If we are silent no one will ever know. 

Searched the world and it won’t fill you. Treasures that fade. Man’s empty praise. You put me back together. Every desire satisfied in your love. Nothing better than you. Not afraid of failures, weaknesses, 

Turned mourning into dancing

Beauty for ashes.

Shame into glory. 

Only one who can.

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