Bryan Loritts turns to Isaiah 9 to remind us of who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what He came to deliver us from.
Bryan Loritts turns to Isaiah 9 to remind us of who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what He came to deliver us from.
Bob: There’s a lot wrapped up for us in this day of the year. Pastor and author Bryan Loritts wants to make sure we’re focused on what the day is really all about.
Bryan: The problem with Christmas, for so many in our culture, is that Christmas tends to be, for too many people: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 25th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s nothing wrong with the traditions or the sentiment of the Christmas holiday as long as that’s not what’s most important. We’ll hear more about that today from Bryan Loritts. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to you.
Dennis: And merry Christmas to you.
Bob: You woke up, looking at a Christmas tree filled with the names of Jesus this morning; didn’t you?
Dennis: It declared who the King of kings and Lord of lords really is.
Bob: Well, in fact, as we celebrate Christmas today, we’re going to hear a message today that takes us to four of the names of Jesus that come from Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah, Chapter 9. We’re going to hear from our friend, Bryan Loritts.
Dennis: —who is pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Silicon Valley. Bryan is going to remind us who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what He came to deliver us from. I think, here, at Christmas, it’s very good to think about what His advent onto planet earth delivered us from.
Bob: He starts this message in Isaiah, Chapter 9, with the familiar declaration of the names and titles of Jesus that were prophesied long before He was born. Here’s Bryan.
Bryan: God says to the prophet:
“For to us a child born, and to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, of the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” Then, underline this statement: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Amen.
Father, speak to us, I pray, through this great passage of Scripture—this wonderful reminder of who Jesus is. Encourage and inflame our hearts as we stand on the precipice of a new year. Give us great grace, we pray, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
We’ve all heard the statement:
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue,”—“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Chances are, not only have you heard of this statement, but for those of us who are married, maybe this was a wonderful tradition that you all partook in: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” It’s believed that, if you did this—you found something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue—that that would set your marriage on a great and wonderful trajectory—a trajectory for blessing and health and favor.
We bought into that; but the truth of the matter is—is that, years into your marriage, when you find yourself in one of those stormy seasons, and you’re at the counselor’s office, and they’re kind of diagnosing your marriage—I promise you: not one of you goes: “I know exactly what the problem is! We got something old and something new, but we didn’t get something borrowed or something blue; therefore, that’s the problem with our marriage. Our marriage isn’t what it should be, because we didn’t do two of the things on that list of four; so now our marriage is in a tailspin.”
We don’t say that!—why? Because, at the end of the day, you and I understand that this is mere sentimentality. It’s a nice tradition that has no impact on the reality or daily nature of our marriages. It’s something nice to do, but it doesn’t impact us where our marriages live on a day-to-day basis.
The problem with Christmas, for so many in our culture, is that Christmas tends to be, for too many people: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” It’s nice—wonderful sentimentality; it’s a great tradition—I’m not anti-that. Our family does that—we trim the tree every year. Our tradition is that, every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we gather together and we read the passage of Scripture.
We put the ornaments on the tree—even those ugly ones that my wife made when she was three years old; I won’t call out the ugly ones that I made—but we do those things, and it’s wonderful. We play the wonderful music. When you hear that Frank Sinatra Christmas song, or Nat King Cole—or for those of us a little bit younger, when you hear Run-DMC’s It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens—man!—the memories just take you back; don’t they?
[There’s] nothing wrong with sentimentality—nothing wrong with tradition. The problem becomes, for so many people, on December 26th or January 2nd—or whenever it is that you take the tree down—that tradition really doesn’t have much to do with how we live our lives. Unfortunately, for so many of us, Christ becomes something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It’s nice tradition; and maybe we do it once a week, or maybe we do it when we’re really in need, or maybe it’s once a year—whenever it may be.
But as far as impacting the daily trajectory of how I live my life, the Christ of Christmas has kind of been “x’d” out. That’s a bit of a problem.
