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Sermon December 1, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1422

December 1, 2019 First Sunday of Advent Isaiah 2.1-5

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Walking in the Light”

 

 

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
3and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

 

  • On the Mountaintop

 

Isaiah, as we have seen in other passages, is big on the future promises of God. This one is no different. It shall come to pass in the latter days… The latter days are the time when God will restore all things, redemption complete, and all will know that God is God. The setting for these great days is on the mountaintop. We know the significance of the mountaintop. We often speak of mountain top experiences as some of the greatest experiences of life. A mountain retreat. A view that can go on for miles. The sunset from on top of the mountain. It is no wonder that much of what the Bible highlights as an experience to remember is on a mountain. Moses went up on the mountain to meet God and bring down the Ten Commandments. Jesus preached from atop a mountain in what we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

The good news of Isaiah is that one day all nations shall come to the mountain of the Lord and all peoples will seek to learn of God’s ways and to walk with God. This is a call to all who believe, to come top the mountain and learn of God. What follows are the things we are to learn. This is not unlike the experience Moses and God’s people had at Mt. Sinai. God’s people at the mountain and in the latter days they shall return to that mountain or to one like it and they will learn anew what it means to know and follow the Lord.

 

 

  • Learning to Walk

 

The invitation to this mountain is to learn something of what it means to walk in the path of God. It is not just an education from someone else, but from God Himself. We go to the mountain so that God may teach us His ways. Straight from the source. In the Bible we have that very teaching. Throughout these words are the things God has revealed for us to know in walking in His ways. Things like Micah 6.8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God has taught us how we can sum up the law in two basic commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22.37-40).

We go to God to learn His ways by going to His Word. The purpose is to learn to walk anew...that we may walk in His paths. We go to God every time we go to Scripture! We go in order to learn how to walk, to live, to behave, to speak and act, and to represent the name of God. We take the paths of righteousness and faithfulness. These are the paths of love and grace. These are the paths that Jesus walked. In one sense the Bible is our mountain, that is, a place to meet God and enter into His teachings. We go about it in a way that reflects a walk – slowly, intentionally, perhaps with another or a group.

I appreciate the metaphor of walking when it pertains to learning God’s ways and living out our faith. Walking is a slower activity than anything else we do in motion. Most of the time our only walking is to get from the car to the store and our time in the store. Some people walk around the neighborhood for their exercise. But it seems rare these days to just go for a walk as a pleasurable experience. Maybe it is too hilly!

We are all like little children learning to walk. We take our first steps toward discipleship and sometimes we stumble. As we walk more soundly, we still need help along our way and so we learn to fully rely upon God to help us in our walk. Obstacles are constantly thrown in our path either by our own sinfulness, or the world, or the devil himself. So we continue walking for our lifetime, learning how to grow to maturity. Our main source for this learning is the Word of God, the Bible.

 

  • The Word of God

 

We learn to walk in the Word of God. It is not about applying the word. I know that sounds odd to hear because so many use the term “apply” when talking about the Scripture. I’m ok with the term “apply” if you like it, but application sounds superficial to me, like applying a bandage to the a wound that needs much more than a bandage. We cannot apply a bandage to a limb that has been cut off. That’s what sin is like, it is the attempt to cut away our being and what we need to combat that sin is not just an application, but an integration. We need to integrate the Word into our lives in such a way that sin is crucified in us. We need an injection of the Word into our bloodstream. We need an integration or a fusion of Word and being so that the Word goes beyond application to transformation. Maybe we could think of it in this way, that we walk into the Word, spend sometime in it, a sufficient amount of time so that when we walk back out we are a changed people. We spend time in the Word, imagining our lives through it and playing in the Word until we come away filled with such joy in learning that we cannot wait to get back in. It is about loving the word like the Psalmist in Psalm 119.

For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love (119.47).

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes (119.48).

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (119.97).

Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold (119.127).

Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love (119.159).

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble (119.165).

My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly (119.167).

 

Go to the mountain and learn to love the Word. Many places throughout the Bible imply a great love for it by keeping obedience or following commandments or remembering all that Jesus taught. The Word is spoken of as a great treasure, sweeter than honey, more fine than gold...and if we have difficulty feeling that we love or do not love the Word, then we might want to pray for such a love. “I want to love the Word, but I don’t know how or I don’t feel that I do!” “Lord, implant a love in me for the Word You give. I want to desire Your Word, to meditate day and night upon Your Word, I want to love Your Words because I know in them is life.”

 

  • No More War

 

One of the things revealed here is that this Word teaches us we need not war against one another. I think of this is a variety of ways. Whether that means wars between nations or wars between neighbors, it means no more. No more not getting along at whatever level it might be national or personal. No more strife and conflict. No more attempts for lasting peace because we will have it forever. It is according to the judgment of God that this will happen.

 

We are not to bite and devour one another – Galatians 5.13-26 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

 

We learn no more war by learning not to use our freedom as an opportunity to sin, but instead, to serve. This is done through the Spirit, in the Spirit, but cannot be done in the flesh. Look at the list of activities in the flesh. They are all elements of warfare: impurity, idolatry, enmity, strife…

But there is no war in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

 

  • Walking in the Light

 

At the mountain we are learning to walk in the light. This light is Jesus Himself.

 

John 1.1-13 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

We can only walk in the light if we are walking according to God’s Word. We can only walk in the light if we are walking in the Spirit of God. We can only walk in the light if we are receptive and yielding ourselves over to the One who is the Light, Jesus Christ. We can only walk in the light if we are honest with ourselves and confess our darkness of sin.

 

1 John 1.5-7 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a season that celebrates the Light that is Jesus Christ.

Let us commit ourselves to the Word of God that we might be more greatly exposed to the Light.

Let us confess our sins that we might drive away any darkness of conflict with others or even within ourselves.

Let us walk in the Word, in the Spirit, and in the Light. That is the only way we will see the Lord and know Him and do as He desires.

et us go to the mountain of God to continue learning what is means to walk in the Light. Amen.