As we come to our text, Isaiah—writing 750 years [before] the first advent of Jesus Christ—says, in so many words, that Jesus is not to be reserved for something that we do a certain time of week or a certain time of year; but that Jesus Christ is to invade all of the aspects and corners of our lives. He’s not to be just a traditional thing that we do; He is to be a part of every nook and cranny of who we are.
What’s interesting is that the force of these words, tucked away in Isaiah, Chapter 9—
—that we really don’t understand them unless we can understand a little bit of the context. Here is Isaiah—he’s a prophet of God, speaking to the covenant people of God. Specifically, he’s not just talking to the nation of Israel; he’s really talking to those Jews who are part of the nation of Judah.
If you know anything about your Bible, you know that it was after King Solomon that Judah broke away from the other tribes. They formed their own nation, and here they are—the covenant people of God. As their siblings—the other tribes—the nation of Judah has spent much of her existence doing things on her terms; she’s been living in sin.
Such is the case when we come to Isaiah, Chapter 9. In Isaiah, Chapter 9, Judah has made some awful choices. She has chosen to live her life independently of God—she has chosen to do things on her own terms; she has chosen to live in sin.
She has chosen to navigate life according to her own personal GPS system instead of the North Star of Jesus Christ. And to make matters worse, she has worked herself into a corner. Life on her terms hasn’t worked out well; and even in the corner, instead of crying out to God, she says, “I can get myself out of this mess!” But she only makes it worse, not better. Can anybody relate to that?
So this is Judah’s situation when God speaks these words in Isaiah, Chapter 9. He talks to a rebellious people, living in sin, not turning to God. He says to these individuals—he says to these people: “Help is on the way! I haven’t given up on you. There’s going to be a gift that I will give you. His name is Jesus Christ! He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father. Jesus Christ is coming!”
And yet, as we made mention, this gift isn’t going to come for 750 years.
If you’re sitting here [at that time], you’re going: “How do we know Jesus is going to really come? How do we know that this prophecy is really true?” And I love what God does. God then says, in context: “The way that you know that the gift of My son, Christ, is coming is—here’s what I’m going to do in the meantime: I am going to deliver you from your captors, the Assyrians.” In other words: “The way that you know that the long-term blessing is coming is that I’m going to give you a short-term blessing. I’m going to deliver you from the Assyrians. That deliverance is proof positive that you can trust My word that, in the future, Jesus will come.”
You guys have heard me say that, when I first met Korie, I was in grad school—I was in seminary. I didn’t have two nickels to rub together—I was broke; I just didn’t have anything.
But I fell in love with the girl. You know, after dating for a while, I decided to take it to another level. I wanted to get engaged, but the problem was—I didn’t have, really, money. I didn’t want to put the engagement ring on a credit card. I had too many of my friends, who put the engagement [ring] on a credit card; and they had these credit card payments for the next 20 years of their life. I didn’t want to go that route.
I wanted to do something called layaway. I know I just lost all of you Millennials right now. Layaway is something that we used to do, back in the day. You walk into a store, and you pick out an item—they would put it on-hold, and you could make cash payments along the way.
I walked into this one jewelry store—I’ll never forget—it was in the diamond district of downtown Los Angeles. I walked into the store; and the guy, excitedly, was waiting on me, and showing me all of the diamonds. I picked out the size I could afford—the color and the clarity—it was great. Then I said to the guy, who was excited until I said these words, “I would love to get this ring, but I would love to put it on layaway.” He wasn’t excited at all. He wanted his money; he wanted his money now. He reluctantly agreed, but boy!—he was cold.
He wasn’t excited; he was cold!
I noticed something that would happen in the weeks to come. I’d come in—periodically, several times a month—with another cash payment. I would put the payment down on the ring, and he would take the money. I noticed, with each passing payment, he got less and less cold and more and more friendly—so much so, when it came time for me to make the last payment, Fred—we were on a first-name basis by then—Fred invited me out to go celebrate.
What warmed him up? What transferred him from being cold, and stoic, and aloof, to wanting to go out to celebrate? What warmed him up was—he saw that, when I came in—I put this thing on layaway and I said, “At a future date, I’m going to get this thing,”—with each short-term benefit—with each short-term blessing/with each short-term payment—his confidence grew that I was going to make good on my promise.
That’s what’s happening in our text! Jesus is saying: “People of God, you have worked yourself in a corner. I am going to put Christ on layaway. He’s coming! Rest assured, Christ will come! To give you confidence that Christ is coming, I’m going to give you a short-term payment; I’m going to give you a short-term blessing—I’m going to deliver you from the Assyrians.”
What does this have to do with how I live? It is our firm conviction, as followers of Jesus Christ and students of the Word of God, that the same Jesus—who came once, in the first advent—is the same Jesus who will come again in the second advent. The way that we know Christ will come again is the same way the people of God knew that Christ would come the first time; that is, every time God comes through for you/every time God comes through for me—
—when He delivers me out of that jam, when He heals my body, when He brings back home that wayward child, when He provides for me, when Jehovah-Jireh shows up—every short-term blessing and benefit—I have to see it, not just from the standpoint of, “Look at what God did for me in the present!” but “If God can pull me through now / if He’s good on His promise in the present, He’ll make good on His promise in the future. He will come again.”
People of God, Jesus is coming. When He comes—I want to zoom in on two names. God says, through the Prophet Isaiah: “When Jesus comes, you will know Him as Everlasting Father.” Wow! Again, context—he’s writing to rebellious kids!
He’s writing to kids, who are hell-bent on their own way. He’s writing to kids, who are not paying God any attention. He’s writing to kids, who are convinced that, “I can do life on my own terms.” God says, through the Prophet Isaiah, “When Jesus shows up, you will know Him as Everlasting Father,”—which means this—“He ain’t giving up on you!—in spite of all your mess, in spite of all your sin, in spite of all your waywardness!” In fact, he would say, in Isaiah 3: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. Each one of us has turned to his own way.” We need an Everlasting Father.
Someone’s here today, and you identify with the nation of Judah; you identify with life on your own terms. Maybe you’re addicted to pornography, or you’re an alcoholic. If you’re beating yourself up over the sexual immorality, or the nagging sin that you just can’t seem to shake loose—
—the gossip/the slander—whatever it may be—and you’re wondering, “How can God put up with [me]?”—what I want you to hear me say is—a part of God’s name—it reveals His nature: He is Everlasting Father.
We’ve got to be careful, because this promise ain’t for everybody; it’s only for the covenant people of God. Maybe you’re here, and you’re just visiting and you don’t know Christ as Savior. Oh, dear friend, I say to you today that: “God longs to be your Everlasting Father. You can begin to experience that now! You can begin to see that now! But it only comes through His son, Jesus Christ.”
Finally, verse 6—not only is He known as Everlasting Father—but this Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah says, will also be known as the Prince of Peace. The idea of peace here, on one level—yes, it is settledness—it is the cessation of anxiety; it is the ending of worry. And boy, do we need that! But the Hebrew word for peace is so much more—it’s the word, shalom—it means wholeness/completeness; it means settledness.
He’s saying that, when Jesus comes into your heart and life, you will have a sense of wholeness; you will have a sense of completeness. There will be this sense in which you don’t need to go anywhere else for meaning, value, and significance. Jesus Christ, being the Prince of Peace—God is saying: “It’s a one-stop shop. All you need is in Jesus! He’s your Shalom.”
My son—for Christmas, one of my sons kept asking for a certain name-brand shoe. I wasn’t going to get it for him just because of the dollars involved; and man, his foot is still growing. I just can’t see myself spending that kind of money, only to buy him a new pair of shoes three months later—I just wouldn’t be a happy camper. But there’s a reason why God created grandparents. [Audience laughter] Mimi and Papa, unbeknownst to me and my wife, stepped in; and we were all shocked that these shoes were under the tree on Christmas Day.
Yesterday, me and the son, who wanted the shoes—we went out to Chick-fil-A® for lunch—just me and him. In the car, on the way to Chick-fil-A, I said, “You’re excited about these shoes.” He said: “Yes! Yes; I’m really excited. You just don’t understand.”
I said: “Why are you so excited about these shoes? Let’s talk about that.”
I said, “If those shoes—same exact shoes, same material, put together the same way—if it didn’t have that name on them, would you be as excited?” He said: “Nah! Of course, I wouldn’t be as excited!” I said, “So it’s the name.” “Yeah.” “Well, what is it about the name?” I said, “I’m not coming down on you; I just want to look up under the hood here.”
He said, “Well, Dad, everybody at school has these shoes with this name.” I said, “So having these shoes with this name now kind of gets you into the ‘in’ crowd?” He kind of paused and he said, “I never thought of it that way, but I guess; yeah!” I said: “Son, I’m not coming down on you on the shoes. Ain’t nothing wrong with the shoes—nice shoes. Praise God for Mimi and Papa!
“But the truth of the matter is—son, I just want you to learn to ask a tough question, right now—it’s the question: ‘Why?—why does that matter so much to you?’
“I’m not anti-nice things; but son, I’m 41. I want you to know—that never stops!—shoes now, get a certain kind of car later, a certain zip code after that—we just keep upping the ante, and upping the ante, and upping the ante. The punch line is, son—I’ll stop preaching after this,”—“Thank you, Dad,”—“The punch line is, son—is that if you’re looking for a name on a pair of shoes to give you a sense of completeness or wholeness, it ain’t gonna happen.”
That’s a message that, not only my son needs to hear—I need to hear it; and you need to hear: “Jesus Christ is our Shalom—not your zip code. Jesus Christ is our Shalom—not the clothes you wear.
“Jesus Christ is our Shalom—not the school you send your kids to. Jesus Christ is our Shalom.” What a promise!
Isaiah ends, in verse 7, by saying, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, of the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” Then, I had you underline this statement: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
I love this! The idea of zeal is straightforward—it’s passion/intense passion. This name for Deity is rather interesting: “Lord of hosts”—that’s God’s military name; that’s God’s name for “He’s about to throw down!”—that’s God’s fitting-to-go-to-war name.
What is He saying here, in context? He’s saying: “Christ is coming!
“Israel—Judah, rather—you’ve backed yourself into a corner. You have lived life without Me; you have tried to fix it without Me—it hasn’t gotten better; it’s gotten worse. Help is on the way. Jesus is coming! As proof positive of that, I’m going to deliver you from the Assyrians.” Now, who’s going to do that? He ends by saying—not just “God,” although that’s a wonderful name; not just “Yahweh,” although that’s a wonderful name—He says: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. I’m taking care of this Myself!”
If you read through your Bible, there are certain things in the Scriptures that God delegates; He’s happy to work through people. He says to Moses one day: “Moses, I’ve got a situation down in Egypt. I need you to go down and tell old Pharaoh, ‘Let My people go!’ I’m delegating that to you,” or “Daniel, I’ve got a situation. Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream. I need you to interpret his dream,” or “Jonah, there’s a situation happening in Nineveh. I need you to walk in there and give this prophecy. I’m going to work through you.” God uses delegates all throughout the Scriptures—mostly His prophets.
But now, there are certain things/big things in the Scripture, where God doesn’t use a middle man; He takes care of it Himself. And in our text, God says: “When it comes to Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world, no middle man involved at all. It will be God—Me, Myself, and I—encased in flesh. I will handle your salvation!”—no middle man.
[Audience singing Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus by Charles Wesley]
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Bob: Indeed, good news for us to reflect on, here, on Christmas Day.
Dennis: And it’s the best news ever announced on planet earth.
Dennis: Jesus Christ came to be merciful—to me; to you, the listener; and to millions of others—if you’ll call upon Him in faith and ask Him to be merciful to you, a sinner.
Bob: Yes; we hope you have a great Christmas Day. I hope you’re able to celebrate, at least, part of today with family members or with friends. And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. Your wife, Barbara, is going to join us; and we’re going to get some advice from her to young wives and young moms about how to go through seasons of suffering—that happens in a marriage and a family. We’ll talk more with Barbara about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a merry Christmas, and we will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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